Category Archives: Commentaries

Barack Obama is the 1st “Aloha Spirit” Hawaiian US President – not just Black & White!

Barack Obama is now president-elect for the United States.  The media keeps saying that he is the first Black-American president.  But is this true?

Barack Obama, third from left at rear, in 1972 with his fifth-grade
class in a photograph from Na Opio, the yearbook of the Punahou School.

The AFP printed this story  History as Obama elected America's first black president

If Barack Obama's mother was a White American woman from Kansas, and his father was
a Black man from Africa – doesn't this make him a

If American speed skater Apolo Ohno became U.S. president, would they
say he was the first Eurasian president?  Or the first Asian-American
President? Or the first President of Japanese ancestry?

Since Obama was raised in Hawaii, isn't he really the first Hawaiian
President?  ….The way that George Bush was a Texan president, Jimmy
Carter was a Georgian president, and Bill Clinton was an Alabaman

I think it is so fitting, that Barack was raised in Hawaii.  I have
always found Hawaii to be a very inclusive multi-cultural society.  So
many people from all around the world have settled in Hawaii, including
Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Samoans, Portuguese, Caucasians… and
Americans…. and Canadians too!

In Hawaii, if you are half-white, you are called a “Hapa Haole.”  The
term “Hapa” is now used to describe people who are of mixed Asian

In Hawaii, there is the “Aloha Spirit.”  “Aloha” is the Hawaiian word for “hello.”  And it also means “Love.”

Obama has a half-sister who is half-Asian.  In a March 17, 2007 New York Times story Charisma and a Search for Self in Obama’s Hawaii Childhood, she says:

“I think Hawaii gave him a sense that a lot of different
voices and textures can sort of live together, however imperfectly, and
he would walk in many worlds and feel a level of comfort.”
said Ms. Soetoro-Ng, the child of Mr. Obama’s mother from another
marriage, who remains close to him. 
“People from very far-away places collide here, and cultures collide,
and there is a blending and negotiation that is constant.”

Media commentators on CNN said that Obama did not make this election a
race issue.  Instead he emphasized inclusiveness.  He spoke about hope,
instead of fear.  He talked about working together.

It is now a time when people from all races must work together.  When
people from all countries, and all continents must work together. 

To me… I think the issue is not that Obama is Black-American or
Half-White American… but he is All-American.  Barack Obama is 
striving to inspire all Americans, and all humans to be the best that
we can be, and to work together by helping each other.

Barack Obama is bringing the Aloha spirit to the American presidency and hopefully to the world.

My High School Reunion…. Is it #30 Already for the Carson Graham class of 78?

High School Reunions…  Love them or hate them. 

Was there a high school crush you never got over?
Did one of your fellow students become the mayor?
Did somebody appear in Playboy magazines or in the movies?
It's true for my high school class!
2008_Oct 106 by you.

Here I am with my fellow Carson 78 classmates.  Guess who is the present mayor of the City of North Vancouver?

l-r Janice Moore, Sharon Hack, Darrell Mussatto, Colleen Nevin, Todd Wong, Viv (Walters) Bonin.  Viv sells Mary Kay in Kelowna, Darrell's the mayor of the City of North Vancouver. I'm the one creating crazy intercultural events and being documented by television, radio and the Royal BC Museum.

For the past few months I have been on our Carson Graham 78 High School Reunion committee.  It's been fun re-connecting with old friends, and making friends with former classmates.

2008_Oct 115

Kathleen Ross was my Chemistry 12 partner.  It was great to re-connect with her on the reunion committee along with Cathy Jarvis, Cindy Hamilton, Dave Harper, Sharon Hack, Alan Dudley, Kelly Grant and Marilyn Werseen.  Kathleen shared that she and Dave Harper had wanted to come to my Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner, but haven't made it yet.  But her parents attended a few years ago and enjoyed it.  Kathleen's heritage is Scottish and has been to Scotland several times.  I am embarrassed to say that I still have yet to go…

High School was a time of
identity formation, and research has found that this is the time that
LIFE forms its most important impressions.  That's why music from
'74-'78 will always tweak emotional pulls on us, whether we loved or
hated the Bay City Rollers, Led Zeppellin, Kiss or Olivia Newton-John
(one of my guilty favorites!).  My job was to secure a dj that would create a definite '70's vibe for us. I found Ibata Hexamer of Rhythm Nation.

2008_Oct 099 by you.
Here's one of my favorite photos from last night with some of my best
friends in high school.  Sharon Provost and Christie Harper are sitting
beneath the high school year book picture that Sharon Hack and I are
pointing to.  It's a picture of all four of us on the school badminton
team.  Provost and Harper went all the way to the Vancouver area
finals. After high school, we lost contact with Sharon Hack, and I lost
touch with Provost and Harper after my divorce.  But it was great to
see them again, and we will be keeping touch now!

The Reunion was fun.  It was last night at the Holiday Inn in North
Vancouver.  We rented the conference rooms, and hired a DJ for lots of '70's music.  A true blast from
the past. People registered and started recognizing the the faces that were intimate but distantly familiar.  It was probably harder to recognize the guys, because after 30 years hairstyles changed from shoulder length to short.  Add in male pattern baldness. But a lot of women were hard to recognize too… ugly ducklings matured into swans.  Make-overs and hair colour also probably helps.

