Monthly Archives: August 2005

Sex in Vancouver: Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre's play is getting the press

Sex in Vancouver Part 3 – Intimate Secrets runs until this weekend, August 20,


Round House,

Vancouver, BC

Yesterday's Georgia Straight did a review of Sex in Vancouver, the serial play produced by Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre.

Here's the link

Check out the review in Rice Paper Magazine

Check out
Home page for Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre.

I have always had fun attending the VACT productions, especially
the first two installments of Sex in Vancouver.  It's also a lot
of fun spotting friends in the audience
and the cast. Not completely professional yet – but no longer
completely amateur either.  More importantly it both provides a
platform for Asian Canadian actors to explore their craft, as well as
providing roles beyond stereotypes and small supporting roles.

Two weeks ago the Vancouver Sun also published a preview about the show
that included a short interview with one of the actors.  Of course
it's the standard story – no roles for Asian actors.  Many many
years ago Donna Yamamoto won a Jessie Award for excellence in acting…
still no big roles for her since.  So much for colour blind
casting in this town.  But do check out Sex in Vancouver… watch
the cast and crew doing something that they love, something that they
feel is important.  And maybe if they like you, they will invite
you to the crew wrap party afterwards!

George Sapounidis “Chairman George” performing in Ottawa Folk Festival

a message from my friend George Sapounidis in Ottawa.  If you're
there… please check him out – very entertaining….  
George is a Greek-Canadian who sings in Mandarin Chinese, and was
featured in the CBC television performance special “Gung Haggis Fat

Hi Folks,

Please join me – Chairman George – this weekend at the Ottawa Folk Festival, Thursday, Aug 18 – Sun, Aug 21 at Brittania Park.

I'll be performing on Sat and Sun. Here's where… 

Chairman George (George Sapounidis)

1 billion fans can’t be
wrong:  In China, George is Elvis.   In Canada, George
is Greek.  In Greece, George has a dream …

Sunday, Aug. 21

1:15 to 2:15 p.m.

Inside Stage (Kershman-Wasserlauf)

“Cross-Cultural Sound Exchange”

Performers: Mushfiq, George Sapounidis Ensemble, Anne Lindsay (host).

This session involves taking turns playing pieces, and ideally doing some jamming and collaborating.

Sunday, Aug. 21

3:45 p.m. to 4:45

Folklore Centre Stage (Ottawa Folklore Centre)

“A World of Music”

Concert: George Sapounidis Ensemble

2005 CD release: George from Athens to Beijing


Doctor Magic (George
Sapounidis) has been performing magic for children as well as for the
young at heart for a number of years. His captivating stage presence
keeps children involved and entertained in either French, English,
Greek or Chinese.   
Saturday Aug. 20 1:45 p.m. CKCU-FM Family Stage

Check out details of the Ottawa Folk Festival at .

Head tax issues for Chinese Canadian pioneers in Langara College's Pacific Rim Magazine

Yo All. Good article for our side in Pacific Rim Magazine. Take care.
anon   Sid


By Warren Mailey, Pacific Rim Magazine 2005

Sid Chow Tan is a patient man. The human rights activist and director
of the Vancouver branch of the Chinese Canadian National Council has
been involved with the head tax redress movement since it began 20
years ago. “I was a young man when this started,” he says with a laugh.

Since 1984, the CCNC has represented nearly 4,000 Chinese-Canadians in
the fight for acknowledgement and compensation for the head tax imposed
on Chinese immigrants between 1885 and 1923. The organization maintains
that the tax and the Chinese Immigration Act, in place from 1923 to
stunted the growth of the Chinese-Canadian community, caused decades of
economic hardships, and tore families apart for almost 25 years.

For almost a quarter of a century, the Chinese-Canadian community has
kept the head tax redress issue before the federal government. With the
number of living head-tax payers having dwindled to just over two
dozen, a second and third generation of Chinese-Canadians has taken the
lead in a new campaign for recognition and justice.

Sid Tan's grandfather, Chow Gim Tan, was a head-tax payer. He tended
cows in China from the age of 10 to save enough money to come to
Canada. Tan arrived in 1919 when he was 19 years old. Like many Chinese
immigrants, he paid the $500 head tax. He settled in Saskatchewan and
adopted the name Norman.  He became a cook, opened a restaurant,
and developed a love for hockey and cooking wild game.

Norman Tan was a lo wah kui , which translates as someone who is one of
the old overseas Chinese from the poor and overcrowded southern
provinces of Guangdong and Fuijian. He came to Canada in search of a
better life.

