Vancouver Sun story on Roy Mah: 'Gentle' man touched so many people's lives

This the story the Vancouver Sun published about Roy Mah on Monday, June 25th. Roy's niece Ramona Mar is interviewed.  I have been friends with Ramona since 1986, when we worked together on the Saltwater City exhibit held in the David Lam Multipurpose Hall at the Chinese Cultural Centre.

'Gentle' man touched so many people's lives

 

Chantal Eustace

Vancouver Sun


Monday, June 25, 2007

 

Community leader Roy Mah died Friday at the age of 89.

CREDIT:
Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun

Community
leader Roy Mah died Friday at the age of 89.

VANCOUVER
Chinatown 's soft-spoken revolutionary, Roy Mah, may be
gone, but the freedom fighter's legacy will live on, say his friends and
family.

Mah
— publisher, human rights activist and soldier — was above all a champion of
Canadian multiculturalism, said his niece, Ramona Mar.

“He
was a passionate, humble man with a strong passion for human rights,
particularly vis-a-vis Chinese-Canadians because he
grew up in such racist times,” said Mar in an interview with The Vancouver
Sun on Sunday.

Mah,
who suffered from kidney disease, passed away peacefully in a
Vancouver hospital Friday at the age of 89.

Mar
said he will be dearly missed.

“He
was just there for everyone,” said Mar, 50, a former CBC journalist.
“I'm going to remember him as a role model in the Chinese community.”

She
said that more than 720 people showed up to celebrate her uncle's last birthday
at Chinatown 's Floata
Seafood Restaurant, a testiment to
many people he touched in the community.

Not
that he was showy or loud.

“You
would never think that that guy was responsible for bringing multiculturalism
and the vote to Chinese-Canadians. I have trouble being able to believe he was
able to rally people around issues — but he did,” said
Mar. “Quietly.”

Mah
preferred to do things in a behind-the-scenes manner with a quiet
determination, said his long-time pal, Fred Mah, 72, a retired scientist with
Environment Canada. (He is no relation to Roy .)

He
said his friend was a good communicator. Together, they helped to form the
city's Chinese Cultural Association back in 1973.

“He's
quite gentle — not like me,” he said. “He's very good with
people.”

He
said he is a better person because of their friendship.

“To
me, anyway, he expanded my outlook on life — especially on multiculturalism on
that sort of thing. He was a champion for multiculturalism,” said Fred
Mah. “I think that throughout his life, equality has been an important
thing for him.”

Roy
Mah was born in Edmonton in 1918 and moved to
Victoria when he was six
years old. Back then, schools were segregated. He wasn't allowed to swim in the
public pool.

It
wasn't an easy time to be a Chinese-Canadian.

“Somehow
he developed this incredible passion for fighting for the underdog,” Mar
said. “I never knew him to complain. Not a once.”

Instead
of griping, Mah turned to action.

He
joined the army and became one of the first Chinese-Canadians to fight in the
Second World War, encouraging others to join him.

“He
really went to fight in two wars, one for the allies and one for
Chinese-Canadians,” Mar said.

When
he returned, Mah lobbied the government for the right to vote, something that
was granted to Chinese-Canadians in 1947.

His
fight didn't stop there.

Mah
became a union organizer when he took a job with the International Woodworkers
of America where he worked fighting for Chinese-Canadians' rights.

In
1953, he started the country's first Chinese-Canadian English-language news
magazine, The Chinatown News. During the 40 years he operated the News, he also
founded the B.C. Ethnic Press Association.

Mar
said the publication even caught the eye of then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau,
who invited Mah to accompany him on a trip to
China .

“He
wanted to build strength and have people be proud of
their lives here,” said Mar.

In
an interview with The Vancouver Sun in May, Mah said that throughout his life,
he wanted to help transform Canada
into a multilingual and multicultural society. Looking back on it all, he said:
“Now we're equal.”

ceustace@png.canwest.com

© The
Vancouver Sun 2007



http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/westcoastnews/story.html?id=3686d5e4-fc00-4af7-82e7-0f9a6c0853da

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