A commemorative monument unveiled today in the Kamloops Chinese Heritage Cemetery recognizes the contributions of Chinese Canadians to British Columbia’s rich cultural, historical and economic mosaic.
The monument consists of a recently completed steel plaque; in addition to existing steel plaques in English and Chinese affixed to a gazebo identifying those interred in the cemetery, and 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 serves as a permanent reminder of the Chinese workers who helped to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 1800s. Those who survived the dangerous work of building the railway later worked on local farms or in orchards. Others became merchants and restaurant owners.
This monument is the fourth 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 Kamloops monument was created in consultation with the Kamloops Chinese Cultural Association and the Kamloops Chinese Freemasons. This project is the result of the B.C. government’s commitment to create a Chinese legacy for all British Columbians, stemming from the May 2014 apology by B.C.’s legislative assembly.
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.
The first marker was celebrated in Kelowna in December 2016.
Teresa Wat, Minister of International Trade and Minister Responsible for Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism –
“Chinese Canadians have helped to shape British Columbia into the welcoming and inclusive place it is today. This monument commemorates Kamloops Chinese Canadian pioneers and stands as an enduring testament to their many contributions to Kamloops and to British Columbia.”
Todd Stone, MLA for Kamloops/South Thompson –
“Kamloops values the many Chinese Canadian pioneers, including railway workers, farmers and merchants, who were subjected to unacceptable racist policies. This monument 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.”
Terry Lake, MLA for Kamloops/North Thompson –
“The monument established in the Kamloops Chinese Heritage Cemetery – a place of historic significance in British Columbia – is a fitting tribute to the many Chinese Canadians who travelled to Kamloops in search of a better life and helped to build our community into the vibrant and accepting place that it is today.”
Joe Leong, executive director, Kamloops Chinese Cultural Association –
“This monument honours the hundreds of Chinese Canadians buried in this cemetery and the many others and their descendants who lived, worked and went to school in the Kamloops area. When people visit their ancestors or simply come here to feel at peace, the monument will remind them that Chinese Canadians are an important part of the multicultural fabric of our province.”
Elsie Cheung, president, Kamloops Chinese Freemasons –
“Eighty per cent of the people buried in the Kamloops Chinese Heritage Cemetery were Chinese Freemasons and I am so proud of the work we have done to revitalize and care for the cemetery over the past 40 years. This monument is another way of honouring our Chinese Canadian ancestors and ensuring their struggles and sacrifices to build a better B.C. are never forgotten.”
Harry Marr, descendent of Kamloops Chinese Canadian pioneers –
“My family was separated for years both by the Second World War and by racist government policies that prevented Chinese immigration. My mom was forced to raise my brother and I in China while our dad worked in Canada. When our family was finally reunited in 1950, we made Kamloops our home. I still live here with my wife, surrounded by our children and grandchildren, and am so pleased to see a permanent tribute to the hardships faced by Chinese Canadians and the rich and productive lives that so many of us built in British Columbia.”
- The B.C. government provided $1 million for the Chinese legacy projects, and $100,000 of this funding is designated for the provincial monuments project.
- Locations for markers and monuments were recommended by the Legacy Initiatives Advisory Council (LIAC), which provides advice to government on B.C.’s Chinese legacy projects.
- Extensive provincial consultations with British Columbia’s Chinese Canadian community, including a community forum held in Kamloops in December 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.
Chinese legacy projects:
Chinese Historical Wrongs Consultation Final Report and Recommendations: