Daily Archives: July 13, 2006

Outrigger Canoeing: The Lotus Ironman race on Burrard Inlet with Gung Haggis paddlers

Outrigger Canoeing: The Lotus Ironman race on Burrard Inlet with Gung Haggis paddlers

Outrigger canoes waiting for the race
start with safety boats, at Lotus Iron Races, Barnet Marine Park in
Burnaby, BC – photo Dave Samis

I like the beautiful glide of an outrigger canoe, whether solo, double
or six-person.  I liken paddling in a solo outrigger to taking out
a sports car compared to riding in a bus of a dragon boat.  When
you paddle solo in a canoe, you can really feel the effect of your
blade on the movement of the boat.  You really become “ONE” with
the boat.  The following story is from Gung Haggis paddler Dave
Samis, who raced in the Lotus Sports Club Iron Race on July 1st,
2006.  I love the colour of the water in the pictures…. they
remind me of Hawaii…. sigh…. – Todd

Outrigger Canoeing: The Lotus Ironman race on Burrard Inlet with Gung Haggis paddlers

Special Contribution from Dave Samis


Two Gung Haggis paddlers climbed into a six person Hawaiian outrigger
canoe to race in one of the Lotus Iron races. The calm water of Burrard
inlet sparkled under a blue cloudless sky on July 1st as Gail Thompson
and Dave Samis paddled with a Lotus Sports Club outrigger team.  The 11km race is 22 times longer than a 500m dragon boat race.

Outigger canoes are sleek sexy canoes, with a pontoon or “ama,” on one side,
connected by an “iaku” in Hawaiian language.  These boats are
perfect for riding the surf and give good stability where there are big
ocean swells.

For the race start, the six person outrigger canoes (OC6s) line up and
wait for the green flag.  No horn – flags, a red at five minutes
then a yellow at one minute and finally the green and go.  The
start is sort of similar to a dragon boat start with 6 long hard
strokes then a series of short fast ones followed by reaching out for
the rest of race strokes.



Outrigger canoes waiting for race start – photo Dave Samis

Timing is essential, like in a dragon boat, and technique is
very important (not that mine is that good).  Paddlers paddle on
alternating sides in outriggers, These races are long and so you
couldn't paddle the whole thing on one side, because of this, every 15
strokes everyone switches to the other side on the call of the person
in the third seat.

Outrigger races are also different from dragon boat races in that you
don't stay in a lane (it's much too far) and it really helps if the
steersperson can read the water, understanding the currents that
develop with tide changes and where the water moves fastest.  This
can add minutes to your time.   For instance, if the tide is
coming in, the inlet, it will be faster in the deep water and much
slower along the shore.  If you are going the same way as the tide
you want to be in deep water and if you are bucking the tide you want
to be near the shore.
 


Heading North into Indian Arm from
Burrard Inlet – you can really see the pontoon and ama on the outrigger
canoe. – photo Dave Samis (from a safety boat – not while he was
supposed to be paddling!)

Saturday, the OC6s raced north from Barnet Marine Park, and after a few
kilometers, they circle around Boulder Island and head southwest
towards the North Vancouver shoreline, past Cates Park and the
lightbeacon (much much smaller than a lighthouse) and across the inlet
to the McBarge (remember it from Expo?).  Then they race straight
back for the final three kilometers to Barnet Marine Park and the
finish line. 

Our OC 6 took an hour and 5 minutes to do this which put us in sixth
place (fifth place after one boat was disqualified).  We didn't
win anything but weren't last either.  Gail and I paddled in a
Lotus team in which the other three paddlers and the steers are Lotus
members.   Another Gung Haggis alumni paddler, (Craig Brown)
competed in another longer race, a 17 K race at this same event, and
came first overall!  


– story by Dave Samis

Outrigger canoe race at Lotus Sports Club, Barnet Marine Park – on land before the race – photo Dave Samis

Gary Gee: the head tax descendant in Nunavat

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Gary Gee:  the head tax descendant in Nunavat

Gary Gee is a head tax descendant now living in Nunavat… above the arctic circle.

He puts together a nice arguement for individual compensation for head tax descendants.

I wish to put out the position again for
the families of the lo wah kiu, the pioneers of the Chinese Canadian community,
who were the main victims of government-legislated racism and discrimination.

Yes, no
amount of money
, can really compensate for the collective and
individual suffering of this part of the community.

