Category Archives: Chinese Canadian History

Globe & Mail: Head tax redress was not enough say Chinese descendants

Surviving sons and daughters need to be included for Chinese Head Tax settlement.

No other ethnic group was charged a head tax.
The govt repealed the racist “Chinese Exclusion Act” in 1947 and also
finally gave Canadians born with Chinese heritage the vote.

The Mulroney
govt apologized for Japanese Canadians interned during WW2 in 1988.  Four
years earlier, Chinese Head Tax Redress had been  brought to Parliament in 1984 by MP Margaret Mitchell,
but rejected by the Trudeau govt.

An apology for Chinese Head Tax
finally came 22 years later in 2006, but it was 86 years after the last
head tax was paid in 1923, and 121 years after the first head tax was
paid in 1885. Giving ex-gratia payments only to the few surviving head
tax payers and widows while ignoring the other 99% of head tax
certificates passed onto surviving sons and daughters is wrong.

It is
impossible to expect my great-grandfather to live to be 130 years old to
receive his “tax refund”. The payment should go to his remaining 7
children who are 99 to 85 years old, all born in Canada and had to live
through the years of The Exclusion Act until 1947.


Head tax redress was not enough say
Chinese descendants

97 year old Thomas Soon  (L) and 99 year old Charlie Quon hold government cheques, the first  redress payments to Chinese Head Tax payers in Vancouver, BC, October  20, 2006.

97 year old Thomas Soon (L) and 99 year
old Charlie Quon hold government cheques, the first redress payments to
Chinese Head Tax payers in Vancouver, BC, October 20, 2006. Lyle Stafford for The Globe and

Canada Day rally planned for Vancouver’s

Robert Matas

Vancouver Globe and Mail Update Published on Wednesday, Jun. 30, 2010 5:05PM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, Jun. 30, 2010
5:35PM EDT

Canada’s apology to
the Chinese community for the head tax from 1885 to 1923 was not enough,
say descendants of those who paid the tax.

Ottawa said sorry to
the Chinese community four years ago and gave $20,000 to those who had
paid the head tax or to their surviving spouse.

But members of the Head Tax
Families Society of Canada say the federal
excluded thousands
of Chinese families who were affected by the historic injustices and
Ottawa should rethink its approach to redress.

The children of those who paid the
tax but did not live long enough to hear the apology received nothing
and still feel left out, Sid Tan, head of the Head Tax Families Society
of Canada, said Wednesday in an interview on the day before a “redress
rally” planned for Vancouver’s Chinatown.

“The apology was not as meaningful
to us as it was to other [Chinese families],” said Mr. Tan, the
grandson of a head tax payer. “The federal government left out a large
chunk of people and you have to find some way you can meaningfully
provide redress for them.”

The federal government
acknowledged less than one per cent of families who had paid the head
tax, he said. Payments were made to about 800 people although more than
82,000 Chinese immigrants paid the tax from 1885 to 1923.

The rally on Canada Day is
intended as a celebration of being Canadian while reminding the federal
government that the issue is not closed, Mr. Tan said.

Victor Wong, executive director of
the Chinese Canadian National Council, an umbrella group with 27
chapters across the country, said 3,000 families across Canada are still
seeking to be included in the apology and payment that was made in

His grandfather, who immigrated to
Canada in 1912, could not bring his wife and four children until 1947,
he said. Mr. Wong said he is the family’s first Canadian-born grandson,
born 47 years after his grandfather arrived on the West Coast. “Family
formation was discouraged,” he said.

Redress that included the children
of those who felt the impact of the discriminatory policies would set
the tone for governments, prodding them to ensure that policies and
programs are sensitive to the needs of minorities.

“For an apology to be meaningful,
it needs to include [the children of head tax payers],” said Mr. Wong


Chinese Laundry Kids @ Friends of Foo's Ho Ho dinner event

Chinese Laundry Kids grow up to be writers, professors and community activists:

Friends of Foo's Ho Ho launches another successful event combining Chinese Canadian history with local cuisine and issues of the global Chinese diaspora.  When Committee member Elwin Xie discovered that author Judy Fong Bates was coming to speak at UBC, and that she was reading from her memoir about growing up in a chinese laundry – a light must have gone off.

