‘Nobody in the Chinese Canadian diaspora was surprised’: Diaspora communities balance fears of foreign meddling with political organizing

Of note:

As revelations continue to surface about interference by the Chinese government in recent Canadian elections, Canada’s diaspora communities say they’ve been warning about this issue for years.

They also insist that their communities have every right to organize politically and influence policy at every level of government and hope the recent revelations don’t cast a pall over these efforts.

Many members of the Chinese community said they had been warning government and security officials about foreign political interference from the Chinese government for years. 

“I can say with confidence that nobody in the Chinese Canadian diaspora was surprised at all when Global News first broke the story,” says Karen Woods, a co-founder of the Canadian Chinese Political Affairs Committee, a Toronto-based non-profit. 

Workers at the Chinese consulate in Toronto helped mobilize Chinese-Canadian voters to vote for Liberal candidate Han Dong in the riding of Don Valley North, according to recent reporting by Global News. Also reported were similar actions on behalf of the Chinese government in B.C. that contributed to the defeats of Conservative incumbents Alice Wong and Kenny Chiu in their Richmond ridings.

A string of stories by Global News and the Globe & Mail paint a picture of an intricate interference network set up by Chinese government actors to influence the 2019 and 2021 federal elections to ensure a Liberal victory. 

Calgary-based political scientist and Hub contributor Rahim Mohamed believes diaspora politics are organized to obtain greater cultural recognition within a country, or to influence a country’s foreign policy towards the “homeland,” which he notes is the right of any Canadian. 

“It may be an unseemly sort of politics to some, but it generally falls within the bounds of legitimate democratic activity,” says Mohamed. “If the recent intelligence leaks are to be believed, this is a clear-cut case of a hostile foreign power meddling in our democratic process, which is a totally different ball game.” 

Nonetheless, Mohamed believes diaspora politics can open the door to foreign interference in democratic elections.

“New Canadians have democratic rights just like all other Canadians. If they want to mobilize organically to influence public policy, I take no issue with that,” says Mohamed. “The challenge for policymakers will be dealing with the opportunities these diaspora networks give interloping foreign powers to meddle in our democratic processes.” 

With over 300,000 Cantonese speakers, 500,000 Mandarin speakers, and families that arrived last year or five generations ago, Woods says the Chinese-Canadian community is far too diverse to ever be fully under the sway of the Chinese government. 

“The Chinese-Canadian diaspora consists of people who have settled in Canada for more than five generations or people like me, who came to Canada at 12,” says Woods, who says most Chinese Canadians do not like the Chinese government. “We are no different than your everyday Canadian…we certainly are part of Team Canada.” 

Within the Chinese-Canadian community, Woods says some fault lines have developed between those whose families have lived in Canada for decades and new arrivals, as well as those born in Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Mainland, or outside China. 

“Based on these factors, your attitude toward Beijing and the CCP is going to be very different. And that is why you now have HK, Taiwanese voters that will never vote for a mainland candidate in elections,” says Woods. 

However, Woods says the Chinese government’s influence has helped silence divergent points of view on Hong Kong’s anti-extradition movement and the treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in western China. 

Hong Kong-born Canadians and residents, and pro-democracy activists more generally, are often confronted by supporters of the Chinese government when conducting demonstrations in cities like Vancouver and Toronto.

At the height of the 2019 anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong, crowds of pro-democracy and pro-Chinese government demonstrators at a busy Vancouver intersection had to be physically separated by the police

Kash Heed, a city councillor in Richmond, where over half of the population is of Chinese descent, says that diaspora communities have attempted to influence Canada’s relations with their ancestral homelands for hundreds of years, and this is present in every democracy. He says there is a marked distinction between members of a diaspora community attempting to influence Canadian politics and a foreign government directly interfering in Canadian elections. 

“If I can directly relate it to a foreign government, I don’t have a strong indication that they’re actively involved in it (electoral interference),” says Heed. “If I could relate it to foreigners that have come to Canada (and) that have settled in Canada, trying to influence which way we go, yes absolutely,” says Heed. 

When the Chinese government does target the diaspora in Canada, Woods says it is mostly the Mandarin-speaking community from Mainland China. 

“A large percentage of the Chinese Mainland diaspora certainly still supports Beijing, but I would also like to add that is not necessarily an ideologically driven affinity to the CCP,” says Woods, who notes there are many economic interests at play with China being Canada’s second-largest trading partner. “That adds a lot of weight.”  

Mohamed says one example of diaspora politics was the political shift of the Chinese-Australian community in the country’s 2022 federal election. 

Pointing out that Australian electoral districts with the largest Chinese-Australian populations swung heavily towards the Labor Party, Mohamed says it was reported as a response to the Liberal-National government’s deteriorating relationship with China. 

Labor, which ultimately unseated the Liberal-National government, has pursued a more moderate relationship with Beijing but has not reneged on regional security agreements aimed at countering China’s geopolitical ambitions in the Pacific region.

