Category Archives: Rev. Chan Legacy Project

Victoria celebrates 150 years of Chinese Canadian History with a grand dinner and awards

Chinese Canadian achievements feted at Victoria's Empress Hotel, attended by Hon. Norman Kwong, Sen. Vivienne Poy, Dr. David Lai, Dr. Wallace Chung and many others.

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Hon. Norman Kwong, Lt. Gov. of Alberta, addressing the 150 Years in Golden Mountain dinner audience – photo Todd Wong

It was a night to recognize achievements in Chinese Canadian history, and it was best summed up by the Hon. Lt. Gov. of Alberta Norman Kwong.  He told a story about how challenging it was being the first Chinese in the Canadian Football League, and how the Calgary Stampeders had given up on him. 

“Don't ever give up,” he told the audience.  The he proudly showed his Stanley Cup ring and mentioned his four Grey Cup victories, “And I'm Chinese!” he said.

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Obee and Lucinda Chodan, Editor and Editor in Chief of the Vicotoria
Times Colonist stand with Todd Wong, Victor Wong and Daniel Lee,
holding up copies of the 12 page insert titled Chinatown that
celebrated 150 years of Chinese Canadian Chinatown history – photo Deb

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Archival picture displays of Chinese Canadian history greeted the audience for the “150 Years in Golden Mountain” gala event – photo Todd Wong

The evening had began with a reception in the Palm Court of the Empress Hotel.  There were picture displays, music, food and mingling.  I was finally able to meet Amanada Mills, the chair of the Victoria Chinese Commerce Association, who I had communicated with for months, as well as Sinclair Mar, the chair of the 150 Years in Golden Mountain Celebrations Committee.  And I also finally got to meet Dr. David Lai, Victoria Chinatown historian, whom I have heard so much about over the years.

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Todd Wong & Sen. Vivienne Poy – photo Deb Martin.

Senator Vivienne Poy is the patron senator of Asian Heritage Month
throughout Canada, and I first met her in Ottawa when I worked for
Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society.  It's always nice to see
Vivienne, as her husband's late Aunt Cecilia had been married to my
grandmother's oldest brother Henry.

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NDP leader Carole James & Todd Wong – photo Deb Martin

I chatted with Gabriel Yiu, news commentator, and Carole James, NDP Opposition Leader.  I asked Carole about her family ancestry, and she shared with me that her father was First Nations.  I thought it would be real cool if she became Premier, because then we would have both a Premier and Lt. Gov. of First Nations heritage!  I got to know Gabriel when we were both active on the Chinese Head Tax Redress campaign.  Unfortunately Jenny Kwan couldn't attend, as she is due with her second child in one month.

Many people traveled from Vancouver to attend this event.  I bumped into Tung Chan, executive director of SUCCESS.  We remarked that this was a great event and lamented that nothing of this scope was happening in Vancouver…. yet.

It was wonderful to see Dr. Wallace Chung and Dr. Madeline Chung of Vancouver.  They have given so much to the community in Vancouver, the Chinese Cultural Centre, the Vancouver Maritime Museum and the UBC Asian Library.  They are friends of my parents, and it was Dr. Madeline who delivered me as a baby many many years ago.

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Deb Martin, Valerie Sing Turner & Todd Wong – photo Deb Martin

Actor/Writer Valerie Sing Turner was there with her family, as her father James Sing was an award winner.  I had last seen Valerie's family at the opening of her theatrical production of Malaysia Hotel, when I helped promote it through Asian Heritage Month, and also find her some sponsorship.

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Victoria councilor Charlene Thornton-Joe with Todd Wong – photo Deb Martin

Charlene Thornton-Joe came over to our table during the dinner to say hello.  It was the first time I had met this Victoria city councilor, after reading about her efforts to preserve Victoria's Chinese heritage.

It was nice to speak with MLA Ida Chong, who brought greetings from the
Government of British Columbia, as Premier Campbell was in Beijing for
the Olympics.  Ida Chong is one of the 6 newest invitees (along with
me) to “The Party” exhibit at the Royal BC Museum, which features
life-size photos of almost 150 of BC's most colourful and interesting
characters.  Ida is the first Canadian-born MLA of Chinese ancestry.

