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Commemorative Event Marks 100th Anniversary of Chinese Exclusion Act in Canada

Markham, Ontario, August 20, 2023 – Shaoren Gou, World Chinese Media--In a heartfelt tribute to the 100th anniversary of the “Exclusion of Chinese Immigrants” Act, the Tribute to Early Chinese Immigrants Canada Foundation hosted a calligraphy event on August 20, 2023. The event, centered around the theme of local Chinese imagery in artist Shifu’s calligraphic masterpiece “Clouds and Moon Over an Eight-Thousand-Mile Road,” took place in Markham, Ontario, and was attended by dignitaries, representatives, and organizations from across the Greater Toronto Area.

Originating from the foundation’s commitment to educating Canadians about the challenges and successes faced by early Chinese immigrants, the event held deep significance. The “Exclusion of Chinese Immigrants” Act, now recognized as a pivotal event of national historical importance, was officially acknowledged by Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, responsible for the Canadian Parks Service. Minister Guilbeault’s announcement was made on May 30, 2023, during the Asian Heritage Month, as part of the “National Historic Commemoration Plan.”

The calligraphy event, titled “Clouds and Moon Over an Eight-Thousand-Mile Road,” was a culmination of efforts by the Tribute to Early Chinese Immigrants Canada Foundation, Markham Museum, York Region District School Board, and University of Toronto researchers, among others. Through exhibitions, concerts, workshops, and cultural performances, the event aimed to shed light on the unjust treatment and achievements of early Chinese immigrants in Canada.

Distinguished guests including MP Paul Chiang, MPP Aris Babikian, and York Region District School Board representative Ron Lynn, along with representatives from various cultural centers and organizations, participated in the event. Speakers emphasized the importance of unity among different ethnic groups, reflecting on the sacrifices made by Chinese immigrants in shaping the nation.

Calligrapher and painter Shi Fu introduced his calligraphy work

VIP signs and seals calligraphy works

Nancy Siew (Citizenship Judge: 2014-2017)

MP Paul Chiang

MPP Aris Babikian

The event also featured the screening of the documentary film “Unwanted Soldiers,” which movingly recounted the stories of Chinese-Canadian veterans who participated in World War II. The film highlighted their service, their pride in fighting for a country that initially rejected them, and the eventual recognition and respect they earned. Descendants of victims of the “Exclusion of Chinese Immigrants” Act shared their ancestors’ stories, underscoring the importance of learning from history.

Nancy Siew, President of the Tribute to Early Chinese Immigrants Canada Foundation, delivered a speech, stressing the need to end historical injustices. Siew, who migrated from Hong Kong to Canada, she was a Federal Government public servant before her retirement; her career spanned over several decades, serving various sectors of society. Appointed by the Governor-General-in-Council in 2014, she completed her public service for three years as a Citizenship Judge. She is currently serving on the Senate of Military Police Regiment. In 2018, she was appointed by the Governor-General to the role of Honorary Lt-Colonel of the Canadian Military Police Academy.

Siew shared her inspiring journey and called for increased awareness of contemporary racism against Asians and Chinese-Canadians. She emphasized the role of education in building a more harmonious, inclusive, and respectful Canada.

The event marked a significant milestone in Canada’s journey towards inclusivity and understanding, as citizens, representatives, and organizations came together to remember the past and pave the way for a more equitable future. Through such initiatives, the Tribute to Early Chinese Immigrants Canada Foundation strives to ensure that the experiences of early Chinese immigrants are remembered and honored, contributing to the collective growth of the nation.

Photography: Shaoren Gou

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