Source: ‘Nobody in the Chinese Canadian diaspora was surprised’: Diaspora communities balance fears of foreign meddling with political organizing 

Conservatives had sudden, unusual drop in votes in ridings of concern for Chinese interference: data

Good analysis of election data and hard to argue that there was no effect due to Chinese government influence or interference given the scale and concentration of the drop. The pollsters consulted I think are being overly coy and neither I believe has detailed polling of Chinese Canadians or understanding of their issues (the Harper government was more harsh on China and yet did well among Chinese Canadians):
Evidence of China’s alleged influence in the 2021 federal election might be found as much in what didn’t happen as what did — namely, the significant number of previous Conservative voters who did not show up to cast a ballot in ridings in British Columbia and Ontario.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced probes into allegations of foreign interference last week after several media reports suggested Beijing had directed an interference campaign in a few ridings in the Toronto and Vancouver areas.The National Post reviewed voting tallies from ridings identified as areas of concern by various reports and by Conservative campaign officials. The ridings are all home to large populations of Chinese Canadians.

Across multiple ridings, a similar pattern emerged: Conservative candidates saw significantly fewer supporters coming to the polls, however the Liberals did not see large gains, indicating not that large numbers of voters switched allegiances, but that for some reason, large numbers of voters did not vote at all.

Markham–Unionville is one of the ridings Conservatives have pointed to as a concern. The former MP, Bob Saroya, won the suburban Toronto seat in 2015 and 2019 as a lonely blue island in a sea of Liberal red across the region.

In 2015, Saroya received 24,605 votes, about 3,000 more than his Liberal challenger, allowing him to take a seat from the Liberals even as the Trudeau government was swept to power. Saroya held the seat in 2019, receiving just over 26,000 votes, but in 2021 his vote total fell by more than 7,000 and he lost.

The victorious Liberal MP, Paul Chiang, put on a strong campaign garnering nearly 22,000 votes. It was Chiang’s first election, and on doorsteps he emphasized his strong local roots in the riding and his decades of work as a police officer. Trudeau visited the riding several times. But Chiang only received 1,500 more votes than the previous Liberal candidate did. Far more important to the election result was the steep drop in support for Saroya.

Chiang has shown no evident favouritism to China since being elected, voting for a motion condemning the Chinese government for their treatment of the Uyghur genocide just last month.

In B.C., former Conservative MP Alice Wong won the seat for Richmond Centre in 2015 with more than 17,000 votes and in 2019 with more than 19,000 votes. But in 2021, her vote count sank by almost 6,000 votes, to 13,440. She lost to a Liberal, despite the Liberal vote increasing only by about 2,000.

Several other ridings around Toronto and Vancouver with large Chinese Canadian populations saw declines in Conservative support, without the bulk of that support switching to other parties.

Former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu lost his Steveston-Richmond East riding after 4,400 fewer Conservative supporters voted for him in 2021 than in 2019. He has alleged a misinformation campaign was spread on Chinese social media apps, including WeChat, about his party and his positions, including that the Conservatives were going to ban WeChat.

However, Chiu also said many of his constituents were extremely cautious of COVID and Trudeau’s decision to run an election during a pandemic hurt his campaign.“It’s understandable right in the middle of the pandemic, that people not only would not open their door, let alone go out to the ballot and vote,” Chiu said.

Chiu’s riding has been hotly contested in the past. He won fairly narrowly in 2019 after losing in 2015. He said he is still convinced there was outside interference, because the time between the 2019 and 2021 elections had been so short, and most of the news about the Liberals during that time was negative.

“Between 2015 and 2019, there are four years. Between 2019 and 2021, there are 22 months, and all of that (time) it’s all pandemic and it’s full of government scandals,” Chiu said.

Éric Grenier, a polling analyst who runs The Writ website, said it’s clear the Conservatives lost support in a wide swath of ridings, and supporters mostly stayed home“It is pretty clear that the Conservatives were in trouble in ridings with big Chinese Canadian populations, because they did lose a lot more support in those ridings than they did in neighbouring ridings,” he said.

Grenier said many factors could explain the drop. To begin, overall voter turnout dropped by five per cent between 2019 and 2021. He also points to local candidate factors and other possibilities.

“In these ridings, it’s clear that something was happening that was motivating those voters, it’s just impossible to say what it was.”

Andrew Enns, vice president with polling firm Léger, said these ridings are an anomaly because the Conservative vote declined, even as it rose more broadly across Ontario and British Columbia. He agrees there could be many other factors at play.

“You’ve got to really look at other factors, the quality of the candidate. Did something happen to that local candidate in the campaign? And I don’t have any answers to that. But it is certainly an unusual trend.”

