Category Archives: GENERATIONS: The Chan Legacy

More comments about GENERATIONS: The Chan Legacy

More comments about GENERATIONS: The Chan Legacy

Generations is a 6 part series and the lead installment is The Chan Legacy
which is about my great-great-grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan, and our
family descendants who are committed to community service – like me! 
The episodes of the series are:

100 Years in Saskatchewan

Watch The Chan Legacy on CBC Newsworld


July 8, 7 am PT, 10 am PST
July 29, 4 pm PST

  Generations: The Chan Legacy
– Missionaries from China come to the West Coast help Westernize Chinese immigrant workers in the late 1800's.
Generations: The Chan Legacy


What a great family history you have!
I remember you telling me, quite a few years ago, that you started
researching and writing your family history. To see it on TV so very
well documented and told was a real pleasure – and of course, seeing
you so prominently represented in its telling was as well. I had heard
you on CBC radio earlier on and would have watched it even without your
e-mail.
Congratulations,
– Heidi Andre – gerontologist


Very fine! That Generations item on CBC-TV is
another indication that the history of the Chinese in
Vancouver is rich and
interesting and
human. And, besides, we got to see Todd Wong in a kilt!
It inspired me to think, and I'm being serious here, that my history web site
www.vancouverhistory.ca should be
offered in Chinese. We just need to find someone to share that
dream.


– Chuck Davis – Vancouver historian

Very good documentary.  Glad you shared that with us.

Being the son of head tax payers and a founding member of the Head Tax Families Society of Canada,
I watched your documentary with a great deal of interest and a touch
of sadness; I am happy that you told the story of the Chinese pioneers
in Canada with such clarity, but saddened by the memory of the racism
all Chinese had to endure.


My older brothers are Canadian born. When Canada
entered WWII, my three oldest brothers signed up with the Canadian
infantry to fight in the war.  Ironically, while my brothers were
fighting for Canada, I was excluded from entering Canada by the Chinese
Exclusion Act.
Your documentary will no doubt remind our government that the
redress for head tax and Chinese Exclusion Act is incomplete.  Thank
you.


Harvey Lee – Head Tax advocate

Hi Guys,

What a great job Halya!! Kudos to you!

Todd you are the MAN!


– Gary Lee – featured interview in The Chan Legacy, Rev. Chan's great-grandson

The documentary was wonderful!   
Having known Todd Wong for all these years as well as his wonderful mother
and adorable grandmother, this documentary was a real revelation. It
excellently documents the history of Todd's family and we can now see
where his energy, his passionate spirit, dedication and drive come from
- Rev.Chan has certainly done a superb job of passing on his generous spirit
and resiliency to so many of his descendants and Canada & Canadians are
richer for it!
- Yukiko Tosa, librarian


I wanted you to know that we really enjoyed it and discussed

different cultural communities and the war. The documentary also
reminded us that the First Nations did not get the vote until 1960.
Your
Canadian history has revised Canadian history for me.

Alex Youngberg - President, CUPE 391


Congratulations Todd!!
It was a great program.  My mom, Jessie, and I all watched it, and we thought you did a fantastic job. Paddles up!
– Mei-fah Leonard, family friend and fellow dragon boat paddler


Seven Generations!  What a
rich heritage, and what energy and creativity you have, which you share!Prayers and best wishes on all your endeavors!
– Rev. Timothy M. Nakayama, Seattle WA (Joy Kogaw's brother)

I watched Generations last night.  It was excellent, very well done,
and you looked and sounded great. Your extended family must be pleased and
honoured to be the subject of it.
- Susan Bridgman, Librarian

The first Generations documentary on your family was really great and 
you were the thoughtful and sympathetic star of the show along with
GungHaggisFatChoy. The segment with Joy and the Save Kogawa House Campaign
was also good. Best Wishes.
- Anton Wagner, filmaker, Save Kogawa House Committee




Watching “GENERATIONS: The Chan Legacy” with my grandmother and family

Watching “GENERATIONS: The Chan Legacy” with my grandmother and family

We attended the 97th birthday dinner for my grandmother, Mabel Mar (who can be seen in the documentary during the home movies, and in the Gung Haggis Fat Choy television special dinner segment.  It was great to watch with family members who hadn't seen the documentary yet.  My cousins Diane, Chris, Auntie Sylvia and Uncle Ian were all so pleased at how well done the show was. 

They kept talking over the narration whenever they recognized somebody in the pictures or the home movies that were shown.