150 Years in Golden Mountain Awards

My role at this dinner and awards evening  was to represent the Rev. Chan Yu Tan family along with my grand uncles Victor Wong and Daniel Lee.  We all sat at the same table, accompanied by Uncle Victor's wife Auntie Dorothy and my girlfriend Deb Martin.

Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe was the dinner Emcee, Hudson Mack of A-Channel was Emcee for the awards.

Norman Kwong, the Hon. Lt. Gov. of Alberta was invited to say a few official words of greeting, representing the Queen.  But instead he turned it into his acceptance speech for his award.  I guess there was some confusion, or else Mr. Kwong was very canny, because sadly there were no acceptance speeches allowed for the award recipients, as the program didn't allow for any on a very tight schedule.

But as each winner was escorted to the stage, there was a short video played on a large video screen with a voice-over, as pictures flashed before the audience.  It was a lovely gesture and helped to give meaning to each person's contributions to history and why they were deserving of the award.

Here's what the program said about the winner of the British Columbia Lifetime Cultural or Multicultural Award:

This award goes to recognize Revernd Chan Yu Tan who came to Canada in 1896 and ministered to the Chinese pioneers who worked on the railroad, searched for gold, and became shopkeepers and labourers in Victoria, Vancouver, Nanaimo and eventually New Westminster where he eventually retired.  Reverend Chan taught English to the Chinese and emphasized learning Canadian ways, espeically to his extended family.  His son Jack loved golf and was the first Chinese Canadian to serve on jury duty.  His youngest son Luke became an actor in Hollywood.  The four sons of his daughters Rose and Kate enlisted in the Canadian armed forces in World War II, eventually helping Chinese-Canadians gain the right to vote and later helped organize the Chinese Canadian Veterans Associations.  His four grandchildren who served overseas in World War II were Victor Eric Wong, and brothers Howard Lee, Daniel Lee and Leonard Lee.  A great grand-daughter Rhonda Lee Larabee became First Nations Band Chief and great grandson Todd Wong created the event Gung Haggis Fat Choy, a mixture of Robbie Burns Day and Chinese New Year.

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Picture of Rev. & Mrs. Chan Yu Tan's 60th Wedding Anniversary, surrounded by their family and descendants – photo Deb Martin.

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Chan descendants Todd Wong, Daniel Lee, Victor Wong, stand beside
Celebrations Chair Sinclair Mar and Awards Emcee Hudson Mack from
A-Channel – photo Deb Martin

Rev. Chan descendants Todd Wong, Daniel Lee, Victor Wong, stand beside Celebrations Chair Sinclair Mar and Awards Emcee Hudson Mack from A-Channel – photo Deb Martin

The evening's final award, the Golden Mountain Pioneer Legacy Award, was given in recognition to the Chinese Canadian Veterans.   Both my grand-uncles Victor Wong and Daniel Lee went to accept it.

Here's an excerpt from the program about the veterans:

“…After WWII, they concentrated efforts in a lobby for the franchise and other civil rights.  Sgt. Roy Q. Mah, the founding member and President of the Ethnic Associate Press of BC, Vice-President of Ethnic Press Federation of Canada nad owner-publisher-editor of the Chinatown News, went with a contingent of Chinese Canadian Veterans to Ottawa to lobby influential politicians and Members of Parliament. Their lobby was successful, and Paliament soon passed the bill giving Chinese Canadians both the franchise and citizenship.  On January 1st, 1947, Chinese Canadian full rights as Canadian Citizens, including the right to vote, were finally recognized.”

Photo Library - 2943Daniel Lee and Victor Wong stand onstage, as a picture of Victor Wong in India during WW2 is shown on the giant screen – photo Todd Wong

Uncle Dan and Uncle Victor proudly accepted the award, and the entire audience rose to give them a standing ovation.  They represented one of the most important moments in Chinese-Canadian history.  They both saluted the audience, the the applause grew louder.  I am very proud of my uncles, because I know about all the work and devotion they have to keeping the legacy of the Chinese Canadian veterans alive. 

