Category Archives: Robbie Burns Day

Cultural Connection interview: What is the connection between Chinese New Year and Robbie Burns Supper?

Gary Jarvis interviews Toddish McWong for “Culture Connection”

Gary Jarvis is an Englishman in Canada.  And he is involved in Vancouver cultural and music scene.  He hosts a program on Co-op Radio Last Call on Vancouver Coop Radio every Wednesday midnight to 2amish. He does interviews for The Rational too.  And he's involved with Evolution 1079 online music radio station.

year Gary attended the Burns Supper hosted by Vancouver District Labour
Council, and was amazed by my reading of Burns' “Address to a Haggis” –
and my Chinese/kilt fashion combo. He asked me why???

Listen to Gary's interview of Todd Wong, creator of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, as he explains the Scottish and Chinese and BC roots of his brain child – a cultural fusion Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.

See More
Todd Wong explains Gung Haggis Fat Choy by Gary Jarvis on MySpace
Blogs! New blogTopics added every minute. Todd Wong AKA Toddish McWong
explains the c

2009 Year of Gung Haggis Fat Choy from Royal BC Museum in Victoria to Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

2009 was an amazing year for Todd Wong and Gung Haggis Fat Choy

2009 opened with a life-size picture of Todd Wong included in “The
Party” exhibit at Royal BC Museum, and by November 30th – Todd was
encountering a life-size picture of himself at Scottish Parliament in
Edinburgh for the exhibit This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada.

It was an exciting year for the Joy Kogawa House Society, as the long sought dream of a writer-in-residence program became a reality.  Montreal Arab-Canadian author John Asfour became the inaugural writer-in-residence and helped writers at Kogawa House as well as hosted events at the house, Vancouver Public Library's Central and Carnegie branches.  By Christmas time author Joy Kogawa was enjoying her first Christmas season living in the house (temporarily) since she and her family had been forced to move in 1942 when they were sent to Internment Camps during WW2.

On November 28th, I set foot in Scotland for my first time ever.  Since first wearing a kilt in 1993 for the SFU Robert Burns ceremonies and hosting the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner since 1998, I no longer have to say that I've never visited Scotland before.  It was a short but exciting trip as I attended the closing night reception at Scottish Parliament for the exhibit This Is Who We Are: Scots in Canada – co-hosted by the Scottish First Minster and Presiding Officer.  I also visited Edinburgh Castle and many things Robbie Burns, as I made my way to Alloway in Ayrshire to visit the birthplace of Robert Burns at Burns Cottage.  It had only just re-opened to the public and I had a special tour by manager of the Burns National Heritage Park.

This is a review of some my my favorite stories and events from 2009.

January 1st, 2009
A life-size picture of Todd Wong aka “Toddish McWong” is included in Free Spirit exhibition at Royal BC Museum.  The exhibit closed on January 14th 2009.

Photo Library - 2907 by you.

January 20th

VisitScotland comes to Vancouver to celebrate Homecoming Scotland with Toddish McWong and Gung Haggis Fat Choy
and brings special limited edition of 37 year old Famous Grouse whisky to auction off at the 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.

Raise Money for your Favourite Charity with Limited edition bottles of The Famous Grouse up for Auction

January 20th
Georgia Straight news article

Georgia Straight: Why Canada will never have an Obama, except maybe Todd Wong

January 22nd

Westender: Gung Haggis celebrates Canadian interculturalism – article by Jackie Wong

January 25th Robbie Burns Day 250th Anniversary celebration at Burns Statue in Stanley Park

250th Anniversary of Robert Burns recognized with poems at statue in Vancouver's Stanley Park

2009_January 178 by you.

January 25th Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner
2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy: Toddish McWong's 250th Robbie Burns Birthday
Chinese New Year's Eve Dinner was a big success – worth 2 ceremonial

DSC_3928_103489 - Mayor Gregor Robertson doing the honours by FlungingPictures.

February 4th
Louis Lapprend makes a youtube video of the 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner event

Gung Haggis Fat Choy 2009 Dinner highlights on Youtube

February 15th
Seattle Gung Haggis Fat Choy, Sunday February 15th.

3rd annual Gung Haggis dinner in Seattle Washington, hosted by Bill McFadden of the Caledonian and St. Andrew's Society of Seattle.  Bagpiper Joe McDonald and Todd Wong travel to Seattle to perform and MC the event.

