Miss Chinese Vancouver Maria Rincon and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan help launch LunarFest in Vancouver

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      Vancouver's annual LunarFest began today with speeches from federal and provincial cabinet ministers, as well as from the senior Vancouver representative of the government of Taiwan.

      The event celebrates the arrival of the Year of the Rooster this weekend.

      LunarFest runs from today through Sunday (January 29) on the plaza outside Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

      It includes lunar crafts, fortune telling, a kids' fest, and the "Rooster Winter Games". 

      There's also a free rooster-themed art exhibit—mostly created by Taiwanese postsecondary students—at Oakridge Centre to ring in the Lunar New Year.

      "We truly believe in creativity, innovation, and imagination of our young people," LunarFest organizer Charlie Wu said at today's official launch at the CBC building. "LunarFest is about how Canadians celebrate our diversity and how our diversity is reflected in our celebration. We feel this is especially important as our country celebrates our 150th anniversary."

      Teresa Wat mentioned Vietnam and Korea, but didn't utter the word "Taiwan" in her Lunar New Year greeting.
      Charlie Smith

      Teresa Wat is B.C.'s minister of international trade, Asia Pacific strategy, and multiculturalism.

      It was her first appearance at the opening of LunarFest since being appointed to cabinet in 2013.

      "I don't call this a Chinese New Year celebration," Wat said. "I call this a Lunar New Year celebration because this tradition is not only celebrated in the Chinese community, but in the Korean community, in the Vietnamese community."

      Wat did not mention the word "Taiwan" once in her speech.

      The People's Republic of China maintains that Taiwan is a renegade province.

      This view is vehemently rejected by the people of Taiwan and Taiwanese Canadians, who maintain that Taiwan is an independent country.

      (Left to right) MLA John Yap, the Georgia Straight's Laura Moore, Multiculturalism Minister Teresa Wat, Maria Rincon, TECO Vancouver's Tom Lee, and Harjit Sajjan.
      Charlie Smith

      Wat's comments came after opening remarks by Tom Lee, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver.

      Lee pointed out that today is Lunar New Year Eve, which is a time for family members to gather for a feast.

      He mentioned that this is when children receive red envelopes with money as a symbol of good luck.

      However, he quipped that his office wasn't going to be handing out red envelopes at LunarFest.

      Instead, the gift will be a display of his country's culture.

      "Today, I am proud to say we have one of the main sponsors of LunarFest since 2009," Lee said. "Right now, I would like to thank Charlie [Wu] and his team for organizing this wonderful event."

      Harjit Sajjan said that in preschool, his daughter learned some Cantonese and his son learned some Mandarin.
      Charlie Smith

      Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan also didn't mention Taiwan in his speech.

      Instead, he focused on how the Canadian Armed Forces ensure that Canada is free to celebrate diversity festivals such as LunarFest.

      LunarFest goes out of its way to incorporate and welcome other cultures.

      Sajjan said that his government has the same objective when it comes to protecting the country.

      'We in Canada and in Canada's military want to increase our diversity in our Canadian Armed Forces—actually increase diversity in your Canadian Armed Forces, because this is your military and we want to be representative of our population," Sajjan said.

      The defence minister also revealed that his daughter learned some Cantonese his son learned some Mandarin in preschool.

      Georgia Straight director of arts, advertising, and marketing Laura Moore and Green Club founder Joseph Lin.
      Charlie Smith

      Miss Chinese Vancouver, Maria Rincon, also offered Lunar New Year greetings.

      The SFU grad was born in Colombia to a Colombian father and Chinese mother, and she extended her best wishes for Year of the Rooster in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.

      LunarFest takes place from noon to 6 p.m. from Friday to Sunday (January 27 to 29) on the plaza outside the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. There are also performances inside the CBC building in Room 700 at 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. A rooster-themed art show will be on display at Oakridge Centre until February 5.