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Victor Wong and Daniel Lee, cousins and grandsons of Rev. Chan Yu Tan saluted the audience after accepting the Golden Mountain Pioneer Legacy Award on behalf of their fellow Chinese Canadian veterans- photo Todd Wong

Every November, Uncle Dan is out selling poppies in the streets of Vancouver and he is now 88 years old.  He has helped organize the Armistice Ceremonies in Vancouver's Victory Square for many many years.  Uncle Victor was interviewed for the CBC documentary Generations: The Chan Legacy, as he recounted stories about not only his grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan, but also about being in the service, and that he had been a part of a covert force behind enemy lines that were to be assigned suicide missions.  This is the legacy of the Chinese Canadian veterans – that even though the Canadian government wouldn't let them vote in the country they were born in, they were willing to lay down their lives to defend it.

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Giles, Amanda Mills (VCCA Chair), Serena, Sinclair Mar (Celebration Chair), Deb Martin, Todd Wong shared thoughts and company after the event at The Empress Hotel's Bengal Lounge. – photo Deb Martin

More pictures at:

Here is a complete list of the awards:

The Golden Mountain Achievement Awards:
“…the recognize persons of distinction in the Chinese community or for being intrumental in the growth and development of Chinese culture and business…”'

Canadian Lifetime Individual Achievement Award
Dr. David See-Chia Lam

Canada Lifetime Public and Community Serivce Award
Ron Lou-Poy, Q.C.

Canada Lifetime Public and Community Service Award
Senator Vivienne Poy

Canada Lifetime Entrepreneurial Achievement Award
Hon. Norman L. Kwong

Canada Lifetime Entrepreneurial Achievement Award
James Alan Loo Sing

British Columbia Lifetime Entrepreneurial Achievement Award
Hok Yat Louie (post-humous), Tong Louie (post-humous), Brandt Louie, H.Y. Louie Co. Ltd, and London Drugs Ltd.

British Columbia Lifetime Public and Community Service Award
Sgt. Roy Quock Quon Mah (post-humous)

British Columbia Lifetime Cultural or Multicultural Award
Rev. Chan Yu Tan (post-humous)

Inaugural Golden Mountain Achievement Awards British Columbia:
“For recognition of persons or businesses, who are persons of Chinese descent or an organization having “Chinese” roots, who have excelled in their field of endeavor benefiting the Chinese Canadian communities or Canadian society.  These awards are to be for nominations in or related to British Columbia

BC Business and Entrepreneurial Achievement Award
H.Y. Louie Co. Ltd.

British Columbia Arts, Culture or Educational Achievement Award
Dr. Hua Lin

British Columbia Community and Public Service Award
Phillip J. Chan (post-humous)

British Columbia Online or Multi-platform Achievement Award
Mainstream Broadcasting Corporation

Inaugural Golden Mountain Roots Awards and All-Canadian Benefactor Awards:
“The 'Roots' awards are for recognition of distinguished work and dedication to preserving our heritage, culture, and or to advancing our economic impact or advancing business enterprises or projects or research, in or related to, or tied to Victoria BC and/or creating better understanding between Canadians of all backgrounds and/or advancing the entrepreneurial spirit emanating from our roots, Victoria, BC.  they are the safekeepers of our heritage and roots in Victoria, the first Chinatown in Canada.

Victoria, British Columbia Individual or Family Victoria Heritage Award
Don Yuen

Victoria, British Columbia Individual or Family Heritage Award
Dr. Yuen-Fong Woon

Victoria, British Columbia Corporate or Organizational Heritage Award
Fairway Market

Victoria “Roots” Community and Public Service Heritage Award
Dr. David Lai

Victoria “Roots” Community and Public Service Heritage Award
Lee Mong Kow Family

British Columbia All-Canadian Benefactor Award
Victoria “Roots” Community and Public Service Heritage Award
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

Victoria “Roots” All-Canadian Benefactor Award
Victoria Chinese Presbyterian Church

Golden Mountain Pioneer Legacy Award
Chinese Canadian Veterans

150 Years in Golden Mountain

Pageant will tell tales of Golden Mountain

Celebration Pageant

“150 Years in Golden Mountain” – Gala dinner and awards in Victoria on August 8/08

August 3-10 is Chinese Canadian Heritage Days, in honour of 150 years of Chinese Canadian achievements – throughout many municipalities on Vancouver Island.

