Monthly Archives: August 2011

Steveston Dragon Boat Festival raced by Gung Haggis dragon boat team

2011 Steveston Dragon  Boat Festival

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team steered by Deb Martin and drummed by Debbie Poon.  Deborah Gee is 2nd seat left – it is the 3 Deb team at the Steveston Dragon Boat Festival.  photo courtesy of Philip Chin–Dragon-Boat-Festival/18654179_Grpt6V#1456365323_6wTzNTj


It was the hottest day yet of a damp cold summer, and 37 dragon boat teams came to Steveston to enjoy the balmy 25 degreetemperature by the sea.  The 2nd annual Steveston Dragon Boat Festival was set at the Britannia Historic Shipyard, locatedjust East of Steveston Village.

We weren’t in D nor E Division, nor A or B.  Gung Haggis Fat Choy team placed 3rd in C Division Consolation

And with many brand new paddlers including 5 race virgins: Xavier, Christian, Mary, Leo & Alex

In race #1 – 200m – we came 3rd – 1:17.040
In race # 2 – 200m – we came 1st – 1:14.600 – improving by 2.4 seconds
In race #3 – 500m – we came 2nd  2:41.400 only 1 second behind Deep Cove Catch 22
Our race #4 was in C Division Consolation – we came 3rd 2:49.160

Great captaining by Steven Wong, drumming by Debbie Poon, and steering by Deb Martin. Great team chemistry and attitude by everybody, with special additions
Steve Sywulch, Carly Sywulch, Tracy Ghirardi, Alex Park and Wen + Mei-Fah Mah

Great work to Gung Haggis paddlers Aidan, Xavier, Karl, Todd, Steven W, Gerard, Barb, Deborah, Anne, Grace, Keng, Caroline, Christian, Leo and Mary

Top race honours went Team Lifescan who repeated their 1st place finish from 2010 with a time of 2:07.400.  2nd place went to False Creek Grandragons, a seniors team with 2:09.950.  And 3rd place overall was a very tight race that saw Swordfish beat Dragon Hearts Beat by 0.28 sec with a bronze medal time of 2:10.84.

“My seniors, the Grandragons kick ass!!! 2nd overall in Steveston! So fun and so proud!”

– said their coach, former Olympic kayak paddler Kamini Jain.

Meanwhile, David Wong the coach of the Strathcona Youth Team, was telling his high school paddlers about why the Grandragons
should never be underestimated, and how amazing it is that paddlers aged 60+ are beating almost every dragon boat team.

This was the last race of the season for the Metro Vancouver area.  Many of the teams start practicing in March, and looked forward to the final race of the summer.

It was a lively and festive site, set among the heritage buildings that remain from Steveston’s historic Cannery Row.  Many of the paddlers learned about the history by reading the display signs, but were still unaware that area they were lining up in was later being used as the setting for the Salmon Row theatre production produced by Mortal Coil.

Teams came from as faraway as Ft. Langley and Saltspring Island.  Local teams included many different teams including Dragon boat paddling is an inclusive activity with many specialty teams.  O2P is a team of paddlers on kidney dialysis, which came 1st in the D Division.  Strathcona Dragons is a youth team from Vancouver’s inner city neighbourhood that came 4th in B Consolation.  Off Balance is a team that includes paddlers with multiple schlerosis.

My own team is named Gung Haggis Fat Choy, which found itself right at home in Steveston.  Our team celebrates the multicultural history of BC, and we shared some of the stories of the Scottish and Chinese, Japanese and First Nations pioneer origins of Steveston and BC with our paddlers – many of whom are immigrants from Asian, Europe and
South America.  Our team made it to the C semi-final, but got bumped into the consolation round.

The atmosphere at the Steveston Dragon Boat Race was very friendly, filled with the camaraderie of a full season of paddling.  Many teams had started paddling in the wet months of February and March.  There were also many new paddlers who only started in July and August.  For them, their first race was very exciting.

The Wong family crest approved and recognized by the Canadian Government: maybe now I will have to design a McWong family crest

The Wong family crest approved and recognized by the Canadian Government: maybe now I will have to design a McWong family crest
The Wong or Huang family crest approved and recognized by the Canadian Government
The Wong or Huang family crest approved and recognized by the Canadian goverment, the project was started by the Wong Association of Ontario.

I can understand that a panda bear is from China
– but why a white polar bear? The Chinese Wong pioneers came to “Gold
Mountain”, and “Wong” means “yellow” – it should be a “yellow bear” or a
Grizzly Bear!!!

I do like that both bears are standing on a “gold mountain” since “gum san” was what the Chinese referred to America, since the early pioneers came for the California and BC gold rushes.

