Monthly Archives: December 2006

The Militant: Canadian Chinese call for redress over head tax

Here's an article from Dec 18th in the Militant

Canadian Chinese call for redress over head tax

I attended the Nov. 25th meeting – check my article:
   Head Tax Familes call  for Good Fatith negotiations- nearly 500 people show up

The Militant (logo)
   Vol. 70/No. 48   
       December 18, 2006

Canadian Chinese call for
redress over head tax

(front page)
VANCOUVER, British Columbia—Chanting, “Head tax redress,
justice now!” more than 300 people voted at a November 25 meeting to
demand compensation for every one of the 82,000 Chinese-Canadian
families forced to pay a head tax last century. Many of those attending
the event at the Chinese Cultural Center in Chinatown were in their 70s
and 80s.

The Canadian government imposed the racist head tax on all Chinese
immigrants to this country between 1885 and 1923. Initially $50, it was
raised to $100, then $500 in 1903, the equivalent of two years’ pay for
a laborer.

Frank Chan told the Militant, “People had to work for 10
to 15 years to pay off” the money they had borrowed to pay the tax. “If
they died, their family in China was still stuck with the burden of
paying the money back.”

In 1923 the Canadian government imposed the Chinese Exclusion
Act, which banned all immigration from China and remained in effect
until 1947. As a result, many of those who paid the head tax, almost
all men, were separated from their wives and children for decades.
Chinese-Canadians were also denied the right to vote and faced many
other racist laws and practices.

In June of this year, after a decades-long fight for justice by
Chinese-Canadians, Ottawa agreed to compensate about 400 surviving head
tax payers and their spouses. The Head Tax Families Society of Canada
(HTFS), which organized the November 25 meeting, noted that a bare 0.6
percent of families subjected to the head tax will be compensated.

Wayne Lee, an activist in the HTFS, said that the redress fight
is “important for today because it strengthens other struggles for

Another activist, Ron Mah, said winning redress has been a
deeply felt issue for different generations of Chinese-Canadian
families. “I remember how as a boy our family always talked about the
need to pursue justice and how unfair the head tax was,” he said.

Vancouver city councilor David Cadman, who spoke at the
meeting, said, “Many people say this happened a long time ago. But
today in our society there are people who are still being discriminated

Several members of Parliament spoke, including New Democratic
Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton and former Liberal cabinet minister
Ujjal Donsanjh. Layton said the NDP supports the HTFS demands.

Sid Tan, a co-chair of the HTFS vowed, “We’re building a
movement of such strength” that it will “outlast the [Prime Minister
Stephen] Harper government and any other government” until justice is

Grace Schenkeveld, English-language spokesperson for the HTFS,
presented Layton with 1,600 letters from descendants of head tax payers
and a petition demanding redress to be introduced in Parliament.

Dozens lined up to join the HTFS during the meeting. 

Vancouver Sun: Dec 30 page C9 – mention of Gung Haggis World Poetry

Vancouver Sun: Dec 30 page C9 – mention of Gung Haggis World Poetry

Okay….  it's a small picture of me in the top right hand corner of page C9 of the the Vancouver Sun December 30th edition.
I missed it reading the newspaper earlier today, but my girlfriend pointed it out a few minutes before midnight.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy, the unique bicultural New Year's celebration in which dragons meet kilts, will present World Poetry at 7pm, Monday Jan. 15th at the Central Library, 350 W. Georgia.  Hosted by Todd Wong, Ariadne Sawyer and Alejandro Mujica-Olia, it will feature poets Shelley Haggard, Fiona Tin Wei Lam and Leon Yang, plus bagpiper Joe McDonald.  Call 604-526-4729.

Some clarification:

Alejandro will be out of the country, so co-hosts are Ariadne Sawyer and Todd Wong

Dr. Ian Mason of the Burns Club of Vancouver, will also be reading Burns poetry and talking about Robbie Burns.

Joe McDonald will be doing more than just playing bagpipes… Joe and I are planning to perform some singalong Scottish songs, as well as one of his contemporary songs and maybe… just maybe…  we will perform my creation, “My Haggis Lies Over the Ocean, My Chow Mein Lies Over the Sea.”

Tommy Shoyama dies – Great Asian Canadian helped create Canada's universal health care

Tommy Shoyama dies – Great Asian Canadian helped create Canada's universal health care

Tommy Shoyama was born in Kamloops BC.  He was the editor of “The New Canadian” a Japanese-Canadian journal at the time of mass hysteria against the Japanese, and the internment of coastal Japanese Canadians.  After the war, Shoyama worked in Saskatchewan with Tommy Douglas, helping to create the universal health care system that became the template for Canada.  Shoyama was a nation builder for Canada following a time, when Canada and BC tried its utmost to destroy the Japanese Canadian community.

Here are some of the obituaries:

Guelph Mercury (subscription)
Shoyama helped create universal health care
London Free Press, Canada – 29 Dec 2006
By CP. VICTORIA — Thomas Shoyama, who helped create the universal health care system as a deputy minister for Tommy Douglas, has died.
Thomas Shoyama, widely respected civil servant, dies Regina Leader-Post
Veteran senior civil servant dies at age 90 Vancouver Province (subscription)
Thomas Shoyama played a key role in health-care debates Guelph Mercury (subscription)
CBC British Columbia –
all 10 news articles »
Civil servant who helped build universal health care dies
A former senior official in Tommy Douglas's Saskatchewan government who played a
role in the creation of medicare
has died. Thomas Shoyama died Friday in – 27k – 2006-12-28

Pioneer of universal health care
Montreal Gazette (subscription), Canada – 23 hours ago
Thomas Shoyama, who helped create the universal health care system as a deputy minister for Tommy Douglas, has died. Registered

Civil servant who helped create medicare dies at 90
Victoria Times Colonist, Canada – 27 Dec 2006
Thomas Shoyama,
one of Canada’s most respected civil servants, who helped create the
modern universal health care system as a deputy minster for Tommy Douglas

New 2007 poster: Gung Haggis Fat Choy: Toddish McWong's Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner

New 2007 poster: Gung Haggis Fat Choy:
Toddish McWong's Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner

Check out this new poster for 2007 – click on attachment below.

It is also running as an ad in Common Ground magazine, as this was designed by their graphics department, based on files for our original 2005 poster created by Jaime Griffiths.

Common Ground magazine is one of this year's event sponsors, and will once again sponsor our VIP table.  I think that this is a great relationship as Gung Haggis Fat Choy seeks to find common ground between Scots-Canadian and Chinese-Canadian history and cultures, as well as other Canadian cultures and histories.

Other 2007 sponsors include:
Firehall Arts Centre
Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop
Ricepaper Magazine

This dinner event is a fundraiser for:
Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dragon Boat team
Joy Kogawa House
Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop / Ricepaper Magazine

January 3rd, 2007 – New Tang Dynasty Television's Chinese New Year Spectacular

January 3rd, 2007 – New Tang Dynasty Television's Chinese New Year Spectacular

January 3rd, 2007 Wednesday

2pm-4: 30 pm

& 8:00pm- 10:30 pm

Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Hamilton at Dunsmuir

I saw last year's show and was amazed!  The show combined martial arts, singing, dancing, and historical legends and stories into a theatrical stage production.  I wrote my review of the 2006 New Tang Dynasty TV's Chinese New Year Global
and said that:

The show is both a showcase of a Chinese interpretation of
multiculturalism and also a message of compassion and spirituality,
underlined by Buddhist and Confucian sensibilities.  This would
not be unlike any Western society celebration of Christmas with
Christian storytelling about the birth of Jesus, or how it is important
to give gifts and celebrate peace at Christmastime.  Chinese New
Year is the largest holiday celebration of the year – in fact it is the
“Christmas” of the Asian world.

In Vancouver and Canada, we often have an insulated view of Chinese culture and the global Chinese diaspora around the world.  Multi-generational Chinese-Canadians like myself complain that new immigrants are “too Chinese,”and the immigrants complain that the Canadian-born Chinese are “not Chinese enough.”  Canadian racism over the past 120 years had a big hand in shaping the form of Chinese-Canadian culture that we have today, through the head tax, the exclusion act, and other systemic racist barriers.  But the new Chinese immigrants don't often understand or even care about Chinese-Canadian history, nor the tremendous barriers the pioneers had to overcome.  And the multigenerational Canadians of Chinese ethnicity don't understand or even care about Chinese history, myths or legends.

With the rise of Chinese immigration to Canada, the economic clout of China's global economy, as well as an increase of multicultural understanding in Canada, we will see a proliferation of theatrical stage shows that will address the history and culture of one of humankind's longest continuous and most populous peoples – the Chinese.  I have particularly enjoyed the shows put on by Dennis Law at the Centre in Vancouver Centre for Performing Arts such as Terracotta Warriors, Senses, and
Heart Beat
. Like the New Tang Dynasty show, they draw on Chinese culture and history to tell stories that are universal as well as historically important.

This is not any different to seeing a show about the French Revolution (eg. Les Miserables), or about English history (eg. the movie “The Queen” or any Shakespear play), or any European language opera (Mozart's Magic Flute, or Rossini's Barber of Seville).  The issue is are we as Vancouverites or Canadians, euro-centric in our cultural outlook? or are we global in our cultural outlook?

New Tang Dynasty TV takes a global perspective in addressing the role of the global Chinese diaspora with mission statements to:

– Foster understanding between Chinese people and Western societies
– Assist Chinese people outside China to adapt and integrate into mainstream society
– Provide viewers with accurate information to enrich their knowledge and lives
– Contribute to multiculturalism and free flow of information in the Chinese-language media.

There are Chinese people living all around the world – but they do not necessarily support the views or directions of the present government of the People's Republic of China – nor are they defined by the PRC.  And the PRC, doesn't necessarily accept or acknowledge the views or philosophies of the many “overseas Chinese” around the world, and they have no “control” over them!  But the constant that they and the rest of the people in the world share, is the long history and rich culture of China.

Below are some of the comments from the Press releases for the show:

The legendary New Tang Dynasty Television’s Chinese New Year Spectacular explodes with the sights and sounds of ancient China, with epic tales, mythical dragons, exciting drummers, and beautiful dances to celebrate the holidays with a spice of Asian culture!

Ranked # 7 on Billboard Magazine’s top 10 shows in Feb 2006!
—“Based on ticket sales for the 2006 show at Radio City Music Hall in New York”

Seniors and students  15% discount.
Group rates:    Over 5 tickets,  10% off
             Over 10 tickets  15% off
             Over 20 tickets  20% off
             Over 50 tickets  25% off

Group discount: Expires December 20
Do not miss this opportunity. call our Hotline: 604-628-1620 or Ticket Master 604-280-4444 to place your order.

Tickets:  $30, $40, $50, $60, 80, 120VIP
Preview video:  for Vancouver
Or:   for the worldwide view

 “…a highly professional, well-thought out and beautifully produced presentation! This is not only entertainment, but a valuable cross-over cultural event: a strong, gracious gesture toward international understanding, in an all-too-troubled world.”
– Donn B. Murphy, Ph.D., President and Executive Director, The National Theatre, Washington

sponsored by CTV, Vancouver Sun, CBC and The Epoch Times

Vancouver Sun: Kelly Ip's First White Christmas in Canada – Ottawa 1961

Vancouver Sun: Kelly Ip's First White Christmas in Canada
– Ottawa 1961

My friend Kelly Ip had a story about his first White Christmas in Canada, published in the Vancouver Sun on Dec. 18th.  I have known Kelly through our many community committments, and it was on his recommendation that I was invited to become a director of the Canadian Club Vancouver.  Kelly is a staunch supporter of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, and both he and his wife Maggie were included in the Vancouver Sun's list of influential Chinese Canadians of BC.

“When I was young and living in Hong Kong, I never saw snow, and dreamed of a white Christmas, but I finally saw and touched the white fluffy stuff when I was in Ottawa in 1961.

“My first white Christmas was spen with my room mate's family in St. Anne de Sorrel in Quebec.

“They had a house on the North Shore of the St. Lawrence River, and I was shown how to ride a snowmobile, went on a sleigh ride and experienced the culture and tradition of a French Canadian family.   My room mate's family took me to a midnight mass, followed by a “reveillion” (midnight dinner) at home.  My first Canadian White Christmas.

Fast forward to five years ago when our one-year-old grandson came with us to Whistler for his first Christmas and he too, experienced a white one….

click on attachment to read more, and see picture of Kelly and Maggie with their grandson… and Kelly in 1961!

January 15th, Gung Haggis Fat Choy World Poetry Night at Vancouver Public Library

January 15th, Gung Haggis Fat Choy World Poetry Night
at Vancouver Public Library

Check out the new January events brochure for the Vancouver Public Library
Gung Haggis Fat Choy World Poetry Night is the feature picture. 

see the 2007 poster on the attachment!

Yup… that's me underneath the mask.

January 15th, Monday
Central Library, 350 West Georgia St.
Alice MacKay room (lower level)

Celebrating Robbie Burns Day and Chinese New Year. 
Featuring poets and performers:

Fiona Tinwei Lam
(author of Intimate Distances – Vancouver Book Prize finalist for 2005)
Leon Yang
Dr. Ian Mason (president of the Burns Club of Vancouver)
Joe McDonald (bagpiper, and band leader of Brave Waves)
Ariadne's Dream Dragon Dance
+ special guest to be announced.

Hosts are Todd Wong and Ariadne Sawyer