Category Archives: Published Articles

Remembering 9/11

To those whose dreams were shattered on 9/11

                   We remember

To those who helped us preserve our dreams after 9/11 but have theirs shattered

                   We remember

To the future generations whose dreams are yet to come

                   We shall ensure that they remember

We shall honour the memory of 9/11 by dedicating our lives to ensure

                    Equality, Justice and Liberty for All

Political Leadership

National Political Leadership is needed on immigration settlement and integration.

Tung Chan – March 2007

British Columbia is facing a labour shortage.  Our unemployment numbers are at a record low and jobs are looking for people instead of the other way around.  If you think we have a labour crunch now, just think what will happen when the baby boom generation begins to retire.  Within the next four years, there will be more people leaving the labour force in B.C. than entering it. 

By 2010, according to B.C. government projections, all net labour increase in B.C. will come from immigration.  In 24 years, immigration will account for Canada’s total population growth.  By 2031, one in four Canadians will be 65 years and older.

What is driving this labour shortage is not only our economy but also our demographics.  Canadians have not been making enough babies to sustain our population.  Our current birth rate is 40% below what is needed to maintain our population in the long run. 

While our current government plans to bring in about 265,000 immigrants annually, we actually need to bring in between 350,000 to 450,000 per year to maintain our population according to a study by one of Canada’s major banks.

Aging population and low birth rate is a world wide phenomenon in the industrialized world.  Canada will be competing with other countries for immigrants.  Japan is looking at ways to bring in 650,000 guest workers per year to sustain their economy.  Australia is providing home owners’ grants to new comers and is running full page ads in newspapers in Hong Kong touting Australia’s friendliness towards Asian immigrants.

And what have we been doing to make the life of an immigrant easier?  In 1990, a reporter from the South China Morning Post, when writing on the plight of the economic immigrants to B.C., likens Canada to a host who invited people to a dance party.  When the guests arrived, not only they couldn’t find any dance partner who knew their dance steps, they found the host had not even put on any music or put out any chairs. 

Not much has changed in the intervening years.

In B.C., new comers have to wait for up to eight months to get basic English language training.  Budgets for ESL home liaison officers for schools are constantly under threat.  Credentials for foreign trained workers are routinely being denied.  Although 48% of Canada’s business immigrants come to B.C. in the past ten years, there does not appear to be any coherent government or private sector program in place to assist business immigrants to connect with the local business community.  Moreover, only 47% of federal transfer money for immigrant settlement is actually spent on immigrant settlement specific programs.  The balance is put into general revenue.

As a province and as a country, now is the time for us to focus on how to help immigrants to integrate faster into our society socially, culturally and economically.

At present, there are no national guiding principles on what settlement services should be provided to new comers.  There are discrepancies on the level of funded English language training programs between provinces.  There are no coherent strategic plans in place to help new immigrant children and youth to integrate even though children account for at least 25% of new comers.  There is no apparent co-ordination between the Federal Government who controls the level and categories of immigrants with the Provincial Governments who are responsible for the delivery of immigrant settlement services. 

We don’t, as a country, have a clue on how to construct a set of effective pathways for new comers to acquire their Canadian identity and achieve social cohesion.

New comers are not unlike new born babies, they need to learn our language, our way of doing things and our environment before they can function fully as Canadians.  As a society, we accept the need to provide schooling, venues for socialization and vocational training to our children.  But as a society we seem to think that new comers can do most of that on their own.  There exists a view that any effort and money spent on immigrant settlement is a waste of resources that could be better used on established Canadians.  This view is as incorrect as thinking that spending effort and money on our youth and children is a waste of resources because money could be better spent on adults and seniors.  It is my belief that there needs to be a continuum of services available for all people at all ages and at all points in life as they strive to become Canadians and live as Canadians.

In order to better prepare us for the unavoidable labour, economic and cultural predicament brought on by the demographic forces working within and outside of our national boundaries, it is not enough to just tweak programs and policies at the bureaucratic level.  What we need is real political leadership at the highest level of our land.

What we need now is a first Ministers’ summit on immigrant settlement and integration.  The Prime Minister and the Provincial Premiers need to work out a set of national guiding principles for service standards and performance outcome for our new comers.  Such principles could be modeled after our national Health Act and enforced via the federal government’s fiscal transfer power.

We will all be further ahead if our political leaders can work collectively on this subject, sooner rather than later.

Newcomers get a cold shoulder

Tung Chan

Special to the Sun

Monday, April 02, 2007

British Columbia is facing a labour shortage. Our unemployment numbers are at a record low and jobs are looking for people instead of the other way around.

If you think we have a labour crunch now, just think what will happen when the baby boom generation begins to retire. Within the next four years, there will be more people leaving the labour force in B.C. than entering it. By 2010, according to B.C. government projections, all net labour increase in B.C. will come from immigration. In 24 years, immigration will account for Canada’s total population growth.

What is driving this labour shortage is not only our economy but also our demographics. Canadians have not been making enough babies to sustain our population. Our current birth rate is 40 per cent below what is needed to maintain our population in the long run.

