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. 
brought some pictures that were scanned for use in the
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

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
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

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
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.

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