Monthly Archives: July 2010

Windstorm hits Vancouver on Monday

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Kitsilano Beach, looking west along the seawall of the Kits Pool.  Great sunset with roiling waters.

Monday's windstorm knocked out power in Kitsilano in the morning.  My girlfriend and I went for a walk in the evening.  We watched the white caps in English Bay, as the waves battered the sea wall at the foot of Trafalgar St.

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White caps were coming through English Bay, and walkers along the sea wall were wary of getting wet.

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Deb tried to write our initials in the sand, but the waves were big and quickly washed anything away quickly.  It was a fun try…

Toddish McWong goes to Squamish Nation Pow Wow

Toddish McWong takes his kilt to
Squamish Nation Pow Wow

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Here I am trying to learn a simple First Nations dance step from my 2nd cousin Shelley on my right, as we dance in the closing event at the 23rd Annual Squamish Nation Pow Wow.

I had never been to a First Nations Pow Wow before, so when my 2nd cousin Shelley sent me a Facebook message about the 23rd Annual Squamish Nation Pow Wow, and that she was going to watch her nieces compete in dance competition, I knew I had to be there.

The event was held at X̱wemelch'stn Park, also known as the Capilano Indian Reserve near the South end of Capilano Road in North Vancouver.  I had grown up in North Vancouver since I was 14 years old, and have driven through the reserve many times going to Park Royal.  I had only once before attended and event at the Capilano Longhouse once before in 1990, when the Squamish Nation presented David Suzuki with an eagle feather.  Soon after, I visited Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) where I met carver Claude Davidson, father of renowned artist Robert Davidson, and also traveled to the ancient village site of Skedans.

When I was about 7 years old, my favorite book was titled “Indian Lore and Craft”, I became enamored of creating buckskin clothes, moccasins, face paint, bows and arrows and other accessories.  But I never followed up.

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Here I am with my cousin Shelley Ferguson. 

Shelley's mother is Rhonda Larrabee is Chief of Qayqayt First Nations, and the subject of the NFB documentary Tribe of One.  I have often written about Rhonda and her courage to re-establish the Qayqayt First Nations in New Westminster.

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Shelley's nieces danced in the “jingle dance” competition.
Latisha is on the left in blue and Alyssa is
in the middle in red. They both have been the Squamish Nation
Princesses. 🙂

I found lots of aspects of interculturalism happening at the Pow Wow:
Click on each of the pictures for an enlargement on my Flickr account.

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Here is a Japanese parasol being carried by one of the child dancers to keep the sun off.

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The dancer on the left wears an RCMP serge tunic combined with leggings from an old Hudson's Bay Company blanket – very vintage.  The dancer on the right has combined a red/green tartan cloth in both his hat and rustle.

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These dancers' costumes are made from very colourful designs that resembled Tibetan designs.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the event:

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This is the “Potato Dance Special” – you have to hold a potato between your forehead and your partner's.  Then you are asked to keep doing dance movements, or lift your hands or feet into the air, or even jump!  Last couple with a potato between their heads wins!

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This young dancer is waiting for the Fancy Shawl dancer to begin

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Male traditional dance

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I love the expressions on these dancers with their painted faces.  They are plains Indians.

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Detail of a Rustle with eagle feathers.

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Salmon dinner with traditional baked salmon, bannock and

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Here is a video of two of my favorite male dancers at the event.  The dancer with the Purple top, has a green & crimson red tartan as a loin cloth and also on his hat.  The dancer with the eagle head mask is wearing a vintage RCMP red serge tunic with HBC blanket leggings.  Watch the background for a female dancer in a red & black jingle dance costume – that's the niece of my cousin Shelley.  At the end of the video, watch for a young boy in a white tunic with a yellow porcupine headdress with 2 eagle feathers – pretty intense performance, eh?

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This video is a very intense… This is the two finalists for senior male fancy dance.  It was a great way for the dance competitions to end!

My family elders

My family elders

Rev. Chan Yu Tan came to Canada in 1896 to serve at the Chinese Methodist Church, which had been co-founded by his elder brother Rev. Chan Sing Kai in 1888.

My family elders have lived through two world wars.  They have lived through the Chinese Head
Tax era, and the1923 Chinese Exclusion Act.