March 15th

Gung Haggis Pipes & Drums & dragon boat paddlers… brave the snow in the Vancouver Celticfest St. Patrick's Day Parade

2009_March 104click here for Flickr photo set

April 6-11th Tartan Week in Vancouver

Tartan Day and Scotland Week celebrated by SFU's Centre for Scottish
Studies with Michael Russell, Scottish Parliamentary Minister for

April 20th
Purdy Party at Joy Kogawa House with Shelagh Rogers, John Asfour &
3 nominated poets for BC Book Prizes: Daphne Marlatt, George Stanley
and Nilofar Shidmehr

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May 19th

John Asfour, Kogawa House writer-in-residence gives reading at
Vancouver Public Library with Marcus Youssef and Adrienne Wong of
Neworld Theatre

2009_May_KogawaHouse 020

May 22nd – Todd and Deb go kayaking on Mayne Island

Kayaking in the Gulf Islands: we visit Belle Islets Chain

and visit

May 30th – Final event for Kogawa House inaugural writer in residence John Asfour with Gary Geddes, Ann Erikson and Shelagh Rogers

Another Magical Evening for final event of Historic Joy Kogawa House's inaugural writer-in-residence program

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June 20/21

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team has a great weekend at Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival

2009_June 060 click for Flickr pictures

July 18th

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team places 4th overall at Richmond Dragon Boat Races

July 24/25

Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team heats up Vernon Races

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August 8th

Todd Wong elected to board of The Land Conservancy of BC

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October 10

Gung Haggis paddlers compete at Ft. Langley Cranberry Festival Canoe Regatta: 1st in B Final 5th in A Final

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November 29
Todd's first day in Scotland
I start off in Glasgow, visit a Haggis exhibit at Kelvingrove Museum, take the train to Edinburgh and attend the official Homecoming Finale ceilidh on the Golden Mile.

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November 30
Toddish McWong arrives in Scotland for inaugural visit and reception at Scottish Parliament for “This is Who We Are”

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November 30

CBC Radio interview from Scottish Parliament – On the Cost with Stephen Quinn
“Vancouverite Todd Wong has been celebrating Scottish culture in this
city for years with his Gung Haggis Fat Choy celebration. Now he's in
the home of the Highlands. Stephen caught up with Todd to find out what
he is doing in Edinburgh this week. Listen to the interview.(runs 6:58)”

December 4th
Todd Wong visits Robert Burns Cottage in Alloway Scotland.  After extensive renovations, Burns Cottage is reopened to the public on Nov. 30th.  Todd Wong has a special tour with Caroline Green, manager of Burns Heritage Park.

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December 21st
Christmas Party at Kogawa House

This is the 1st Christmas season, that author Joy Kogawa has spent at her childhood home, since they were removed and sent to WW2  internment camps in 1942.  Friends and family of both Joy Kogowa and Kogawa House attend. 

December 31st
Todd does a short CBC Radio One interview for On the Coast – answering
questions about the Scottish origins of singing Auld Lang Syne.

To be continued

Todd Wong on CBC Radio One December 31st – Traditions of singing Auld Lyne Syne for New Year's Eve.

Why do we sing Auld Lang Syne at New Year's Eve?

Todd Wong
be heard today on CBC Radion One 690 AM – ON THE COAST. 3-6pm

asked me about the origins of singing “Auld Lang Syne” – the Robert
Burns lyrics connection and the proper way of holding hands while
singing. Of course I threw in similarities between Scottish Hogmannay
and Chinese New Year – such as making lots of noise and paying off your

They asked if I will be with friends ringing in the New Year. I said I
am at Silver Star in Vernon, with good friends… including Craig Brown
who was at my 1st Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, when the only “kilts” we
had were Canadian Mackinkaw lumberjack shirts tied around our waists…

Origins of singing Auld Lang Syne in North America are traced back to a Scottish tradition that spread through Scottish and British emmigration.

Wikipedia writes:

Singing the song on Hogmanay or New Year's Eve very quickly became a Scots custom
that soon spread to other parts of the British Isles. As Scots (and
other Britons) emigrated around the world, they took the song with them.

Canadian band leader Guy Lombardo
is often credited with popularising the use of the song at New Year’s
celebrations in America, through his annual broadcasts on radio and
television, beginning in 1929. The song became his trademark. In
addition to his live broadcasts, Lombardo recorded the song more than
once. His first recording was in 1939. A later recording on September
29, 1947 was issued as a single by Decca Records as catalog #24260

Wikipedia's entry
also compares the 1711 version of Old Long Syne by James Watson to the 1788 version of Scots verse by Robert Burns.