Enns said it is also possible Chinese Canadians soured on the Conservatives. While there was evidence of misinformation circulating about the party’s view on China, the party’s then leader, Erin O’Toole, generally favoured a more hawkish stance with the country.

Source: Conservatives had sudden, unusual drop in votes in ridings of concern for Chinese interference: data

Chinese interference in Canada? Chinese Canadians say they reported it for years — and were ignored

Of note:

The first time Cheuk Kwan and Sheng Xue testified to a parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee was in 2006. They warned of Beijing’s desire to “control everything” including activities of Canadians, and urged Ottawa to adopt a stronger stance in order to “earn (China’s) respect and not wrath.” 

“But every time we spoke to the government, it felt like we were putting on a show and helping them tick off a box that they were hearing from critics. Nothing was done,” Kwan said. 

Nearly 20 years later, he said they are part of a group of veteran Chinese-Canadian advocates and experts on China who are still struggling to be heard. 

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apparently relented. He is set to ask MPs and senators on Parliament’s national security committee to launch a new investigation of foreign interference in Canada.

None of the recent leaks of Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) warnings about Beijing’s foreign interference have surprised people in the country’s Chinese diaspora who have directly experienced Beijing’s intimidation and harassment, they say. 

“These are not even open secrets. It’s common knowledge,” said Kwan, an author and filmmaker who co-founded the Chinese Canadian National Council in 1980. “It’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Kwan’s group supported those who fled to Canada from China following the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, and he has since witnessed Beijing’s mobilization of resources to influence other societies, particularly in places such as Canada, the U.S. and Australia where many Chinese diaspora settled. 

These days most of the blame is attributed to the increasingly infamous United Front Work Department. Since 1979, the United Front has been an official bureau in China that employs thousands of agents to pursue the Chinese Communist Party’s political strategy to use international networks to advance its global interests. According to official documents, the bureau takes special interest in people of Chinese descent living abroad, viewing them as powerful external threats as well as potential allies. 

Kwan alleges that his organization was targeted by United Front astroturfing: a new group arose with a very similar name, and it started issuing press statements and interviews that regularly opposed his own group’s messages, while boasting of connections to the Chinese consulate in Toronto. 

He and others also became suspicious when they saw buses of people arrive at federal political nomination meetings to support candidates who were known to shy away from critical messages about China, or when buses of international students in Toronto arrived to participate in counterprotests defending China’s position. 

Sources in the Chinese-Canadian community tell the Star that they have sent many tips, including copies of email correspondence, to RCMP and CSIS. In 2018, Mounties in Metro Vancouver probed allegations that the Chinese-state-linked Canada Wenzhou Friendship Society sent out messages on the social-media app WeChat urging chat group members to vote for certain candidates in mayoral elections — and offering a $20 transportation subsidy. But police later said they found no evidence of voter manipulation. 

“Even if there was proof the Chinese consulate or its proxies paid for transportation or paid people directly to support certain candidates or to protest, it’s hard to explain to Canadians the nefarious ways the Chinese state uses its tools and resources to try to influence our democracy,” Kwan said. While media had published the leaked WeChat screenshots offering the $20 subsidy, it is unclear why RCMP found that this was insufficient evidence of voter manipulation. 

And these are relatively subtle forms of influence, Kwan said: Beijing’s blunt tactic of coercion on Canadians is to threaten their friends, family members or business connections in China. 

He and others collected testimony and documentation, and published a report in 2017 with Amnesty International on a “sustained campaign of intimidation and harassment aimed at activists working on China-related human rights issues in Canada, in circumstances suggesting the involvement or backing of Chinese government officials.”

“We sent copies to the RCMP and to the Prime Minister’s Office, but it was ignored,” Kwan said. 

Numerous reports emerge over years

The report detailed threatening phone calls and physical confrontations of Canadians, improper detention of Canadians at Chinese airports, threats of retaliation against relatives living in China and online smear and disinformation campaigns. 

This was followed by a cascade of research from academics and advocacy groups, including Alliance Canada Hong Kong, journalist Jonathan Manthorpe’s book “Claws of the Panda,” and Australian researcher Alex Joske warning that Beijing’s foreign interference is “likely widespread” in Canada. 

Canada does not have laws or protocols in place for police and CSIS to work together with different levels of government to counter foreign interference. Following reports of intimidation of Canadians of Sikh heritage by Indian authorities, Canada’s Ministry of Public Safety told the Star that “anyone who feels threatened online or in person should report these incidents to their local police.”

But many Canadians have told the Star that their reports of threats from foreign actors to police have gone largely unheeded. A Chinese student in Quebec only had two followers on Twitter, but he still didn’t escape Beijing’s tactics, which he alleged included tracking his IP address and threatening his father living in China. 

Chinese-Canadian reporters and others would whisper to each other the names of Canadian politicians of various backgrounds who they saw having meetings or attending events with Chinese consulate staff. But without support from Canadian law enforcement, they didn’t dare air those observations publicly, Kwan said.