Elwin quickly remembered that retired psychology professor Dr. John Jung had expressed interest in coming to speak to the Friends of Foo's Ho Ho committee, after learning about their effort to save Vancouver Chinatown's last restaurant serving pioneer style Cantonese cuisine.  A community activist with an interest in Vancouver's Chinese Canadian history, Elwin had also ordered books by Dr. Jung about Chinese restaurants and laundries.  It turned out that like Judy Fong Bates, Dr. Jung had also grown up in a Chinese laundry – but instead of Canada, Dr. Jung had grown up in Macon, Georgia – deep in the American South.  Elwin's interest was keen, because he had grown up at the Union Laundry, owned and operated by his parents in Vancouver.

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Event host Todd Wong, with featured guests Dr. John Jung, Judy Fong Bates and Elwin Xie.

Guests began arriving at the 6pm reception time. Books by Dr. Jung and Ms. Bates were for sale, and the authors were set up to sign copies for the evening's patrons.

The event started off with a 10 minute film about Chinese laundries in the United States.  This really helped set the tone for the evening, showing pictures of laundries, the laundry machines, and even some of the racist cartoons and songs of the times.  

Soon the first appetizer dish of deep-fried squid, pork and chicken wings arrived. Yum Yum, some good food to accompany the hearty conversations that filled the upstairs banquet hall.

Elwin Xie was the first speaker.  He gave a power point presentation with pictures of his family's laundry that included himself as a little child.  He described how he was encouraged to climb into the giant washing machines to find coins, only to figure out many years later that he was “exploited” because of his small size.

Dr. John Jung was the second speaker.  He also had a power point presentation that featured pictures of both Chinese laundries and restaurants from across North America. It was really interesting to hear how he grew up in the only Chinese family in Macon Georgia.  An especially amusing story was how the family became media stars one day.  In 1943, they were asked to come out and attend a media photo opportunity with Madame Chiang Kai Shek, the First Lady of China, came to visit Macon.  As the only Chinese family, they had been invited to help welcome the wife of the Taiwanese leader, who had grown up and attended Wesleyan women's college in Macon, before marrying Chiang Kai Shek.

My role as the evening's emcee, was to make sure the presentations flowed smoothly and try to keep the evening running on time.  With John's stories, it was a good way to illustrate that no matter where Chinese had settled in Canada, USA or even Scotland, their stories all had universal themes.  As John had talked about the influence of the Church during his growing up, I shared that my own family was descended from two Chinese Methodist missionaries Rev. Chan Sing Kai and Rev. Chan Yu Tan.  While Yu Tan stayed in Canada and ministered in Vancouver, New Westminster, Victoria and Nanaimo, his elder brother had ministered in Oregon and Nevada, before settling in the Los Angeles area.  Similar to John discovering that he had distant relatives operating a Chinese restaurant in Sasketchewan, my grand mother's cousin Dennis ran a restaurant in Prince Albert SK.  John had even seen the CBC documentary about Dennis' daughter Janice Wong, returning to Prince Albert to sign copies of her book CHOW, about growing up in the restaurant.

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Judy Fong Bates reads from her memoir “The Year of Finding Memory”

Judy Fong Bates was the final speaker of the evening.  She remarked how a friend had described the evening's program as “sexy”!  Judy read from her memoir about how her family had come to Canada, and how she had grown up.  Like John and Elwin before her, she also commented about the racism against Chinese that had permeated the social issues of the day, and how growing up in a laundry also had a stigmatism.

It was a wonderful evening with an appreciative audience.  The evening had unfolded with discovered stories that one attendee had had his wedding banquet at Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant 38 years ago.  Another woman, my Aunty Sue, was also a Chinese Laundry Kid, with her family involved with Keefer Laundry in Vancouver.

Starting the Easter weekend in Vernon: Visiting Betty McChan and Helmut's Sausage Kitchen

Here I am, back in Vernon, or more specifically Coldstream for the 2009 Easter weekend.  My girlfriend Deb and I drove up yesterday to spend some time with her parents and their border collie dogs.

It was a long tiring trip through the light rain, light snow on the Coquihalla and Connector highways.  Thankfully, there wasn't a snow storm.  We didn't get the big windstorm that hit Vancouver, but there were moderate winds pushing the car along the highways.  Lots of Canadian content on the cd player including Michael Buble's “Live at Madison Square Garden”, Bruce Cockburn's live solo album “Slice O Life” and Gordon Lightfoot's “Gord's Gold.”  After hearing that Lightfoot had re-written his lyrics of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, I have decided to write new lyrics to his classic “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” to include a Chinese-Canadian perspective.  Maybe I will call it Chinese-Canadian Railroad Trilogy or Chinese-Canadian Railroad Tragedy… we will see how it pans out.