2008_Oct 117

I played saxophone in the concert band in Grade 10 at Balmoral and
Grade 11 at Carson Graham.  Ken Redekop and Alan Dudley were two of my
best friends at Carson, they both played trombone in the school bands.
One of my best memories was our grade 11 band trip to Oregon.  As well
Alan was one of my Grouse Mountain ski buddies – we'd head up to Grouse
Mountain right after school was out.

come to our reunions if we are feeling good about our place in the world, or to show up
the people who picked on us, that we did better than them.  Or we avoid
them because we hated high school, and all the silly high school
behaviors.  Maybe we attend them because we want to see old friends that we lost
contact with or no longer have to time to connect with them.  But it must be more than that…  It's
a check-up time in our lives psychologically.  We internalize a lot of
judgement issues.  We are too bald, fat, poor, ugly, socially inept or

2008_Oct 113
Team sports were a big part of high school life.  Alan Dudley was on the rugby team, Darrell Mussatto was on the soccer team, Dave Robinson was on the basketball team.  I was on the wrestling and badminton teams.  Alan convinced me to join the rugby team in grade 12, but after the first game where I didn't play and I saw a guy get a concussion, so I left for the badminton team.

A big surprise was re-connecting with Owen Reid.  I remember Owen as somebody I had to piggy back during a rugby practice exercise.  He was much bigger and heavier than skrawny little me.  Anyways, Owen came up to me and said “Todd Wong – you are one of the people I really hoped to see tonight. Every year I read about you in the paper.” It turns out that Owen plays bagpipes at a highly competitive level, and once place 5th at the world championships.  Glen Brady came up to us, and said that he would have expected Owen to be wearing a kilt, and told a story about how Owen had played bagpipes at his brother's funeral.  Small world.

2008_Oct 095

It's funny how you always got organized in school by your last name.  Our lockers would get assigned together some years.  Here are some classmates I got to know from Balmoral to Carson in the W's.  Brian Wilson, Susan Wright, Mark Warner and Stephanie Wright

Class of '78 has matured. Some of us have succeeded, some of us
haven't.  Some of us have made a million dollars, some of us have been
in jail.  But we are survivors, and there were a few years that bound
us together through shared experience such as sports, band, clubs,
dating, Star Wars, Elvis Presley's death, or walking lonely hallways
with a friend..

Check the Carson Graham 78 Reunion website:

I also created a Carson Graham 78 Reunion face book site and added some pictures:

Vision/COPE/Greens make a civic slate deal… Stuart Mackinnon of the Green Party is the real winner!

Who is going to make it past the nominations fight to represent Vision Vancouver, COPE, and Green Party for city council, school board, and parks board?

It's going to be tough. There are 17 Vision candidates and 5 Cope candidates positioning for 8 Vision spots and 2 COPE spots for City Council.  Assuming that the incumbent councilors David Cadman, Raymond Louie, George Chow, Heather Deal and Tim Stevenson all get in, – that leaves 13 Vision candidates for 4 spots and 4 COPE candidates for 1 spot.

Here's the deal as reported in the Globe & Mail
Mayor – 1 Vision
City Council  – 8 Vision 2 COPE = 10 total
School Board – 4 Vision 5 COPE = 9 total
Parks Board – 4 Vision 2 COPE 1 Green = 7 total

Frances Bula has a list of all the candidates for all the parties, including NPA, on her blog site State of Vancouver: Frances Bula on city life and politics

The best surprising story is the Green candidate for Parks board is included in this slate. 

Stuart Mackinnon has run for the Greens in past elections.  He is quoted in the G & M article:

“Personally, I am pleased that we've been recognized as a force in
civic politics,” said Stuart Mackinnon, the Green Party's park board

“And Vision is running the greenest mayor we've ever had. Gregor Robertson could be a Green Party member.”

While 5 COPE candidates scrap for 2 seats on Parks Board, and 6 Vision
candidates battle for the remaining 4 seats, Mackinnon is assured of
his spot on the COPE/VISION/GREEN slate.

Mackinnon with musician Michelle Carlisle of the Halifax Wharf Rats, at
Kilts Night event – 1st Thursday of each month at Doolin's Irish Pub –
photo Todd Wong

I am proud to say that Stuart Mackinnon is a 2 year member of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team.  While on the team Stuart has been exposed to all sorts of issues such as cultural diversity, paddling on sewage threatened False Creek, the importance of water front park land for dragon boat festivals, as well as Chinese-Canadian and Scottish-Canadian histories. Much of which was already close to his heart.

Stuart loved paddling so much in his first weeks last year, that he was inspired to start up a junior dragon boat team for Killarney Secondary students where he teaches as a special needs teacher.  The team won silver medals in their division in their rookie year at the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival and has matured tremendously and improved in performance in its second year.  Stuart and I are now preparing the 2009 team, with early planning for practices this fall.

It's been an honour to be welcomed into Stuart Mackinnon's life and become his friend.  He is an inspiring figure to his students, and those around him.  Last year, he led a delegation of teachers to China and gave an address about Norman Bethune, the Canadian doctor so revered in China.  Stuart is thoughtful, respectful and diplomatic.  He does his research, and he is passionate about his issues and beliefs.

I have learned a lot from Stuart about city politics over these past two years.  Through Stuart, I have also gotten to know his good friend Andrea Reimer, who is running for a Vision Vancouver nomination for city council.  Andrea was the first elected Green candidate tp a school board when she became a Vancouver School trustee in 2002. 

I have given an endorsement for Andrea Reimer's website, as well as for Raymond Louie, Meena Wong, Ellen Woodsworth, and Kerry Jang

Good luck to all the candidates… but especially to Stuart Mackinnon and the Green Party.