TIX ON SALE: 2010 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Dinner – January 31st.

Now Available: Tickets for Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner

– It's the 12 Anniversary of the “little dinner that could.”

January 31st, Sunday 2010
Floata Seafood Restaurant
Vancouver Chinatown
Contact Firehall Arts Centre:
phone 604.689.0926

The Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Dinner has created an awareness of cultural fusion that has spanned international media, and been featured at the 2008 BC Canada Pavillion in Bejing during the 2008 Summer Olympics, the Royal BC Museum celebration exhibit of the 150th Anniversary of the province of BC, and a 2009 touring exhibition in Scotland titled This Is Who We Are: Scots in Canada.

2009_Scotland_ThisIsWhoWeAre 096 by you.
Gung Haggis Fat Choy creator Todd Wong at the Scottish Parliament exhibition of THIS IS WHO WE ARE: Scots in Canada.  The exhibition featured a life sized photo of Wong and a video interview about the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner, which features the acknowledgement of Chinese and Scottish pioneer history in Canada and contemporary culinary and cultural fusions.

Tickets are now on sale for the 12th Anniversary Dinner.
January 31st, Sunday, 2010
Floata Seafood Restaurant
Vancouver Chinatown
Doors open 5pm
Dinner starts 6pm

$60 + $5 service charge
$600 per table + $20 service charge
prices for students and children available.

Raffle Prizes are featured, as this dinner has traditionally been a fundraiser for: Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team, Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop/Ricepaper Magazine and Historic Joy Kogawa House.

Contact Firehall Arts Centre:
phone 604.689.0926
Visit the Firehall Box Office, 280 E. Cordova Street.

Box Office hours are: 9:30am – 5:00pm, Monday through Friday.

For media information
– contact: Todd Wong 778-846-7090
– email:

The origins of the dinner started with 16 people in a living room in 1998.  The next year it expanded to 40 people in a restaurant.  Soon it outgrew the first restaurant and expanded to 220 people in 2002.  Moving to a larger restaurant for 2003, and expanding to a 2-night event in 2004, serving over 500 people.  2005 saw the move to North America's largest Chinese restaurant and present home of the dinner where 570 people were accomodated.

A 2004 CBC telelevision performance special, Gung Haggis Fat Choy, was inspired by the dinner, and received two Leo nominations for best music performance, and best director of music performance.  In 2007, a CBC television documentary Generations: The Chan Legacy featured interviews with dinner creator Todd Wong, and film clips of the dinner.

A wide range of musical performers have been featured over the years including: fusion musicians Silk Road Music Ensemble, Dragon River Chinese Music Ensemble, Blackthorn celtic band, The Mad Celts, Chinese erhu master Ji-Rong Huang; opera singers Heather Pawsey, Veera Devi Khare; Jazz singer Leora Cashe.  Featured poets have included: Joy Kogawa, Rita Wong, Fred Wah, George McWhirter, Fiona Tin Wei Lam, Jim Wong-Chu, Sean Gunn and Tommy Tao.  The past 3 years have also featured sneak previews of Asian Canadian plays including: Mixie and the Half-Breeds, The Quickie, and Twisting Fortunes.

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Todd Wong visits Scotland for Homecoming Year, the 250th Anniversary of the birth of Scottish poet Robert Burns.

For the 2010 dinner, creator Todd Wong has just returned from Scotland after visiting the birthplace of Scotland poet Robert Burns, and researching the displays of Burns for Homecoming Scotland, and museum exhibits on Scottish history and emmigration to Canada.  Wong is active in Chinese Canadian activities and visited Bejing and Xian in 1993.  He hopes to combine a merger of Scottish-Canadian and Chinese-Canadian history and culture in the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year Dinner.

Another extravaganza of culinary and cultural fusion are expected for the 2010 dinner.  Details will be released each week leading up to the event.  Special guest speakers, media hosts, poets and musicians are confirmed or being confirmed.  The 2010 dinner will feature old traditions and new surprises, something borrowed and something brewed – especially created for the 2010 Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Dinner.

Tell your friends, and put a table of 10 together to enjoy the singalongs!
or come as a single or a double, and meet 8 brand new best friends for the evening at your table!
It's the most fun and intimate dinner for 500 you will ever attend!