It seems pretty obvious to me that many of
the descendants
of headtaxpayers are also the ones who suffered when the Exclusion Act was legislated
into law for 24 years. That includes my father and my deceased grandmother who
were separated from my grandfather. Let’s be clear here, on both sides of the ocean
– whether in China or Canada, all
suffered as a result of the Exclusion Act. My grandfather was a human being, a
husband and a father, NOT
a faceless slave laborer.

I am thinking this suffering could be
misunderstood by people who are debating this compensation issue and what it
represents.

There is a large psychological impact on anyone
who has gone without a parent, spouse or child for a long length of time. And,
in Chinese families in particular who are very close, it has had some tragic
consequences. Some families never reunited, on both sides of the ocean.

At the same time that the Chinese were
prevented from reuniting our families in Canada,
this government-sanctioned segregation also occurred in native communities
throughout Canada,
where children were separated from their parents most of the school year in
residential school for a period of up to seven years. They are now receiving billions in compensation, very few for
sexual or physical abuse, but for having the government try to take away their
identity by schooling them with lies and distortions about their culture. What
state sanctioned treatment should that remind us of?

In fact, studies have shown that the
psychological impact on people is tremendous when families are broken up. It
passes through generations. Simply, if you do not have a father, then it’s very
likely you also don’t grow up understanding how to be a parent when you have
kids.

Did my generation (I am 46 now) also have
fatherless childhoods? I know I did, and I think many of us did but don’t talk
about it. How would my father know how to parent when he didn’t have a father
up to the time he was 16? What did it do to our family and what did this do to
us collectively as a community?

Back then and in my father’s generation,
there was no help for people of his generation – counselors or volunteers who try
to help immigrants adjust to Canada.
There was nothing for them in 1950. They still weren’t wanted in Canada after
1947. No one really cared whether the Chinese adjusted or adapted.

So, it wasn’t simply two acts of
government in 1923 or even 1880 with the head tax. But the head tax and the
Exclusion Act influenced a whole generation of Canadians into believing that
there was something wrong with the Chinese and it really influenced attitudes
toward our community even up to 1968 when the immigration process was changed
to not use race or color as a criteria for coming into Canada. It was
Prime Minister John Diefenbaker who promised this, it was continued by Prime
Minister Lester Pearson, and finally enshrined into legislation by Prime
Minister Pierre Trudeau – along with Trudeau’s Multiculturalism Act.

In speaking out for the family – not just
on the issue of compensation and an apology – but on the issue of how well our
government and Canadians understands this community and the role the Chinese
Canadian community has played in shaping this country, we should all have
something to say – Canadian born or not. Chinese Canadians have accomplished so
much collectively as a group and individually in being responsible citizens of
this country since the Exclusion law was repealed in 1947.

It is Canada’s loss that we were denied
the right to vote and to be contributing members of society for more than two
generations. That’s the loss that all of us should think about. Had we been
together as families and as one society of Chinese Canadians, we could have
made done a lot more than we have. And Canada has suffered a great loss
too. We have had so much to offer this country, long before our generation
demanded the head tax be paid back.

As you know, in terms of our parents and
grandparents who suffered, they didn’t have either economic opportunity, nor
equal rights to education, nor an ability to combat the racism they encountered
as we do today.

And there was racism after 1947, a lot
more than we know or believe. And it has happened in my generation. It has
happened in school, in the workplace, in society at large. Were there racist
teachers during this time? Yes. Were there racist employers and landlords?
Yes.  The list goes on. We just haven’t talked about it enough as Chinese
Canadians.

So, maybe what will come of all of this is
that we do talk more about how we fit into Canada and its history and I think
Canadians are listening more to what we have to say. We are part of this
country’s history. They don’t know what happened because THEIR history
books don’t say much about it, except for Pierre Berton. Very few I know read
the books of Tony Chan, Paul Yee, or Henry Tsu and others.

To end, I would say that is why some of us
descendants are fairly passionate about the head tax and the Exclusion Act.
 The effect of this kind of government sponsored racism cut across
generations, even to my generation.

It’s not about the past. It’s about what
Canadians can learn from their past. We were the victims of those mistakes.
They just didn’t see us the way we saw ourselves.

Have a good summer, people.

From the land of the Northen Lights,

Gary Gee

Chinese head tax, Chinese laundries, and racism in Canada

Chinese head tax, Chinese laundries, and racism in Canada

I
am part of an e-mail net work across Canada of people working for Head
Tax / Exclusion Act redress.  My colleagues live across the
breadth of Canada, from Victoria to Halifax, from Southern Ontario to
Nunavat, across the prairies and in Quebec.  Wow… sounds pretty
Canadian to me.