Ethnic Issues and the Canadian Federal Election: Gabriel Yiu's commentary about Harper, South Asian community and the Komagata Maru redress

Ethnic issues and the Canadian Federal Election: Why the federal politicians are now paying attention.

I drove into work this morning, CBC Radio's “The Current” was
interviewing a Muslim-Canadian in Quebec and a Chinese-Canadian in
Vancouver about the importance of ethnic issues for this upcoming
federal election.

Chinese head tax issue was cited by one of the interviewees as being an
issue that caused problems for the Paul Martin and the Liberals. 
Without a broad-based consultation of Chinese-Canadians directly
affected by the head tax issue, the Liberals went ahead with their ACE
program (Acknowledgement, Commemoration and Education) without an
apology or a payment settlement plan.  This raised the ire of not only
Chinese Canadians head tax descendants but also many non-Chinese
Canadians who said this was unfair and unjust.  In the ensuing
demonstrations and protest movement, I got to know Gabriel Yiu as one
of many community activists working to bring the issue to public
knowledge and government settlement.

Harper and his Vancouver colleagues saw the winds changing, and jumped
on the head tax band wagon.  Even Liberals Ujjal Dosanjh, David Emerson
and Stephen Owen found a “second opinion” distancing themselves from
Paul Martin and Raymond Chan plan.  Harper eventually made an official
apology in Parliament.  This was important because the Head Tax and
Chinese Exclusion Act had been federal law.  The Conservatives also
gave a settlement to surviving head tax payers and spouses, but not
anybody who died before they were elected.  This was very unfair, as
99% of head tax payers and spouses were already dead.

Harper and the Conservatives are playing to the South Asian community
for votes.  They are addressing the Komagat Maru incident but not
giving an apology.

Gabriel Yiu has written a wonderful commentary, that I am re-publishing here:

South Asian community shouldn’t
miss opportunity to redress Komagata Maru incident

Gabriel Yiu 

Global Chinese Press
column 5.9.2008

Also submitted to Indo-Canadian


In late 2005, the federal election was in full swing.  In the
Chinese community, the Head Tax redress was the hottest issue.  The
Liberals ran a close race against the Conservatives, so both parties made
extraordinary efforts to fetch votes.


Raymond Chan, the Liberal Multicultural Minister at the time, set up a
meeting in Vancouver Chinatown for his boss, Paul Martin, to make an
announcement to redress the Chinese Head Tax.  This so-called
“historical” redress offered no apology and no compensation, only a
sum of money for community organizations.


The Liberals’ “historical” redress triggered Chinese
activists like myself to step forward to fight it because it was unjust.


My view on the Head Tax is like this. For all the historical unjust
matters and tragedies, the present-day government can decide not to take any
action.  After all, we have enough more press modern issues for our
politicians to handle.  However, if today’s government decided to
redress this historical matter, the redress should be examined with
today’s morals and values. The government offering an apology for an
unjust historical wrong is the basic requirement.  A redress on the Head
Tax without an apology is an insult to the Chinese community.


The CBC Early Edition interviewed me and Raymond Chan on the
Liberals’ redress program.  I expressed my view and stated that
community opinions expressed on Chinese open-line shows were one-sided —
overwhelmingly opposing the Liberal plan.  After I hung up, it was Raymond
Chan’s turn. He said “Gabriel Yiu was lying” and
“Gabriel Yiu was misleading the community….”  Wow, a federal
cabinet minister scolded me in public on an English-language radio.  I
wondered whether I was being attacked or being elevated.


After the election, the Conservative government made an
apology for the Chinese Head Tax and the Chinese Exclusion Act.  So far, I
haven’t seen any community come up and sue the government on other past
historical wrong.  Raymond Chan’s claim that a government apology
would open the floodgates to lawsuits that would cost taxpayers huge amounts of
money has never materialized.  So who was lying and misleading the
community in the last election?


Due to the strong reaction in the Chinese community, Prime Minister
Martin was forced to change his position in the middle of his election
campaign.  In an interview conducted on a Chinese radio channel, Martin
apologized for the Chinese Head Tax.  A CBC reporter interviewed me and
said I must be happy about it and my reply surprised the journalist.  I
said, what kind of apology was that? Paul Martin didn’t offer his apology
in a national press conference but merely uttered it in an ethnic language
radio interview.  How sincere was it?  More importantly, the Chinese
Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act were legislated in the Parliament.  If
the government of Canada
truly felt remorse, an apology should be made in the Parliament.  In the
following week, Paul Martin promised to apologize in the Parliament after the


South Asian readers must find this familiar, mustn’t they?
(That’s right, I’m submitting this commentary to both Chinese and
South Asian newspapers.)  Looks like history is repeating itself. 
Frankly, I am quite surprised to see Prime Minister Harper and Multicultural
Minister Jason Kenney, who scored almost full marks on the Chinese Head Tax
redress file, would screw up like this and repeat the mistake of Paul
Martin/Raymond Chan.  It’s also incredible to see that Kenney, who
has been working hard to connect to ethnic communities, should rule out
immediately apology in the Parliament. Why should he draw such a hard line? 
Was it a slip of the tongue?  Or is it an attitude problem?

Since the Conservative government has already apologized to Chinese and
aboriginals in the Parliament, why would Harper insist in not apologizing to
South Asians on the Komagata Maru affair?

The 2006 federal election had helped resolve the humiliation of the
Chinese in the last century.  The South Asian community should grab this
coming opportunity to put a fair and just full stop on the Komagata Maru


Vancouver Sun: Kerry Jang asks 'Does housing first' model make sense?