3 brothers and a cousin served in WW2, who were first not allowed to join the Canadian Forces, even though they wanted to fight for the country they were born in.

They could not vote in the country they were born in until after the Exclusion Act was appealed in 1947 – because up until then, Canadians of Chinese ancestry were considered resident aliens.

They grew up and watched the younger generation become: Miss Canada runner-up, TV news reporter, BC Lions Cheerleader, lawyer, RCMP officer, city councilor, killer-whale habitat warden, mining environment consultant, and then there’s me…  cultural and community activist.

One great-grand-daughter of Rev Chan Yu Tan is Chief of the Qayqayt First Nations.  Watch the NFB Film Tribe of One to learn the story of Rhonda Larabee, my mother’s cousin.

My parents have appeared with me in the 2004 CBC television performance special Gung Haggis Fat Choy, when we re-created a small Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner of 10 for the cameras.

In 2007, CBC created a TV documentary about her Rev Chan Yu Tan and family descendant history titled Generations: The Chan Legacy.

Some of my elders have been an inspiration to me, and also very encouraging of me for playing my accordion, when I was a child.


Our family committee organized a Rev. Chan Family Reunion in 2000.  We had representatives from many branches of the Rev. Chan Family, descendants from his children Kate, Rose and Millicent, and families from son Jack also attended.

Many of my family elders have also attended my Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.   I wrote about their influence on my cooking and heritage in the 2007 book Eating Stories: Chinese Canadian and Aboriginal Pot Luck.

Happy Canada Day! Joceylyn Petit… Scottish-Chinese-Canadian fiddle player!

Happy Canada Day!

am listening to the cd music of 15 year old
half-Chinese/half-Scottish 100% Canadian fiddle player Jocelyn
Perfect for the recognition of Pioneer Chinese
and Scots who helped to build British Columbia.


I had the pleasure of meeting Jocelyn and her mother Siew, at the BC Highland Games last Saturday. 

I had written:

Hello Jocelyn
and Siew. I am really enjoying listening to Jocelyn's cd. I can
hearing some good fiddle music at the games, looked over at the stage,
didn't see my Blackthorn friends… but a small trio or so. I love
sound on the cd. I cranked it up in the car.

Great that you have been on CBC Early Edition with Rick Cluff.
But I
think Sheryl McKay's North By Northwest – would be perfect for you.
I have
played my accordion with Blackthorn, and the Chinese-fusion group Silk
Music Ensemble. Hopefully one day, we can have you perform at my Gung
Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.

We have spun off a CBC
Television performance special back in 2004, and I hope that it can be
expanded for the future. I can be seen playing my accordion in the CBC
documentary Generations: The Chan Legacy – about my
and the contributions that his subsequent descendants have made to
society. I
would like to purchase additional cd's to give out as gifts. I
will write
up a review of the cd within the week. Please let me know when you are
in the Vancouver area, and I will blog the events.

Cheers, Todd Wong

Her father replied:

Hello Todd,
Thank you very much for your very nice
message.  We really appreciate your kind words!  I wish I had the
chance to meet you at the recent BC Highland Games and Scottish
Festival, as my
daughter, Jocelyn, and wife, Siew, were delighted to talk with you.  You
have accomplished great achievements with your music performances, work
CBC, and special events production!  Bravo for such fascinating and
remarkable work!  We are keen to know more and participate!
Thank you for enjoying our music at the
BC Highland
Games & Scottish Festival, as well as on our recent debut CD.  At
Games, we performed a short set and came ready for much more, in case
allowed.  We were excited to perform with our newly-joined pipes player
(small/bellow pipes), and we had our guitar player as well (but no cello
for this show).  The CD shows the diversity and versatility of Jocelyn's
music.  Her original compositions are complex and beautifully layered in
sound texture, her arrangements of contemporary and traditional tunes
are fresh
and delightful, and her choice of tunes and melodies is interesting and
engaging.  Of course, I am a very proud dad, but far beyond my word, she
widely receiving praise for her ideas, innovation, and skills
(especially for
her young age).
Thank you for the ideas you have
mentioned –
preceding our (sold-out) North Vancouver CD Release Concert (Shaw
Sheryl McKay was kind enough to play Jocelyn's “Morning Glory” on her
show.  It was very much appreciated – Jocelyn is committed to making
her career, and along the way we learn of the many career-path
challenges (such as gaining recognition and opportunities, with
predominantly instrumental world/folk music).  Definitely, thank you for
your ideas!
Thank you for writing up a review of
CD!  That is really excellent!  We are very appreciative of the word
getting out there, of Jocelyn's music and her music gift of exceptional
Thank you also for wanting to purchase
CDs.  This can be done at


We hope to see you soon!