My friend Victor Wong wrote:

I guess to some extent we (descendants) are only beginning to realize the
impact of the racism faced by our parents and grandparents. And perhaps we are seeking an ‘atonement’ for ourselves (see below).

And you’re right about the “no amount of money”. I said as much at the
April 29th consultation in Montreal.
I told Minister Oda that I sought symbolic redress because if it was full
compensation, the govt couldn’t afford it. Symbolic
redress allows me to remind the govt of the violence
they inflicted on our families, so they don’t do it to others.

I found this1984 article on Chinese laundries in Toronto with the more interesting passage at
the end:

“The
era of Chinese laundrymen who made the pants dance is definitely gone. However,
the lingering tendency to stereotype early Chinese Canadians as laundrymen has
caused some mixed feelings among the younger generation of Chinese Canadians.
At times, the question “Is your father a laundryman?” to some
Canadian-born Chinese is looked upon as demeaning. They certainly are not familiar
with a famous Chinese poet Wen I-to, who studied in North America in the 1920s. After observing and being
shocked by the contempt of Americans for the Chinese laundrymen, he wrote a
poem called ''Song of the Laundry.” Wen lauded
the Chinese laundrymen with the following ode:

You
say that the trade of laundrymen is too base,

Only
the Chinese are willing to descend so low,

Your
pastor informs me, saying

Jesus'
father was a carpenter by trade,

Do
you believe it, do you believe it?”

Dance No More: Chinese Hand Laundries in Toronto
LEE WAI-MAN

Toronto's
People
Spring/Summer 1984 Vol. 6 No. 1 Pg. 32

Chink, chink, Chinaman,

Wash my pants;

Put them into the boiler,

And make them dance.

Many
Torontonians who have resided in the city since the 1950s would probably be
familiar with this doggerel about the older generation of Chinese Canadians.
On one hand, this dowdy rhyme reflects the bigoted mind of its author. On the
other hand, it characterizes, to a certain extent, a major facet of the life
of the Chinese Canadian community before the 1960s.

If
gold mining and railroad construction were two important occupations of
Chinese Canadian pioneers in western Canada,
then clothes washing was a common occupation for the
earlier Chinese Canadians who chose Toronto
as their new hometown. Indeed, the first Chinese recorded in the City
Directory of Toronto were the owners of two laundries founded in 1877, Sam Ching & Company at 9 Adelaide Street East and Wo Kee at 385 Yonge Street.
The fact that these two laundries opened their doors eight years before the
completion of the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) suggests that they were not
the result of railway migration, rather their owners might have moved from
the United States.

In
the late 1870s, there were already close to forty Chinese hand laundries
operating in Chicago.
Similarly, many early New York Chinese were engaged in the laundering
business. It would not be too surprising to find out that Sam Ching and WO Kee were indeed
former laundrymen from the United
States, although more definite evidence is
needed to substantiate this claim.

Some
sociologists contend that the Chinese laundry, like the Italian fruit stand
and the Greek ice-cream parlour, in North America is the product of social invention.
However, it is a social invention by circumstance rather than by choice. In
1879 the Select Committee on Chinese Labour and
Immigration of the House of Commons succinctly pointed out that, “wash
clothes, which white men who can get anything else to do will not do – this labour is left to the Chinamen.'' As a matter of fact,
many Chinese Canadian laundrymen were peasants before they emigrated from China.

Laundries
were one of the pioneering businesses for the early Chinese immigrants in Canada.
When the first major wave of Chinese immigration took place in the late 1850s
in British Columbia,
the second issue of the Victoria Gazette (June 30, 1858) said that,
“doubtless ere long the familiar interrogation of 'Wantee
washee?' will be added to our everyday conversation
library. “ The newspaper further reminded its
English-speaking readers that, “whether their [the new Chinese
immigrants] efforts will be directed to the washing of gold or of clothing is
a point yet to be ascertained, but we shall lay it before our readers at a
moment as early as the grave importance of the subject demands.”

In
1902 when the Dominion government appointed a Royal Commission on Chinese and
Japanese immigration, it paid special attention to Chinese laundry and
received several deputations on this subject. The Commissioner, Mr. R.C.
Clute, was a Torontonian. He took note of the fact that many Chinese
laundrymen learned their trade only after they had migrated to Canada.
The Commissioner faithfully recorded this in his huge report: “Ming Lee,
laundryman (farmer in China).”

