A commemorative monument unveiled today in the historic Cumberland Chinese Cemetery recognizes the contributions of Chinese Canadians to B.C.’s rich cultural, historical and economic mosaic.
The natural stone monument with cast bronze plaques is accompanied by an interpretive signage panel to illustrate the connection of the cemetery to the larger Chinese community and concrete replicas of cedar post grave markers in memory of the people whose wooden grave markers have decayed and disappeared over time.
The monument reflects the 2014 apology delivered on behalf of the B.C. legislative assembly to Chinese Canadians for historical wrongs committed by past provincial governments. It will also serve as a permanent reminder of the racism, discrimination and hardships faced by Chinese Canadian pioneers who lived and worked in area coal mines and helped with the construction of the nearby rail line.
Many pioneers also established local businesses within Cumberland’s once-bustling Chinatown and some of their descendants still live in the area.
The monument is the second in a series of up to 15 markers – interpretive signs, plaques and monuments – that will be established in communities throughout B.C. in coming months. The first marker was erected in Kelowna in December 2016. Locations were recommended by the provincial Legacy Initiatives Advisory Council (LIAC), which provides advice to government on B.C. Chinese legacy projects. Government is providing $100,000 in Chinese legacy funding for the provincial monuments project.
As one of several provincial Chinese legacy projects completed or currently underway, the commemorative monuments project resulted from a report on the Chinese historical wrongs consultations. The report includes a recommendation for one or more regional plaques or monuments to be created to commemorate the positive contributions of Chinese Canadians to B.C.’s history, culture and prosperity.
Extensive provincial consultation with British Columbia’s Chinese Canadian community, including a community forum held in Victoria in November 2013, led to the decision to establish this monument; government heard from local community members who were directly and indirectly impacted by historical discriminatory legislation.
The Cumberland monument was created in consultation with the Village of Cumberland. The monument project responds to the B.C. government’s commitment to create a Chinese legacy for all British Columbians.
Teresa Wat, Minister of International Trade and Minister Responsible for the Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism –
“B.C.’s Chinese community has played a pivotal role in shaping British Columbia into what it is today. This monument commemorates Cumberland’s Chinese Canadian pioneers and stands as an enduring testament to their strength, their dignity in the face of great adversity, and their many contributions to British Columbia.”
Don McRae, MLA for Comox Valley –
“Cumberland’s Chinese Canadian community, including coal miners, railway workers, merchants and their descendants, feature prominently in the story of Cumberland’s rich multicultural heritage. This plaque not only preserves the May 2014 apology in the legislature, it also creates a permanent legacy for all British Columbians and serves as a reminder that B.C. welcomes people of all cultures and backgrounds.”
Leslie Baird, mayor, Village of Cumberland –
“The provincial government’s previous recognition of the Cumberland Chinese Cemetery and Coal Creek Historical Park as places of historic significance reflects the cultural and historical impact the Chinese Canadian community has had on Cumberland. This commemorative monument also honours the many Chinese Canadian pioneers whose hard work and commitment to family and community will forever be remembered and appreciated.”
John Leung, former Cumberland Chinese Canadian community member –
“I was born in Cumberland, lived there for more than 80 years and put up with racism and discrimination. However, my wife and I persevered, raised our family, ran a business and became a part of Cumberland’s and B.C.’s rich multicultural mosaic. This commemoration means a lot to me because it recognizes the sacrifices and contributions made by our family and other Chinese Canadians to our community and our province.”
- In 1788, the first Chinese workers to come to British Columbia landed in Nuu-chah-nulth territory (Nootka Sound). They were part of Captain John Meares’ expedition to build the first year-round, non-Indigenous settlement.
- Today, B.C. is home to more than 460,000 Chinese Canadians, 11% of B.C.’s population.
- Government’s implementation of recommendations in the Chinese Historical Wrongs Consultation Final Report is guided with advice from the Legacy Initiatives Advisory Council (LIAC)
- The LIAC was created by government to assist with the Chinese legacy projects. It works with Chinese Canadian communities and other key partners to advise government on project implementation and to ensure that the projects are known and communicated throughout the province.
For more information about the Chinese legacy projects, visit: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/multiculturalism-anti-racism/chinese-legacy-bc