One of the first things I did upon arriving at “The In-Laws” was to pet all the doggies greeting our arrival.  Val literally jumps on me, trying to lick my face, while the younger dog Tess simply brings me a pine cone to throw for her.  Finally, she has somebody to throw pine cones for her again.  Definitely a “fetchit” dog! 

Next I walk down to private dock that sits on Kalamalka Lake.  It's a beautiful lake, nicknamed the “Lake of Many Colours”.  I am hoping to do some paddling this weekend in canoe or kayak.  But now, it's time to socialize, catch up on news, then have a great dinner. 

After dinner, we fall asleep watching Disney's “The Princess and the Frog” .  Darn – I had really been looking forward to the movie, with its portrayal of jazzy cajun spiced New Orleans, and its inaugural debut of African-American characters and culture.  Maybe it is too politically correctly sanitized, or stereotypically traditional, or maybe my sense of disbelief cannot be suspended.  A talking firefly that survives multiple hits, and never becomes bug splat?

Saturday, I wake up to the heavy splashing of white capped waves on Kalamalka Lake.  No kayaking today.  I joke that maybe I could take a kayak out and surf the waves to Alexander's Pub, and somebody could come pick me up.  No takers.  Chances of being cold and wet are high, and I dislike the combination terribly.

There are no dim sum restaurants in Vernon.  Too bad…. but I have a wonderful lunch date with Betty “McChan” and her husband Don.  Betty is a former Canadian National Highland Dance Champion…. and she is Chinese-Canadian.  The picture I saw of her, was an archival copy of Chinatown News from the late 1950's.  I first met Betty in 2006 when she came to Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.  This past New Year's was the first time we visisted in Vernon.  We have a wonderful chat about Gung Haggis Fat Choy, local Vernon Viper hockey, Larry Kwong the first Chinese Canadian to play in the NHL, dim sum, tai chi, and whether or not Betty will borrow, hire or purchase a Chinese Lion dance costume. 

For our first visit to Betty's place, just after New Year's, she had made a wonderful classic Cantonese style Won Ton soup.  This time it was her husband Don in the kitchen.  He made a delicious omelette with a side dish of corned beef hash brown potatoes.  Spontaneously, I asked if he had ever made a haggis hash.  He hadn't, but he liked the idea.  I told him about the a capella group The No Shit Shirleys who had performed at the 2006 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner, and how whenever the group performs their version of Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower) they tell the story about haggis-fried rice that they had at the dinner.  They thought it was soooo delicious.  Betty and Don had attended that dinner and they thought The Shirleys were wonderful performers, and the fried rice was good too!

On my way back to my Vernon home-base, I spot the Vernon Sausage Company, and it's delicatessen Helmut's Sausage Kitchen.  I have tasted some of Oyama Sausage at Salt Tasting Room in Vancouver, and decide to purchase some local tastes for tonight's appetizer plate.  I select a few slices of the Soppressata salami, Prosciutto Westphalia,
Bauern schinken (a cured beef), 1 slice of the huge corned beef, and 6 slices each of the Helmut's
Farmer Salami and the Kirsch-Salami.  I also pick some cheeses: Provolone,
Smoked Gruyere, and Smoked Gouda.
  The meats only cost me $3.12… wow!  It's a wonderful cured meat and cheese platter.  Everybody is complimentary.  And much cheaper than going to Salt Restaurant, but without the incredible comfits and sauces that they match to their platters.  I eat so much that I don't have as much room for the wonderful turkey dinner we have. 

Hmmm…. did I use the word “wonderful” too many times.  I like my visits to Vernon.

“CHINESE VANCOUVER THEN AND NOW: 1972-2010” – Vancouver Opera Speaks


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

7-9 pm

Alice MacKay Room, Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch


Admission is free.

An eminent panel explores the history of Chinese in Vancouver, with
emphasis on the Chinese communities' emergence and development since
1972, the year of Nixon's momentous trip to China. Discover how our
city has been shaped and transformed by Chinese culture over the past
38 years. This will be a fascinating evening. Speakers include eminent
architect Bing Thom, UBC historian Henry Yu, and filmmaker and writer Colleen Leung.

Presented in partnership with the Vancouver Public Library.
Opera Speaks @ VPL is sponsored by Omni BC Diversity Television.