The lo wah kui were pioneers of the Chinese-Canadian community. And
they were targets of the Immigration Act, also known as the Exclusion
Act because the legislation prohibited Chinese immigration. No other
ethnic groups were singled out. Tan was fortunate enough to emigrate to
Canada before the
act came into effect.

The Chinese contribution to the building of Canada is without
question.  During the construction of Canadian Pacific Railway,
approximately 17,000 Chinese immigrants arrived between 1881 and 1884
to work on railroad construction. “This was an immensely important
project, and its completion would have been further delayed without
Chinese labour,” says Hugh
Johnston, a professor of Canadian history at Simon Fraser University.
“They were, along with other ethnic nationalities, brought into Canada
to build infrastructure.”

University of Saskatchewan sociologist Peter S. Li concurs. In his
essay The Chinese Minority in Canada , he claims “the usefulness of
Chinese labour in mining, railroad construction, land clearing, public
works, market gardening, lumbering, salmon canning and domestic service
was well recognized by many employers and witnesses who appeared before
a royal
commission in 1885 and 1902.”

After the railway's completion in 1885, the federal government imposed
a $50 fee on any Chinese immigrant entering the country. The head tax,
as it became known, was the government's response to concerns in the
labour sector
and middle and lower classes of British Columbia about the growth of
the Chinese population. The head tax was raised in 1900 to $100, and
then again to $500 in 1903.

On July 1, 1923, the federal government passed the Chinese Immigration
Act.  For Chinese-Canadians, Dominion Day became known as
Humiliation Day. Those who paid the head tax were allowed to stay. Many
were men and boys with
families in China. The Exclusion Act meant that they would be separated
from their relatives for almost 30 years. Li claims, “The absence of
wives and family also meant that the growth of a second generation was

Following the Second World War, in 1947, the federal government
repealed the Chinese Immigration Act. Along with this restoration of
citizenship, Canada opened its doors to Chinese immigrants once again,
and many Chinese-Canadians were able to bring their families into the

In 1983, Leon Mark presented his head tax receipt for $500 to his
Member of Parliament in Vancouver. He asked her to help him get a
refund. After the government refused to refund Mark's money, the
Chinese Canadian National Council took up the cause. By 1984, the CCNC
had signed up approximately
4,000 head-tax payers, their spouses or children.

The 1988 settlement between the National Association of Japanese
Canadians and the government over the internment of Japanese-Canadians
during the Second World War showed promise for the Head Tax Redress
movement. But in1994 the government stopped negotiating, and rejected
the idea of  redress.  Little progress was made until 2000.

In December 2000, a head-tax payee, a widow of a payee, and the son of
another brought a class action suit against the federal
government.  According to the CCNC's Redress Campaign website, the
case claimed that the government was “unjustly enriched by the Chinese
Head Tax that was in violation of international human rights that
existed at the time.” The
Ontario Superior Court dismissed the case in 2001. In his ruling,
Justice Cummings commented that the redress issue was a political
matter; it was not a matter for the judiciary. He recommended that the
federal government seriously reconsider redressing issues raised by the
head-tax payers, their widows and families.

The dismissal was not a setback, however. “We knew that it might not win,” said Sid Chow Tan. “But we got the recognition.”

The Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal in 2002. The Supreme Court of Canada also denied the council's appeal in 2003.

In September 2003 the CCNC began the Last Spike campaign, a
cross-country tour to educate and mobilize communities to support the
redress movement. Pierre Berton donated an actual railway spike found
near Craigellachie BC, the site of the historic Last Spike ceremony in
1884. Berton, a noted
Canadian author who wrote the history of the building of the CPR,
endorsed the campaign. In the press release for the Halifax kick-off
ceremony, he wrote, “The last spike marked the end of a nation-building
project in Canada. It also signified the beginning of a shameful era of
the exclusion of Chinese immigrants. Let this new journey of the last
spike bring
about the rebuilding of our nation by redressing our past wrongs towards Chinese-Canadians.”

In April 2004, Doudou Diene, the United Nations special rapporteur on
racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, gave
the redress campaign an added boost. He presented a report to the
federal government that, according to Lynda Lin of the Pacific Citizen,
recommended that the government consider making reparations on the head
tax issue.

While the federal government maintains its no-compensation stance,
there have been two private-member motions put forward in the House of
Commons.  Each favours different types of compensation. The CCNC
prefers individual
compensation. Another group, the National Congress of Chinese Canadians desires community compensation.

