The completion of the “What We Heard” report on the Chinese Canadian Museum has me reflecting on my own family’s history in this country.
Four generations of my family have come to Canada. My great-grandfather came to work in Victoria in the 1890s, then returned to China. My grandfather came to Vancouver in 1911 and was forced to pay the head tax. Then my father came in 1955. I was only able to immigrate 10 years later. We all took similar journeys for very different reasons to make Canada our home.
We all contributed to building this province and this country. My great-grandfather worked as a labourer in Victoria, my grandfather worked on farms in Mission and ventured as far as Montreal to find work. My father worked as a cook in Victoria and Vancouver. Today, I am honoured to be Minister of State for Trade, working for all British Columbians.
During our recent public engagement, people shared countless stories similar to my own that illustrate the value of a Chinese Canadian Museum in British Columbia. People like my great-grandfather and grandfather helped build this province. Their stories need to be part of our collective narrative. Their voices need to be heard.
This past winter, nearly 500 people joined us in person, with thousands visiting our website and hundreds more sharing their comments online, to help shape the vision of a museum that will honour Chinese Canadian history and living heritage.
People shared stories of their own families and ideas of what the museum should be. The thing that came up the most often was people telling us that they want the museum to showcase the diversity of the Chinese Canadian history and culture—past and present.
Another theme that emerged from these conversations was that the story of Chinese Canadians needs to be told throughout our province, so people can experience history in the places it happened. We agree. We’re exploring a hub-and-spoke model, with regional hubs and spokes in places of historical significance around B.C.
We are working hard to make the museum a reality. We are building on the feedback we received, working with members of the community and museum/history consultants to inform our decisions.
The Chinese community is important to our collective history and our future. We must protect this history, bring it to life, and make it available to everyone. We need a museum that is a living repository of our stories, our contribution, and our culture.
The Chinese Canadian Museum will be a transformative learning experience. It will promote diversity and reconciliation among British Columbians. It will help foster a more inclusive and welcoming society. As one participant said, “When you walk out of the museum, people should feel hope.”
George Chow is the provincial Minister of State for Trade. Read the “What We Heard” report at http://bit.ly/2GwhakW.
For more on the proposed B.C. Chinese Canadian Museum, see the story on page 13 of this week’s paper.