Victoria Chinese Commerce Association is hosting two events Friday August 8, and Saturday August 9th to celebrate 150 years of
achievement of Chinese Canadians in Canada.  August 8th is a gala dinner and awards event celebrating the achievements of individuals and organizations.  August 9th is a theatrical “pageant” celebrating 150 years of historical events.

Victoria, British Columbia,
(which the Chinese call 'Dai Fau' or Big Port) is where the early
Chinese created the first Chinatown. Historically, Chinatowns were the
focal points of the early Chinese communities, each being a “haven” and
a base from which new immigrants could begin their new lives.

My grandmother's granfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan arrived in Victoria in 1896, following his elder brother Rev. Chan Sing Kai, who had come to Canada in 1888 at the invitation of the Methodist Church of Canada, to help found the Chinese Methodist Church of Canada.  Many of Canada's pioneer Chinese all came through Victoria, as they traveled to Nanaimo, Vancouver, New Westminster, Barkerville, and throughout Canada to mine the Caribou goldfields, build the railway, or find other work.

The awards nominees represent some of the best, brightest and most creative Chinese Canadians ever.  They are:

ANA vets
Pacific Unit #280, Philip Chan, Chinese Canadian Veterans, Denise
Chong, Wayson Choy, CHMB AM 1320, Hon. Ida Chong, Derek Chow, John
Chew, Adrienne Clarkson, Mel Cooper, Won Alexander Cumyow, Fairchild
Group, Chow Dong Hoy, Shouying (Sue) Jiang, Douglas Jung, Lee Mong Kow
Family, Larry Kwong, Hon. Norman Kwong,

Cynthia Lam, Dr. David Lai,
Dr. David Lam, Dorothy
Lam, Howe Lee, Jack Lee, Dr. Hua Lin, Dr. Victor Ling, Ronald Lou-Poy,
Q.C., Frank Low, Alan Lowe, Alexina Louie, H.Y. Louie Company Limited,
Hok Yat Louie, Tong Louie & Brandt Louie, H.Y. Louie Company Ltd
& London Drugs, Willis Louie, Sgt. Roy Quock Quon Mah,
Tak Wah Mak, Gary Mar, Hon. Inky Mark, Fairway Market, Wayne Ngan, Senator Vivienne Poy, Gordon Quan, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, James Sing,
Rev. Chan Yu Tan, Jack Tang, Victoria
Chinese Presbyterian Church, Victoria Chinese Public School, Milton
Wong, Sheung Wong, Dr. Yuen-Fong Woon, Don Yuen, & Jim Yu.

I am attending as a descendant of Rev. Chan Yu Tan, who was earlier announced as a Community Achievement winner.  My grandmother's brother –  Daniel Lee is representing Army/Navy/Airforce veterans Unit #280.  My grandmother's cousin Victor Wong is representing Chinese Canadian Veterans of Victoria.

Today I talked with Amanda Mills, co-chair for the event.  Amanda said that she is really pleased that everything is unfolding for a grand event that will be very special. 

She told me that some of the “celebrity” Chinese Canadians attending on Saturday include: Hon. Norman Kwong, now the Lt. Gov. of Alberta – the famous “China Clipper” Edmonton Eskimos football player who not only won the Grey Cup, but also the Stanley Cup as an owner of the Calgary Flames.

Sen. Vivienne Poy, the patron senator of Asian Heritage Month in Canada is attending, from her home in Ontario.

MLA Ida Chong will be representing the BC Govermnent.  Ida was also recently invited to “The Party” at the Royal BC Museum.  She is the first Canadian-born BC MLA of Chinese ancestry.

MLA Jenny Kwan is also attending.  Jenny was the first Chinese-Canadian MLA and cabinet minister.  MLA Carole James, leader of the Opposition, is also attending.

It's going to be a star-studded night in Chinese-Canadian history.

Hmmm…. Should I go as Todd Wong, great-great-grandson of Rev. Chan Yu Tan, or as Toddish McWong and wear my kilt?

Amanda says she is looking forward to finally meeting me, after many phone and e-mail conversations.  She is hoping I will wear my kilt.

Rev Chan Yu Tan story in Sing Tao… “Late Reverend Chan Yu Tan won Golden Mountain Achievement Award”.

Sing Tao: “Late Reverend Chan Yu Tan won Golden Mountain Achievement Award”.