Kerry Jang looks for a more comprehensive solution to solving Vancouver's homelessness and drug addiction problems.

Dr. Kerry Jang

Dr. Kerry Jang  has written a op-ed piece for the Vancouver Sun about the “not so simple”solutions for solving homelessness in Vancouver. 

Jang is an amazing man.  He is a University of British Columbia professor of Psychiatry who has applied
his research on mental illness to problems in his community of Collingwood in Vancouver.  And… he wants to be a Vancouver city councilor for Vision Vancouver.

In 2006, he was named academic of the year by receiving the 2006 CUFA/BC Distinguished Academics Awards.

In 2007, he was awarded the BC Community Achievement Award as “volunteer for harm reduction initiatives and as former President and
Board member of the Collingwood Neighbourhood House. Dr. Jang has
shared his expertise as a professor and psychologist by helping his
community effectively address issues of homelessness, addictions and
mental health.” 

I really appreciate his work in the mental health field.  Back in 2001, I did a co-op work study with the Canadian Mental Health Assocation, BC Division.  I got to understand a lot more about the issues, as I worked on community projects.  Most importantly, I worked on a lobby campaign to highlight mental health issues for that fall's provincial election.  Kerry has served as both volunteer and   board member for the Canadian Mental Health Association, but more recently he serves on the newly created Mental Health Commission of Canada.

I first met Kerry a few years ago at a fundraiser for Jenny Kwan.  In the years since, we have gotten to know each other, trade advice, and greet each other warmly.  When it was my turn this year to go to Victoria and receive my BC Community Achievement Award, I asked about the event, and Kerry gave me fashion advice, and suggested that I wear my kilt.  A few weeks ago, Kerry asked me for an endorsement for his website.

Earlier this month, both Jang and Andrea Reimer created a news event by soliciting skytrain riders to apply for the vacant Translink board positions.  It was a very good and effective political publicity stunt, while addressing the problems of Translink's financial and undemocratic issues.  I heard Kerry speaking on CBC radio, and Frances Bula wrote it up on her blog.

Does 'housing first' model make sense?

A 'common-sense' solution that doesn't deal with the other problems of the homeless will only perpetuate the cycle

Kerry Jang,
Special to the Sun

Published: Thursday, August 21, 2008

were cheers of delight and moans of dismay at the announcement that
people living in the tent city at Oppenheimer Park will be offered
housing in single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels.

The cheers came
from the proponents of the “housing first” model that is predicated on
the assumption people need a roof over their heads before they can
begin to address their mental illness and/or drug addiction problems.
The moans came from those who feel that this announcement has done
little but provide a safe haven for drug use and other illegal

Who is right? Should we be smiling or hanging our heads in shame?

Protesters in this summer's tent city in Oppenheimer Park won housing in SRO hotels for their efforts, but that is only part of the solution to the problems of mental illness, addiction and homelessness.View Larger Image View Larger Image

in this summer's tent city in Oppenheimer Park won housing in SRO
hotels for their efforts, but that is only part of the solution to the
problems of mental illness, addiction and homelessness.

Mark van Manen, Vancouver Sun files

great appeal of the housing first model is that it is rooted in one of
our most cherished ideas — the role of a stable home. A warm, dry and
clean home provides the safe base from which to start solving life's
problems, no matter how big or small they may be.

By providing a
home to those in need first, regardless of their personal problems, is
one way to replicate this fundamental stable environment that gives the
person a leg up so they can move on to appropriate treatment.

model is also based in psychological theory and research, reflecting
the “hierarchy of needs” outlined by the psychologist Abraham Maslow.
At the lowest level of his hierarchy are physiological and safety
needs, such as food, warmth and security. It is not possible to move to
higher levels of the hierarchy — which encompass love, belonging,
esteem and self-actualization, having a moral sense, being creative,
acceptance of facts — until the each of the lower levels have been met.

we all know that even in the best homes, the best environments, and
under the best conditions, there remain drug addiction, mental illness,
physical and sexual abuse and behavioural problems that leads to life
on the street.

Such real world observations have led many in the
general public and public health alike to adopt a “housing last” model,
which is predicated on the idea that the best course of action is to
first stabilize a person by addressing the mental illness and/or drug
addiction so that they could go into housing.

It was reasoned
that unless the underlying problems were addressed first, the housing
provided could degenerate into the filthy SROs that epitomize the
Downtown Eastside today.

Indeed, some would say that under the
housing first model what has been provided are new, comfortable crack
houses for addicts to shoot up, deal drugs and engage in prostitution
or all manner of illegal activity. Moreover, if the person who was
provided housing first decided not to address their problems, the
person could be evicted back onto the streets and the vicious cycle

Which model is correct? Quite frankly, both, but both
can lead to disaster unless we remember the mistake we made in the
1990s with the closure of Riverview Psychiatric Hospital.

decision to close Riverview was also based on the common-sense idea
that psychiatric patients will do better living in communities as
opposed to being locked up in a hospital. In communities, patients can
interact with “normal” people which would help their reintegration back
into society.

Read more of the article at

Does 'housing first' model make sense?

Why isn't PM Harper attending Beijing Olympics? Is he trying to make a point?

Harper should attend 2008 Beijing Olympics, and promote the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver!

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been trying to woo the Canadian Asian ethnic vote by making an apology for the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act, and now for the Komagata Maru incident.  While both original actions were racist and unconscionable in retrospect… and the long overdue apology commendable… it would be plain silly for Harper to boycott the Beijing Olympics in his personal quest to call China on it's actions in Tibet.