Below are e-mails and messages that I have received from friends and family:

Todd - YOU have made us all very proud of our ancestors.
YOU did a great job to make this happen
MANY thanks
- David Young (Toronto cousin)

Dear Todd-really touched by your family, thought it was beautifully told - you look like your aunt Helen Lee
but in a handsome, manly way. What a treasure to have this documentary of this incredible
clan-well done, thanks for sharing
- Jane Duford - artist and Gung Haggis paddler

SO Canadian. Great documentary, and I'm glad that I caught it. Well, I
only received half a dozen messages about it. ;) The other segments
look really good, too.
- Hillary Wong

I really enjoyed the program although I missed the
first 10 minutes of the hour long program.  Now I know more about the story
of your life than before.  I was touched not only by the story of Reverend
Chan, the struggles of the early Chinese immigrants and “Canadian” Citizens but
also your own survival and how overcame your health challenges and your Gung
Haggis Fat Choy initiatives. A documentation well done.
– Kelly Ip (community organizer, Canadian Club advisor)

Karen and I enjoyed it. Watch the whole thing.
– Richard Mah (Vancouver International Dragon Boat Race – race director)

Congratulations, Todd!  I actually read a story last year about your
family in the North Shore News — how proud you must feel!!!!  &
how proud I am to know you!!! 

–Terrie Hamazaki (writer)

Todd! Generations was excellent! I loved it!  You were so great in it!!
Great job on all of your hard work in putting this together, it was really interesting.
Tell Aunty Mabel Happy Birthday for me!  Talk to you soon
Katie (Toronto cousin)

Yay for you, Todd, and all your family – mine are relative newcomers, just
here since 1948, when we were refugees after ww2 -cheers!

– Ieva Wool – choir conductor of High Spirits

EXCELLENT PROGRAM TODD!!
Congratulations!  I am proud of you and your accomplishments!!
You are a blessing to our world.
Rev. Angelica (minister of Celebration of Life Centre)

The Show was excellent. It is a piece of history that needs to be taught in school.
Raphael Fang – Kilts Night co-ordinator

Thanks for letting me know about the documentary.  I
manage to see it last night.  It was well done and you interviewed well and
looked great!   A lot of hard work but well worth
it.
– Gordy (genealogist organizer and head tax advocate)

Just finished watching “Generations” and just want
to say THANK YOU!  for a great documentary on our family
history.   You did a great job working with Halya!
Love, Auntie Roberta (grand-daughter of Rev. Chan Yu Tan, Victor Wong's sister)


sharing,-jane         

GENERATIONS: The Chan Legacy airs today 10pm on CBC Newsworld

GENERATIONS: The Chan Legacy airs today 10pm on CBC Newsworld

  10:00 p.m. Generations: The Chan Legacy
– Missionaries from China come to the West Coast help Westernize Chinese immigrant workers in the late 1800's.
Generations: The Chan Legacy

Yesterday I
was interviewed 8:20 am Tuesday morning, July 3rd, by Rick Cluff for the CBC Radio 690 show “The Early Edition.”  Rick first asked me how I got interested in family history, and I replied that one of the first computer programs I got was for genealogy.

I had found it fascinating that we were descended from a Chinese United Church minister. It was important for me to find positive role models growing up, because as a Chinese-Canadian, there weren't many.  I grew up in North Vancouver, and many people couldn't tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese back then. Some people would tell me to go back where I came from.

I brought some photo displays into the radio studio and Rick asked about them.

“Here's a picture of Rev. Chan Yu Tan” when he first arrived in Canada in 1896.”

Here's a picture of Uncle Dan and his brothers during WW2″

“Here's a picture of our family reunion in 1999.”

“How many people attended, Todd?”

“We had over 200 people, from all across the continent Rick – from Ontario, Alberta, Washington, California.”

Rick asked what I hoped the younger generations would learn from the story.  I told him that it was important for our younger generations to learn what our ancestors had overcome, such as the head tax, the 1907 riot, the exclusion act, gaining the voting franchise.  And that it is an important story for all Canadians.  Too often as multigenerational Chinese-Canadians we get lumped in with the new immigrants as “Chinese” – even though our family has been here for seven generations.

Rick asked “What would Rev. Chan think of Gung Haggis Fat Choy”

 but our family didn't go to Church. When I was little, I attended one day of class at the Chinese United Church.  I was little and cried for my mother almost the entire time. 

But the legacy of Rev. Chan Yu Tan and his brother and sisters still lives in our family.  It lives on in the stories that my grandmother and my mother have shared with me.  My grand-uncle Daniel Lee and his sister Helen Lee, lived with Rev. and Mrs. Chan Yu Tan in Nanaimo while they were growing up.  Auntie Helen recalls her memories while she is interviewed for the documentary.  There are some newsclips of Uncle Dan and Chinese-Canadian veterans at Vancouver's Victory Square cenotaph for Remembrance Day.

