Daniel Lee 1920 – January 26, 2010
Daniel Lee saluting at
the November 11, 2009 Remembrance Day ceremony in Vancouver Chinatown.
The Chinese Canadian veterans always attended the Victory Square
Cenotaph ceremonies, which Dan Lee also helped to organize, then they
would go to Foo's Ho Ho Restaurant to stay warm, before organizing the
Chinatown ceremonies at 12:30pm – photo Todd Wong
be a good citizen you got to start at home. Otherwise, a nation is just
like a family.
Everybody got to be happy at home otherwise the nation
would be in trouble.”
– Daniel Lee
With sorrow… we share the news that Grand-Uncle Daniel Lee passed away this morning of January 26th, 2010. He had been in the Burnaby Hospital since Wednesday. His daughter Grace, she said it was quite sudden – his going into the hospital. I had been receiving reports from my mother Betty, as her mother Mabel (Dan's oldest sister at 99 years old) was visiting the hospital each day.
Uncle Dan was born the 11th child of 14, the 5th son of seven to jeweler Ernest Lee, and Kate Chan Lee – the 2nd child, and 1st daughter of Rev. Chan Yu Tan. As a young child he spent some time living in Nanaimo with his grandparents Rev. and Mrs. Chan Yu Tan, after the early death of his father.
When Dan was 20 years old he tried to enlist in the Canadian Army, but was turned away because at that time they did not allow any Chinese Canadians. Instead, he went to aircraft mechanics school in Toronto and graduated two years later. By 1942, Chinese were allowed into the Army due to pressure from Great Britain. Dan Lee was one of the the first Chinese-Canadians accepted into the Canadian Air Force. Soon, he was joined in England, by his brothers Howard and Leonard, plus cousin Victor Wong, who were enroute to the Pacific Theatre to serve with the Army special forces.
In the years after WW2, Dan Lee and his fellow Canadian born veterans would continue to face racial discrimination and prejudice. The were not allowed to join any of the existing Canadian Legions for veteran soldiers. They turned to the oldest veteran organization, the Army, Navy, Air Force Vets of Canada and were accepted to form their own unit – Pacific Unit 280. After
WW2, he and his fellow veterans and good friend Roy Mah, petitioned the
Canadian Government to gain voting rights for Chinese Canadians, and
also to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act. This was accomplished in
But the challenges weren't over yet. Every year Uncle Dan
would write a letter to Ottawa asking for an apology for the Chinese
head tax and exclusion act. The Chinese head tax redress movement took on a larger significance after MP Margaret Mitchell brought the issue up in Parliament in 1984, and also when Prime Minister Mulroney apologized to Japanese Canadians in 1988 for the the government's interning of them during WW2.
In the 1980's, Dan Lee would continue to work head tax apology issue. With Douglas Jung, a former veteran, lawyer, Member of
Parliament, and the Chinese Benevolent Association, they proposed that a
national organization be formed to deal with the Head Tax issue. Dan Lee became one of the founders of the National
Congress of Chinese Canadians(NCCC) and a national conference was held. After many years, an apology was finally made in Canadian Parliament by Prime Minister Harper in 2006.
In 1998, the Chinese Canadian Military Museum was founded. Dan Lee's air force uniform was one of the first displays.
Chinese Canadian Military Museum Dinner November 7, 2009
top row: Bryan Larrabee, grand-nephew Todd Wong, Padre Wesley Lowe
bottom row: niece Rhonda Larrabee, Daniel Lee, sister Mabel Mar
In 1999, we held the first Rev. Chan Legacy Family Reunion. Uncle Dan was a consultant for the committee. At the reunion, it was Dan Lee who gave the Elder Address, as he talked about his grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan.
In 2002, the Rev. Chan Yu Tan family was featured in the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum exhibit “Three Canadian Chinese Pioneer Families” – pictures of Uncle Dan and the contributions of himself and his brothers and cousin were included.
In 2007, Dan Lee is one of the lead stories in the film documentary Heroes Remember, produced by the Chinese Canadian Military Museum.
Dan Lee's dedication to community service is exemplary. In 2004, Dan Lee received the Award of Merit from Dominion Command. It is one of the highest honours a veteran can receive. Uncle Dan told me that to receive an Award of Merit, you must first receive the Medal for
Appreciation, which he received in 1987. In 1999 he next
received the Award for Service.
And through all these years, Uncle Dan would sell poppies in downtown Vancouver for Remembrance Day, and help organize the Poppy Drive every November. He was one of the best sellers. He was also one of the organizers of the Victory Square Cenotaph Remembrance Day ceremonies. In 2004, Remembrance Day ceremonies began at the Canadian Chinese Pioneer Monument in Chinatown. The veterans of Unit 280 would attend both Victory Square and Chinatown ceremonies, even if it was raining and cold.
The contributions that Dan Lee made, will last and be remembered, while he will be missed.
We offer support and love to Uncle Dan, his wife Irene, and their children Vincent and Grace.
Peace & Blessings to all, Todd Wong – Vancouver
Chinese Canadian Military Museum Dinner November 7, 2009
with fellow veterans of Pacific Unit 280 + Ujjal Dosanjh MP.
REST IN PEACE – GRAND-UNCLE DAN
As part of his commitment to community, Dan annually organized the poppy campaign in Vancouver. It's not surprising
he was a top-seller. For his community efforts Dan has received many
veteran honours, such as the Award of Appreciation, and Award for
Service – but none higher than the Award of Merit from Dominion Command
in 2004. It's a fitting tribute to the grandson who evidently learned
his values and strong faith in community from his Methodist Church
pioneer, Grandfather Chan Yu Tan.
Lee, one of three brothers to join the war effort, worked as an
aircraft mechanic and went on to a career of dedicated community
service in Canada.