Although
there were few Chinese Canadians living in Toronto in the early 1880s, Torontonians
did not receive them with open arms. Six years after Sam Ching
and WO Kee opened their laundries in the downtown
core of Toronto,
they were condemned as a “curse” by several union leaders. On
December 26, 1883, the Canadian Labour Congress met
in Dufferin Hall, Toronto. Its newly elected president,
Charles March, urged the delegates not to disregard the “Chinese
immigration curse.” Next day, the congress discussed the matter at
length. One Mr. M. O'Hallaren asserted, ” . . . Christian people in Toronto would hire Chinese to do their
washing” before they would hire “the poor white woman who had a
family to support.” Then he blustered that, “they could starve the
Chinese out of Toronto,
notwithstanding the large number of rats and cats in the city.”

O'Hallaren's rousing
attack on Chinese Canadians triggered enthusiastic response among the
delegates. Of course, not many union leaders at that time saw the Chinese
worker as a fellow-labourer with a family to
support too. Soon, Chinese laundry became a favourite
target for legislators as well as nativists.

The
number of Chinese laundries did not grow drastically until the completion of
the CPR. During the 1886 civic election, the Vancouver Vintners and the
Knights of Labour called on all candidates to
denounce Chinese laundries as a nuisance. Two months later in February 1887,
arsonists burnt down several laundries in Vancouver during an anti-Chinese riot in
order to drive the Chinese out of town. On top of all these anti-Chinese
sentiments, numerous recently unemployed Chinese railroad navvies
began migrating to eastern Canada
along the cross-country railway line.

This
migration caused the number of Chinese-operated restaurants and laundries to
mushroom over the next several decades in numerous small towns and cities
across the land. By the time the City of Vancouver
passed a by-law to limit the operation of Chinese laundries to within certain
designated areas in 1893, there were at least twenty-four Chinese wash-houses
already set up in Toronto.

Life
was by no means easy for the Chinese laundrymen. Although few records of the
working conditions of early Chinese laundries in Toronto have survived, one can draw from
parallel descriptions of Chinese laundries in other cities. In the report of
the 1902 Royal Commission on Chinese and Japanese Immigration, a full chapter
was devoted to the Chinese laundry business in British Columbia. It reported that Chinese
wash-houses were usually set up in “a tenement that is not fit for
anything else” and were regarded “as a nuisance and a menace by
those who live in the vicinity.” People were genuinely afraid that the
presence of a Chinese laundry in the neighbourhood
would depreciate the value of their property.

In
the beginning, owners of small-sized Chinese laundries did much of the work
themselves. Later, as business picked up and demanded more help, paid workers
were hired. The wages for the hired workers were comparatively low. At the
turn of the century, the average wage paid to the Chinese laundry worker
ranged from $8 to $18 per month, with room and board. It was said that white
laundry workers got $10 to $18 a week.

The
physical setup of a typical Chinese laundry in North
America became a familiar sight everywhere. Usually it was a
small place in a modest building in the working-class residential area. A red
“Hand Laundry” sign hung outside the premises, or was painted on
the window.

Inside,
a wall-to-wall counter divided the shop into a reception area and a working
place. Behind the counter, some brown packages of clean laundry, with Chinese
labels to identify the customers, were tucked on several shelves, waiting to
be picked up by the clients.

top

 

On
the other side of the shelves, which functioned as partitions as well, was
the working and living quarters of the laundry-house. Washing troughs and
machines were aligned near the water supply and drainage systems.

If
the business of the laundry was large enough, a big stove would be used to
warm up several irons, each weighing about eight pounds and alternately used
by the pressers. In earlier days, however, Chinese laundry workers
“ironed at tables in the front close to the street, where a curious
passerby might watch the operation if he pleased.” They also used a more
primitive type of pressing equipment – an ingenious iron saucepan, about half
a foot in diameter. An American writer once described that, ''in this
saucepan, he contrived, by some mysterious agency, to make a charcoal fire, though
whence the draught was obtained would puzzle the Caucasian.”

While
Mr. R.C. Clute was receiving anti-Chinese laundry deputations in Victoria early in 1901, newspapers in Toronto reverberated
this sentiment vigorously. There were ninety-six Chinese laundries in Toronto then, compared
to sixty-six laundries operated by other ethnic groups.

The
local press urged on health authorities pressing their attack on “dirty
laundries.” As a result, the city government passed by-law No. 41 in
June 1902, to “license and regulate laundrymen and laundry companies and
for inspecting and regulating laundries.”

Toronto was
not the only city to have such a by-law. Back in 1900 Vancouver had already passed by-law No. 373
prohibiting Chinese laundrymen from using mouth water to spray clothing while
ironing. In 1903 Kamloops
city government declared Chinese laundries a public nuisance and forced a
Chinese laundryman, Ah Mee, to sell his property.