While our current government plans to bring in about 265,000 immigrants annually, we actually need to bring in between 350,000 to 450,000 per year to maintain our population, according to a study by one of Canada’s major banks.

Aging population and low birth rate is a worldwide phenomenon in the industrialized world. Canada will be competing with other countries for immigrants. Japan is looking at ways to bring in 650,000 guest workers per year to sustain its economy. Australia is providing homeowners’ grants to newcomers and is running full-page ads in newspapers in Hong Kong touting Australia’s friendliness towards Asian immigrants.

And what have we been doing to make the life of an immigrant easier? In 1990, a reporter from the South China Morning Post, writing on the plight of the economic immigrants to B.C., likened Canada to a host who invited people to a dance party. When the guests arrived, not only couldn’t they find any partner who knew their dance steps, they found the host had not even put on any music or any chairs. Not much has changed in the intervening years.

In B.C., newcomers have to wait for up to eight months to get basic English language training. Budgets for ESL home liaison officers for schools are constantly under threat. Credentials for foreign trained workers are routinely being denied. Although 48 per cent of Canada’s business immigrants came to B.C. in the past 10 years, there does not appear to be any coherent government or private sector program in place to assist business immigrants to connect with the local business community.

Moreover, only 47 per cent of federal transfers for immigrant settlement is actually spent on immigrant settlement specific programs. The balance goes into general revenue. As a province and as a country, now is the time for us to focus on how to help immigrants to integrate faster into our society socially, culturally and economically.

At present, there are no national guiding principles on what settlement services should be provided to newcomers. There are discrepancies on the level of funded English language training programs between provinces.

There are no coherent strategic plans in place to help new immigrant children and youth to integrate, even though children account for at least 25 per cent of newcomers. There is no apparent co-ordination between the federal government, which controls the level and categories of immigrants, and the provincial governments, which are responsible for the delivery of immigrant settlement services. We don’t, as a country, have a clue on how to construct a set of effective pathways for newcomers to acquire their Canadian identity and achieve social cohesion.

Newcomers are not unlike newborn babies, they need to learn our language and our way of doing things before they can function fully as Canadians. As a society, we accept the need to provide schooling, venues for socialization and vocational training to our children. But we seem to think that newcomers can do most of that on their own. There exists a view that any effort and money spent on immigrant settlement is a waste of resources.

This view is as incorrect as thinking that spending effort and money on our youth and children is a waste of resources because money could be better spent on adults and seniors. The fact is, there needs to be a continuum of services available for all people at all ages and at all points in life as they strive to become Canadians and live as Canadians.

To better prepare us for the unavoidable economic and cultural predicament brought on by the demographic forces working within and outside our national boundaries, it is not enough to just tweak programs and policies at the bureaucratic level. What we need is political leadership at the highest levels.

What we need now is a first ministers’ summit on immigrant settlement and integration. The prime minister and the premiers need to work out a set of national guiding principles for service standards and performance outcome for our newcomers. Such principles could be modelled after the Canada Health Act and enforced via the federal government’s fiscal transfer power.

We will all be further ahead if our political leaders can work collectively on this subject, sooner rather than later.

Tung Chan is chief executive officer of S.U.C.C.E.S.S. (United Chinese Community Enrichment Social Services) in Vancouver. The views expressed don’t necessarily represent those of S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications,

Inc.. All rights reserved.

We need to build more social pathways to connect communities

By Tung Chan
Special to The Province

The phrase “ethnic enclave” refers to neighbourhoods where people of the same ethnic background live in high concentrations. Parts of Richmond and Surrey are said to be ethnic enclaves for Chinese and South Asians.

Ethnic enclaves are thought to contribute negatively to the cohesiveness of our society. They are deemed to be places that need to be broken up.
In a survey done by the Vancouver Foundation last year, three groups of people who identified themselves as living in their own enclaves felt less connected. These are people aged 25 – 34, those who live in high-rises and newcomers.

At the request of local Chinese language media outlets, the Vancouver Foundation did a breakdown of the Chinese-Canadian respondents. They found there are more similarities than differences between them and the total sample.

Just like the total sample, only about four in 10 Chinese-Canadian respondents attended a cultural event put on by a cultural or ethnic group different than their own.

And just like the total sample, Chinese-Canadian respondents said the biggest obstacle to getting more engaged in community life is the feeling that they have little to offer.

The main reason Chinese-Canadian respondents gave for not knowing their neighbours better is the same as other respondents — they seldom see them.

In other words, people are living in silos not because of “ethnic enclaves” but because we don’t have enough social pathways that lead people to get to know one another. Over one third of those surveyed said they have no close friends outside their own ethnic group.

Our society prides itself on being inclusive and multicultural. But how can we be that if more than one third of us don’t have close friends from outside our ethnic background and most of us participate only in events organized by our own ethnic group?

Why is it important for us to know one another more? We live in one of the most diverse cities in the world. Not understanding each other’s nuances of habits, behavior, likes and dislikes will inevitably produce unnecessary misunderstandings and conflicts.