So why would Harper slap the face of the homeland of Canada's biggest source of immigrants and our  largest trading partner?

Gabriel Yiu is a media commentator that I got to know as we both called for redress for the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act during the 2005/06 campaign.

He puts forward a very good argument for Harper to attend the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. So I link it here for you to read.

Gee… if Harper doesn't attend the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, would he be considering the Vancouver Olympics opening ceremony… provided he gets re-elected.  The same might not be so lucky for David Emerson, Harpers's newly appointed Foreign Affairs Minister, who is still beleaguered in his home constituency of Vancouver Kingsway. 

But if Emerson could change his mind about the Conservative Party, and if Harper could change his mind about Emerson, then maybe Harper could still change his mind about the Beijing Olympics.

Harper shouldn’t boycott the Beijing

Gabriel Yiu

Global Chinese Press column 9.7.2008

When David Emerson was appointed foreign affairs minister,
it was widely expected that the appointment could help restore Canada-China
relations.  Having someone who knows and has experiences dealing with
China is
certainly better than relying on any of Emerson’s predecessors.

However, if the Conservative government genuinely wants to
improve relations with China ,
a great opportunity has presented itself – the opening ceremony of the Summer
Olympics.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper should attend the Beijing
Olympics in person.  The Beijing Olympic Games is an historic event for
China and friends of
China from around the world are visiting
and participating in it.  If the prime minister of
Canada doesn’t grace the occasion with his
kind of “friend” to China
is Canada?

By now, over 80 heads-of-state have confirmed their attendance
of the August 8 Olympics opening ceremony in
Beijing . The list includes US President
George Bush, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas
Sarkozy, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Australian Prime Minister Kevin
Rudd and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda….

The prime minister of Britain
and the president of France
have reversed their earlier position of not attending the Beijing Olympics, so
even if Harper changes his stand and visits
China , it’s not disgraceful.

What is disgraceful is Harper’s excuse for his non-participation. 
Unlike the French president who cited
Tibet as the reason for the
boycott, our prime minister said that it is not the custom for a Canadian prime
minister to attend the Olympics.  Well, it’s a fact that former prime
ministers of Canada
had attended Olympic Games.  Besides, rather than just an excuse, what
kind of custom is that, and why do the Conservatives insist on sticking to it
and not follow the protocol of our western allies?

In fact, the prime minister of
Canada has better reasons to attend
Beijing Olympics than other heads of state.  First,
Canada is amongst the earliest western countries
which established formal diplomatic relations with
China . 
Canada recognized
China in 1970 — that was 38 years
ago — we’re old friends.  Equally important,
China is currently our second
largest trading partner.  Moreover, Canada
is the organizer of the 2010 Winter Olympics following
Beijing ’s 2008 Summer Olympics.

President Sarkozy of France
once said that his reason for not attending the Beijing Olympics is an
expression of boycott, to express dissatisfaction with
China ’s way of
handling the Tibetan riots. According to the same logic, Harper’s unwillingness
to participate would be seen as a boycott gesture.

President Bush said in his recent visit at the G8 Summit
that if he didn’t attend, it would be an “affront to the Chinese people.” 
Although I dislike Bush a great deal, I have to say that he is right this
time.  It’s because the Beijing Olympics is no longer a matter of face and
dignity just for the government of
China and its leaders. It is a
major event tugging at the heart of not only the Chinese in
China , but the
Chinese worldwide.

When the leaders of US,
UK and France all understand the symbolism
of their participation, why doesn’t our prime minister have the intelligence to
comprehend it?  For comprehend it he does not. What it shows is the same attitude
and hostility towards China
shown by Harper since he became prime minister.

Therefore, to those who expect that the appointment of
Emerson and a nice gesture to the new ambassador of
China can improve Canada-China relations,
I would say those are only small gestures more aimed at getting  the Chinese
vote than showing a change of Harper’s attitude.  After all, how many
times has Mr. Harper visited Israel ? 
Why hasn’t our prime minister paid a visit to our second biggest trading

If Harper is genuine in improving relations with
China , he
should take this opportunity to attend the Beijing Olympics. His sudden about-turn
would certainly signal a change, and would be appreciated and rewarded by
Beijing . The improved
relations would help resolve the current impasse on getting the Approved
Destination Status from China ,
and would bring in large number of Chinese travelers at the time of our
economic slowdown.

Remember, the key to improving Canada-China relations lies not
in our foreign affairs minister, but in our prime minister.

Also read Miro Cernetig's article

Why Canada and Vancouver need the Prime Minister to go to Beijing

Did Chinese discover BC first? Oldest new immigrants? DNA connections? Georgia Straight tackles the question?

Did the Chinese discover North America 1000 years before Columbus?

Who were BC's first seafarers?” is the cover feature on this week's Georgia Straight?

Daniel Wood writes a very interesting feature that addresses the Chinese legendary land of Fu Sang, interviews underwater acheologist enthusiast Tom Beasley, and explores the Gavin Menzies book 1421, the Year China Discovered the World.

I have written about connections between First Nations and Chinese people when Storyscapes was exploring the oral history of such meetings:  Vancouver Storyscapes: Where the Chinese met the First Nations peoples

It's not unfathomable that the Chinese discovered North America first.  Afterall, ancient Chinese civilization and science was much further advanced than European civilization circa 500 AD.  According to Menzies, the Chinese had huge boats 5X the size of Columbus' flagship.  A lot of trade and knowledge migrated to Japan from China, and Japanese glass fishing floats have regularly made their way to BC's shores, due to ocean currents.