Manitoba Conservative MP Inky Mark introduced a private member bill in
parliament on behalf of the National Congress of Chinese
Canadians.  Bill C-333 asks the federal government to negotiate
with the NCCC to arrange for community compensation, rather than for

In a recent interview with Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight,
Mary-Woo Sims, former chair of the BC Human Rights Commission,
criticized the bill for singling out the NCCC as the main
representative of the Chinese-Canadian community. “I think if the
government is serious about negotiating
redress, whether it's with Japanese-Canadians, or now with
Chinese-Canadians, they ought to develop a process whereby the
community identifies who the legitimate agents for that negotiation
should be,” said Sims.

Vancouver East MP Libby Davies recently put forward another
motion.  Private Member Motion M-102 suggests that the government
negotiate with the individuals affected by the head tax and Chinese
Immigration Act of 1923 as well as with their families or
representatives. The motion calls for parliamentary acknowledgement of
the injustices of the legislation, an official apology by the
government to the individuals and their families for suffering and
hardship caused by the measure, individual compensation and a trust
fund set up for educational purposes to ensure that such injustices can
never occur again.

The Chinese Canadian National Council favours individual compensation,
something that Bill C-333 eschews. “It stinks,” says Tan about Bill
C-333.  “Libby's is a better way to go. If we get what Libby has,
that would be fair.”

Too much bureaucratic debate, however, can stall any progress on this
issue.  When the redress movement started in 1984, the CCNC signed
up over 4,000 claimants, including 2,000 head-tax payers. “There are
probably only 20 to 30 left in Canada. Are they waiting for our people
to die?” asks Tan.

A fifth generation of Chinese-Canadians has recently taken up the
cause.  Karen Cho's documentary In the Shadow of Gold Mountain
premiered nationally in 2004. In the film, the 25-year-old Concordia
graduate explores the disparity between the two sides of her heritage.
While her British grandparents were welcomed with open arms, free land,
and instant citizenship, Cho's Chinese ancestors faced blatant
discrimination. She set out to find others who shared similar

On her journey, Cho encounters a handful of characters, including three
remaining head-tax payers, widows of payers and their children, and
hears tales of incredible discrimination. In the film's most moving
moment, Gim Wong, an 82-year-old son of a head-tax payer, tearfully
recounts a painful childhood memory of being chased and beaten by older
white boys. Cho
was overwhelmed by this story. In a phone interview from her Montreal
office, she commented on the number of emotions that surfaced on her

“When Gim was telling me that story, I sat there and cried.” She is
also angered by the injustice of the head tax and the era of exclusion,
especially as it impacted families. “Look at Charlie Quan and Mr.
Wing,” she says, referring to two surviving head-tax payers who were
featured in the film. “They were both separated from their wives for 30
years. In Chinese culture, everything is about the family.”

When asked about the implications of the film, Cho maintains that it is
mainly about Canadian identity. She challenges the commonly held,
Eurocentric approach to Canadian history. “This is a Canadian story and
I think it is important to tell it that way,” she says.

Cho hopes her film will serve as a catalyst for social debate, and will
renew interest in a chapter of Canadian history – one that is
overlooked in most high school curriculums and college history courses.
She also hopes to advance the redress cause. “The bottom line is that
this is a human rights issue,” she said at the post-premiere question
and answer period. “I think that when people of my generation hear of
this, we are less forgiving.
Younger generations will fight for this.”

Undoubtedly, the movement will lose some of its impact when the last
head-tax payer is gone, but Tan does not predict any loss of
momentum.  He views the current Canadians for Redress campaign as
a success and its goals more attainable than ever with a minority
government in power. “I think it is a winner,” he says. “There is more
and more publicity. These things take time, but I think it may happen
before the next election.”

“This is my grandfather's story,” says Tan. “It is one of the darkest
chapters of Canadian history, but also one of the brightest because
they overcame the elements and the people. The lo wah kui are the ones
who deserve the refund. They paid it, so they should get it back first.”

Gung Haggis dragon boat team practice – Sunday with Taiwanese boats

Good practice on Sunday, as we practiced starts and turns.
We have a wonderful group of people.  They commented on our last
social outing to see the Vancouver Symphony at Deer Lake, they are
thinking of which races they want to enter next year, and they each
tell me, that if we can stick together next year, we should 
really improve.

I keep saying this is the BEST Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team
we've ever had.  We haven't won a medal yet… but we have raced
in medal finals for Alcan Dragon Boat Festival and the Fraser Valley
DBF.  It's great to have a dragon boat team where people are
friendly towards each other, and don't place their personal egos above
the needs of the team.  I say this in comparision to other teams I
have known and raced with.  But all teams are built differently,
and serve different purposes.  Some serve as stepping stones to
competing at higher performance levels, some serve as singles meeting
places, Gung Haggis Fat Choy serves as an expression of
multiculturalism in action!