Toddish McWong returns to Canada after 7 days in Scotland

Toddish McWong's inaugural 7 day visit to Scotland

I am now back in Canada.  It was an incredible learning experience for my first trip across the Atlantic to one of the most important cultural and historical ancestral homes for this country called Canada.  Canada is probably the most Scottish nations outside of Scotland.  Our first prime minister, many of our explorers, BC's first premier, Vancouver's first mayor – were all born in Scotland.

And yet… Scotland is a country that is learning from Canada.

My trip was initiated because a life-size picture and video-interview of me were used in the photo exhibit This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada.  I have written about the exhibit here: Toddish McWong arrives in Scotland for inaugural visit and reception at Scottish Parliament for “This is Who We Are”

Here  are my pictures from the exhibit and the reception at the closing of the event on St. Andrew's Day

 Scotland - This is Who We Are: Scots in Canada

Scotland – This is Who We Are:…

Seven days were spent exploring the towns of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Ayr.  I attended the reception at Scottish Parliament for the exhibition This is Who We Are, and I explored Canada-Scottish historical connections at the National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Castle.

I also visited many exhibits about Scottish poet Robert Burns at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow's University of Glasgow, Burns Cottage in Alloway and the National Burns Historic Park, near Ayr.

Here are pictures from my 9 hour layover in Amsterdam, and my first two days exploring Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

Amsterdam enroute to Scotland

Johnny Cash is Scottish… “Because it's Burns, Burns Burns… It's Robbie Burns”

I've always wanted a version of Johnny Cash's “Ring of Fire” to be redone for Robbie Burns…

(sing to the chorus of “Ring of Fire”)

We celebrate

January 25th

We wear kilts

and eat haggis too.

“Because it's Burns, Burns Burns…

It's Robbie Burns…

It's Robbie Burns.”

The following is from Johnny Cash's daughter Roseanne Cash's weblog:

This is a street sign in the town of Strathmiglo, Fife, Scotland,

where my family on my dad’s side originated in the 11th century.

There are still a few things with the name of Cash scattered around
this part of Fife:  Cash Mill, Cash Farm, Cash Easter and Cash Wester,
and this street, Cash Feus.  It’s odd— and comforting— to know that my
ancestors lived here for hundreds of years, until one of them decided
to move to America in the 17th century.  I don’t even know what they
passed on to me— perhaps a love of melancholy, Celtic- rooted music?  A
love of rolling hills and crumbling stone walls?

Maybe even the red hair.

first photo is a monument to the legendary Black Watch regiment, in
Aberfeldy, Scotland.  My ancestry on my father’s side begins in
Scotland, as part of the Clan McDonald, not too far from Aberfeldy, in
what is lovingly called The Kingdom of Fife.  I visited Aberfeldy in
February, 2009, for the first time.  I had been to Fife and the
surrounding area many times, as well as Glasgow, Edinburgh and
Aberdeen, but never to this part of Perthshire.  I filmed a couple of
episodes of “Transatlantic Sessions” at a beautiful estate, inside an
ancient barn, near Aberfeldy, in Fortingall.

The second photo is of the filming in the barn, with my friends and
great musicians Phil Cunningham, Aly Bain, Jerry Douglas and several
other superb musicians.  I found out something very strange during the
filming.  In the year 1692,  there was a bloody massacre called the
Massacre of Glencoe,  in which the men from the Campbell clan murdered
38 unarmed McDonalds in one horrible night.  I found out that the very
estate where we were filming “Transatlantic Sessions” was where the
plan for the massacre hatched, and just over a little hill from the
place where 38 unarmed McDonalds were killed in this infamous raid, which is
still memorialized every year in Scotland.

I looked around the barn
where we were playing, which was in existence during the massacre, and
I walked the very grounds where the massacre was put in motion.  I
thought about the fact that I, with my Clan McDonald ancestry, was
making music with men with Campbell ancestry, on a night over three
hundred years after those distant ancestors met in mortal combat, in
the very same spot.  It was a transcendent moment, and a very potent
reminder that music is the great connector. No matter how profound our
differences, even those that are part of our DNA, even those
differences that somehow merit memorials and rituals and centuries of
bitterness, can be dissolved very quickly with an A minor chord, a
piano, a guitar and a violin.  This knowledge, and the music, is
perhaps the most important thing I have received as a legacy.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy, a scholarly take as alternative to the “Scottish Discursive Unconsious”

Gung Haggis Fat Choy making it's way into the lexicon of journals about Scottish culture:
Dr. Leith Davis writes about Toddish McWong for Scottish on-line journal – The Bottle Imp

Leith Davis of SFU Centre of Scottish Studies, writes that “Gung
Haggis Fat Choy” bucks the trend of “Scottish Discursive Unconscious.” 