Many of our family is excited at seeing the documentary tonight.  I have received e-mails from Ontario, and Washington.  Distant family members I haven't met have found the Rev. Chan Legacy facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=2390778670

Here are some well wishes from my friends after hearing me on radio and receiving my announcements about GENERATIONS: The Chan Legacy

Good morning Todd, just heard you on CBC Early Edition about your family.  
I look forward to watching it tomorrow night on CBC Newsworld at 10 p.m.
I hope some of our colleagues will watch some of the Chinese history in
Vancouver. You may wish to tell us something more about this 6-part series
on Chinese pioneers in Vancouver.
- Kelly Ip (Community organizer and advisor on Canadian Club Vancouver)

Thanks, Todd…
Heard you this morning, and you sounded great (however brief).
Will try to catch your segment. In fact, they all sound fascinating.
Cheers,

Thank you Todd for sharing your family's history
with us. This forms part of the Canadian national identity.
– Begum Vergee (my co-director on Canadian Club Vancouver.

Wonderful experience to be part of such an
important legacy. Thanks for letting us know.
Shirley Chan (community activist)


Todd: Thanks so much for this!

Chuck Davis – Vancouver Historian


Hi Todd
congratulations !!!!
where are you going to watch tonight's episode .... invite me along if
appropriate.
All good things,
Joseph Roberts - publisher of Common Ground

Hey Todd,
Great to hear from you.  I look forward to
seeing the doc.
Warm regards,
Moyra Rodger – producer of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy television performance special

Chan family

Generations is a 6 part series and the lead installment is The Chan Legacy
which is about my great-great-grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan, and our
family descendants who are committed to community service – like me! 
The episodes of the series are:


Watch
The Chan Legacy on CBC Newsworld

July 4, 10 pm ET/PT,
July 8, 10 am ET/PT,
July 29, 7 pm ET


Many family members were interviewed:

  • Victor Wong, grand-son, WW2 veteran and Victoria resident who visited his grandparents in Nanaimo BC.
  • Helen Lee, grand-daughter, who lived with Rev. & Mrs. Chan Yu Tan in Nanaimo.
  • Gary Lee, great-grandson who tells about some of the challenges overcome by the family.
  • Janice Wong, great-grand-daughter, and award winning author of CHOW: From China to Canada, memories of food and family.
  • Rhonda
    Larrabee, great-grand-daughter, and chief of the First Nations Qayqayt
    (New Westminster) Band, featured in the NFB film “Tribe of One.”
  • Todd Wong, great-great-grandson, community and cultural activist,
    creator of Gung Haggis Fat Choy: Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.
  • Tracey
    Hinder, 5th generation high school student who was the inaugural
    Vancouver CanSpell champion and went on to compete in Ottawa and
    Washington DC.  Tracey is a member of her school's “multicultural club.”


Rev. Chan Yu Tan came
to Canada in 1896, following his elder brother Rev. Chan Sing Kai who
had earlier arrived in 1888 at the invitation of the Methodist Church
of Canada.  These two brothers were later followed by sisters Phoebe in
1899, and Naomi who later moved to Chicago.  Throughout seven
generations, the family has spread throughout Canada and the United
States.  The Rev. Chan Yu Tan Family was featured in the photographic
exhibition
Three Early Chinese Canadian Pioneer Families


Read my blog entries about
Rev. Chan Legacy Project which includes stories during the making of the documentary and events for Janice Wong's award-winning book C H O W: From China to Canada memoris of food and family.

http://www.gunghaggisfatchoy.com/blog/RevChanLegacyProject
http://c-h-o-w.blogspot.com/

Please
tell all your friends and relatives about this upcoming documentary,
very informative about the history of Chinese-Canadians, and the legacy
they have built in Canada.

check out the CBC Generations home page:
http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/generations/

CBC Generations documentary series features BC's Rev. Chan family and descendants (including me!)

CBC Generations documentary series features BC's Rev. Chan family and descendants (including me!)
 
Generations

Chan family

Generations is a 6 part series and the lead installment is The Chan Legacy – which is about my great-great-grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan, and our family descendants who are committed to community service – like me!  The episodes of the series are:


Watch
The Chan Legacy on CBC Newsworld

July 4, 10 pm ET/PT,
July 8, 10 am ET/PT,
July 29, 7 pm ET


Producer Halya Kuchmij is very proud of her work, and that we are the first in the series.  It must be a very strong, emotional,
educational documentary.  I have been an adviser and witness to many of
the interviews, as well as some of the script.  I have to say it made
me very proud of our family, and the show is very emotionally
touching.  And I haven't even seen it yet!

Many family members were interviewed:

  • Victor Wong, grand-son, WW2 veteran and Victoria resident who visited his grandparents in Nanaimo BC.
  • Helen Lee, grand-daughter, who lived with Rev. & Mrs. Chan Yu Tan in Nanaimo.
  • Gary Lee, great-grandson who tells about some of the challenges overcome by the family.
  • Janice Wong, great-grand-daughter, and award winning author of CHOW: From China to Canada, memories of food and family.
  • Rhonda Larrabee, great-grand-daughter, and chief of the First Nations Qayqayt (New Westminster) Band, featured in the NFB film “Tribe of One.”
  • Todd Wong, great-great-grandson, community and cultural activist,
    creator of Gung Haggis Fat Choy: Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.
  • Tracey Hinder, 5th generation high school student who was the inaugural Vancouver CanSpell champion and went on to compete in Ottawa and Washington DC.  Tracey is a member of her school's “multicultural club.”