Issues of race and culture often creep into our social and practice
conversations.  Last week we talked about the upcoming Taiwanese
Dragon Boat Race, and how it helps to affirm a separate culture for the
Taiwanese government and people, as they are entrenched in a One China
debate constantly with the People's Republic of China.  We
discussed this openly with one of our paddlers born in Northern China,
while never visited Taiwan, he firmly believes that the two countries
should be united. 

No nasty arguements between people – just expressions of beliefs, and
agreements to disagree.  Imagine if the world's polital powers
actually worked this way.  Imagine if we could put all the
politicians in dragon boats.  Omigod!  They would have to
learn to work as a team!  And NOT just for personal glory and medals…  

Some of us are also paddling on another team going to race in San
Francisco.  We have commented on the different paddling styles on
different teams, and the need to blend in with each team's style –
otherwise philosophical clashes will occur.  Gee, just like real
life ideological wars.  Which style works best?  I always
think the style should suit the team's strengths and weaknesses,
instead of trying to make the team fit the style.  Sort of like
psychotherapy…. build the methods around the individual's belief
structures, instead of interpreting the belief strucutures to the
psychological theories.

We practice on Sundays at 1:30pm to 3:30pm and Wednesdays from 6 to 7:45pm at 215 West 1st Ave.

more later….

Bruce Springsteen concert Vancouver August 13, 2005

Bruce Springsteen in Vancouver… the last stop of his “summer
extravaganza,” as Bruce described it.  The GM Place hockey rink
was transformed into the Pontiac Theatre for this “intimate solo
concert in a theatrical setting was extraordinary!

Described as having the best concert sound ever in GM Place, and
supplemented by two giant screens on either side of the stage, Bruce
Springsteen took the traditional concert and raised it to a higher
level.  It was filled with theatrical staging and pacing, gospel
and blues references, intimate conversations with the audience,
reworkings of his famous and obscure songs.  Springsteen
definitely put in the work and re-invented both his stage show and his

The “Devils and Dust” album released earlier this year is an
introspective album that examines the choices that people make and the
situations that challenge them.  He writes about fatherhood (Long
Time Comin'), Mexicans trying to immigrate illeagaly into Texas
(Matamoras Banks), being an American soldier in Iraq (Devils and Dust),
and what it might have been like for Jesus to be a normal human being
(Jesus Was an Only Son).  It's a far cry from the over-worked and
wordy tone poems of his early writing, and the more simplistic anthems
about cars and girls from the River/Born in the USA albums.

Bruce shared his ideas and thoughts with the audience, telling stories
about growing up in New Jersey with a Catholic background that he
resisted, all the while observing that his Italian side of the family
never mixed with his Irish side of the family while they all lived
across and down the street from each other.  His own 13 year old
son Evan brought a guitar on stage, in his role as guitar tech for the
weeks worth of concerts, which prompted Bruce to remark after
introducing his eldest son to the audience, “He's travelling with Dad,
and that cost me $100 for him to do that…  and it's interrupting
his tv and playstation time backstage.”  Family is important to
the Boss, and he shared how his son is now challenging and rewriting
the words to dad's songs.

Springsteen has a long history of “rooting” for the underdog.  He
wants to draw attention to those left outside the social safety nets
which is why he has always invited local food banks to come to his
concerts and asks his audiences to support them.  Springsteen
supported.  Long described as a “working class hero,” he writes of
people's struggles in the tradition of “folk music” and of their
choices and journeys – some triumphant, many tragic, as well as their
personal transformation both situational or spiritual – so well
revealed on The Rising album, inspired by the situations of 9/11.

Springsteen's own bands have always been racially inclusive of
African-American musicians, and since the late 1960's!  It's hard
to think of another white band leader that featured black musicians so
prominently.  His early versions of the E Street Band included
keyboardist David Sancious.  Clarence Clemons, saxophonist – so
integral to the Born to Run album he was featured on the cover, as well
as the “Live in NYC”cover for the E Street Band reunion concerts.