Sing Tao Chinese language newspaper has just printed a story about my late great-great-grandfather and his contributions to the community that he served from his 1896 Arrival in Canada until his retirement in New Westminster during the 1930's. I think it is great that Chinese language media is taking an interest in the history of Chinese pioneers in BC and Canada.

Check it out:

Here is a picture of Mrs. and Rev. Chan Yu Tan at their 60th Wedding Anniversary event in New Westminster back in 1934.

I never met my great-great-grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan or my great-great-grandmother Chan Wong Sze.  But I have grown up hearing stories from my mother, my grand mother and her brothers and sisters.

In fall 2006 I became a consultant for the CBC documentary Generations: The Chan Legacy which aired July 4th on my grandmother's birthday, and also repeated in July and August.  It really became a tribute the legacy that Rev. Chan left to his family.  We have had many family members dedicated to community service that acknowledge inspiration from the Rev. Chan stories. 

Check it out:

Here is my story on with the original press release from the Victoria Chinatown Commerce Association

Rev. Chan Yu Tan is announced as winner for inaugural Golden Mountain Achievement Award

Rev Chan Yu Tan is inaugural Golden Mountain Achievement Award winner as the Victoria Chinese Commerce Association celebrates the 150 year history of Chinese-Canadians.

Rev. Chan Yu Tan was one of the first Chinese ordained in Canada.   He arrived in Canada in 1896, at age 33, following his elder brother Rev. Chan Sing Kai, who had arrived in 1888 at the invitation of the Methodist Church of Canada.

The Victoria Chinese Commerce Association has launched an ambitious awards program that will be celebrated at the Empress Hotel in Victoria BC, coinciding with BC 150 celebrations.  see

Rev. Chan Yu Tan, my great-great-grandfather, is the first pioneer award recipient to be named for the
“British Columbia Lifetime Cultural or Multicultural” 2008 Golden Mountain Achievement Award.  Through the Chinese Methodist Church, he helped teach the congregations about Canadian ways, and to live a Christian life.  The Church was also the first organization to provide English language classes to Chinese immigrants.   Rev. Chan always emphasized learning to adapt to Canadian ways and culture, and was always wearing Western clothing. 
Rev Chan Yu Tan ministered to Chinese people in Victoria, Vancouver, Nanaimo and New Westminister.

Our family now has reached the 7th generation, and is spread throughout North American with descendants being active in the communities of Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria, as well as Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and Colorado. 

Our family has become very integrated into Canadian and American society.  Rev. Chan's son Luke became an actor in Hollywood.  Grandsons became Canadian soldiers during WW2 when they couldn't vote.  Subsequent generations became a lawyer, a doctor and even an Indian Chief –  as well as a city councilor in Calgary, a CBC television news reporter in Vancouver, and even a Miss Canada 2nd runner up.

Here's a picture of Rev. & Mrs. Chan Yu Tan with Rev. Chan's sister Phoebe on the far left.  Standing behind them are son Solomon and daughter Kate (my great-grandmother).  Standing beside them are sons Jack and Luke;  in front is daughter Rose, and between them is the young Millicent.

Read the Press Release from the Victoria Chinese Commerce Association.


Reverend Chan Yu Tan Wins the
“British Columbia Lifetime Cultural or Multicultural”
2008 Golden Mountain Achievement Award
Join Us in Celebration

The Victoria Chinese Commerce Association (VCCA) and the 150 Years In Golden Mountain Celebration Committee are acknowledges the tremendous contributions Chinese people have made to British Columbia since the province’s beginnings in 1858 by hosting an awards gala dinner on August 8, 2008 and a celebration pageant on August 9, 2008. The presenting sponsors for both events are RBC Royal Bank and Fairway Market. The celebrations are presented with the support of BC150 (the Province of British Columbia), the City of Victoria, and with the participation of the Government of Canada.

Sinclair Mar, chair of the celebration committee, illuminated the importance of the Golden Mountain Achievement Awards; “these awards are to honour the achievements of Chinese Canadians in the areas of business, the arts, culture, education, public service and community service. We also want to honour our pioneers and those who have helped the Chinese over the years.”