Rev. Chan Yu Tan came to Canada in 1896, following his elder brother Rev. Chan Sing Kai who had earlier arrived in 1888 at the invitation of the Methodist Church of Canada.  These two brothers were later followed by sisters Phoebe in 1899, and Naomi who later moved to Chicago.  Throughout seven generations, the family has spread throughout Canada and the United States.  The Rev. Chan Yu Tan Family was featured in the photographic exhibition Three Early Chinese Canadian Pioneer Families


Read my blog entries about
Rev. Chan Legacy Project which includes stories during the making of the documentary and events for Janice Wong's award-winning book C H O W: From China to Canada memoris of food and family.

http://www.gunghaggisfatchoy.com/blog/RevChanLegacyProject
http://c-h-o-w.blogspot.com/

Please tell all your friends and relatives about this upcoming documentary, very informative about the history of Chinese-Canadians, and the legacy they have built in Canada.

the following is from the CBC Generations home page:
http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/generations/


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Generations
Generations: The Chan Legacy
 

The
documentary begins with Todd Wong playing the accordion, wearing a
kilt. He promotes cultural fusion, and in doing so, he honours the
legacy of his great, great, grandfather The Reverend Chan Yu Tan. The
Chans go back seven generations in Canada and are one of the oldest
families on the West Coast.
 
Chan family
The Chan family
 
Reverend Chan left China for Victoria in 1896 at a time when most Chinese immigrants were simple labourers, houseboys and laundrymen who had come to British Columbia
to build the railroad or work in the mines. His wife Mrs. Chan Wong Shee followed him later in 1899.  The Chans were different.
They were educated and Westernized Methodist Church missionaries who
came to convert the Chinese already in Canada,
and teach them English. The Chans were a family with status and they
believed in integration. However even they could not escape the racism
that existed at the time, the notorious head tax and laws that excluded
the Chinese from citizenship.
 
In
the documentary, Reverand Chan's granddaughter Helen Lee, grandson
Victor Wong, and great grandson Gary Lee recall being barred from
theaters, bowling alleys and restaurants. The Chinese were not allowed
to become doctors or lawyers, pharmacists or teachers. Still, several
members of the Chan family served in World War II,
because they felt they were Canadian and wanted to contribute. Finally,
in 1947, Chinese born in Canada were granted citizenship and the right
to vote.
 
Todd Wong
Todd Wong
 
Today, Todd Wong,
represents a younger generation of successful professionals and entrepreneurs scattered across North America.
He promotes his own brand of cultural integration through an annual
event in Vancouver called Gung Haggis Fat Choy. It's a celebration that
joins Chinese New Year with Robbie Burns Day, and brings together the two cultures that once lived completely separately in the early days of British Columbia.

We also meet a member of the youngest generation, teenager Tracey
Hinder, who also cherishes the legacy of Reverend Chan, but in contrast
to his desire to promote English she is studying mandarin and longs to
visit the birthplace of her ancestors.

Produced by Halya Kuchmij, narrated by Michele Cheung.

Generations Rev. Chan Yu Tan: Editing being done for the CBC documentary on Rev. Chan and descendants

Generations Rev. Chan Yu Tan:
Editing being done for the CBC documentary on Rev. Chan and descendants

The Rev. Chan Yu Tan family is being featured in the CBC documentary series Generations
Editing has now been ongoing since November.  The producer is
Halya Kuchmij, a multiple award winning veteran producer, who has worked
on past CBC
projects such as Man Alive and The Journal.  She is now with the
Documentary Film
Unit – where she produced Life and Times of Northern Dancer, Who's Lorne
Greene, Tom Jackson: The Big Guy, Chernobyl the Legacy, Mandela I &
II, and many many more.

It is part of a CBC series that focuses on the histories of families
through the generations.  Past episodes of Generations include: 100 Years in
Alberta; 100 Years in Sasketchewan; A Century on the Siksika Reserve.

Halya is convinced this “our project” is going to rock!  She is
amazed at the almost 120 year long family history that started when Mr.
Chan Sing Kai first came to Canada at the invitation of the Methodist
Church of Canada in November 1888.  There are now 7 generations of
Chan descendants throughout North America, descended from eldest
brother Rev. Chan Sing Kai, who later moved to California, Rev. Chan Yu
Tan (my great-great-grandfather who retired in New Westminster), and
Aunt Naomi who had moved to Chicago.  Aunt Phoebe is the 4th
sibling who stayed with the Chinese United Church in Vancouver, and
became affectionately known as “The Bible Lady” – she never married.