She writes: “In his contribution to the recent volume on
Transatlantic Scots
, Colin McArthur comments on what he calls
the “Scottish Discursive Unconscious,” a restricted range of “images, tones, rhetorical tropes, and ideological
tendencies, often within utterances promulgated decades (sometimes even a century or more) apart”…

“Vancouver, British Columbia, serves as a good test case for McArthur's comments. Like so many Canadian cities,
it has been home over the years to a large population of Scottish immigrants….
“There are indeed traces of the Scottish Discursive Unconscious at work in Vancouver….

“Gung Haggis Fat Choy takes many of the features of traditional Burns nights and gives them a non-traditional twist…The “Address to the Haggis” morphs into the “Rap to the Haggis,” featuring Joe MacDonald and Todd Wong with a
synthesized beat maker in the background. The “Toast to the Lassies” in 2009 was a rap-poem delivered by a
lassie with an all-male chorus. In addition, Asian elements are added, such as a “bamboo clappertale” about Robert
Burns and his teacher by Jan Walls and music by the Silk Road Music Ensemble. Haggis wontons and other delicacies
suggest a culinary as well as cultural fusion. Gung Haggis Fat Choy does not stop at mixing together those of Chinese
and Scottish heritage. Rather, its aim is to provide a celebratory venue in which those from all cultures can be
comfortable. The 2009 dinner opened, for example, with a blessing from Musqueam elder Larry Grant, a reminder,
perhaps, that we are all immigrants here at some time in the past.

Where traditional Burns suppers of today include very little poetry, apart from snippets of the bard's most
famous works, Gung Haggis Fat Choy keeps the spirit of Burns's creativity alive by featuring readings from
Asian-Canadian poets and donating money to the Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop, Ricepaper magazine and the
Joy Kogawa House. Kogawa was one of the first Asian-Canadian writers to reach a national popular audience
with her 1981 novel Obasan.

Read the entire article at:

Robert Burns in a Transatlantic Context: SFU events FREE to the public

SFU Centre for Scottish Studies hosts a global Robert Burns conference
2009_January 178 by you.
The 250th Anniversary of Robert Burns birth, was celebrated at the Burns statue in Stanley Park with an small informal celebration organized by Todd Wong (red vest) and Dr. Leith Davis (2nd row with purple shawl, behind her front row daughter in red skirt) – photo T. Wong

How does the poetry and songs of Robert Burns affect Canadians in West Coast Vancouver?

Dr. Leith Davis, director of the Centre for Scottish Studies, Simon Fraser University, has organized a conference about the global Robert Burns – titled “Robert Burns in a Transatlantic Context.”

Leith loved attending the 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, and how we blended and juxtaposed Scottish, Chinese cultures with a Canadian twist and a seasoning of First Nations.  In planning her conference for Tartan Week, we wondered how to give a “Gung Haggis” experience to her conference attendees.  So for the Tuesday night evening of Robert Burns songs and poetry, A Musical Celebration of Burns in North America, she has invited Toddish McWong and Gung Haggis Fat Choy performers to give our “Rap to a Haggis”, a Chinese claper tale performance by Dr. Jan Walls set to a Robbie Burns poem, and a performance of Auld Lang Syne (with the first verse sung in Mandarin Chinese) augmented with our parade dragon and Chinese Lions.  Deep-fried haggis wontons will hopefully be served along with haggis on Tuesday evening. 

On Wednesday afternoon, I will be part of the Community Research Forum of “Burns in BC.” – where I will talk about the history and development of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, and how it inspired both a CBC TV television Gung Haggis Fat Choy performance special and the SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy Festival.

2009_January 261 2009 SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy Festival features “dragon cart racing” invented by yours truly – photo Todd Wong.

How did I first meet Dr. Davis?

After brief email introductions, I called her with the idea of a wreath laying ceremony at the Burns statue in Vancouver's Stanley Park to mark the 250th Anniversary of Burn's birth.