Last year Victor Ho — the former editor of Sing Tao Daily, Canada’s largest Chinese-Canadian newspaper, who has been outspoken on pressures from the Chinese government on Canadian media — was placed on a “wanted list” by security officials in Hong Kong. He was accused of violating the territory’s National Security Law, which applies to anyone in the world regardless of nationality. 

In the wake of recent reporting from the Globe and Mail and Global TV on leaked CSIS warnings, spy chief David Vigneault tolda parliamentary committee that a registry of foreign officials or agents would make it easier to track activities of people intent on influencing or interfering in Canadian elections on behalf of foreign governments.

“CSIS has been talking about foreign influence for the last few years — foreign interference — and I think that tool would be useful,” Vigneault said last Thursday. “It wouldn’t solve all our problems, but it would increase transparency.”

The most aggressive actors trying to influence Canadian lawmakers and voters are China, Russia and Iran, which try to coerce or pressure people within expat communities abroad — or leverage sympathizers in Canada — to exert influence on elections, nomination contests or public debate, the committee heard.

Trudeau is facing increasing pressure from the public and opposition parties to launch a public inquiry into allegations of foreign interference. Until Monday he had rejected calls for a probe, and said “there are ongoing public committee hearings … where those heads of agencies and people responsible for safety and integrity of our elections are testifying publicly on all the work that’s being done.” 

The RCMP told Parliament last week they are not investigating any allegations related to foreign interference from the 2021 federal election. 

The Globe and Mail and Global TV have separately reported several specific details about what happened in both the 2019 and 2021 campaigns. Among them: China being behind the nomination of Liberal candidate Han Dong ahead of the 2019 election; undeclared cash donations to candidates; schemes to have some of that money paid back to donors; having businesses hire Chinese students who were then lent out to volunteer and intimidation campaigns.

China has disputed all of the allegations.

The Star has not verified the reports independently, and security officials at the committee repeatedly declined to do the same, saying they couldn’t “validate” or “speak to” the allegations.

Sheng Xue was among those who fled to Canada from Beijing following the Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-reform demonstrators in 1989. Here, she continued to work as a journalist and became vice-president of the Canadian chapter of the Federation for a Democratic China. 

“The Canadian chapter has been quite active for the past 33 years. We’ve had yearly closed-door meetings with Global Affairs Canada,” Sheng told the Star.

Advocacy in Canada for human rights in China used to be a popular and mainstream activity among immigrants from China, she said. But Beijing soon turned to threatening their family members back in China to try to stifle their activities. 

“It was very effective. We lost a lot of members. When your parents or relatives are being harassed and threatened, most people won’t be able to stand it. Especially those who still wanted to go back to China to visit their families.” 

Sheng did not bow to this pressure, and in September 1996, she was arrested by Chinese police when she tried to visit her mother in Beijing. She was interrogated by more than a dozen officers for 24 hours, and then deported back to Canada. 

“My Canadian passport saved me. I have never been able to go back to China and my dad passed away in 1992 and I couldn’t see him. Luckily, my mom was able to come to Canada and she lived with me for many years,” said Sheng, who is now in her early sixties. 

Smear campaign includes fake nude photos 

She thought she would be safe living with her mother in Greater Toronto, But since 2014, the award-winning writer has faced a relentless online smear campaign, including fake nude photos and a photo that seemed to show her kissing a man who is not her husband. 

“This started in 2014, the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. In addition to the online posts and images, thousands of emails were sent to my contacts with the material and if you Google my name in Chinese, there are still a lot of fake nude photos as well as my phone number listed in fake online ads offering sex services,” she said. The Star has viewed copies of the emails and photographs. 

Sheng went to police all over North America to plead for help. 

“I remember going to a police station in Mississauga to report, and the officer just advised me to change my phone number. I told him, ‘Whatever new number I choose, they will find it out right away.’” 

“This is how the Chinese regime makes people feel isolated and hopeless.”

“Of course, the CSIS leaks aren’t surprising. We’ve spent years sharing information to Parliament,” said Uyghur Canadian human-rights advocate Mehmet Tohti, echoing Kwan and Sheng’s frustrations.

In the early 1990s, when the Chinese government was already targeting Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, the biology teacher left China for Turkey and then Canada. For over a decade, as China interned an estimated over a million people in Xinjiang in “re-education camps,” Tohti has been a prominent advocate, co-founding the World Uyghur Congress and working as the executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project based in Ottawa. 

For this work, he alleges, Chinese police threatened his mother at gunpoint and ordered her to not speak to her son again. The last time he spoke with her was on the phone in 2016 — to say goodbye. 

‘It’s time for my cousin to pay the price’

More recently, ahead of an unanimous House of Commons vote last month to accept 10,000 Uyghur refugees, a move that Tohti lobbied for, he said he received a menacing call from Chinese police. 

