On-line Chinese Canadian history exhibit created

A Web-based national exhibit dedicated to Chinese Canadian history will be officially launched on Saturday (August 28). Created by the Foundation to Commemorate the Chinese Railroad Workers in Canada, it illuminates the experiences of the early Chinese immigrants who worked on the last phase of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and chronicles how their descendants were affected by the Chinese head tax , in place from 1885 to 1923, and the virtual ban on Chinese immigration to Canada between 1923 and 1947.

Former journalist Bradley Lee and Angela Wood curated the project. “We’re retelling standard Canadian history around Confederation and the building of the railway in a way that includes Chinese Canadians,” Lee told the Straight by phone from Toronto.

The on-line exhibit is called The Ties That Bind: Building the CPR, Building a Place in Canada. It includes the stories of four Lower Mainland residents: Brian Joe, Kevan Jangze, Cindy Leong, and David Wong. Visitors to the site will learn that Joe’s father was born in Canada and wanted to join the air force during the Second World War, but was turned away because he was Chinese.

Jangze’s father, who was also Canadian-born, was allowed to serve as a special operations commando in Asia in the Second World War, even though he didn’t qualify for citizenship because he was Chinese. Meanwhile, Wong’s grandfather was separated from his family for decades because of the ban on Chinese immigration.

Lee said he hopes that the project, which is at www.mhso.ca/TTB/, will help secondary and postsecondary students “question whether or not the standard telling of history is adequate”. The on-line exhibit is part of a two-year project that will also include a video and other educational materials. It was funded by a $140,000 federal grant from the Community Historical Recognition Program.

Earlier this month, the CHRP contributed $900,000 to a UBC–led bilingual English-Chinese Web portal called Chinese Canadian Stories: Uncommon Histories from a Common Past. It is expected to launch in 2012 and will include interactive kiosks and a searchable database of digital material created by other organizations funded by the CHRP.