Daniel Lee Rest in Peace, 1920 – January 26, 2010

Daniel Lee 1920 – January 26, 2010 

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Daniel Lee saluting at
the November 11, 2009 Remembrance Day ceremony in Vancouver Chinatown. 
The Chinese Canadian veterans always attended the Victory Square
Cenotaph ceremonies, which Dan Lee also helped to organize, then they
would go to Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant to stay warm, before organizing the
Chinatown ceremonies at 12:30pm – photo Todd Wong

be a good citizen you got to start at home. Otherwise, a nation is just
like a family.
Everybody got to be happy at home otherwise the nation
would be in trouble.”

– Daniel Lee

With sorrow… we share the news that Grand-Uncle Daniel Lee passed away this morning of January 26th, 2010.  He had been in the Burnaby Hospital since Wednesday.  His daughter Grace,  she said it was quite sudden – his going into the hospital.  I had been receiving reports from my mother Betty, as her mother Mabel (Dan's oldest sister at 99 years old) was visiting the hospital each day.

Uncle Dan was born the 11th child of 14, the 5th son of seven to jeweler Ernest Lee, and Kate Chan Lee – the 2nd child, and 1st daughter of Rev. Chan Yu Tan.  As a young child he spent some time living in Nanaimo with his grandparents Rev. and Mrs. Chan Yu Tan, after the early death of his father.

When Dan was 20 years old he tried to enlist in the Canadian Army, but was turned away because at that time they did not allow any Chinese Canadians.  Instead, he went to aircraft mechanics school in Toronto and graduated two years later.  By 1942, Chinese were allowed into the Army due to pressure from Great Britain.  Dan Lee was one of the the first Chinese-Canadians accepted into the Canadian Air Force.  Soon, he was joined in England, by his brothers Howard and Leonard, plus cousin Victor Wong, who were enroute to the Pacific Theatre to serve with the Army special forces.

In the years after WW2, Dan Lee and his fellow Canadian born veterans would continue to face racial discrimination and prejudice.  The were not allowed to join any of the existing Canadian Legions for veteran soldiers.  They turned to the oldest veteran organization, the Army, Navy, Air Force Vets of Canada and were accepted to form their own unit – Pacific Unit 280.  After
WW2, he and his fellow veterans and good friend Roy Mah, petitioned the
Canadian Government to gain voting rights for Chinese Canadians, and
also to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act.  This was accomplished in

  Generations Chan Legacy 161 by you.

But the challenges weren't over yet.  Every year Uncle Dan
would write a letter to Ottawa asking for an apology for the Chinese
head tax and exclusion act.  The Chinese head tax redress movement took on a larger significance after MP Margaret Mitchell brought the issue up in Parliament in 1984, and also when Prime Minister Mulroney apologized to Japanese Canadians in 1988 for the the government's interning of them during WW2.

In the 1980's, Dan Lee would continue to work head tax apology issue.  With Douglas Jung, a former veteran, lawyer, Member of
Parliament, and the Chinese Benevolent Association, they proposed that a
national organization be formed to deal with the Head Tax issue.  Dan Lee became one of the founders of the National
Congress of Chinese Canadians(NCCC) and a national conference was held.  After many years, an apology was finally made in Canadian Parliament by Prime Minister Harper in 2006.

In 1998, the Chinese Canadian Military Museum was founded.  Dan Lee's air force uniform was one of the first displays.

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Chinese Canadian Military Museum Dinner November 7, 2009
top row: Bryan Larrabee, grand-nephew Todd Wong, Padre Wesley Lowe
bottom row: niece Rhonda Larrabee, Daniel Lee, sister Mabel Mar

In 1999, we held the first Rev. Chan Legacy Family Reunion.  Uncle Dan was a consultant for the committee.  At the reunion, it was Dan Lee who gave the Elder Address, as he talked about his grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan. 

In 2002, the Rev. Chan Yu Tan family was featured in the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum exhibit “Three Canadian Chinese Pioneer Families”  – pictures of Uncle Dan and the contributions of himself and his brothers and cousin were included.  

In 2007, Dan Lee is one of the lead stories in the film documentary Heroes Remember, produced by the Chinese Canadian Military Museum.

Dan Lee's dedication to community service is exemplary.  In 2004, Dan Lee received the Award of  Merit from Dominion Command.  It is one of the highest honours a veteran can receive.  Uncle Dan told me that to receive an Award of Merit, you must first receive the Medal for
Appreciation, which he received in 1987.  In 1999 he next
received the Award for Service.