“They told me that my mother died and my two sisters are dead and it’s time for my cousin to pay the price. The message was basically that my family paid a heavy price and if I don’t stop, my cousin will be in danger. It’s a direct threat and it’s still ongoing,” Tohti told the Star. He said his mother had passed away from a stroke, but he believes his sisters are still alive. 

Canada, along with other Western nations, imposed sanctions on high-ranking officials in China in 2021 over what it said were “gross and systematic human rights violations” against Uyghurs. 

Tohti said he has spoken to the Canadian government at least 30 times, and while he is appreciative of existing support for Uyghurs, he thinks it is time for Ottawa to do more to protect them once they’re living in Canada, where they remain vulnerable to persecution. 

Advocates tell the Star that any new approach to countering foreign interference in Canada should involve a whole-of-government approach and apply to all countries and not just China, since local-level politicians and grassroots community groups are as vulnerable to intimidation and meddling as federal politicians.

“What’s happening is the hijacking of families back home to push Canadian citizens in Canada to live under the norms of the Chinese Communist Party and not as free citizens of Canada,” Tohti said. 

Kwan said with a sigh: “We have been talking about the same things in the (leaked) CSIS reports for years but getting much less attention.” 

“If it takes secret spy documents to finally get people’s attention, that is fine.” 

Source: Chinese interference in Canada? Chinese Canadians say they reported it for years — and were ignored

Take political interference claims seriously, Chinese community leaders say

Is it only the PM and his supporters that aren’t taking this seriously? The drip-drip of evidence, along with the refusal for some form of public enquiry, continues to undermine trust in the governing party and government more generally:

It isn’t racist to raise concerns about foreign interference in Canadian elections, say Chinese community leaders, adding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should investigate concerns openly.

When Trudeau said recent media attention to foreign interference in elections was racist, he was using a deflection technique also employed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), said Bill Chu of the Chinese-Canadian Concerned Group on the Chinese Communist Party’s Human Rights Violations.

“He should be more concerned about national security, he should be more concerned about sovereignty,” Chu said.

Chu, a longtime anti-racism advocate in British Columbia, said the comments also ultimately conflate Chinese people with the CCP, a tactic China’s government often uses to try to silence criticism by trying to spin it into an instance of racism.

On Monday, after more than a week of political pressure over explosive news reports about China’s attempts to influence Canadian elections, Trudeau said the most recent attention on Toronto Liberal MP, Han Dong, stems from racism.

“One of the things we’ve seen unfortunately over the past years is a rise in anti-Asian racism linked to the pandemic, and concerns being arisen around people’s loyalties,” Trudeau said Monday in Mississauga.

“I want to make everyone understand fully: Han Dong is an outstanding member of our team, and suggestions that he is somehow not loyal to Canada should not be entertained.”

Last week, Global News reported Dong was a “witting affiliate” in Beijing’s attempts to help him become the Liberal candidate and run for the party in North York.

The report cited unnamed sources who said that Canada’s spy agency — the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) — started tracking Dong in 2019. Officials also suggested to Trudeau’s office that the Liberals should drop Han as a candidate due to the concerns.

Trudeau has said CSIS cannot direct political parties on what candidates they can run in elections.

“Instead of allowing the CSIS input to stand he’s actually allowing the input of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to stand.

“The PRC has been using the racism card for the longest time,” Chu said.

Meanwhile, Fenella Sung of Canadian Friends of Hong Kong said she doesn’t think the news stories come from racism.

“I would encourage people to no longer pull the racist card out every time those kind of legitimate questions are asked about our politicians,” Sung said. “You need to look at the facts.”

Sung said Chinese Canadians are more vulnerable to infiltration by CCP officials because of the shared language, culture and communities, making it more important for Ottawa to address the issue head-on rather than allow a cloud of suspicion to hang over them.

She said the government is throwing Chinese Canadians under the bus by trying to subdue the conversation with allegations of racism when it should be getting everything out in the open.

A full independent inquiry with subpoena power to investigate the allegations is in order, adding such an inquiry would be beneficial to Canada’s Chinese communities, Sung said.

Audrey Champoux, press secretary for the office of the Minister of Public Safety, said in a statement the federal government is “soberly aware of incidents in which hostile foreign actors have attempted to monitor, intimidate or threaten Canadians and those living here.”

It said it uses all tools to respond to such threats.

Former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques said Trudeau’s reaction to the unfolding concerns suggests he’s “getting desperate” and the racism allegations would be welcomed by the Chinese embassy as it echoes their own lines of deflection.

Saint-Jacques said Canada is risking its international partnerships by not acting fast and taking the allegations seriously.

“Once your security services tell you ‘watch out this candidate has close links with the Chinese government,’ and probably that comes with some details to buttress the allegations, then you have to take this seriously,” he said.