Brothers Chan Sing Kai and Chan Yu Tan, were born in Guangzhou China,
and raised to be scholars by their fathers.  They helped to
organize the first Wesleyan Mission School among the Chinese in Hong
Kong.  Their father was also a Christian missionary, having spent
many years as a Chinese Scholar with Rev. Piercy, the pioneer Wesleyan
missionary who contributed greatly to the Chinese translation of
“Pilgrim's Progress.”

Chan Sing Kai became the first Chinese to be ordained in Canada, and
was instrumental in the formation of the Chinese Mission which was
located on Carrall St. in Vanocuver – just blocks down the street from
Vancouver's historical centre of Gastown. 

In 1896, Chan Yu Tan arrived in Canada at 33 years of age, as a lay
preacher.  He took on the role of pastor of the Chinese Methodist
Church and brought with him his wife Chan Sze Wong and six children: Solomon, Kate, Jack, Rose, Luke
and Millicent.  Kate is my great-grandmother.



The 50th Anniversary of the Chinese United Church in Victoria.  My
great-great-grandfather, Rev. Chan Yu Tan is 4th from left. 
Beside him stands his elder brother Rev. Chan Sing Kai (5th from left).
photo courtesy of United Church Archives.

The Generations Rev. Chan Yu Tan project is not yet “officially titled”
– but the theme will be community service which was lived graciously by
Rev. Chan Yu Tan, and now shared by some of his descendants. 

Interviews were done on Vancouver Island
by Halya with two of Rev. Chan Yu Tan's grandchildren: Victor Wong, son
of Rose (Chan) Wong; and Helen Lee daughter of Kate (Chan) Lee, my
grandmother's sister, who lived with Rev. and Mrs. Chan Yu Tan while
they lived in Nanaimo, serving the Chinese United Church there. 
Uncle Victor Wong is a WW2 veteran and is currently president of the
Chinese Canadian veterans unit in Victoria.

Great-grandchildren interviewed by Halya were Janice Wong (grand-daughter of Rose Wong), Gary Lee and Rhonda Larrabee
(grandchildren of Kate Lee).  Last year, Janice wrote a book
titled CHOW: From China to Canada: memories of food + family, which
shared not only recipes of her father Dennis Wong, but also stories of
Rev. Chan Yu Tan and his son Luke Chan, who became an actor in
Hollywood.  Rhonda is the chief of the Qayqayt (New Westminster)
First Nations Band, which she resurrected from obscurity.  Gary is
a a longtime community builder who has been involved with many
community organizations, as well as having been a child actor.

Also interviewed were Rev. Chan Yu Tan's great-great-grandchildren Tracey Hinder
and myself.  Tracey was the BC regional winner of the inaugural
Canspell spelling bee contest, and is a great example of our family's
future generations.

CBC Generations filming: Rev Chan bible + descendants Rhonda and Tracey

CBC Generations filming: Rev Chan bible + descendants Rhonda and Tracey

On Saturday, we filmed Tracey, Todd Wong and Betty Wong with the Rev.
Chan family bible.  It is the largest bible I have ever seen. It is 106 years old, published in 1900.  Bound by leather, it was rebound several years ago, as it was held together by tape.  Karen Chan Wong is the keeper and preserver of the Rev. Chan bible.  She is the eldest daughter of Gerald Chan, son of Jack Chan, son of Rev. Chan Yu Tan…. so Karen is a 4th generation descendant.

Tracey Hinder is a 5th generational descendant of Rev. Chan Yu Tan.  Our grandmothers are sisters, the daughters of Kate Lee, the eldest daughter of Rev. Chan.  Last year in March 2005, Tracey won the BC regional Canspell contest held in Vancouver.  She later travelled to Washington DC for the annual Scripps Spelling Bee, as well as the inaugural CanSpell national championship in Ottawa. Tracey was interviewed by CBC documentary producer Halya Kuchmij on Friday morning.

Halya interviewed me
again to address head tax issues.  I share the story about Uncle Dan
writing to Parliament every year asking for an apology, but never
receiving an answer.  I spoke about how it was an important campaign for me to be involved in, as I have many ancestors who paid the head tax including my mother's father Sonny Mar, and my grandmother's father Ernest Lee.  Both are predeceased and will not be eligible for the Conservative head tax redress refund program.

Rhonda Larrabee, my mother's cousin was also interviewed. Rhonda is also Chief of the Qayqayt First Nations.  Her father Art Lee (my grandmother's elder brother) married Marie Charlie, a First Nations woman.  “Tribe of One” is a movie about how Rhonda came to understand both her Chinese and First Nations heritage, and resurrect the Qayqayt First Nations from obscurity.  When Rhonda first applied for Indian status, the Department of Indian Affairs had claimed that the Qayqayt no longer existed.  She proved them wrong.