And through all these years, Uncle Dan would sell poppies in downtown Vancouver for Remembrance Day, and help organize the Poppy Drive every November.  He was one of the best sellers.  He was also one of the organizers of the Victory Square Cenotaph Remembrance Day ceremonies.  In 2004, Remembrance Day ceremonies began at the Canadian Chinese Pioneer Monument in Chinatown.  The veterans of Unit 280 would attend both Victory Square and Chinatown ceremonies, even if it was raining and cold.

The contributions that Dan Lee made, will last and be remembered, while he will be missed.

We offer support and love to Uncle Dan, his wife Irene, and their children Vincent and Grace.

Peace & Blessings to all, Todd Wong – Vancouver

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Chinese Canadian Military Museum Dinner November 7, 2009
with fellow veterans of Pacific Unit 280 + Ujjal Dosanjh MP.


As part of his commitment to community, Dan annually organized the poppy campaign in Vancouver. It's not surprising
he was a top-seller. For his community efforts Dan has received many
veteran honours, such as the Award of Appreciation, and Award for
Service – but none higher than the Award of Merit from Dominion Command
in 2004. It's a fitting tribute to the grandson who evidently learned
his values and strong faith in community from his Methodist Church
pioneer, Grandfather Chan Yu Tan.

See VIDEO of Daniel Lee from the Chinese Canadian Military Museum
Lee, one of three brothers to join the war effort, worked as an
aircraft mechanic and went on to a career of dedicated community
service in Canada.

Daniel Lee 1920-2010

Daniel Lee 1920-2010  – picture album on Flickr

Toddish McWong goes to Vernon BC and meets Betty McChan and Dan McHuang.

Toddish McWong goes to Vernon BC and meets Betty McChan and Dan McHuang.

2010_January_Vernon_NewYearsDay 036Toddish McWong meets Betty McChan:  Todd wears the Ancient Fraser Hunting Tartan – the first kilt he ever wore, while Betty wears her father's jacket made from the Chan plaid.

I come to Vernon at Christmas time with my girlfriend and we spend lots of time with her parents and their friends.  Soon after my arrival on December 26th, Bill (my girlfriend's father) tells me that he met a Chinese guy from the Kelowna Pipe Band – that I have to meet.  It turns out that the Kelowna Pipe Band played with the Okanagan Symphony, and the Chinese guy playing the drums stuck out sooo much, that Bill had to go talk to him.  In the next few days, Dan Huang and I will play lots of telephone tag.

Over the next few days, my girlfriend and I celebrate Christmas with her parents.  We visit with their friends.  We go for walks in Kalamalka Park with the doggies.  We celebrate with two of our best friends in Vancouver who come up on December 28 to celebrate New Year's with us… and her birthday.  

2010_January_Vernon_NewYearsDay 083Todd and Deb walk the dogs in Kalamalka Park

Our friend Randall, an opera singer, comes to visit.  We talk about music, opera, and living in Europe.  The next night we visit some other musical friends and have a singalong – we play classic rock and folk songs.  Good thing I brought my accordion.   

My friend Craig and I go skiing at Silver Star.  We take it easy because it's the first day of the skiing season for both of us.  I share that when I was in grades 5, 6, and 7 – my parents brought me and my brother to learn to ski by taking us out of school for a week in February.  We ski green and blue runs + one black diamond run called Chaos.  We meet a Scottish woman, who is amazed that I organize the largest Burns Supper in Vancouver.  She asks me to recite something by Burns.  I launch into a very fast version of the first verse of “Address to a Haggis.”  She laughs in enjoyment.

On New Year's Eve, I receive a phone call from somebody at CBC Radio, for “On the Coast”.  They want to ask me questions about Auld Lang Syne, because it is originally a Scottish tradition – and apparently I am an expert in “All Things Scottish” (their words).  Luckily it's about things I know such as the lyrics are attributed to Scottish poet Robert Burns, and when to join and cross hands with people in a circle while singing Auld Lang Syne.  I add in that Hogmanay (Scottish New Year) is a lot like Chinese New Year because people make a lot of noise to scare off bad ghosts or spirits, and both Chinese and Scottish people want to pay off their debts before the new year begins.  Oh… and they also like to eat and drink a lot, and visit friends.

After 7 days, I
finally see and talk to some Chinese-Canadian people. And… they both have
Scottish connections. 