To avoid this we need to build more social pathways to help people cross cultural barriers. Each year we spend millions building roads and transportation infrastructures to connect geographic communities. But how much money and effort do we spend on creating social pathways for so-called “ethnic enclaves” to connect with each other?

If a geographically isolated community is not connected with society we would not label people in those communities as not willing to connect with others. We would build roads and highways to help them to connect. But we blame people who live in their own cultural communities for not trying to reach out. We label their neighbourhoods with the pejorative term “enclave”.

There are many things we can do to build social pathways to connect people of different cultures. We can have a day where every community is encouraged to have an open house in their cultural neighbourhood. In Vancouver, we have an Italian town on Commercial Drive, a South Asian town in South Vancouver, a Greek town on West 4th, a Chinatown on Pender Street, and a Vietnamese town along Kingsway.

What if we had a day where every neighbourhood has an open house and people are encouraged to visit a neighbourhood outside their own cultural communities?

It’s important to create opportunities for people to connect emotionally. Remember how Canadians of all skin colors and backgrounds cheered together and high fived each other on Robson Street during the 2010 Winter Olympics?

It would be fun to have an international drum festival each summer. Anyone who has listened to the drum beats of more than one culture will be struck by their similarity. Perhaps a drum festival will bring all of us out of our own enclaves and connect us as a community of one.
 
(Tung Chan is Chair, Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and a director of the Vancouver Foundation)
 
Pre-Edited Version
By Tung Chan, July 29, 2013

The phrase “ethnic enclave” has been bandied about in recent times.  The term refers to neighbourhoods where people of the same ethnic background live in high concentration.  Parts of Richmond and Surrey are said to be ethnic enclaves for Chinese and South Asians.  Ethnic enclaves, by conventional wisdom, are thought to contribute negatively to the cohesiveness of our society.  In other words, it is viewed with suspicion and deemed to be places that need to be broken up.

In a survey done by the Vancouver Foundation last year, three groups of people self identified as living in their own enclaves in that they feel less connected.  These are people between the ages of 25 – 34, people who live in high-rises and new comers to our community.  

At the request of local Chinese language media outlets, Vancouver Foundation did a breakdown of the Chinese-Canadian respondents.  They found there are more similarities than differences between them and the total sample.  
Just like the total sample, only about four in 10 Chinese-Canadian respondents attended a cultural or ethnic event put on by a cultural or ethnic group different than their own.

And just like the total sample, Chinese-Canadian respondents said the biggest obstacle to getting more engaged in community life is the feeling that they have little to offer.

Chinese-Canadian respondents are among the most frequent users of libraries, community centres and recreation facilities. But they are among the least likely to have participated in a neighbourhood or community project, or attended a neighbourhood or community meeting.

To everyone’s surprise, the survey found that language is not a significant barrier to getting to know their neighbours. Only 6 per cent of the total Chinese-Canadian sample said that language was the main factor. That number rises to 16 per cent for people who speak Mandarin at home.
The main reason Chinese-Canadian respondents gave for not knowing their neighbours better is the same as other respondents — they seldom see them.

In other words people are living in silos not because of so call “ethnic enclaves” but because we don’t have enough social pathways that led people to meet and know one another.  May be because of such isolation, over one third of the people surveyed said they have no close friends outside their own ethnic group.  

We are a society that prides ourselves as being inclusive and multicultural.  But how can we be truly inclusive and multicultural if over on third of us do not have close friends from outside of our own ethnic background and the majority of us participate only in events organized by one’s own ethnic group.  

But why is it important for us to know one and other more? We are living in one of the most diverse cities in the world.  According to the 2011 census, more than 45 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents are born outside of Canada.  These people come with vastly different cultural background and life experiences.  They have different perspectives on cultural, economic and political events.  Not knowing enough each other and the nuances of habits, behaviour and likes and dislike will inevitably produce unnecessary misunderstandings and conflicts.  

To avoid such unnecessary misunderstandings we need to build more social pathways for people to cross cultural barriers.  Each year, as a society, we spend millions of dollars in building roads and transportation infrastructures to connect geographic communities.  We build highways, sky trains and airports to help link communities together.  But how much money and effort we spend on linking cultural communities together?  How much efforts we, as a society spend on creating social pathways for so call “ethnic enclaves” to connect with each other?  If a geographically isolated community is not connecting with the rest of the society, we would not label people who live in those communities as not willing to connect with other people.  We would not blame them for not trying.  We will build roads and highways to help them to connect with the rest of the society.  But we will blame people who live in their own cultural

communities for not trying to reach out.  We label their neighbourhoods with the pejorative term “enclave”.

There are many practical things that we as a society can do to build social pathways to connect people of different cultural background.  We can, for example, have a cultural day where every community is encourage to have an open house in their cultural neighbourhood.  In Vancouver, we have an Italian town on Commercial Drive, we have a South Asian town in South Vancouver, we have a Greek town on West 4th, we have a Chinatown on Pender Street, and we have a Vietnamese town along Kingsway.  What if we have a day where every neighbourhood have an open house and people are encouraged to visit a neighbourhood outside of their own cultural communities?  The day or weekend could be capped with a cultural show featuring the best entertainers from each community’s home country together with internationally known local talents.