Source: Take political interference claims seriously, Chinese community leaders say

Newly released federal records reveal ‘darkest days’ of Chinese exclusion era

Part of our history:
Standing over a table at the Chinese Canadian Museum in Chinatown, Brandt Louie slowly and methodically sifts through the documents before him — occasionally bristling at what he sees.
The scanned, century-old documents were forms filled by bureaucrats as they interrogated and kept track of all existing Chinese in Canada after Ottawa imposed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1923, which banned immigration from China for almost a quarter of a century.
The nine documents Louie showed to a reporter Wednesday record the registration of Louie’s grandparents, his father and six uncles.

They are the first to be seen in a set that includes 56,000 similar documents for other Chinese in Canada at the time.

“We were quite excited because when we started to look through them, we realized that all the things we had heard about are now true,” said Louie, the 79-year-old B.C. businessman who is president and CEO of the H.Y. Louie Co. Ltd., which distributes to IGA stores, and the chairman of London Drugs.

Some of the records have small but important details such as the exact year his grandfather arrived, or that his grandmother was exempt from the head tax because she arrived in Canada as a “merchant’s wife.”

He said confirming oral history and buttressing stories didn’t carry much relevance for him before, but anti-Asian racism during the pandemic made him reconsider the value of doing this so they can be of value to the current and next generation.

He has been writing opinion pieces, promoting the Chinatown Storytelling Centre and a new exhibit, “Seeds to Success,” at the Chinese Canadian Museum in Chinatown that traces his family’s experience.

“When we heard these stories before, we used to merely assume they were stories of previous generations, that they didn’t apply to us,” said Louie.

For decades, the 56,000 forms have been stored at Library and Archives Canada, which was reluctant to make them accessible until Randall Wong, the first Chinese-Canadian lawyer to be appointed to a federal court, joined others in calling for them to be released.

Historian Catherine Clement is currently cataloguing the forms. She estimates the process will take a year and then they will be publicly available.

“What’s fascinating is that this is a snapshot of our community just before it enters its darkest days. And I always remind people, at the time this happened no one knew if this (Exclusion Act) law would come off the books, if things would change or get better. You couldn’t foresee it would last (until 1947).”

She notes that newspapers at the time give a sense of how the mass registration drive provoked fear and anxiety as much as the closing of immigration.

“There are headlines where we the community is afraid of the registration, afraid of how they’re going to be interrogated, of what’s going to happen to people if they don’t remember exactly what boat they came in,” said Clement.

Louie’s grandfather, Hok Yat Louie, who started the family’s legacy in Canada as a wholesale grocer, would have taken his family in for the process, submitting three photographs for each person. His form states he arrived in Victoria in 1898 while his grandmother, Young Shee, arrived in Vancouver in 1911. The forms for his father and six uncles list them as being born in Vancouver with two recorded as being 10- and 11-year-old schoolboys and the youngest a three-year-old child.

Each has “facial marks and physical peculiarities” listed, including the location and size of scars and moles, whether they are raised or small, by the left jaw or over the right eyebrow.

“It was really quite a classification,” said Louie, reading through the forms. “It’s almost as if (they) had to undergo a physical examination because how would you know where all these moles are?”

Louie remembers that even after the Exclusion Act was in place, his grandfather did go to China a few times as he was still in the business of importing sesame seeds, ginger and walnuts.

“If he wasn’t in the registry, he would have been denied entry. It was used to track people,” he said.

Clement, who is gathering the beige paper identity cards known as C.I. certificates issued by the government to people after they were registered in 1923, said that while families are finding and bringing some of these in, many have also been lost or damaged.

“Even though tens of thousands were issued, there are so few left. In some families, they didn’t recognize the value and so they threw them out. It was just grandma’s stuff. Or as soon as they got their citizenship (in later years), the first thing they did was to rip them up because of the symbolism.”

And Clement was able to manually go through and find the nine documents for the Louie family members because they had one beige paper card for Quan Louie, the uncle who was three-years-old when he was registered.

Source: Newly released federal records reveal ‘darkest days’ of Chinese exclusion era

Ethnic and immigrant Chinese have range of feelings toward Beijing Olympics

Not that surprising to find a diversity of views:

Shuyu Kong recalls being a new Asian studies professor at a Canadian university when Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008.

Now, in 2022, with many years of seeing students explore their identity and a sense of belonging, the Simon Fraser University academic is once again thinking about the feelings of those with ethnic, heritage or immigrant ties to China as the Winter Olympics unfold in Beijing.

Source: Ethnic and immigrant Chinese have range of feelings toward Beijing Olympics

COVID-19 related racism impacts sense of belonging, reporting incidents: Study

Of interest given lack of major difference between first and second generation:
The dramatic increase in reports to Vancouver police of hate crimes targeted at Asian-Canadians in 2020 shocked many.

Now, a new study delves into the psychological impact of experiencing COVID-19 and racism when it comes to the sense of belonging held by different generations of Chinese-Canadians. It finds these feelings could hinder the reporting of incidents just as policy-makers are grappling with how to better understand what’s happening.