1 Then in the next few years,
Calgary, Lethbridge and Hamilton followed suit and
later induced several provinces, such as Ontario, to pass similar
anti-Chinese laundry acts.In May 1914 the Ontario
Legislative Assembly passed “An Act to amend the Factory, Shop and
Office Building Act,” stipulating that “no Chinese person shall
employ in any capacity or have under his direction or control any female
white person in factory, restaurant or laundry.”

Again,
the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada took the
lead in the anti-Chinese laundry attack. At its 22nd annual convention, held
in Victoria in September 1906, Gus Francq, a
delegate of the Jacques Cartier Typographical Union of Montreal, stated
“in the name of the Shirt, Waist and Laundry Workers” that,
“the actual tax imposed upon Chinese immigration does not prevent the
great overflowing of yellow workers to injure especially the laundry workers
of our country.” The congress urged the government to increase the
Chinese Head Tax from $500 to $1,000.

The
union leaders at the time either did not realise,
or were too prejudiced to see that many of the Chinese workers could have
been drawn into the Canadian labour movement. They
ignored two significant events which happened among the Chinese laundry
workers in that same year. Sixty employees of the Chinese laundries in New Westminster, British
Columbia, struck that fall. They demanded to have
their wages increased, and their employers acceded to their demands on the
same day. Half a year earlier in 1906, a Chinese Laundry Workers' Union (the Sai Wah Tong) was formed in Vancouver. Its 120 members advocated
fighting the laundry proprietors for better working conditions.

Soon,
labour unions pushed for prohibiting Chinese
laundries from employing white female workers. In 1912 when the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada held its 28th annual convention
in Guelph delegates reported at length on how
they successfully persuaded the Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta
governments to pass legislation, “prohibiting the employment of white
girls or females by Orientals in restaurants, laundries, etc.”

The
reactions against Chinese laundrymen was part of a
general white counterattack against Asian competition. As Tom Maclnnes – a Vancouver lawyer and at one time an advisor
to the federal government – lucidly stated in 1927, “it is clear that
economically we can not compete with the Oriental in this community,
industrially, commercially or professionally, except if we handicap him,
hamper him, restrict him and as far as possible put him out of the industrial
and commercial running.”

Remarkably,
the Chinese laundry business in Toronto
kept growing apace between 1900-25 in the face of restrictions and bigotry.
The number increased from 96 in 1901 to 374 in 1921 – more than fourfold in a
matter of two decades. According to the 1921 census, the population of Chinese
Canadians in Toronto
was 2,134. Assuming an average Chinese laundry employed four persons,
including the owner himself, then over 50 per cent
of the Chinese Canadian population in Toronto
was related to the laundry business in the early 1920s.

2 After the Dominion passed Bill
No. 45, later known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, prohibiting Chinese
immigration in 1923, the growth of Chinese laundries in Toronto stopped and actually began to
decline in the 1930s. When the Exclusion Act was repealed in 1947, the number
of Chinese laundries in Toronto
had shrunk to 258. With the introduction of coin laundries and permapress fabrics, Chinese hand laundries as an
institution have become something of the past. However, there is still at
least one Chinese hand laundry on Spadina Avenue just north of
Harbord
Street, and another in the Kensington Market
area on St. Andrew Street.

The
era of Chinese laundrymen who made the pants dance is definitely gone.
However, the lingering tendency to stereotype early Chinese Canadians as
laundrymen has caused some mixed feelings among the younger generation of
Chinese Canadians. At times, the question “Is your father a
laundryman?” to some Canadian-born Chinese is looked upon as demeaning.
They certainly are not familiar with a famous Chinese poet Wen I-to, who studied in North
America in the 1920s. After observing and being shocked by the
contempt of Americans for the Chinese laundrymen, he wrote a poem called
''Song of the Laundry.” Wen lauded the Chinese
laundrymen with the following ode:

You say that the trade of laundrymen is too base,

Only the Chinese are willing to descend so low,

Your pastor informs me, saying

Jesus' father was a carpenter by trade,

Do you believe it, do you believe it?

 

NOTES

1. Leslie Moffs,
“Ah Mee,” mimeograph (Kamloops Museum
Association, Kamloops,
B.C., n.d.), pp. 2-3.

2. According to the 1902 report of
the Royal Commission on Chinese and Japanese Immigration, there were 40
Chinese laundries, employing 197 Chinese in Victoria;
35 in Vancouver, employing 192; 9 in New Westminster,
employing 38; 20 in Rossland, employing 60 Chinese.
Therefore, an average Chinese laundry at that time employed 4 workers.