We emailed and talked by phone and organized some activities, but we didn't meet in person until after she had spent 2 weeks in Scotland for the 2009 Homecoming activities, and arrived back in Vancouver on January 25th, and came to Stanley Park for our planned event, which her husband and two children were already present at.

That evening she and her husband were guests of honour at the 2009 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner.  Leith gave “the immortal address” and marvelled at all the songs, guests, food and performances at the Gung Haggis Dinner, and especially at the impromptu ceremonial cutting of the haggis by Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson.

Please check out the free public events for the:

SFU's Centre for Scottish Studies presents

“Robert Burns in a Transatlantic


Public events:


Tuesday, April 7th

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; concerts starts at 7:00

A Musical Celebration of 
Burns in
North America

Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat, 
“Burns Songs in BC”

Kirsteen McCue and David Hamilton, 
“Burns Songs Set by Serge Hovey”

Gung Haggis Fat Choy Performers

Scottish Cultural Centre,
8886 Hudson Street , Vancouver


Wednesday, April 8th, 3:00 – 3:30 p.m.

Michael Russell, Scottish Minister for Culture,
External Affairs
and the Constitution

Scotland and
the Scottish Diaspora”

Room 1425
SFU Harbour
Centre, 515 West Hastings Street ,

Wednesday, April 8th, 3:45 – 5:00 p.m.

Community Research Forum on 
“Burns in BC”

Room 2200
SFU Harbour
Centre, 515 West Hastings Street ,


Wednesday, April 8th, 7:00 p.m.

Lecture: Dr. Robert Crawford, 
“Writing Burns’s

Room 1400,
SFU Harbour
Centre (reception to follow)


Thursday, April 9th, 3:00-4:30 p.m.

Workshop: “Connecting Diasporas: 
Scotland, Asia and the Caribbean ”

Room 2200, Harbour Centre,
515 West Hastings Street , Vancouver


All events are free and open to the public. 

Please contact Ron Sutherland to reserve a seat:;


Sponsored by SFU’s Centre for Scottish Studies;
the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; and the
Vancouver Burns Club

Picture of Toddish McWong appears in Vancouver Sun article about Jason Kenney's views on Canadian identity, diversity and not giving money to specific immigrant cultural groups

“Toddish McWong”- the creator of “Gung Haggis Fat Choy.” 
What are Canadian values?  and Canadian diversity?

Who makes them: Canadian citizens? Immigrant Canadians?

or Jason Kenney – minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism?

Jason Kenney is the federal minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism.  He presided over the Chinese Canadian Head Tax redress, that resulted in Prime Minister Stephen Harper giving a parliamentary apology for a racist tax but only gave an ex-gratia payments that recognized less than 1% of head tax certificates, because it was limited to only surviving head tax payers and spouses… most have long since died since Margaret Mitchell first brought up the the issue of Head Tax Redress in the Canadian Parliament back in 1984.

Recently, Jason Kenney waded into the discussion about Canadian identity, and immigration language classes, when he talked with editors at the Calgary Herald:

New Canadians, says Kenney, “have a duty to integrate.” Further, he
says, “We don't need the state to promote diversity. It is a natural
part of our civil society.”

To that end, the government has
sensibly ceased funding programs such as heritage language classes. Why
should the federal government pay for children to learn the language of
the country their parents and grandparents come from? It's the family's
responsibility to teach children about their heritage, including the

The original story appeared in the Calgary Herald on March 20th.

Kenney right person for immigration minefield

The same story appeared in the Ottawa Citizen on March 30th (with comments)

Kenney stands for Canada

Today, the same story appeared in the Vancouver Sun on April 1st, with a new title:

Immigration minister is right to stand up for Canadian values.

But this time, it appeared with a picture of Todd Wong aka “Toddish McWong” with the caption:

Now, that's heritage: 'Toddish McWong' combines Robert Burns Night and Chinese New Year.

I have to be flattered that my picture has appeared in the news media. 

But while the original story never mentioned “Toddish McWong” or “Gung Haggis Fat Choy,” a picture of Wong is used mainly to capture the reader's attention and draw them to the article. 

But I am a bit confused as to what the picture is meant to represent?

Is it because:

1  “Being Canadian means being everything to everyone who comes to our shores?”

2 – “People want to define Canada by how many politically correct contations this country can do to accomodate others?”

3 – “New Canadians have a duty to integrate,” says Kenney. “We don't need the state to promote diversity.  It is a natural part of our ciivl society.”

