It is my honour to present this special issue of the Royal BC Museum’s Curious magazine, which examines the efforts and experiences of the people working ‘behind the scenes’ of the Chinese Legacy Initiatives. The Chinese Legacy Initiatives flow from the government of British Columbia’s official apology to Chinese Canadians for historical wrongs.
The Chinese Canadian contribution to Canada is no metaphorical or idealistic notion of multiculturalism but, quite literally, the labour that helped found this great nation. It was the true, strong and free efforts of these men and women who made it possible to unite this country by rail from sea to sea.
This special issue of Curious looks at the task of preserving and making accessible the history of Chinese Canadians in BC including the shameful and outright racist persecution—socially, economically and legislatively—of these brave newcomers whose enduring tenacity exemplifies the definition of immigrant, of Canadian and of pioneer.
These pioneers of the Canadian spirit earned the respect of their neighbours despite adversity, one step at a time on the path to the status of citizen. It is these pioneers that we seek to honour in this issue, by highlighting the contributions of a diverse group of individuals tasked with preserving and making accessible a dark history and contributing to a long overdue apology. The task—marred by historical racism and neglect for the value of these people, their efforts or their property—was only achievable due to the foresight of local individuals and community leaders who preserved, donated, remembered and recorded what they could for future posterity. Most Chinatowns burned or faded from neglect other than the few remaining brick and mortar buildings whose remanence form the iconic, tourism and development magnets of Victoria and Vancouver’s Chinatowns.
The hope is that this apology is one of true sincerity. New economies, new growth, new immigrants; this is what the Canadian turn west embodies. We see this awkward pivot as Canada taking its destined position as a member of the Asia Pacific. How will we meet these opportunities and challenges, will we learn from our own history and will we do so responsibly, bravely and with humility?
This issue features a dynamic collection of articles written by some of the many individuals who guided, worked on and contributed to the Chinese Legacy Initiatives including members of the Legacy Initiatives Advisory Council, participants in the Chinese Canadian Artifacts Project (the Royal BC Museum and Archives, Barkerville Historic Town, Cumberland Museum, Nanaimo Museum), and the University of Victoria: Department of History and the Cultural Resource Management Program.
We at the Royal BC Museum and Curious magazine hope you enjoy this issue honouring Chinese Canadian pioneers and the individuals who contributed to the Chinese Legacy Initiatives. I hope these articles inspire you to learn more about Chinese Canadian and immigrant contributions to Canada.