2010_January_Vernon_NewYearsDay 039 Some of Betty's newsclippings when she was 10 years old and a Highland Dance champion!

Betty Chan is a former Highland Dance champion,
teacher and judge!  We actually met a few years before, when she had emailed me about the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner, and came to attend the 2006 dinner. 

It's a great meeting, as Betty tells us stories about her Highland Dance competitions when she was a child of 10.  In the late 1950's and early 1960's, she was a champion Highland Dancer.  She taught Highland Dancing for a number of years, and even became a member of the judge's panel of the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing. She has since retired.  Back
around 2002, at the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Archives, I
first saw an archival issue of Chinatown News with a picture of Betty.

Betty was so good, that there were many media stories written about her.  Even a “Chan plaid” was made up for her.  When Betty went to show us the “Chan plaid” she brought out her father's jacket which he had made in Hong Kong.  She insisted that I try it on.  It's a good fit, and an honour to be wearing it.  Her father Ernest Chan was the first Chinese Canadian to receive the Order of Canada. Betty tells me that I look dashing in her father's Chan plaid jacket!  Wow!

The other guests arrive with extra won ton wrappers.  We fold some pork won tons, we sit down at the table… and after 7 days in Vernon, I finally have
some Chinese food as Betty served us a wonderful won ton soup!  It has bbq pork, water chestnut, siu choy – my girlfriend says is “absolutely fabulous” and “out of this world!”

2010_January_Vernon_NewYearsDay 047 Todd Wong, Dan Huang and Dan's wife Allison who plays bagpipes!

Dan Huang is drum sergeant of the Kelowna Pipe Band.  After days of telephone tag, we had set up a meeting.  Dan shared how he started playing in a pipeband- because his wife played the pipes, and the band was short of drummers – so he gave it a try, having grown up playing violin, piano and other instruments.  The band kilt is the only one he wears, and many people ask to have a picture taken with him, because the sight of an Asian guy in a kilt playing drums in a pipe band is quite unique in the Okanagan.  

And…. it turns out that Dan and I are actually related.  His maternal cousins are my paternal cousins.  So we are not actually related, as we don't share a common ancestor.  But, he brought a picture of his ancestors circa 1940.  Dan showed me his great-grandfather, his 6 wives, then pointed out the 1st born child (his mother) and the 2nd born son standing beside his young wife – who was my dad's oldest sister!  What a small world!

Todd Wong writes “Chinatown” section in new “Vancouver, Victoria & Whistler Colourguide”

New Colourguide for Vancouver, Victoria & Whistler now available
Todd Wong writes section on Chinatown.

2009_November 007 by you.

In the mail I received a package today….
a book!
a travel guide book…
Colourguide for Vancouver, Victoria & Whistler

I wrote the section on Vancouver Chinatown.  The book is edited by Gail Buente, my coworker friend at the Vancouver Library.  Back in May I sent her my final draft which she edited.  The book has just been released now in November in time for the anticipated visitors for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.  Maybe some of them will find their way into Vancouver Chinatown.

2009_November 008 by you.

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Chinese Canadian veterans lead Remembrance Day ceremony in Vancouver Chinatown

Uncle Daniel Lee is colour guard for Pacific Unit 280 at the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Chinese Canadian Pioneer Monument in Vancouver Chinatown
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Uncle Daniel Lee salutes, as photographer Patrick Tam takes pictures.  Larry Wong stands to Lee's right.

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Chinese Canadian veterans stand during singing of O Canada.

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The Chinese Benevolent Association organized the Remembrance Day ceremonies this year in Chinatown.  President Mike Jang officiated.

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Little Beavers and Wolf Cubs took part in the ceremonies

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Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson and city councilors Ellen Woodsworth and George Chow lay the wreath from City of Vancouver.

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Members of Parliament Ujal Dosanjh, Don Davies and Libby Davies stand in front of the representatives from HMCS Discovery.

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Frank Wong, who stormed the Normandy Beaches on D-Day speaks to Chinese language TV News, while his brother Bing Wong's grandchildren are in the foreground, as I talk with their dad and grandfather.

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Larry Wong and Howard Chan.  Howard is a WW2 veteran.  Larry is curator of the Chinese Canadian Military Museum.

Foo's Ho Ho is open again… and only Chinese restaurant serving old-style Cantonese food

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Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant is a landmark in Vancouver Chinatown… and open again!