CBC Generations filming: Searching for Rev. Chan Yu Tan on Vancouver Island

CBC Generations filming:  Searching for Rev. Chan on Vancouver Island
  


Rev Chan Yu Tan is 4th from the left, standing beside his elder and taller brother Rev. Chan Sing Kai at the 50th Anniversary of the Chinese United Church in Victoria, 1935.  Rev Chan Sing Kai first came to Canada in 1888 to help found the Chinese Methodist Church which later became the Chinese United Church.  Photo from family archives.

My great-great-grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan was a United Church
minister on Vancouver Island in Victoria and Nanaimo.  He first
arrived in Victoria in 1896, 110 years ago.  He then came to
Vancouver to work at the Chinese Methodist Church which was founded by
his older brother Rev.Chan Sing Kai, in 1888.  He also ministered in
New Westminster, then moved to Nanaimo in the 1920's before returning to New
Westminister where he retired.  I have a picture of my mother as a child at
the Rev. & Mrs. Chan's 65th wedding anniversary party back around 1943.

The CBC film crew went to Vancouver Island yesterday to interview my grandmother's cousin
Victor Wong and my grandmother's younger sister Auntie Helen Lee for a CBC Generations documentary.  They were Rev. Chan's
grandchildren who both remember attending their grandfather's services
in Nanaimo during the 1920's.  “Auntie” Helen and her younger brother Daniel, lived with Rev. Chan
and his wife for a time in Nanaimo.

I travelled with producer Halya Kuchmij, cameraman Doug, and sound guy Rick. We
caught a 9am ferry to Victoria, arriving at Uncle Victor's place just
after 11am.  Auntie Roberta Lum was also there to greet us. 
She
brought some pictures that were scanned for use in the
documentary. 
Uncle Victor talked about visiting his grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan,
about becoming a Canadian soldier and going to India.  Uncle
Victor is the president of the Chinese Canadian veterans association in
Victoria, and he was filmed two weekends ago when they hosted a reunion
in Victoria.  Uncle Victor gave a speech about how the
Chinese-Canadian veterans played a major role in bringing
enfranchisement to Chiense Canadians, helping us gain the vote in
1947.  Halya was very
pleased with the interview. 

“I loved my grandfather,” beamed Uncle Victor, as his face lit up and
he recalled happy times playing in Victoria.  He was a very kind
man.”



Here I am with my Grandmother's
cousins Roberta Lum andVictor Wong in Victoria.  Their mother was
Rose Chan Wong, a daughter of Rev. Yu Tan Chan.  My
great-grandmother Kate was the eldest child of Rev. Chan – photo
Halya Kuchmij

We finished after 2pm then went for lunch.  It was a 2+ hour drive
to Nanaimo.  We arrived at Auntie Helen's just after 6pm.  We
were also greeted by Helen's daughters Donna and Judy.  Auntie
Helen
talked about growing up in Nanaimo, and attending services with her
grandfather Rev. Yu Tan Chan.  She shared that she sometimes
accompanied Rev. Chan on his visits to Ladysmith, Duncan and Cumberland
where there was a large group of miners.  Rev. Chan held evening services for the miners.

She also talked about her grandmother
Mrs. Shee Wong Chan, whom I learned could be a very stern woman as well
as loving.  Mrs. Chan was also very active in the community,
knowledgable about Chinese herbal medicines and midwifery.  A
highlight of the interview was when Auntie
Helen sang “Jesus Loves Me,” and talked about the hymns that Rev. Chan
played on his pump organ at Church.


My favorite Grand-Aunt… Auntie
Helen is my grandmother's younger sister, at 91 years old.  She
has attended the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinners and she LOVES to eat
Haggis – photo Halya Kuchmij

We caught the 9pm ferry back to Vancouver/Horseshoe Bay.  It was a
long day travelling from the 9am ferry in Tsawassen to a 10:45 arrival
at Horseshoe Bay.  But we captured some great interviews on
film.  Halya keeps saying “This is going to be a great
film.”  She is excited and it's great to be part of history in the
making!

On Thursday morning we
filmed my 15 year old 2nd cousin Tracy Hinder at West Vancouver
Secondary School
during her
mandarin chinese language class.  She next did an interview and
talked
about what she has learned of her family history and her plans for the
future.  Tracy really represents the future history of the
family.  At her young age, sh is already a newsmaker.  For
the film she also shared her experience winning the 2005 Canspell
contest in
Vancouver, and going to Ottawa for the National competition. 
Tracy remembers being at the Rev. Chan family reunions that her mother
helped to organize in 1999 and 2000.  Of course she was very young
but remembers that “there were lots of people.”

Filming continues this weekend.  Generations: Rev Chan is expected to air in Febrary 2007.

CBC Generations: Film interviews begin today on the history of Rev. Chan family

CBC Generations:  Film interviews begin today on the history of Rev. Chan family


Todd Wong is interviewed by producer
Halya Kuchmij for the CBC Generations series documentary, at the Dr.
Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens.  Wong's maternal 
great-great-grandfather Rev. Yu Tan Chan met with Dr. Sun Yat Sen,
during his visits to Vancouver.  Wong's paternal cousin Joe Wai is
architect of the gardens. – photo Rick Zimmerman.

We started filming interviews today on the CBC documentary series Generations, which will feature the the Rev. Chan Yu Tan family.  
It is part of a CBC series that focuses on the histories of families
through the generations.  Past episodes include: 100 Years in
Alberta; 100 Years in Sasketchewan; A Century on the Siksika Reserve.

Today our interviews were done at the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens
We had a very nice shot of the gardens behind me, while producer Halya
Kuchmij asked me questions.  Camera person is Doug.  Sound
person is Rick.  They have both been doing additional filming of
me at the Richmond Terry Fox Run, and also for a Chinese Canadian
veterans reunion in Victoria last weekend.

Halya's interview topics included:
–  what I knew about my great-great-grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan;
–  what was Vancouver like when Rev. Chan Yu Tan came to Canada in 1896;
–  what kind of racial prejudice did Chinese-Canadians face in Canada;
–  how has knowing about Rev. Chan influenced any of my community service

Then the rain started getting bigger and wetter.  We went for
lunch at Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant which specializes in the old-time style
of Cantonese food favoured by the Pioneer descendants of the 20th
Century.  Co-owner Joanna was very friendly to us, and recommended
a number of dishes.  Halya, Rick, Doug and I exchanged stories
about eating Chinese food, and growing up in Canada.  Doug grew up
in southern Alberta.  Halya grew up in Manitoba, and I grew up in
Vancouver, BC.

We returned to the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens in the afternoon to film me
playing the song “Amazing Grace” on my accordion.  It's a song
that imagine Rev. Chan playing on his own pump organ.  It was
written by former Scottish sea captain, John Newton, who sailed African
slaves to the United States.  He later “saw the light,” and
insisted that the slaves be treated humanely.  He later became a
Chuch minister.

We filmed me playing the song slow… then fast.  I was wearing my
“Fraser Hunting tartan” kilt, to emphasize my character of “Toddish
McWong.”  It was lovely playing Amazing Grace in the
gardens.  With the gentle rain falling, few tourists
visited.  The gardens were peacefully quiet despite the traffic
noise.  And indeed the gardens provide a cultural meditative oasis
in the heart of this busy city called Vancouver.

Tomorrow we travel to Vancouver Island to visit two of Rev. Chan Yu
Tan's grandchildren who remember attending his services at his Nanaimo
Church during the 1930's.

CBC Generations and the Rev. Chan Yu Tan family

It's great to know where you family came from, who you are descended from, and what nice people are in your extended family.  I really am blessed to belong to the Rev. Chan Yu Tan family descendants.

The past 2 days, I have been busy introducing CBC producer Halya Kuchmij to members of the family, who will be interviewed or featured in an episode of Generations: The Chan Legacy.  Halya is an multiple award wining veteran producer, working CBC projects such as Man Alive, The Journal, and now the Documentary Film Unit – where she produced Life and Times of Northern Dancer, Who's Lorne Greene, Tom Jackson: The Big Guy, Chernobyl the Legacy, Mandela I & II, and many many more.

Generations is a fantastic CBC television program, that shows this history of Canada, through the experiences of a family's generations.  So far there have been 3 shows: 


Generations: 100 Years in Alberta (The Hamdon/Shaben family – when two Lebanese peddlers came to Alberta)

Generations: 100 Years in Saskatchewan ( Martin and Alma Hjertaas settled in Saskatchewan in 1915 and the homestead in Wauchope is still in the family)

Generations:
The Crowfoot Dynasty (A Hundred Years on the Siksika Reserva)
Strater Crowfoot has been the Chief of the Siksika Reserve for half of
the last two decades. Siksika is a Blackfoot Nation in Southern Alberta
and one of the largest Reserves in Canada.

Tuesday:  10am.  Halya and I meet at her hotel.  After many e-mails and phone calls. I like her at first smile.  It's the start of a wonderful friendship.  In between the many appointments we will have, small comments and gestures are appreciated.  The story arc that Halya senses is one of community service.  It begins with Rev. Chan Yu Tan arriving in Canada in 1896 as a Methodist lay preacher, serving the Chinese community in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo and New Westminster.  It is carried through by many generations of his descendants, as they too, seek to build bridges between their Chinese culture and mainstream White Canadian culture, despite years of racism and adversity.

We go to the Goldstone restaurant in Vancouver Chinatown for some coffee and pastries.  She picks two different coconut pastries, and we share.  A gentleman comes to ask about the picture display of the Rev. Chan family that look at set up on the table beside us.  He has only been in Canada for 5 years, originally leaving Vietnam with the US withdrawal because he worked at the US embassy.