An independent Awards Selection Committee has reviewed nominations for the Golden Mountain Achievement Awards from all across the country, with nominees spanning generations from early pioneers to more recent contributors still, active in the community. The independent selection committee has completed the challenging task of choosing award winners from 150 years of worthy nominees.  While not all award winners will be released prior to the Awards dinner the VCCA is pleased to announce the late Reverend Chan Yu Tan as the winner of the “British Columbia Lifetime Cultural or Multicultural 2008 Golden Mountain Achievement Award”.

 Reverend Chan Yu Tan was born in Canton, China and immigrated to Canada's West Coast in 1896 with his wife, Wong Chiu Lin. He was one of the first Chinese in Canada to be ordained as a minister. Reverend Tan always stressed the importance of multiculturalism and his legacy of cultural fusion lives on amongst his predecessors.  His great-great-grandson, Todd Wong, is the creator of the decade old Vancouver tradition, the “Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner”; an event which mixes traditional Scottish and Chinese celebrations together in the city of Vancouver.  Great-granddaughter, Rhonda Lee, has also exercised her great-grandfather’s gift for multiculturalism, becoming the chief of the New Westminster band, the Qayqayt. 

This award, along with others, will be presented at the sold out Gala Awards Dinner at the Fairmont Empress to his surviving family. Hotel on August 8 (08/08/08, an auspicious “triple 8” in Chinese culture). The next night the VCCA, will present a celebration pageant at the Royal Theater where award winners have been invited to attend and enjoy the premiere of an original pageant.  Join them is celebrating 150 years of Chinese Canadian Achievements. 

Mr. Mar elaborated on the Pageant: “This will be an exciting original show, with many performers: actors, dancers and musicians. Chinese history will come alive with a mixture of cultural presentations and new choreography and new music composed specially for this celebration.  Ticket sales are strong and we recommend early reservations.

President of the VCCA, Amanda Mills, said “Members of the VCCA feel it is their privilege and duty to celebrate and honor their ancestors and those Chinese Canadians who have achieved so much in 150 years of service to Canada.”

For more information, please contact celebration chair Sinclair Mar at 250-382-5744 or VCCA president Amanda Mills at 250-727-0222, or visit

150 years of BC Stories: The Rev. Chan Family

CBC is helping to celebrate 150 years of BC history.  There is a website collecting family stories and pictures
Check it out:

The 60th wedding anniversary of Rev. and Mrs. Chan Yu Tan (holding flower bouquet), August 15th 1934. On the far left, that is my grand mother Mabel Mar, holding up my mother, who is just one month shy of her 3rd birthday.

I have submitted a short story about my great-great-grandfather Rev. Chan Yu Tan:

Rev. Chan Yu Tan ministered to the Chinese pioneers who built the railroad, searched for gold, as well as became shop keepers and labourers in Vancouver Chinatown, Victoria Chinatown, and later Nanaimo and New Westminster, where he eventually retired.  The Chinese Methodist Church also helped teach English.  Rev. Chan Yu Tan emphasized learning Canadian ways, and it showed in his family.  His son Jack loved playing golf, and eventually  became the first Chinese Canadian to serve on jury duty.  His youngest son Luke became an actor in Hollywood.  The sons of daughters Rose and Kate –  Victor Wong, Daniel Lee, Howard Lee and Leonard Lee, enlisted in the Canadian armed forces during WW2,  eventually helped to gain Chinese-Canadians the vote in 1947, and later help organize the Chinese Canadian veterans associations.

Rev. Chan Yu Tan's great-grand daughter Rhonda Lee Larrabee became Chief of the Qayqayt First Nations Band, and subject of the NFB film “Tribe of One”.  Another great-grand daughter Janice Wong, became an internationally known artist and author of the book CHOW from China to Canada. a memoir book of family history and recipes from her father's restaurant.

Our family history has been an integral part of Chinese-Canadian history, and I have recently addressed the cross-ethnic fusion of culture and marriage with my event Gung Haggis Fat Choy, a mixture of Robbie Burns and Chinese New Year.  There have been inter-ethnic marriages in every generation of our family – each of my maternal cousins have married non-Chinese.

I helped to tell the story of our family's 7 generational BC history, in the CBC documentary Generations: The Chan Legacy .

This picture is at Rev. and Mrs. Chan Yu Tan's 60th wedding anniversary in New Westminster.  4 generations are included in this picture.