Where can you get good old-style Cantonese food in
Vancouver?  Today, there are many styles of Chinese food from Hong
Kong, Beijing, Hunan, Shanghai, even Vietnamese, Cambodian, Korean and
Japanese.  The new immigrants that speak mandarin now out-number the
Cantonese speaking pioneer immigrants and their descendants.

Many many years ago, all the best restaurants in
Chintown all had neon lights.  The Ho Ho Restaurant at the corner of
Pender and Columbia St. had a long tall vertical neon sign that
featured a hot steaming bowl of rice

hoho_old.jpg image by flytrap_canada
The Ho Ho Rstaurant displayed a wonderful neon sign from the 50's to the 60's

Keith McKellar's book “Neon Eulogy: Vancouver Cafe and Street” writes and interesting description of the Ho Ho Restaurant. 
photo courtesy of Christian Dahlberg

Back in the 1950's, 60's and 70's… Vancouver Chinatown was the place
to go for late night eats, Chinese banquets, and you could see the 5th
Dimension, The Platters and many other great performers at the Marco
Polo Restaurant and Night Club – which was across the street from the
former Ho Ho Restaurant.

I grew up during the late 60's and 70's.  Our family used to sit in the
upstairs window booth seat, where we could look outside at all the
pedestrians.  I remember buying Bruce Lee posters from the many stores
on Pender St.  Sadly, this era of Chinatown is now long gone.  Ethnic
Chinese have moved out to the suburbs and the restaurants and stores
followed them.  New immigrants no longer came to Strathcona or
Chinatown as the first stop, many move straight to Richmond, Coquitlam,
Shaughnessey and even North Vancouver.

changed, and restaurants closed.  The Ho Inn had a fire.  Foo's
Restaurant closed.  The Ho Ho closed. I remember sitting in the The
Marco Polo when owner Victor Louie was closing down and offering my dad
some of pictures on the wall.  My father was a sign writer, and he used
to do all the show cards and other signwork for The Marco Polo.

back James Sam, known as “Sam” re-opened the Ho Ho Restaurant site,
renaming it Foo's Ho Ho in recognition of these by-gone restaurants. 
Sam had formerly worked at WK Gardens, Marco Polo
and Best Wun Tun House.  Foo's Ho Ho became the place to go when you
wanted old-style Cantonese cuisine, or to reminesce about the good old
days of Vancouver Chinatown.

I have had many memorable visits to Foo's Ho Ho:

But in July 2009, it was announced that chef Sam was
in the hospital with cancer, and that Foo's Ho Ho would soon close.  My
friend Jim Wong-Chu organized a dinner for a “last night dinner” at
Foo's Ho Ho, and invited lots of our friends who enjoy Chinese Canadian
history, and its food.

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see my July 12th blog story:

Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant to close in Vancouver Chinatown: It's the end of an era for Cantonese restaurants

was a great dinner, and good to see old friends and talk about the
foods and dishes that we love to eat. Sam's wife Joanne was in the
kitchen cooking up many of Sam's signature dishes for us.

A week later, Chef Sam, of Foo's Ho Ho, passes on the the Great Kitchen in the Heavens. A memorial was held for Sam on July 30.  After a grieving period, Joanne decided to re-open.

August 20th, we were back at Foo's Ho Ho
Restaurant.  Jim Wong-Chu invited some friends to again talk about
food, and how we can highlight it's connections to Vancouver Chinese
history.  The dinner was attended by: Col. Howe Lee and Judy Maxwell of
the Chinese Canadian Military Museum; my mother's cousin Gary Lee –
who's interview for the CBC documentary Generations: The Chan Legacy
had been filmed at Foo's Ho Ho; media artist Ray Mah – who had designed
the Saltwater City logos for the 1986 exhibition; and Dr. Jan Walls.

We hope to have more dinners to highlight the food and Vancouver Chinatown history.  Stay tuned…

Oh… but what did we eat?

Feast your eyes on these pictures!

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Free soup that comes with our meal: meat and melon with vegetables

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Special order: Garlic Chicken!

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My favorite: Chicken stuffed with sticky rice

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Egg Foo Yung, a trade

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Bitter Melon with Beef and black bean sauce

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Another favorite!  Curried potato slices with beef.

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Taro with pork

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Tofu and Fish!

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Dr. Jan Walls, our chef Joanne, and Jim Wong-Chu

See my pictures:
August Dinner at Foo's Ho Ho

August Dinner at Foo's Ho Ho