The panda bear is holding a pick axe, to signify that the Chinese pioneers came over in search of gold.  The polar bear is holding a sledge hammer to signify that Chinese pioneers also came to Canada to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway.

My own grandfather Wong Wah, arrived in Victoria BC in 1882, at age 16.  He helped his uncle's dry goods store in Victoria and was soon managing “the largest Chinese dry goods store in Victoria” according to my father.  Wong Wah had 6 wives. 3 were in China, 3 came to Canada.  My own grandmother was wife #5, and my father was known as #8 son – even though from wife #5, he only had 3 older brothers and 2 older sisters.

My great-great-grandmother Wong Sze was the wife of Rev. Chan Yu Tan.  Rev. Chan arrived in 1896, following his elder brother's missionary footsteps.  Rev. Chan Sing Kai had arrived in 1891 to help found the Chinese Methodist Church.  Wong Sze arrived around 1899 bringing their children, including my great-grandmother Kate.  The Chan family history is documented and told in the CBC film Generations: The Chan Legacy

My friend David Wong, is also a 5th generation Canadian, who was interviewed on CBC Radio One's “Early Edition” program by host Rick Cluff, on Friday morning.

Here are some quotes from the Toronto Star article
“So far no equivalent of the Highland Games are on the agenda.
“I don’t think you’re going to get Mah-Jong replacing caber tossing,” says Bonnie Wong.
Ontario Wongs meanwhile, will be extending an invitation for all Wongs
to use the crest as their own symbol, said Caroline Wong.
“This is for all the Wongs in Canada.”
And the good news is, you don’t have to wear a kilt. “

Here are my comments about the article…

“The first Chinese Canadian baby born in 1861 was by a Wong.”
is usually listed as Alexander Won Cumyow – it is acknowledged by the
Cumyow descendants that the name is actually the first name, and was
written down wrong by the immigrant officials.

Jean Lumb was the first Chinese Canadian to receive the Order of Canada, in 1976. She was the best friend of my grand-Aunt Helen.  I know 2 of Jean Lumb's daughters: Arlene Chan is a Toronto librarian and author of the dragon boat book: Paddles Up!, while Janet Lumb is the artistic director and founder of Acess Asie (the Montreal equivalent of the Asian Heritage Month Festival).

The first MALE Chinese-Canadian was Ernest Chan, in 1984 – His daughter
Betty Chan became a national highland dance champion of Canada, and a
McChan plaid, was created for her. 

Now for my own friends and family starting with me:

Todd Wong aka Toddish McWong, has yet to create a McWong tartan, but
often wears the Macleod Tartan – because it is the “most yellow kilt I
could find”.  Todd has received the BC Community Achievement Award in 2008, and was featured by the BC Royal Museum in their 150th Anniversary of BC display – “The Party”.  He is founder of Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year
Dinner, turned into a CBC television performance special in 2004.

Also some more Wongs:

Adrienne Wong is of Chinese-Canadian and French ancestry.  She is an accomplished actor and founding director of Neworld Theatre.

Bill Wong is the energy behind Modernize Tailors,
the last remaining tailor shop in Vancouver's Chinatown.  The shop made
the majority of zoot suits during the hey-day of the 1930's and
1940's.  A recent documentary titled Tailor Made: The Last Tailor in Chinatown.

Janice Wong
, artist and author.  Janice wrote the book Chow: From China to Canada, Memories of Food + Family. She was featured in the CBC documentary “Lotus Land Sasketchewan” and Generations: The Chan Legacy.  She is my 2nd cousin, as we are both descended from Rev. Chan Yu Tan.

Jim Wong-Chu
is a Vancouver Chinatown historian, poet and cultural engineer.  He edited Many Mouthed Birds, the first book of Chinese Canadian prose and fiction.  He is the creator of the North American Asian-Canadian Historical Timeline.  He has been the driving force behind the Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop and the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society.

Milton Wong
is former Chancellor of Simon Fraser University, known as the father of
dragon boating in Vancouver, and is also a well-known businessman, and
philanthropist. He received the Order of Canada in 1997, and the Order of BC in 200

Paul Wong
is the accomplished video artist pioneer.

Rita Wong
is author of Forage,
which won the 2008 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize at the BC Book Prizes. 
Her first collection Monkey Puzzle, won the Asian Canadian Writers'
Workshop Emerging Writer Award.

Vicki Wong
is the author/illustrator of Octonauts, and the creator of Meomi Productions which created the mascots for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.


Joe Wai
, architect, my cousin.  His mother was a Wong.  Joe is the architect of many projects in Vancouver Chinatown including: Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardents, Chinatown Millenium Gateway, Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Archives.