I think it is also important to create opportunities for people to connect emotionally.  People will remember how Canadians of all cultural backgrounds mingled and cheered together during the Winter Olympic of 2010 in Vancouver.  Young people of all skin color and heritage were high fiving each other on Robin Street.  The shared experience of people watching the Symphony of Light firework shows in English Bay in the summer come close to that but the emotional sharing is not as intense.
It would be fun to have an international drum festival in the summer each year.  All human beings spend the first ten months of their existence inside their mother’s womb a few centimeters away from her heart.  We can all relate to the sound of the constant heart beat and we all do respond in a primitive way to similar sounds.  Anyone who has listened to the drum beats of more than one culture will be struck by their similarity.  It does not matter whether the drum beats come from a marching band from America or Daiku music from China; it does not matter whether it is the sounds of the steel drums from Jamaica or the Dholak drums from India, they all touched us on a primitive level. Perhaps a drum festival will bring all of us out from our own enclaves and connecting us as a community of one.

Harmony

The differences between the different cultural groups co-existing in the Lower Mainland are very evident. People go to different places to worship. They listen to different radio stations, read different newspapers, eat at different restaurants, idolize different movie stars and cheer on different types of sports.

No one would worry much if the lines of demarcation are drawn according to age, gender or socio-economic status. But all kinds of alarm bells sound when the lines are drawn along cultural or ethnic lines — particularly post 9/11.

People are worried that new Canadians living in such cultural and ethnic enclaves will form ghettos that become hotbeds of segregation. At the very least, these cultural groups, critics maintain, will never be fully integrated into mainstream Canadian society.

The fact is, it is only human nature to gravitate towards others who share a similar cultural background in a new environment. It is also human nature that over time, people will venture to explore other cultures surrounding their communities. And in the long-run, through greater interaction, the communities will integrate with each other.

In order for that to happen, the host society needs to be willing to welcome the new culture and accept the new comers as equals. At the same time, the new comers have to be willing to learn and adapt to the new culture without feeling pressured to giving up their own.

The ideal state for multiculturalism is to achieve a state that best described by a Chinese proverb: “Harmony but distinct”

A harmonious but distinct society is like a symphonic orchestra.  The strings sections congregate together in one section while the winds sections sit together in another. No one in their right mind would suggest that the violinists in an orchestra form a ghetto. Under the baton of a good conductor, the musicians play beautiful music together. Each section contributes to the making of a glorious concerto penned by a masterful composer.

In a multicultural society, our Constitution is our song sheet and our political leadership is our conductor. The Constitution lays out shared values as a society. Within that broad framework, our political leaders are free to guide each segment of the society to achieve their maximum potential for the common good of the country.

The challenge facing our multicultural nation now is twofold. First, we are more like a jazz band having its first jam session than like a well rehearsed orchestra. Second, while we have a good piece of music, our conductor lacks the understanding of the nuances of various instruments that make up the orchestra.

In a typical orchestra, while the people who plays string instrument are likely not good at playing percussions, they generally do not look down upon the percussionists. Musicians also tend to have some basic understanding of each other’s contribution to the performance of the masterpiece.

Judging from some of the criticisms leveled by some people towards our minority cultural groups, it is evident that not everyone in our country is respectful of newcomers nor appreciates their contributions to the society in a multicultural context. It is also entirely possible that not all members of our society, including but not limiting to the different cultural groups that are new to this country, have a good grasp of the values expressed in our Constitution.

A jazz band can only make good music if each player has a good feel of the other players’ mood, ability and tempo. This can only be achieved by consistent practice and keen ears. For a multicultural society to become a harmonious and distinct civilization, we also need to practice our art of living together by learning to appreciate each other’s mood, ability and tempo.

Our political leaders and government bodies also need to be more reflective of our multicultural society in order for them to have a better understanding of the aspirations of the various minority cultural groups.

Our federal, provincial and municipal bureaucracies need to have processes and systems in place to ensure that different cultural perspectives and interests are brought into play in the design of policies.

I hope that Canadians will continue to make wonderful and glorious music in a harmonious and distinctive way.

Citizenship is a state of the mind

Citizenship is a state of the mind. It is about personal identity and loyalty. Citizenship does not exist in a plastic card or a little blue covered booklet. It is not what other people say who you are, but who you think you are.

Canada has a long history of accepting people holding dual allegiances. Indeed, this country was founded by people who had a strong desire to swear allegiance to the British monarch as a colony rather than as an independent state.  The French population in the formative years of Canada held similar allegiance to France. The aboriginal people of Canada have never given up their hope of nationhood.

When the First World War broke out, although Canada was not directly attacked, our forefathers proudly went to the aid of England, the homeland of many of the Canadians of the time. By action and by deed, we, as a country, had demonstrated that dual allegiance was not only acceptable, but honoured.

In the last three decades, we, as a nation, have grown up. We are now more confident of ourselves. We now have our own Constitution.  Our Supreme Court is now the final Court of Appeal. We no longer need to seek the approval of another country to change our Constitution.

Some think that with that we need to cut our ties with the country whence we came. Still others argue that Canadians should swear allegiance only to Canada and no other country.  

Some people also point out that Canadians should be allowed to carry only one plastic card proclaiming their Canadian citizenship. Canadians, these critics say, should not be allowed to carry another little booklet that identifies them as citizens of another country.

But is this what citizenship is all about?

During the Second World War, our soldiers did not fight to defend our territory. They fought to defend our way of life. They laid down their lives so we could enjoy our freedom. Their sacrifices allow us to live in a society that is ruled by law. Laws that are enacted by a freely elected assembly; interpreted by an independent judiciary; and applied by corruption free law enforcement bodies.

In other words, they fought to defend our values. The values that they fought for include equity, due process of the law and fairness.

In my mind, citizenship is about sharing and subscribing to these set of commonly held values.  Canadians may express these values in a variety of ways based on their cultural, economical and religious background. People may have different priorities when it comes to these values, but these values set us apart as Canadians.

So as long as people subscribe to and willing to defend such values, why should we care if they also hold citizenship of another country? And if people do not share or subscribe to such values, what good is it for us to limit them to just holding a Canadian citizenship to the exclusion of all others?

Of course, there are practical matters to consider. Things like the cost of providing consular services to Canadians of dual citizenship who chose to live abroad. Matters like the cost of providing medical services to the Canadian Diaspora population when they grow old and decide to return to Canada to live. Issues like the cost of providing education to the children of Canadians who chose to live and work abroad, but leave their children behind.

I believe there is a simple solution to these economic concerns.  Canada should implement an income tax regime similar to the United States. As long as a person is a Canadian citizen, he or she should be required to file annual Canadian income tax returns regardless of his or her place of residence.

With close to 2.7 million Canadians living abroad according Asia Pacific Foundation, our government should be able to collect sufficient tax revenues to look after current and future services to the Canadian Diaspora population.

Since we cannot have taxation without representation, we should put programs in place to encourage Canadian overseas to participate in federal and provincial elections based on their last place of residence in Canada. In so doing, we will ensure that they stay connected to Canada and we stay connected to them.

The positive effects of having 2.7 million committed, connected and concerned Canadians living abroad can only be limited by one’s imagination.

These people could promote two way trades with their current place of residence. They could encourage cultural exchanges. They could act as our good will ambassadors.  

For all these reasons, I am in favour of keeping our proud tradition of allowing people to have dual citizenship.

Looking forward to un- hyphenation

During this special week we should remember that citizenship is a relatively recent right for some and should never be taken for granted

© Vancouver Sun, Monday April 30, 2007

Editorial Page A9

Tung Chan 2007Canadians of Chinese heritage have a lot to celebrate and commemorate this year. This year is the 60th anniversary of the granting of franchise to persons of Chinese heritage through the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923.

This year is also the 90th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge and the 100th anniversary of the anti-Chinese riot in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

For most readers, the linkage of the first and the third events to Chinese Canadians is obvious. But many people may be puzzled by the inclusion of the battle of Vimy Ridge on the list. The sense of puzzlement betrays a preconception that no matter how many generations a Chinese person has settled in this country, he will care only about events that happened to his own community. The fact is, however, the battle of Vimy Ridge is an event that shaped the national identity of this country and all Canadians, including Chinese Canadians, should and have played a part in its commemoration.

The converse is also true of the other two events. The race riot and the Chinese Exclusion Act touched not just Canadians of Chinese heritage. They touched all Canadians and are a part of our collective national memory. But I wonder how many Canadians know or care, about these two events.

I hope this will change this year as several cities in the Lower Mainland proclaim the week of May 14 as the “Celebration of Citizenship” week. A dinner will be held on May 12th to celebrate the granting of the franchise. A group of Second World War Canadian Veterans of Chinese descent is the driving force behind this celebration. These veterans went to war for a country that, at the time, did not recognize them as true Canadians. Some paid the ultimate price on the battlefield.

When they returned, they formed the Chinese Canadian Unit No. 280 of the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans of Canada. They lobbied successfully to gain citizenship not just for themselves, but for all Canadians of Chinese heritage.

Although Chinese- Canadians were allowed to vote in federal elections on May 12, 1947, the City of Vancouver continued to deny them their voting rights.

As reported in a newspaper article of the day, counsel for the City of Vancouver stressed that a Chinese vote would impose “terrific responsibility” on the returning officer because the “identification of a Chinese would be a tremendous problem.”

His reasoning was that “many [Chinese] have the same or similar names” and that since “so many look alike that sorting them out would be quite a task.”

I am glad today’s returning officers are not finding the task as onerous as was once perceived. Today, many Chinese Canadians are fully exercising the rights given to them.

They have since excelled in various professional fields where they were once denied membership due to their racial background. These occupations range from accountants, lawyers and doctors. On the political front, they have been elected to serve as members of Parliament, members of provincial legislatures, municipal councillors and mayors. They have also served as lieutenant governors and Governor-General of Canada.

From a time when then prime minister Mackenzie King’s speech “concluded [that it was] not advantageous to the country that the Chinese should come and settle in Canada, produc[e] a Mongrel race, and interfere very much with white labour in Canada” to the present where our current Prime Minister Stephen Harper embraces Chinese Canadians as citizens, we have come a long way.

In a recent 2006 speech, Harper stated that he “believe[s] that the values held most strongly by our Chinese community are truly Canadian values — the values that have, that are, and that will make us a successful nation if they guide the decisions of government.”

But has Canadian society fully and truly embraced Canadians of Chinese heritage? I think the answer to the question is a qualified yes. While the overt racial discrimination such as the ones expressed in the 1907 riot no longer exists, there is no denying that subtle and equally destructive misguided attitudes and stereotypes still exist.

The good news is that such points of view are being held by fewer and fewer people as time goes by and such attitudes are, by and large, viewed as wrong.

The problem, however, is that sometimes such attitudes and stereotypes are held on both sides.

A sure way to change attitudes towards each other is through more integration. Some have argued that by virtue of living under the same laws, paying the same taxes and occupying the same land that people are, by definition, integrated. I disagree. I believe two communities — Caucasian and Chinese — can only integrate if they interact actively and proactively with each other. An integrated society is a society where people have the capacity and desire to learn, explore, accept, appreciate, share and sacrifice for one another.

During Citizenship Week, we should remember that citizenship is a relatively new right given to Chinese-Canadians and that it should not be taken for granted.

Citizenship should be fully celebrated and the struggles of the past which brought us to this point remembered. If the leaps and bounds in cultural understanding and equality made in the last century are any indication of what is to come, I look forward to the next 100 years.

Perhaps there will come a time where Chinese-Canadians will no longer be distinguished ethnically, but will be recognized as un-hyphenated, Canadian citizens.

Tung Chan is chief executive officer of S.U.C.C.E.S.S. (United Chinese Community Enrichment Social Services) in Vancouver. The views expressed don’t necessarily represent those of S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

Canada’s looming labour shortage crisis requires a new way of thinking

More bureaucracy and credentialing organizations must be facilitators and enablers, not just gatekeepers

By Tung Chan, September 2007

British Columbia is facing an unprecedented challenge now and in the future when it comes to the supply of our labour force. With strong economic growth and an unemployment rate at an historic low, many businesses and organizations are unable to find the skilled labour they require.

While the challenge may seem hard now, the challenge in the future is even more difficult.  By 2015, there will be a shortfall of 350,000 workers in the province. According to the B.C. government’s statistics branch, in 2015, there will be more than one million job openings in B.C. while only 650,000 young people will have moved through the K-12 system. This shortage will impact every sectors of the economy, sectors such as health, education, construction, forestry, hospitality and tourism.

If we do not find a solution to the challenge, it is not hard to imagine a scenario where surgeries frequently cancelled due to a shortage of nurses; people unable to find a family doctor; projects cancelled because there are not enough construction workers; or restaurants closed because there are not enough waiters and waitresses.   In fact, in some parts of Canada, such a scenario is already reality.

Although the skills shortage is now well understood by our politicians – both federal and provincial politicians have shown leadership on the issue – the sad state of affairs is that many government officials and professional credentialing organizations appear to continue to be contented to play their traditional gatekeeper role and do not yet fully understand that we are competing with other countries for talent. Japan, for example, is reportedly planning to import up to 650,000 foreign workers annually and Australia is already running very effective media campaigns to attract workers from Hong Kong and China.

Unless a change of mindset occurs soon, skilled foreign workers will simply go elsewhere.

I recently met a doctor who was trained in one of the best medical schools in China.  Because he is unable to practice, he is now working as a Sushi chef in a restaurant in Delta after immigrating here. As he has to provide for his family, he lacks the financial resources to take the qualification courses that he is required to go through.  He is also discouraged by the three to four years that it will take for him to finish those courses as well as the uncertainty at the end of the process due to an inadequate availability of training positions. 

We have also seen English proficiency requirements supersede equivalency programs for foreign trained nurses in B.C.  Prior to January 1st of this year, English language preparation was integrated into the Certificate in Graduate Nurse with English as an Additional Language Program offered by Kwantlen University College.  However, because of a policy change by the College of Registered Nurses of BC, applicants for this program must now demonstrate English language fluency at the time of submitting their application for registration.  This policy change essentially imposes a barrier that unnecessarily delay the otherwise well qualified care givers from providing their services to alleviate a labour shortage that is galloping towards a critical level with the aging of our population.  As an example, the Fraser Health Region alone is predicting a shortage of well over a thousand nurses by the year 2012.

In an attempt to offer a practical solution to the skilled labour shortage problem, S.U.C.C.E.S.S. and Spectra Energy, with financial support from the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, collaborated to launch the Immigrant Engineering Orientation Program (IEOP) in March of this year.  IEOP, a program developed with the help of an Advisory committee that was made up of representatives from government, industry as well as the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, is a first of its kind in BC.  The program supports professional immigrant engineers in overcoming foreign credential recognition barriers and provides them with the opportunity to directly continue with their professional careers here in Canada.

The program includes 10 weeks of workplace culture and language preparation training developed and delivered by S.U.C.C.E.S.S. This is followed by 6 weeks of Canadian engineering work experience at Spectra Energy facilities in Northeastern B.C. Employment opportunities in the energy sector will follow the field practicum.  While only 12 positions were available, close to 170 people applied.

Many groups, such as the Business Council of British Columbia, have suggested that an increased reliance on temporary foreign workers is an important means to help mitigate future labour shortages. According to the Business Council, Canada’s immigration rules should be overhauled to make it easier for temporary foreign workers with Canadian job experience and skills to become landed immigrants once they have spent time in the country.

But even getting temporary foreign workers into this country is not an easy task. The problem can be best illustrated by a recent situation where well qualified construction workers were denied temporary working visas by the federal bureaucracy in Shanghai.  A B.C. company went there to recruit after failing to find suitable local workers.  After interviewing 200 applicants, the company made job offers to 50 workers who were considered to have extraordinary qualifications.  To the company’s great dismay and consternation, every one of the worker’s application for temporary work visa was declined by our bureaucrats based on groundless and outdated concerns that the individuals would want to stay in Canada permanently.

To meet the current and future growing skills shortage challenges, more of our federal and provincial bureaucracies as well as credentialing bodies in Canada need to change their mindsets when it comes to the way they apply immigration, labour and credential recognition policies.  More of them need to think of themselves not just as gatekeepers.  They need to think of themselves also as facilitators and enablers that have a duty to lend a hand to new comers and temporary foreign workers to make it possible for these new and potentially new Canadians to contribute to our communities to the best of their qualifications and abilities.

Are you familiar with the name C.Y. Leung Chun Ying

Tung Chan, June 7, 2012

Vancouver Sun community blog,  © Vancouver Sun

How you answer this question about C. Y. Leung Chun Ying depends on whether you are reading the Chinese or English version of this article. If you are reading this in Chinese, you will most likely know that Mr. Leung is the Chief Executive Elect of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. But if you are reading the English version of this article and you do not read Chinese, you will most likely not know who Mr. Leung is or be aware of the recent election in Hong Kong.

How can it be that people who live in Vancouver and care about the news have no knowledge of this import Hong Kong event? This happens because we use different languages to obtain news? I believe the reason is because there has been very little coverage of this event in the local English media even though the election has dominated the headlines of the local Chinese language media for weeks in April. CBC, a news organization mandated to inform Canadians of international events that are relevant to us, treats this event as it never happened.

In Metro Vancouver, almost one out of 6 or 7 residents are of Chinese heritage and possibly half of them are from the Hong Kong region. One would think the local English media would have the good sense, in order to attract more customers, to report more of what is happening in the Asia-Pacific region from where these people or their parents came.

Even if we put that aside, I remember a few years ago a former Consul General of China in Vancouver said the relationship between China, of which Hong Kong is a part, and Canada can be summed up in 1, 2 and 3. 1: China is the number one source country of immigrants to Canada. 2: Chinese is the number two most common language spoken by Canadians outside of Quebec. 3: China ranks number three in bilateral trade with Canada. You can see how important Hong Kong and China is to Canada. As providers of news to the people living in this aspiring “Gateway to Asia” city of Vancouver, local English media outlets clearly have a duty to inform their customers of crucial happenings in the Asia-Pacific region.

But to me there is another important reason why the local English language media needs to report more news about Asia. The Vancouver Foundation last year interviewed over one hundred community leaders and surveyed close to three hundred social service organizations to find out what issues concern them the most. They found an unexpected result: the respondents were most concerned about the lack of connection between people and communities. They said people did not seem to care much about each other; communities live in silos and there is a lack of community spirit or a sense of neighborhood. They also relayed that people worry that if this goes on unchecked, it would lead to a breakdown of the community and people will stop trusting or cooperating with each other. They fear this trend in the long run will turn this heavenly place on earth into a place that is less than ideal to call home.

In order to develop friendships, people not only need to share a common language but also need to have a common interest or common knowledge of something. This is why two individuals who are not familiar with each other often start their conversation talking about the weather. They do so because they both know about the weather. They both know they would have something to say about the topic. So if local people want to make friends with recent immigrants from China, they will do well to learn more about the hot topics in Hong Kong and China. Local English language media is naturally a good source of information if they would include more Asia-Pacific news in their regular news pages. Doing so will allow locals to have more conversation topics to discuss with their new friends from Asia.

The local Chinese language media do an excellent job reporting on what is happening locally and nationally. Newcomers are well aware of what is happening in this country. Accommodation and adaptation are two-way streets. Newcomers have to adapt to local customs and culture. Locals, however, also need to be aware and appreciative of newcomers concerns about what is happening in the places they came from. It is only in so doing that people can live together harmoniously in an equal and mutually respectful environment.

I sincerely hope our local English media operating in this “Gateway to Asia” will, on both economic and on humanistic grounds, increase their news coverage of what is happening in Asia. Readers, viewers or listeners will then at least be familiar with important issues happening in Asia and now know who the key players are like C.Y. Leung Chun Ying.

A Stronger Voice is needed

Tung Chan, Sept 7, 2009

There are more than 10 elected officials who are of Chinese heritage in various levels of Governments in B.C. Many of them owed much of their electoral success to strong financial and organizational support from the Chinese-Canadian community. Yet the community has placed very little political demand on them to advance the community’s interests. And none of them have openly stated that they are there to represent the Chinese-Canadian community.

Douglas Jung, the first MP of Chinese descent once told me the Chinese-Canadian community was his best ally as well as his harshest critic during his tenure from 1957 to 1962. Raymond Chan, the present day MP from Richmond, was relentlessly criticized for his change of stance in the human rights issue in China. The strongest voice of criticism came from the Chinese-Canadian community.

There is a Chinese proverb that says: “The more you care about an individual, the more critical you are of that individual.” Many Chinese-Canadians certainly live up to that proverb fully in dealing with political leaders from their own community.

Yet there is a lot of pride when members of the community were elected to political positions. After I was elected to office in 1990, I was invited by a friend from the Taiwanese-Canadian community to a dinner to celebrate my success. When my wife and I arrived at the venue, we were surprised to find there were over 200 people there ready to meet their newest “father and mother official” as municipal officials were called in old China.

The community is known to rally behind aspiring politicians during the nomination and election process. People who are intimately involved in the 1993 federal election will remember the nomination fight in the Tory camp between Dr. K. K. Wan and Geoff Chutter and in the Liberal camp between Raymond Chan and Herb Dhaliwal. Literally thousands of people from the Chinese-Canadian community turned out to support Dr. Wan and Mr. Chan. They also worked hard during the election and volunteered for the multitude of jobs that were required in an election campaign. Many even worked across political lines in both campaigns.
With that kind of effort, one would expect that members of the Chinese-Canadian community would want to vote overwhelmingly for one of their own. Surprisingly, that is not the finding of a survey conducted in 1996. Only 5.1% of the 948 Chinese speaking respondents in the poll commissioned by Ming Pao and the Vancouver Sun named ethnic origin as one of the three key factors in their selection of a political candidate. The top three key factors identified were programme (31.6%), ability (24%) and achievements (16.4%).

And what does the community expect of their politicians once they are elected to office? The community certainly expects their politicians to attend a great many number of banquets and events. Every Chinese-Canadian politicians in town will tell you it is not uncommon for them to attend three to four banquets a night during the Chinese New Year season in the month of February. Cutting ribbons in official openings of businesses is another chore that Chinese-Canadian politicians have to perform a lot more than their non-Chinese counterparts. During my three years as a Councillor of Vancouver, I had cut ribbons for businesses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond.

What about on a more serious note? In May of 1995 a series of articles were written by several columnist of Sing Tao Newspaper about whether politicians of Chinese descend should fight for the welfare of the Chinese-Canadian community.

The question in itself would seem odd to the uninitiated. Politicians elected from B. C. are expected to fight for the welfare of British Columbians. In the same token, one would assume that Chinese-Canadians expect politicians elected from their community to fight for the welfare of their community. Surprisingly again, this traditional point of view did not gather much support from the established columnists. The proponents of the classical point of view were actually held in contempt for preaching reverse racial discrimination! They were ostracized for being too narrow minded and undemocratic.

Guo Ding, an editorial writer for Ming Pao seemed to capture the wishes of the Chinese-Canadian community in his editorial after the 1996 civic election. He suggested that the Chinese-Canadian incumbents should first act on their election promises. He admonished them to make policy decisions from the perspective of the whole community (not just the Chinese-Canadian community) and be careful not to use a double standard when dealing with the Chinese and the non-Chinese community.

There is a divergence of value between the recently immigrated Chinese-Canadian community and the rest of the Canadian society. The presence of a strong work ethic, the value placed on education, the yardsticks used to measure success, the affinity towards one’s own community and the strong group identity are some of the characteristics that set the new Chinese-Canadian community apart.

But this divergence of value has not led to a divergence of interest. The interests of the Chinese-Canadian community, by and large, are that of the interest of the larger community.

The voting intentions and expectation of politicians from their own community demonstrate clearly that Chinese-Canadian voters want members of their community to be part of the governing body. They want to take part in the action as full participants rather than staying on the sideline as spectators. They want to be part of the process rather than part of the equation.

The support given by the community to the aspiring politicians indicates the community’s desire to have someone to articulate its aspirations. The community is craving for someone to represent their point of view in the political process. They want someone who is sensitive to their cultural values. They need someone who is willing to address their issues. Issues such as English language training, job training, unemployment, under-employment and recognition of foreign training and work experience.
The Chinese-Canadian community is looking for “facilitators” rather than “spokesmen.” There isn’t any one single person or group whom can be the sole representative of the 300,000 plus, multifaceted and diverse Chinese-Canadian community.

The Chinese-Canadian community will welcome in future elections stronger voices that can express their diverse values. Politicians from all communities who can successfully articulate the new immigrants’ points of view will play a useful role in helping them to integrate into the Canadian society.