11am We meet Col. Howe Lee at the Chinese Canadian Military Museum.  Howe is the perfect person to give us a tour.  It was his idea to develop the military museum, and he was on the board of the Chinese Cultural Centre when the CCC Museum and Archives was being built (incidently designed by my architect cousin Joe Wai).  Howe gives us an introduction to the “Three Chinese-Canadian Pioneer Families” story boards left over from the 2002-2003 exhibit that had featured the Rev. Chan family, along with the Lee-Bick and H.Y. Louie families.  We are joined by my mother's cousin Gary Lee, who co-chaired the Rev. Chan Legacy Reunions with me for 1999 and 2000.

Upstairs, Howe gives a tour of the Military Museum, explaining the adversity and racism Chinese Canadians faced in joining the Canadian military, and how it was the British Military's need for Chinese soldiers to go behind enemy lines in the Pacific Theatre that finally allowed Chinese in the Canadian military.  Howe emphasizes the special combat units named Force 162, and Operation Oblivion that were sent to India and Burma.  My grand uncle Victor Wong was in Force 136.  My grandmother's brothers Uncles Daniel Lee, and his brothers Howard and Leonard went to England.  We see Uncle Dan's Air Force Uniform on display.  There is a picture with Uncle Leonard, with his buddies during the war.

In particular, Howe explains how the Chinese Canadian veterans were instrumental in helping to gain franchisement and the right to vote for the Chinese community. It is also the veterans that have also helped to lead the fight for redress of the Chinese Head Tax and the Exclusion Act, that finally came to and apology, community funds and indvidual payments on June 22, 2006.

12pm  Halya, Gary and I have lunch at the Ho Ho Restaurant.  It is a restaurant that I grew up with and specializes in old time Cantonese style food.  Gary talks about his father Gordon Lee, who had started up Lee's taxi with his brother Art. We also learn about Gary's entertainment history.  As a child actor, he appeared in an episode of the early television show Rin Tin Tin, with Keye Luke (known for his role in Kung Fu).  Gary was also locally known as “The Chinese Sinatra” as he performed on the local night club scene. Gary has also done a lot of community service work with many years spent as a Lion's Club member, even starting up the Westside Lion's Club.

2pm  Halya and I go back to the CCC Museum, and go through the archival picture displays that I have, and talk more about the family history.  We also go for a walk through the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Park and Garden, as she scouts sites for interviewing and view footage.  Of course I tell her that the Gardens and Park are one of my favorite places designed by architect Joe Wai, and that I bring the dragon boat team for our annual tour and Tai Chi lesson.

Thursday 10:30am  We visit artist/author Janice Wong and her mother Mary (visiting from Saskatoon).  Janice's contribution to the family is recent and enormous.  After growing up in Prince Albert SK, with vitually no contact to her Rev. Chan family in Victoria where her father grew up. Janice's mother shares that when she grew up in Nanaimo, she met Mrs. Chan Yu Tan, and that her mother was friends with her.  Janice authored the book CHOW: From China to Canada: Memories of Food and Family.  She shares the history of Rev. Chan Yu Tan, and how his grandson Dennis moved to Prince Albert to start up a Chinese restaurant.  Chow was published in 2005, and it recieved incredible local and national media attention across Canada.  Halya is surprised to learn that Janice and I have only known each other for a year.  We attribute our wonderful friendship, that seems like decades, to a shared knowingness of family history.

1pm  We meet my mother's cousin Rhonda Larrabee. I first heard of Rhonda many years ago, when I first started doing a family tree in the late 70's as an interest.  It wasn't until 1999, that Rhonda and I really got to know each other during meetings for the Rev. Chan Family Legacy, as we planned the 1999 and 2000 reunions.  Rhonda is the subject of the NFB film “Tribe of One” which recounts how she single handedly rebuilt the Qayqayt First Nations Band, which is her heritage from her mother.  Rhonda's father is Art, my grandmother's second oldest brother.  Rhonda shares that she feels both her Chinese and First Nations cultures really have a deep respect for elders.

3:30 We meet Tracy, daughter of my mother's cousin Gail.  Tracy was the first CanSpell Champion for BC, last year.  She went to Washington DC for the annual Kripp's Spelling Bee, and also to Ottawa for the first national CanSpell contest.  Halya asks Tracy what she knows about Rev. Chan Yu Tan, the WW2 Veterans and about the family reunions.  She answers all the questions easily and with a poise and awareness you don't expect from a 14 year old.  She says she is proud of her family history.  Even though she has both shared English and Chinese ancestry, she calls herself Chinese-Canadian rather than simply as a Canadian. She and her friends had come to Park Royal shopping centre to purchase pinatas to celebrate Mexican Independence Day at their school.  They are first year members of the Multicultural Club.  She figure skates, she plays flute in concert band.  She is exactly what you could wish all children could grow up to be like.  Accomplished, knowledgeable and still humble and a bit shy.  It makes you proud to be part of her family, and it makes Halya and I hopeful for Canada's future.