I have often spoke with BC's First Nations people about Chinese-First Nations connections.  Afterall, my mother's blood cousin is Rhonda Larrabee, chief of the Qayqayt (New Westminster) First Nations.  Larry Grant, Musqueam elder, is half Chinese, like cousin Rhonda.

When I was up in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), I spoke with Haida people about the shared “mongolian birthmark” that both Chinese and First Nations people are born with.
Check out my stories:

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Todd Wong supports Raymond Louie's campaign to be Vancouver Mayor

Vancouver city councilor Raymond Louie asked me to support his bid to be Vancouver Mayor.  Raymond would be a great mayor… I immediately said “Absolutely!”


stands in front of Historic Joy Kogawa House on April 25th, 2008.  This
was his first visit to the house, after supporting motions on city council to help save the house from demolition, and plant a cherry tree graft at Vancouver City Hall in 2005.  Raymond holds some of Joy Kogawa's books to share
with his wife and children – photo Todd Wong

Raymond Louie could be Vancouver's first Chinese-Canadian mayor.  He is
a multi-generational Vancouverite from the East Side.  He is a second
term Vancouver city councilor.

Raymond Louie has been getting some very significant endorsers including:

George Chow, Vision Vancouver Councillor
Joy MacPhail, former Deputy Premier and Leader of the Opposition
Doug McArthur, former Deputy Minister to the Premier
Wayson Choy, author of “The Jade Peony”
Richard Tetrault, artist
Darlene Marzari, former Vancouver City Councillor and B.C. Minister of Municipal Affairs
Eddie Chan, Chairman Zhongshan Allied Association
David Black, Canadian Office and Professional Employees Local 378 Vice-President
Margaret Birrell, Community Activist
and now….. me!

  My statement of endorsement is now featured on Raymond Louie's website:

“Raymond Louie actually lives the culturally diverse Gung Haggis Fat
Choy lifestyle that is my creative world. His own family straddles many
cultures and many generations, and he actively demonstrates that he
understands the many facets that can make our city shine like a
diamond. I have seen how Raymond makes things happen as a city
councilor, bringing together different groups and perspectives such as
arts, economics, heritage and cultures. As a mayor that empowers others
to be their best, Raymond will be dynamic and our jewel of a city
should shine even brighter.”

Todd Wong, arts advocate and creator of Gung Haggis Fat Choy

To support Raymond as the Vision Vancouver mayoral candidate, you have to
1) Join Vision as a member – click here!
2) Vote at the Vision Vancouver meeting on June 15th, Croatian Community Centre.

Raymond has recently made some wonderful statements on:

He has also currently “advocating for the
creation of a non-profit foundation that will establish a long-term
funding source for the chronically underfunded Childcare Endowment

I have personally known Raymond since the fall of 2002, when he ran for
city council.  Initially, I met his wife Tonya first, because she was
on the board of Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society, where I had
volunteered for, and then was hired as a program coordinator.  I
finally met Raymond at the Chinese Cultural Centre when Mike Harcourt
endorsed COPE mayoral candidate Larry Campbell. 

After that our
paths just seemed to keep crossing, as Raymond was invited to present
the Queen's Jubilee Medals to VAHMS board members Jim Wong-Chu and
Kuldip Gill. As well, Raymond attended the opening of the “Three
Pioneer Canadian Chinese Families
” at the Chinese Cultural Centre
Museum and Archives.  My great-great-grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan's
family was featured, and I was one of the featured stories as a
descendant.  Raymond attended because he was distantly related to H.Y.
Louie, whose family was also featured along with the family of Lee-Bick.

I have seen Raymond at many events throughout Vancouver over the past 6 years.  He is an effective city councilor and is active in the community.

To see him in action at City Council check out this video:

YouTube – EgoDensity Round 1

Raymond Louie criticizes Mayor Sam Sullivan's Eco-Density program

Here are some of the highlights when Raymond and I have shared together:


Raymond climbed on top of the Taiwanese Dragon Boat head… and reaches out to simulate grabbing a flag before crossing the finish line.  I taught him how to climb onto the dragon head – neglecting to tell him it had never been done in Canada before.  Raymond lost the demonstration race to Olympic medalist Lori Fung. – photo courtesy of Taiwanese Cultural Festival.

August to September 2003, Raymond Louie was instrumental in helping to launch the inaugural Vancouver International Taiwanese Dragon Boat Race.  Raymond helped stickhandle through bureaucratic channels during a Vancouver Port strike, and participated as the flag grabber vs '84 Olympic gold medalist Lori Fung in a demonstration race.

November 3rd, 2005, Raymond supported the Save Kogawa House campaign at Vancouver City Hall, when we appealed to City Council for help.  City council used an unprecedented motion to delay a demolition permit application by 3 months, to give us time to fundraise and purchase the house.  Raymond also said that this project was so important he asked all the city councilors to make a donation that day.

January 2006, Raymond brings his family with wife and 3 kids to Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.  The featured performers are Rick Scott & Harry Wong, and the No Shit Shirleys.


July 2007, Raymond Louie calls for mediation to end the Vancouver civic workers' strike.  Mayor Sam Sullivan and the NPA decline mediation and let the “unnecessary strike” drag on for 3 months, before a mediator is finally called in on Thanksgiving weekend to settle a contract very similar to what other municipalities already settled for 3 months earlier.  Following a July 29th rally at Vancouver City Hall, Raymond Louie comes out to talk with members of Vancouver's civic unions.  I introduce him to my fellow workers of CUPE 391, Vancouver Library Workers – photo Todd Wong.

