“I believe the values of a sustainable civil society can be international. I believe it is possible that, some day, we will be able to establish a global system of values to which all countries can adhere without fear of losing their identities. When and if that happens, we will be living in a civil society that is global. We will have understood how to accommodate one another so that people everywhere can optimize their potential as human beings.”
Milton K. Wong, brother of Bill Wong, from “A Global Civil Society”, published in The Vancouver Sun, April 2, 2008
National Canadian Film Day has arrived and the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society in partnership with Emily Carr University of Art and Design and REEL CANADA is pleased to present a virtual screening of From C to C: Chinese Canadian Stories of Migration 《金山梦——中国与加拿大的故事》.
At the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, many Asian immigrants came to Canada in search of a new home, eager to fulfill their dreams of a better life. Their hardships and struggles were many, but their resilient commitment to this dream laid the foundation for future generations to flourish. From C to C helps us reflect on the challenges faced by early Chinese Canadians and exemplifies the struggles and untold stories of other Asian communities who have also suffered discrimination, racism, and prejudice.
With this film, the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society celebrates National Canadian Film Day and reiterates its commitment to showcasing Pan-Asian cultures and the great work that is emerging from our Pan-Asian communities.
When we made From C to C over ten years ago we knew it would be a daunting task to address this profound and complex history in a way that would both benefit communities affected by the historical Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act (passed July 1st, 1923) as well as educate a new generation of Canadian youth on the subject. There were and are a diversity of perspectives around the issue of redress for Chinese Canadians that have been difficult to reconcile after such an unjust and painful history. Funded under the federal government’s Community Historical Recognition Program, the project scope included a documentary for CBC, Fairchild TV, and Guangdong TV China, an accompanying interactive website and an educational resource package for dissemination in Canadian high schools.
Through partnerships between Simon Fraser University, SUCCESS, and Professor Henry Yu’s Chinese Canadian Stories (CHRP) team at UBC, among others, we were able to make a good attempt in connecting communities through extensive consultation. After these discussions, it became important to me that every interview in the film have a personal family connection to this history. And so the idea emerged to approach the documentary primarily as an oral history in the context of migration/immigration that would connect diverse community perspectives with a focus on the west coast of Canada.
We also piloted a social justice education program for youth at SUCCESS with a focus on intergenerational dialogue which was then filmed. From C to C would also confront our collective conceptions of what Canada is, Canadian citizenship, and how the country was built before the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms existed. Our main technical challenge was to tell the epic story of Chinese Canadian pioneers and their families in the limited broadcast hour allotted by CBC.
Several of the older interviewees are no longer with us but their memory and their stories live deep in my heart. Head Tax survivor and activist Charlie Quan, WWII veteran Frank Wong and Bill Wong of Vancouver’s Modernize Tailors (older brother of Milton Wong) were each incredible human beings and treasures to the documentary as you will see. I am so very grateful to have worked with them on this project and with others like public historian Larry Wong, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Howe Lee, WWII veteran George Chow (pictured above), and the veterans of the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society as well as Sid Chow Tan and the Head Tax Families Society of Canada. The work for redress of these groups continued long after the documentary and CHRP projects across Canada concluded and continues to this day.
As we all reel from the impacts of COVID-19 we see fracture lines emerge again along issues of race in the racism experienced by Asians throughout North America in the wake of the pandemic. Sadly this is nothing new. In this regard From C to C is a call to action to each of us to address the racism in ourselves. We must be and do much better; we must never forget these profound injustices of our past; we must recognize the contributions of Chinese Canadians and other discriminated communities in the building of Canada; and we must reexamine what reconciliation means to each one of us personally if we are to move forward in creating a more just and morally resilient society.
I am humbled and honoured to have worked on this most meaningful and important social justice project and gratified to see it being watched again at a time when it can remind us of what matters most. Our responsibility is to each other.
Jordan Paterson, Director, From C to C