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Frank Scarpitti, Mayor of Markham: Standing in the Doorway Exhibition Opening

Frank Scarpitti

Mayor of Markham


Anniversary is too kind a word to describe something born from ignorance.

This year marks a century since the introduction of the Chinese Exclusion Act – a lingering scar on this country’s history.

It is a dark chapter that starkly reminds us that racism and otherness should never be bricks used in building the road to progress.

History is our teacher.

The exhibition we are unveiling today serves as a reminder that despite all of the obstacles that were placed in the path of Chinese-Canadians, they were determined to succeed and flourish. There is perhaps no better example than right here in Markham and in York Region of the value of the Chinese-Canadian experience.

Their story… their toil… their perseverance… made it possible for us to be here today to celebrate what has become an integral thread in the fabric of our community and country.

If history is our teacher, then there is no better lesson than what you will find Standing in the Doorway… An inside look into how Chinese Canadians in our region made their way to establish themselves as a vital part of our community.

The first of its kind exhibition stands as a tribute to the immense contributions of our Chinese -Canadian community. We acknowledge all that you and the generations before you have done to build Canada into the nation that it is.

We are honoured to be partners in such a unique cultural project which underlines the importance of the relationship between the Chinese-Canadian community and the City of Markham.

As Honorary patron of the Tribute to Early Chinese Immigrants Canada Foundation, I would like to express our appreciation to all of our partners and community leaders who have made this possible…. Including the Markham Museum and The York Region District School Board Museum and Archives. Thanks to the expertise, leadership and commitment of the 2 project leads – Janet Reid, curator here at the Markham Museum & Rebekah Mitchell, curator with YRDSB Museum & Archive.

A special thank you to Nancy Siew for your extraordinary contribution to this commemoration.

First, for arranging the beautiful scrolls by JenZ ShiFu. Mr. ShiFu thank you for sharing these two meaningful scrolls. The first reads, Thirty years of toil in dust and soil. And the second, 8 thousand miles of cloud & moon, aptly describe the hardship of early Chinese immigrants to Canada.

Secondly, Nancy for your generous donation of the Qun(GWAN) Gua (KWA)- a traditional two-piece wedding dress, a beautifully embroidered gown – a precious piece and a lost craft that will eventually find its home at the Markham Museum. I am personally touched by this beautiful gift that you are donating in my honour to the City of Markham. I am deeply humbled by this gesture in this very moment.

We can now all share in this experience… local Chinese Heritage will be on display throughout 2023 until the Chinese New Year in 2024. We have an opportunity to reflect… to learn… and to grow.

The students from the University of Toronto’s graduate program in Museum studies assisted with the research, translation and development of this exhibition.

The next generation will carry us through… it is our job to instill a sense of pride, to honour those who have come before us…. and to live by the values of hard work and determination in a free and democratic society.

Today… we pause and cherish this moment – marking a new chapter in our collective story. We celebrate this new beginning with optimism and gratitude.

Together… as partners united by the values of peace and harmony … we have progressed far beyond the dark side of history… and toward a brighter and more inclusive future.

I hope this exhibit will inspire you towards that future. I know personally that the Chinese Community has inspired me. In the face of such adversity, the Chinese community in many ways has been like the Lotus flower.

The Lotus flower is born out of mud and when the flower has bloomed and its beauty is fully revealed there is not one stain on its pedals. So too is the beauty of the Chinese community. From the early Chinese immigrants who experienced such darkness to the many Chinese immigrants who were warmly welcomed to Canada, thrived and helped make Canada the beautiful country it is today, we honour you and thank you for all that you have done.

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