January 25th, 2008.  Raymond Louie appears on Rock 101's Bro Jake show with “Toddish McWong” to help promote the Gung Haggis Fat Choy event.

Gung Haggis 2008 Dinner 242

January 27th, 2008.  Raymond Louie wears a kilt to Gung Haggis Fat Choy. photo Gung Haggis collection.  A highlight of the evening is Raymond on stage with a group of men wearing kilts as a “Toast to the Lassies” chorus with co-host Catherine Barr – photo VFK.

Raymond Louie for mayor

March 13th, 2008, Vancouver Sun reports Raymond Louie's declaration to run for Vancouver mayor.  Raymond  invites me to be one of his supporters in this photo taken at the Chinese Cultural Centre courtyard.  I am standing on the far left with many key supporters of the Chinatown business and community organizers.  Dr. Kerry Jang is 5th from right – Kerry will run as a candidate for councilor with Vision Vancouver. photo Bill Keay Vancouver Sun.

Photo Library - 2645

April 6th, 2008.  Tartan Day is officially proclaimed in Vancouver. Raymond seconded the motion in City Council, moved by Heather Deal, which passed on April 1st.  As deputy mayor, Raymond reads the proclamation prior to a Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team practice.  In this photo l-r: Chinese-Scottish-Canadian Michael Brophy holds the Scottish flag, Todd Wong, Raymond Louie holds proclamation, bagpiper Joe McDonald-  photo Todd Wong/Georgia Thorburn


Raymond Louie speaks at the CUPE 391 Vancouver Library Workers annual general meeting.  He encouraged everybody to get involved in their union in order to help make positive changes.  He was very nicely received by the CUPE 391 audience.  In this picture, Raymond stands in front of another Vision mayoral candidate Gregor Robertson MLA for Vancouver-Fairview, while CUPE 391 president Alexandra Youngberg moderates – photo Todd Wong

Poet Gary Geddes recieves 5th annual Lt. Gov's award for Literary Excellence

Gary Geddes is a facinating man.  He would be a fitting literary figure to speak at a Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner event.


Gary Geddes is descended from Scottish ancestors from the Northern tip of Scotland. He wrote me: “Just Scots fisherfolk from the north coast who fished in Orkney waters
for herring, until they were all fished out. Then they came over here
and did the same nasty thing to the salmon. The family name comes from
the ged, a North Atlantic sea pike. The people of the geds, totem
animal and all that. Nasty little bite they have, too.”

He also has a fascination with things Asian.  Nevermind the 1421 voyage of Chinese admiral Zheng He  Gary Geddes has written The Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things (HarperCollins, 2005), an entertaining and philosophical travelogue of about the Chinese or Afghan monk named Huishen, who might have reached the west
coast of North America about 1,000 years before Columbus. Geddes traveled to the Himalayas, the Taklamakan Desert and Central
America (where Huishen is most likely to have landed, according Chinese

Gary also has written poetry collections titled The Terracotta Army (1985), and
I Didn't Notice the Mountain Growing Dark (Cormorant, 1986)- translations of Li Pai and Tu Fu, with the assistance of George Liang.

Probably the first time I came across his work was his anthology 15 Canadian Poets.  I either shelved it at the Vancouver Public Library or studied it taking poetry or Canadian literature classes at Capilano College.  But it was a few years ago that our paths actually converged.  Gary was writer-in-residence for the Vancouver Public Library, where I was working at the information desk.  Somehow we connected, and we soon were setting appointments to attend events and have a meeting.

Gary shared with me his role in creating Canada's first anthology of Asian-Canadian literature, Many Mouthed Birds.  He had a connection with grants and publishers and shared the connection with Jim Wong-Chu, co-editor of the anthology.

Through his many anthologies, his own writings, and his roles as teacher, mentor and community activist, Gary Geddes  has created his own indelible mark on both BC and Canadian literary landscape.  He has taught at Concordia Univiersity and the Creative Writing School of UBC, as well as being a Distinguised Professor of Candian Culture at Western Washington University in Bellingham Washington.  Last year he received an honourary Doctorate of Laws from Royal Roads University in BC.

Here is the Press Release from BC Book Prizes

– April
19, 2008 




Gary Geddes named recipient of the fifth annual

Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary


Vancouver, BC – The West Coast Book Prize Society is proud to
recognize Gary Geddes as the
recipient of the fifth annual Lieutenant
Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence
. British
Columbia ’s Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable
Steve n Point, will present the award at the
Lieutenant Governor’s BC Book Prizes Gala to be held at the Fairmont
Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver
on April 26, 2008. The event will be hosted by
broadcaster Fanny Kiefer.