The article, by Naomi Lakritz of the Calgary Herald, goes on to share Kenney's views that: “the government has sensibly ceased funding programs such as heritage language classes [other than english or french].” 

“I think it's really neat that a fifth generation Ukrainian Canadian can speak Ukrainian… but pay for it yourself,” Kenney says.  Kenney's right… it is neat.  If you can speak your family's mother tongue, your life is just that much more enriched.  But such immersion in heritage shouldn't come at the expense of you identifying yourself as a Canadian first… and it certainly shouldn't come at Canadian taxpayer's expense.”

The article also goes on to give an example of how Kenney says that a grant for language training to the Canadian Arab Federation will not be renewed: “The government should support moderate mainstream voices, not people on the fringe.” 

The Gung Haggis Fat Choy events that I have created since 1998 have never received any federal grant money. 

I am a fifth generation Chinese Canadian that speaks better French than Chinese. 

I am a descendant of Chinese head tax payers.

I have travelled to Oak Bay in Nova Scotia, walked the Plains of Abraham in Quebec, stood on Point Pelee in Ontario, skiied in Banff Alberta, visited totem poles in Haida Gwaii, and even stood on the corner of Portage and Main in Winnipeg during windchilled Winter. 

I have been the guest speaker at a Terry Fox Run in Beijing, China.

By creating Gung Haggis Fat Choy events, my aim is to recognize both the pioneer histories of Chinese Canadians and Scottish Canadians, as well as the future of Canadians born with these shared ancestries.

I believe that culture evolves, and is not stagnant.

I believe that all Canadians should read “How to Be a Canadian” by Will Ferguson and his brother Ian Ferguson.

If it is a Canadian value to laugh, make fun of ourselves and not take ourselves too seriously, then maybe this book should also be mandatory reading when all new immigrants apply to become Canadian citizens, along with learning English or French.

And that's what Gung Haggis Fat Choy also encourages us to do… laugh and make fun of ourselves, by flipping stereotypes of Scottish and Chinese tradional customs into juxtapositions of cultural fusion.

World Poetry Gung Haggis Fat Choy performs at Vancouver Library on Chinese New Year Day

2009_January 230 by you.

Monday night was the 6th Annual World Poetry Gung Haggis Fat Choy Gala.  This event was first created when I noticed there were no readings of Robbie Burns at the library… I contacted Ariadne Sawyer of the World Poetry Reading series to collaborate for this now popular program.

Just before our 7:30 start time, I chatted with the audience, explaining the origins of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, and sharing some of the events that happened the night before at the big Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, and at our small ceremony at the Robert Burns statue in Stanley Park – to celebrate the 250th Birthday of Robbie Burns.

We bring together the elements of Gung Haggis Fat Choy within a world context.  We feature poetry of Robbie Burns, China, as well as contemporary Scottish-Canadian and Chinese-Canadian poets.  And sometimes we add in music and dance and of course… singalongs.

This year's program was a lot of fun.  It was hosted by Ariadne Sawyer, Diego Bastianutti and myself.

We featured poet James Mullin and myself reading poetry by Robbie Burns.  I also brought my accordion to play some tunes too.

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Rita Wong, the 2008 BC Book Prize Poetry winner, read from her books
Monkey Puzzle and Forage.  With the World Poetry theme, Rita even read
a poem by Pablo Neruda, which Diego read in Spanish afterwards.

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Tommy Tao, explained how he ended up doing poetry translations of 9th
and 15th Century poetry, and how he has come to love it.  He read a few
poems about food and celebrations.I talked about some of the similarities about Chinese New Year and Scottish Hogmanay. 

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I read the Burns poem “A Man's A Man For A' That”, then later performed “Address to A Haggis.”

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James Mullin led a group of four volunteers to dance my parade dragon around the room while I played “Scotland the Brave” on my accordion.

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There were a number of Korean ESL students in the audience, and they really had a lot of fun.

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My earlier attempt at playing and singing “My Luv is Like a Red Red Rose” was easily redeemed by my playing of Scotland the Brave, and leading the audience in a group singalong of “Auld Lang Syne”

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Evrerybody really got into the spirit of the evening.  This photo features poets James Mullin, Tommy Tao along with a Korean language student and Peter Clark originally from the U.K.

Check out more photos:

World Poetry Gung Haggis Fat Choy @ VPL

World Poetry Gung Haggis Fat Choy Gala