Source: COVID-19 related racism impacts sense of belonging, reporting incidents: Study

Chinese-Canadian Tories urge O’Toole to resign, saying tough-on-China platform alienated voters

One perspective within the Chinese Canadian community, largely aligned with Beijing:

A group representing Conservatives of Chinese descent is urging Erin O’Toole to resign as federal leader, charging that his call for a tougher approach to China alienated Chinese-Canadian voters and cost the party three seats in last month’s election.

The Chinese Canadian Conservative Association is advocating a less-confrontational stance toward Beijing, saying immigrants from the Mainland don’t like the Communist Party but still feel affection for China as a nation.

Source: Chinese-Canadian Tories urge O’Toole to resign, saying tough-on-China platform alienated voters

Racist labour exploitation continues in multicultural Canada [Odd to showcase Chinese Canadians]

Bit surprising that one would choose Chinese Canadians as the example of contemporary exploitation compared to other visible minority groups and temporary residents. Issues of anti-Asian hate, of course, have increased during COVID-19:

The history of racialized labour exploitation that began with Chinese workers arriving in Canada in the 19th century to take up jobs employers had trouble filling with European settlers continues unabated in multicultural Canada.

Canada has been applauded for being the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as federal policy. Multiculturalism, which turns 50 years old on Oct. 8, successfully established a positive image of Canada as a diverse, inclusive and immigrant-friendly nation.

Multiculturalism has defined national identity, resulting in Canadians perceiving themselves as tolerant, benevolent and peace-loving. It has persuaded many people to immigrate to Canada and many refugees to look toward Canada for safety.

However, multiculturalism as state policy has also perpetuated the discriminatory immigration and labour policies of white Canada. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become evident that Canada’s job market simultaneously relies on Asian essential workers and scorns them.

Canada has witnessed a sharp increase in racial violence against Asian Canadians during the pandemic.

The most recent uptick in anti-Asian racism is not an aberrant response by anxious or fearful Canadians during a health crisis, but the continuation of old hierarchies of racial difference, a legacy of legalized and everyday racism that structures the lives of Asian Canadians and other racialized minorities.

It will be important to ensure that anti-Asian racism during COVID-19 is not obliterated from Canada’s collective memory of the pandemic.

Robust public education, through intentional changes in school curricula and public outreach, informed by the experiences of affected communities, can help Canadians unlearn biases and understand Canada’s history of racial violence. Remembering the past might provoke inquiry into the ways things are and how they should be.

According to the 2016 census, one in five Canadians are foreign-born, and half of these are from Asia. A little more than a quarter of all Canadian children have at least one foreign-born parent. Chinese presence in Canada can be traced back to the early 19th century and Asian Canadians are sometimes called the “model minority.

How then did Asian minorities of varying age, immigration status and national origin suddenly become objects of hatred during the pandemic?

A look back at 1960s and 70s immigration reforms is helpful in situating anti-Asian racism during the current pandemic.

British Columbia was the site of the first Asian settlement in Canada, when Chinese prospectors were lured by the gold rush. Soon after, the Canadian government actively recruited Chinese labourers to build the Canadian Pacific Railway.

After the completion of the CPR, Chinese workers began taking up employment in logging camps, fisheries and mines, before competition between white and Chinese workers culminated in calls for legislation to restrict Chinese immigration. The perceived threat fermented into a stereotype of the Chinese, and then eventually other Asians, as a menace or “yellow peril.”

The Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration of 1885 was established to assess the impact of Chinese immigration to Canada. The commission heard testimony linking infectious disease to Chinese sanitation, food habits, housing and cultural practices. While the commissioners found little evidence to support those claims, they recommended restricting Chinese immigration. This laid the grounds for exclusionary immigration policies, such as the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, which levied a head tax on all Chinese immigrants, and the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, which more or less stopped Chinese immigration entirely.

Reforms in immigration policy in the 1960s and 70s facilitated Canada’s rebranding of itself as a multicultural nation. The elimination of overt racial distinctions in immigration policy signalled a successful transition from a white settler colony to a multiracial society.

The selective entry of workers based upon Canada’s economic needs continued, however. The introduction of the point system in 1967, for example, favoured immigrants from particular professions and educational backgrounds. New immigrants selected to come from Asia were largely medical, industrial and other professionals, and this change in the immigrant profile fed the “model minority” stereotype.

The celebration of the “model” multicultural subject sets off racial groups against one another and shapes the public’s understanding of national well-being and threat. It masks the fears and anxieties that the increasing visibility of racialized minorities in Canada provokes in white settlers. By inscribing inclusivity and cultural diversity as core Canadian values, Canada’s policy of “multiculturalism within a bilingual framework” articulates a narrative of tolerant nationhood, erasing claims of Indigenous peoples to their land along with the history of African Canadian slavery.