Rhonda Larrabee, chief of Qayqayt First Nations, in CTV's One Women Tribe

This is the CTV documentary about my cousin Rhonda Larrabee's struggle to resurrect Canada's smallest First Nations band the Qayqayt. 

Once upon a time the band flourished on the banks of the Fraser River.  Then White settlers moved into their territories and renamed it New Westminster.  The Qayqayt were put on a Reserve, but that was taken away from them too. 

Rhonda's mother fled her homeland territories due to racism and shame.  She came to Vancouver's Chinatown, where she met Rhonda's father.  Rhonda grew up into her teenage years thinking she was Chinese.  Then she discovered she was First Nations.

Now Rhonda Larrabee is resurrecting the Qayqayt Nation.

Tribes & Treaties

This show originally aired on January 26

Tribes & Treaties

Updated: Tue Feb. 05 2008 18:04:25

One Women Tribe:

Rhonda Larrabee discovered the startling truth about her family
origins. She was not of Chinese and French descent as she was told
while growing up in Vancouver's Chinatown. Rhonda's mother was First
Nations. Then an even bigger shock – Rhonda discovered that she is the
last surviving member of the Qayqayt Tribe (New Westminster Band). She
is now striving to preserve the cultural legacy that her mother felt
forced to reject.

see the pod cast:

Burnaby Newsleader: We are the Qayqayt – interview with Rhonda Larrabee

This is a wonderful story about my mother's cousin, Rhonda Larrabee.  Rhonda is both Chinese and First Nations. Her father was my grandmother's elder brother.  Rhonda has been the subject of the NFB documentary “Tribe of One” and the recent CTV documentary

We are the Qayqayt

By Michael McQuillan –
January 25, 2008


Rhonda Larabee is the
chief of the New Westminster band, which now has about 50 members. They
hope to get back some of their ancestoral lands which were taken almost

Larrabee was researching at the New Westminster Public Library when she
came across a book describing the history of New Westminster.

Published early in the 19th Century, it showed its age—not just the dusty old cover but the words inside.

“Dirty heathen cur dogs” read a passage describing New Westminster’s native population.

Larrabee was furious as she read the words.

slammed the book down then flung it across the room. A librarian,
hearing the outburst, threatened to throw her out of the library.

“I’m not leaving,” Larrabee replied.

Larrabee had been exploring her roots, trying to understand where she came from.

For the first 24 years of her life, she didn’t even know she was First Nations.

once she found out, it became her quest to put together the past and
assemble the pieces for a better future for herself—and for her people.

was in the library researching the history of New Westminster’s native
band, the Qayqayt (KEE-Kite). She discovered few details, because
little information is available—it’s almost as if they never existed.

read more of the article, click here:  We are the Qayqayt

Generations: The Chan Legacy – re-scheduled for August 19th on CBC Newsworld

Generations: The Chan Legacy
re-scheduled for August 19th on CBC Newsworld

***  Re-schedule for August 19th ***

On July 29th, 4pm PST / 7pm EST, CBC Newsworld showed Generations: The Crowfoot Dynasty instead of The Chan Legacy on July 29th – contrary to their website.

so….  set your VHS recorders… or go buy a new DVD recorder!

True patriot Love: North Shore News article on Todd Wong, Betty Wong and Tracey Hinder re: The Chan Legacy

True patriot Love: North Shore News article on Todd Wong, Betty Wong and Tracey Hinder re: The Chan Legacy

True patriot love

Family proud of its Canadian heritage

Erin Mcphee,
North Shore News

Published: Sunday, July 29, 2007

– Generations: The Chan Legacy is re-scheduled for August 19, on CBC Newsworld at 4 p.m. PST / 7pm EST

Three generations of the Chan family: Tracey Hinder (left), Betty Wong and Todd Wong look over their family's impressive legacy.

Three generations of the Chan family: Tracey Hinder (left), Betty Wong and Todd Wong look over their family's impressive legacy.