I have followed Springsteen's career since 1980, and saw him in concert
in 1984 and 1987 on the Born in the USA and Tunnel of Love tours. 
There has always been a “Church of Rock & Roll” feel to his concert
shows, as his stage presence would at times resemble a preacher
ministering to his faithful.  One time duing the 1980's, I shared
with a friend who had recently become a born-again Christian, the
spiritual poignancy of Springsteen's lyrics with its many biblical
references in stories of transformation and spiritual healing or

Last Saturday's show in Vancouver was all of the above and more. 
Springsteen opened the show with the song Living Proof, played on a
pump organ, an almost archaic instrument that my
great-great-grandfather the Rev. Chan Yu Tan, used to play for his
congregations of the Chinese United Church.  The sound was
ethereal – changing chords without percussion… with the only sense of
rhythm or percussion coming from Springsteen's vocal phrasing…

It's been a long long drought baby

Tonight the rain's pourin' down on our roof

Looking for a little bit of God's mercy

I found living proof

The second song opened with Bruce solo on harmonica, stamping his foot
for percussive shots of sound.  The microphone was distorted,
sounding like an early blues record from the archival depths of the
Smithsonian Institute.  While many concert goers were dismayed by
the distorted sounds and the reworking of “Reason to Believe,” this
revealed Springsteen's roots found in the folk music traditions of
Woody Guthriem, as well as the blues, gospel and country of American
roots music.  Springsteen shed the gloss of 21st Century
production and musical popular trends, and revealed his strengths as a
songwriter to write timeless songs and poetry, transformed onstage
without radio playlist boundaries, or genre sub-listings.

Picking up his guitar, for “Devils and Dust”….

to be continued later…

What's in an audience? Alison Krauss bluegrass VS Vancouver Symphony at Deer Lake Park

I went to two different concerts this week:  Alison Krauses and Union
Station at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver on Tuesday Aug 9th, and
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at Deer Lake Park on Friday August 12th.

Alison Krauss specializes in bluegrass music – pure accoustic
mountain-inspired old-fashioned country music.  She has the voice of an
angel, and is one of my favorite singers.  Dan Tyminski, plays guitar
and sings vocals for the band as well, and is more well known for being
the singing voice of George Clooney in the movie “O Brother Where Art
Thou” for the song “I'm A Man of Constant Sorrow.”

The audience was very caucasian… and middle-aged.  Sort of reminded
me of the CBC radio concert for “Madly Off in All Directions.”  It was
a great concert with wonderful music and performances.  On the way to
the concert, I joked to my girlfriend (who is caucasian) that I would
probably be the only Chinese person at the concert.

“Omigod!” she exclaimed.  “You're Chinese!  You didn't tell me that!” 
she joked.  We've only been going out just over two years…

But I did see an Asian person… a technician for the show… then 2
others in the audience as we were walking out.  So, I felt a
secret kindred spirit with these strangers of Asiatic features,
enjoying an exotic cultural musical delicacy.

Compare this to the audience for the Vancouver Symphony at Deer Lake
Park in Burnaby- a Vancouver area tradition.  I would venture that
half to one-quarter of the audience was Asian.  And one-tenth of
symphony was Asian, including the guest soloist, a 16 year-old Korean
born clarinetist.  In our social picnic group of 13, over half
were Asian…  well one dragon boater was Eurasian… so she
counts in both camps.

What is it about symphony and country music that creates cultural
divides?  while attending the Alison Krauss concert, I felt that I
being very culturally proactive, like a fly on the wall, witnessing
the  cultural traditions of a different very white culture. And
yet the Symphony program was all based on dead white composers such as
Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius – many of whom in my accordion concert
repetoire!  Very interesting…

Hmmm… Bruce Springsteen concert tonight…
one of the first racially integrated bands in the early 1970's.
I can play “Dancing in the Dark” on my guitar, and “Fire” on the piano!

Watch CBC TV! “What Are You Anyways?” Jeff Chiba Stearns animated special of Mixed Race Hapa-ness

Watch CBC TV!  “What Are You Anyways?”  Jeff Chiba Stearns animated special of Mixed Race Hapa-ness.

7:00pm CBC TV 

Friday, August 12, 2005

I met Jeff at the Vancouver Public Library's Japanese Canadian Cultural
Fair.  He and his girlfriend are delightful.  He is an
animator.  “What Are You Anyways?” tells the story of growing up
with parents of different ethnicitis (Japanese & British) in a
small Canadian town (Kelowna)

Jeff's father is Scottish-German-British-Canadian and his Mom is Japanese-Canadian

When Jeff's parents blended their DNA together to create a baby….

became a hybrid of Japanese-German-Scottish-Brittish DNA… and started
down the road of cultural misidentification and finding out who and
what he really was!

Jeff Chiba Stearns and real life girlfriend Jenni Kato both grew up in
Kelowna BC, and now proudly embrace and promote their half-Japanese
cultural identity – photo Todd Wong

Check Jeff's website: