I’ve been receiving regular updates from my old bud, Todd Wong …who is very proud of his family’s legacy in Canada. The CBC had just broadcasted a six part documentary on Todd’s great-great grandfather, Reverend Chan Yu Tan. It’s an amazing story. And members of my extended family have been sharing thoughts and reminders to watch the documentary on the multi-generational Canadian Chan family.
Todd was interviewed by CBC’s Rick Cluff, on July 3, 2007… and here is part of the story (from Todd’s Gung Haggis Blog):
“Rick first asked me how I got interested in family history, and I replied that one of the first computer programs I got was for genealogy.
I had found it fascinating that we were descended from a Chinese United Church minister. It was important for me to find positive role models growing up, because as a Chinese-Canadian, there weren’t many. I grew up in North Vancouver, and many people couldn’t tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese back then. Some people would tell me to go back where I came from.
I brought some photo displays into the radio studio and Rick asked about them.
“Here’s a picture of Rev. Chan Yu Tan” when he first arrived in Canada in 1896.”
Here’s a picture of Uncle Dan and his brothers during WW2″
“Here’s a picture of our family reunion in 1999.”
“How many people attended, Todd?”
“We had over 200 people, from all across the continent Rick – from Ontario, Alberta, Washington, California.”
Rick asked what I hoped the younger generations would learn from the story. I told him that it was important for our younger generations to learn what our ancestors had overcome, such as the head tax, the 1907 riot, the exclusion act, gaining the voting franchise. And that it is an important story for all Canadians. Too often as multigenerational Chinese-Canadians we get lumped in with the new immigrants as “Chinese” – even though our family has been here for seven generations.
Rick asked “What would Rev. Chan think of Gung Haggis Fat Choy”
but our family didn’t go to Church. When I was little, I attended one day of class at the Chinese United Church. I was little and cried for my mother almost the entire time.
But the legacy of Rev. Chan Yu Tan and his brother and sisters still lives in our family. It lives on in the stories that my grandmother and my mother have shared with me. My grand-uncle Daniel Lee and his sister Helen Lee, lived with Rev. and Mrs. Chan Yu Tan in Nanaimo while they were growing up. Auntie Helen recalls her memories while she is interviewed for the documentary. There are some newsclips of Uncle Dan and Chinese-Canadian veterans at Vancouver’s Victory Square cenotaph for Remembrance Day.”
Congratulations to Todd and to all descendants of Reverend Chan – for their part in helping build Canada and for sharing your story. The CBC will be continuing their documentary series with other family histories – check their website for more info.