Despite the point system that enabled the entry of skilled immigrants, data shows that racialized immigrants continue to experience higher levels of unemployment and earn less income than white Canadians. Our labour-market policies have resulted in the over-representation of Asian Canadians in so-called essential jobs which are typically low-paying, low-skilled and precarious, such as warehouse, personal support, and cleaning work.

Some of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 in Canada have occurred in long-term care and meat-packing facilities, where racialized people, including Asians, are disproportionately employed. More than 1,500 COVID-19 cases were linked to the Cargill meat plant in Alberta, the largest COVID-19 outbreak linked to a single facility in North America, where 70 per cent of employees are of Filipino descent.

The current pandemic has also brought to light how early 19thcentury representations of the Chinese as “a serious public health risk” combined with legalized racism in immigration policy have effectively embedded in public consciousness the perception of Asian Canadians as disease carriers and foreigners within their own nation. Yet Canada’s successful marketing of official multiculturalism as an end to past racism and the framing of recent or emergent racism as aberrations deter acknowledgement of exclusionary and discriminatory policies contributing to anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Asian Canadians, the pandemic has intensified the racial grief of exclusion from their own nation. In June 2020, a survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the University of Alberta suggested a “shadow pandemic” of racism exists. Exactly half of surveyed Canadians of Chinese ethnicity reported being called names or insulted as a direct result of the COVID-19 outbreak, and 43 per cent said they had been threatened or intimidated.

Learning the history of anti-Chinese racism in Canada can equip us to intervene in structural racism, which must take a central place in the pandemic recovery process, so that living well together, which is the premise of multiculturalism, can be grounded in justice, rather than mere tolerance of difference or selective inclusion.

Improved public policy that moves past celebrating diversity and enhances cross-cultural, cross-racial learning can facilitate difficult and necessary conversations.

Source: Racist labour exploitation continues in multicultural Canada

Conservatives could have done better job talking to Chinese Canadian voters: ex-MP

Of note:

A former Conservative MP who lost his seat in the recent election thinks the party could have done a better job speaking directly to Chinese Canadians.

Kenny Chiu was defeated in Steveston-Richmond East, a British Columbia riding with many residents of Chinese descent.

The party also saw the losses of longtime Conservative MP Alice Wong in Richmond Centre and Bob Saroya in Markham-Unionville, both home to many voters with Chinese roots. Neither responded to requests for comment from The Canadian Press.

The defeats have the Conservatives wondering what happened, and what connection the losses might have to the party’s stance and messaging on China.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has been an outspoken critic of China’s human rights abuses, calling on the Liberal government to adopt a tougher approach with the authoritarian regime.

Chiu says there’s no single reason for his loss, but points to online WeChat posts he says contained false information about the Conservatives and allegations a private member’s bill he tabled would discriminate against Chinese Canadians.

“Hindsight is always 20/20. I think there could be more proactive communication directly addressing Canadians of Chinese descent that we could have done,” Chiu said in an interview.

The party could have bought more targeted advertisements, he said, adding it’s clear the communication efforts weren’t enough to counter what he considers misinformation.

Improving how Conservatives speak to constituents is one of the issues Chiu said he had hoped to raise heading into the next session of Parliament. Another was how to reassure people that their criticism of the potential influence of the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t mean they are attacking China, a country with a rich and storied history, or its people.

O’Toole hasn’t addressed the issue specifically, but expressed general disappointment in last week’s election results, promising that what went wrong will be examined in a postelection review. Details have yet to be provided on its parameters or who will lead it.

Besides failing to grow the party in key areas like the Greater Toronto Area and Metro Vancouver, home to many immigrants and new Canadians, the Conservatives have five fewer elected people of colour because of defeats in and around these two cities, as well as in Calgary.

That comes as a hit to O’Toole’s pledge to grow the party, and make it a place where more Canadians and people of all backgrounds call home.

During the campaign he tried courting voters by telling them Conservatives were no longer their dad’s or grandfather’s party, despite having a predominantly white caucus.

For Tenzin Khangsar, who worked for Jason Kenney when the Alberta premier served as immigration minister under former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, success in making inroads with newcomer communities came down to having an authentic presence there before any election was called.

Under Harper, Kenney prioritized aggressive outreach with diaspora communities, noting that Canada’s demographics had changed.

Kenney was a key supporter of O’Toole’s when he ran to win the party’s leadership in 2020, with O’Toole crediting his former colleague for having helped grow the party when he served in Harper’s cabinet.

More recently, Conservative MPs including Alberta’s Tim Uppal have apologized for not speaking out when he was in Harper’s government against its efforts to ban face coverings during citizenship ceremonies and its 2015 election promise to set up a so-called “barbaric cultural practices” hotline.

Source: Conservatives could have done better job talking to Chinese Canadian voters: ex-MP