Storyscapes Chinatown: “Celebrate Our Differences” – Joe Wai
This is my cousin Joe Wai. Joe's mother is my father's eldest
sister. Our grandfather Wong Wah, came to Canada at age 16.
He was soon managing his uncle's store which became the largest Chinese
drygoods store in Victoria's Chintown. Joe's mother was born in
Canada, but grew up in Hong Kong. She wasn't able to come back to
Canada, until after the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed. The family
came to Canada around 1953, the year my own parents married.
Joe is an architect who has made many contributions to Vancouver's
Chinatown. He was the architect for the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical
Chinese Gardens, the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Archives, the
Chinatown Millenium Gate, The Chinatown Parkade, the West End Community
Centre… and many other buildings in Vancouver.
Because of Joe, I was inspired to be an architect… then he talked me
out of it. But I have always counted Joe and his brother Hayne as
my early role models. I saw them involved in Vancouver's Chinese
community, and especially the formation of the Chinese Cultural
Centre. I am very proud of them.