Globe & Mail: Head tax redress was not enough say Chinese descendants

Surviving sons and daughters need to be included for Chinese Head Tax settlement.

No other ethnic group was charged a head tax.
The govt repealed the racist “Chinese Exclusion Act” in 1947 and also
finally gave Canadians born with Chinese heritage the vote.

The Mulroney
govt apologized for Japanese Canadians interned during WW2 in 1988.  Four
years earlier, Chinese Head Tax Redress had been  brought to Parliament in 1984 by MP Margaret Mitchell,
but rejected by the Trudeau govt.

An apology for Chinese Head Tax
finally came 22 years later in 2006, but it was 86 years after the last
head tax was paid in 1923, and 121 years after the first head tax was
paid in 1885. Giving ex-gratia payments only to the few surviving head
tax payers and widows while ignoring the other 99% of head tax
certificates passed onto surviving sons and daughters is wrong.

It is
impossible to expect my great-grandfather to live to be 130 years old to
receive his “tax refund”. The payment should go to his remaining 7
children who are 99 to 85 years old, all born in Canada and had to live
through the years of The Exclusion Act until 1947.


Head tax redress was not enough say
Chinese descendants

97 year old Thomas Soon  (L) and 99 year old Charlie Quon hold government cheques, the first  redress payments to Chinese Head Tax payers in Vancouver, BC, October  20, 2006.

97 year old Thomas Soon (L) and 99 year
old Charlie Quon hold government cheques, the first redress payments to
Chinese Head Tax payers in Vancouver, BC, October 20, 2006. Lyle Stafford for The Globe and

Canada Day rally planned for Vancouver’s

Robert Matas

Vancouver Globe and Mail Update Published on Wednesday, Jun. 30, 2010 5:05PM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, Jun. 30, 2010
5:35PM EDT

Canada’s apology to
the Chinese community for the head tax from 1885 to 1923 was not enough,
say descendants of those who paid the tax.

Ottawa said sorry to
the Chinese community four years ago and gave $20,000 to those who had
paid the head tax or to their surviving spouse.

But members of the Head Tax
Families Society of Canada say the federal
excluded thousands
of Chinese families who were affected by the historic injustices and
Ottawa should rethink its approach to redress.

The children of those who paid the
tax but did not live long enough to hear the apology received nothing
and still feel left out, Sid Tan, head of the Head Tax Families Society
of Canada, said Wednesday in an interview on the day before a “redress
rally” planned for Vancouver’s Chinatown.

“The apology was not as meaningful
to us as it was to other [Chinese families],” said Mr. Tan, the
grandson of a head tax payer. “The federal government left out a large
chunk of people and you have to find some way you can meaningfully
provide redress for them.”

The federal government
acknowledged less than one per cent of families who had paid the head
tax, he said. Payments were made to about 800 people although more than
82,000 Chinese immigrants paid the tax from 1885 to 1923.

The rally on Canada Day is
intended as a celebration of being Canadian while reminding the federal
government that the issue is not closed, Mr. Tan said.

Victor Wong, executive director of
the Chinese Canadian National Council, an umbrella group with 27
chapters across the country, said 3,000 families across Canada are still
seeking to be included in the apology and payment that was made in

His grandfather, who immigrated to
Canada in 1912, could not bring his wife and four children until 1947,
he said. Mr. Wong said he is the family’s first Canadian-born grandson,
born 47 years after his grandfather arrived on the West Coast. “Family
formation was discouraged,” he said.

Redress that included the children
of those who felt the impact of the discriminatory policies would set
the tone for governments, prodding them to ensure that policies and
programs are sensitive to the needs of minorities.

“For an apology to be meaningful,
it needs to include [the children of head tax payers],” said Mr. Wong