NEWS photo Mike Wakefield

To say that Todd Wong, a 47-year-old North Vancouver resident, is proud of his roots would be an understatement.

family is one that has greatly impacted Canada's history and as a
result its members continue to celebrate where they come from.

ancestors arrived on the West Coast from China in 1896 and were able to
integrate into Canada despite the many barriers that existed. Inspired
by that impressive past, today, the Chan family, one of the oldest on
the West Coast, continues to thrive with its new generations working
hard to keep their legacy alive.

“We're just a Canadian family,”
says Wong, not downplaying his family's identity, but rather stating,
realistically, who they are.

Not only has the Chan family survived, its members are continuing to thrive, exemplifying what it means to truly be “Canadian.”

family's unique story is being brought to life in Generations: The Chan
Legacy, a CBC documentary airing today on CBC Newsworld. It's part of a
series of documentaries called Generations and was produced by Halya

Filmmakers approached Wong, known in the Lower Mainland
for his unique interest in multiculturalism, community work and
activism. He's the founder of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, a website promoting
inter-cultural activities.

Wong is also behind a 10-year-old
Vancouver tradition, the Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner — a mix
of Chinese and Scottish traditions meant to play against racial
stereotypes — and he's a member of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon
boat team that further promotes multiculturalism and community spirit.

website site also details his adventures, told at times through his
alter ego, “Toddish McWong,” further celebrating what it is to be
Canadian, he says.

The documentary discusses Wong's great, great
grandfather Reverend Chan Yu Tan and how he and his wife came to the
West Coast in 1896 to “spread the gospel” throughout, he says.
Methodist church missionaries, they were tasked with “Westernizing” and
“Christianizing” the Chinese pioneers, the majority working in
labour-based jobs like the railroad.

Filming and interviews with Wong and his relatives, encompassing a number of generations, happened last fall.

the documentary, I didn't know a lot about my ancestry,” says Wong's
second generation cousin, West Vancouver resident Tracey Hinder, 15,
who's featured in the film. Hinder attends West Vancouver secondary.

only knew that I was Chinese-Canadian, that my mother was Chinese and
that my father was British-Canadian. With the making of the
documentary, I found that my family history started to unfold and I
never knew that part of myself. It was absolutely fascinating,” Hinder

Hinder is a member of her school's multiculturalism club,
which organizes activities for students to participate in. She's also
learning Mandarin.

Wong says he's proud of her as he believes
it's important to ensure the younger generations of his family come to
know and recognize their ancestral roots.

Read More:

Generations: The Chan Legacy on CBC Newsworld. July 29th – 4pm and midnight

Generations: The Chan Legacy on CBC Newsworld.
July 29th – 4pm and midnight

Chan Legacy is the lead episode in the new documentary series
Generations on CBC Newsworld.  It debuted on July 4th – my grandmother's 97th birthday.

How fitting!  Because the show is about her grand-father Rev. Chan Yu Tan who came to Canada in 1896 as a Christian missionary.

has been very positive.  Family members are very proud.  Friends are
very supportive.  Historians are enthusiastic. Strangers are thrilled.

Listen to Auntie Helen and Uncle Victor tell stories about Rev. and Mrs. Chan, and about growing up in pre-WW2 BC, and facing racial discrimination.  Uncle Victor Wong also tells about enlisting as a Canadian soldier to go behind enemy lines in the Pacific for suicide squadrons, fighting for Canada, even though Chinese-Canadians could not vote in the country of their birth.

The next generations assimiliated more easily into Canadian culture.  Gary Lee became an actor and singer.  Janice Wong became a visual artist and author of the book CHOW: From China to Canada – memories of food and family, which addressed the history of Rev. Chan coming to Canada, and how Janice's dad started a Chinese restaurant in Prince Albert SK.

Then there is Todd Wong – cultural and community activist who founded Gung Haggis Fat Choy: Toddish McWong's Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner – which inspired a CBC Vancouver television performance special.  Todd is shown active in the dragon boat community, and speaking at a Terry Fox Run in the role of a 16 year cancer survivor.  Renowned Japanese-Canadian author Joy Kogawa makes an appearance, as Todd was also involved in helping to save Kogawa's childhood home from demolition and to turn it into a national historic and literary landmark.

July 29th Sunday – repeats at midnight

  4:00 p.m. Generations: The Chan Legacy
– Missionaries from China come to the West Coast help Westernize Chinese immigrant workers in the late 1800's.
Generations: The Chan Legacy