“From 15 Canadian
to Skookum Wawa
to 20th Century Poetry and Poetics,
Gary Geddes has raised the literary profile of both our province and nation,
and has long been considered one of
Canada ’s most important men
of letters. He has given decades of his life to teaching Canadian literature
and the craft of writing as well as working as a university professor,
writer-in-residence, critic, anthologist, translator, editor, and most
importantly, writer. Gary Geddes’ writings have crossed countries and
continents in performance and translation. He has received numerous awards,
including the E. J. Pratt Medal, a
Canadian Authors Association prize, two Archibald Lampman awards, and the
Gabriela Mistral Prize for service to literature and the people of
Chile .
His work as a poet has been generous in its outward-looking gaze. His poems
bring song and light into darkened corners of the human experience, document
silent and hidden lives, and enter politics through the individual and the
personal. His newest book of poems, Falsework,
explores the 1958 collapse of Vancouver ’s
Second Narrows
Bridge . His meditative
memoir Sailing Home: A Journey Through Time,
Place and Memory
(2001) chronicles his return to the West Coast with
a deep sense of awe and gratitude for the beauty, wildness, and history of this
place. In whatever genre he pursues, Gary Geddes writes with eloquence and
intense awareness of mystery within the commonplace, and the single human voice
singing inside the crowd. He tells the truth, in all its rawness and splendour.


For the integrity of his creative work, for his active and
generous promotion of other writers, and for the words he has given to help map
the literary geography of British
Columbia , we proudly celebrate Gary Geddes.”

Jury member Carla Funk


The jury
for this year’s Lieutenant Governor’s Award: Carla
Funk , poet laureate for the city of Victoria;
Margaret Reynolds ,
executive director of the Association of Book Publishers of BC; and Mel Bolen,
owner of Bolen Books, Victoria.

prize was established in 2003 by former Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable
Iona Campagnolo, to recognize British
Columbia writers who have contributed to the
development of literary excellence in the province. The recipient receives a
cash award of $5,000 and a commemorative certificate.


All BC Book Prizes info at

Media Contact:
Karen Green ,
Rebus Creative: 604.687.2405, ext. 21,





Chinese head tax redress deadline March 31st: now it's time for inclusion of sons, daughters of pre-deceased head tax payers

The deadline for the ex-gratia payment is March 31, 2008.

Applicants must have been alive by Feb 6, 2006.

If my grandfather was alive, he would have been 140 years old.  IMPOSSIBLE!!!

He worked hard to pay back the head tax, most likely borrowed from
relatives and family friends.  $500 was charged from 1903 to 1923,
after initially imposed at $50 in 1885 and raised to $100 in 1900.

$500 was equivalent to two years wages of a Chinese labour at
the time. Meanwhile, Chinese were denied Canadian citizenship.
In all, the Federal Government collected $23 million from the
Chinese through the Head Tax.  It was enough to pay for the entire cost of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which many Chinese workers helped to build, enabling British and European immigrants to come to British Columbia.  What was their reward
?  A head tax and an exclusion act.

It could take 10 years or more to repay the money borrowed to pay for head tax money. 

Imagine if all Canadians were presently asked to go into debt for 2
years worth of wages.

What about Dak Leon Mark's head tax certificate? 

Dak Leon Mark (now deceased) asked NDP Member of Parliament Margaret
Mitchell to help reclaim his head tax money.  Margaret Mitchell brought
the issue before Canadian Parliament in 1984. 

Did his Mr. Mark's spouse claim the redress ex-gratia payment?  or did
she die too?  Did he have children?  Should his beneficiary's be able
to receive what rightfully belonged to their father?

It is now time for STAGE 2 of the Chinese Head Tax Redress ex-gratia program

It is time to address the 99% of head tax certificates NOT addressed by the Conservative government program

It is time to address the hundreds of thousands of Chinese Canadian
head tax descendants who will VOTE in the next federal election.

It is time to fulfill the CCNC's proposal to the Conservative
government submitted in 2005. Or did Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney
conveniently forget about the sons and daughters left behind by their
pre-deceased head tax payers and spouses.

According to the current program.

Q20: What happens if a Head Tax payer was alive on February 6, 2006, but died before applying?

In the case where a Head Tax payer was alive on February 6, 2006,
but has since died, a person that was in a conjugal relationship with a
Head Tax payer who is now deceased will be able to submit an
application for the ex-gratia symbolic payment, once the
Department of Canadian Heritage has finalized the specifics of the
application process for these persons.

Q21: What happens if a Head Tax payer dies after he or she has made an application, but before a payment could be issued ?

In the event that the applicant dies following the submission of the
application, and is assessed to be eligible to receive a payment, and
it is determined that there are no persons living who are or who were
in a conjugal relationship with the Head Tax payer who have applied for
payment, the designated beneficiary named in the application form will
then receive the payment.

ROLL BACK the age of death to 1947, when
the Chinese Exclusion Act was lifted.  This is symbolic because it is
the date when Canadians of Chinese heritage were granted full
citizenship rights for the country they were born in.

It is symbolic that 1947 ended 24 years of legislated exclusion of
Chinese immigration – the only ethnic group that was racially
discriminated against in this way.

It took the Canadian government 46 years to redress the wrongful
internment of Canadians born of Japanese ancestry during WW2, in 1988. 
Surely the Canadian government can address 62 years of legislated
racism from 1885 to 1947, then a further 59 years of ignoring even an
apology until 2006.

2008 is the 150th Anniversary of British Columbia.

Chinese have been in BC for 150 years,
as long as other ethnicities or even longer than others.  It is fitting
that after 150 years, Canadians of Chinese ethnicity be treated with
full respect that other ethnicities have been.

If the government charges a wrongful tax, admits they are wrong, but doesn't give the money back… is this fair?

$500 in 1923 dollars with compound interest has been estimated to be
$300,000 in 2005 dollars.  The head tax ex-gratia payment announced by
the government in 2006 was $20,000.  The Chinese Head Tax redress
campaign is only asking for symbolic compensation

Ignoring 99% of head tax certificates is not only wrong, it's shameful.

Todd Wong