In Vancouver’s Chinatown, tailor Bill Wong sewed his way to success

JUDY STOFFMAN, 19 May 2017

After the Second World War ended, Bill Wong graduated from the University of British Columbia as a mechanical engineer along with his brother Jack, a civil engineer. A recruiter from City Hall came to the campus to offer jobs. What he said when he addressed the class in 1948 was crushing to the hard-working Wong brothers, and they never forgot it: “Tell the Chinese boys in the back not to bother applying or we’ll all be embarrassed.”
Instead of applying elsewhere to work as engineers, they retreated to Modernize, the thriving tailor shop their father opened in Vancouver’s Chinatown in 1913. Having worked there part-time since they were teenagers, they were on familiar terms with its ancient Singer sewing machines, antique button-hole maker and enormous steam iron. In its heyday, the shop employed 20 people and stocked hundreds of bolts of high-quality suiting material. Read more…

Bill Wong sits at his sewing machine in the Modernize tailor shop. Mr. Wong died of heart failure last month, aged 95, after a decades-long tenure at a family business that became a Vancouver institution. COURTESY OF MAURICE WONG

Chinese railway worker history comes to life in new Canadian children’s book

June Chua, March 22, 2017

The old saying is better late than never and that’s what playwright George Chiang thought when he finally decided to create the children’s book The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing. “It was sitting on the shelf, and you know what? I’m not going to live forever,” Chiang told me in an interview over Skype from his home in Montreal. The 68-page colour book just came out in early March and the Montreal-based actor/writer is feeling relieved and a little reticent. The book was almost two decades in the making. Read more…

A page of The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing

B.C. legislation to repeal historical wrongs against Chinese-Canadians

SUNNY DHILLON, Mar. 07, 2017

The B.C. government will repeal 19 pieces of historical legislation that contain discriminatory provisions – acts passed between 1881 and 1930 that forbid employing Chinese or Japanese people. The province introduced legislation to remove the discriminatory laws on Tuesday. It identified the acts during a year-long review that stemmed from the province’s pledge to address historical wrongs against Chinese-Canadians. Read more…

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark (right) and Teresa Wat, Minister of International Trade and Minister Responsible for the Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism, arrive to speak at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Nov. 21, 2013. The B.C. government will repeal 19 pieces of historical legislation that contain discriminatory provisions – acts passed between 1881 and 1930 that forbid employing Chinese or Japanese people.
(DARRYL DYCK For The Globe and Mail)

62 Years of State Racism Does Something to You

William Ging Wee Dere, 5 February 2017

In 2017, Canada celebrates its 150th birthday. Lesser known, it also marks the 70th anniversary of the repeal of the 1923 Chinese Immigration Act, which banned all Chinese immigration to Canada for 24 years. This Act, along with the Head Tax that was imposed on the Chinese starting in 1885, lasted 62 years of Canada’s 150-year history. While we celebrate, we are also reminded that the legacy of racist laws against a community continues long after the laws have been lifted, even at the highest levels of society. Over the years, I’ve tried to tone down my anger against the system, but when this powerful emotion swells up, I try to channel it into positive action. Read more…

William’s father’s head tax certificate