Lilian To becomes first Chinese Canadian to be honoured with a Vancouver street moniker

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      One of Vancouver's feistiest advocates for immigrants is being remembered with a plaque and a road sign.

      Today, the City of Vancouver bestowed the name Lilian To Way on Shanghai Alley.

      To was the longtime head of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., a Vancouver-based social-service agency, from 1987 until her death in 2005 at the age of 59.

      She was born in Guangdong, China, and fought hard to bring language education to immigrants, first in Vancouver and then to other centres in B.C.

      S.U.C.C.E.S.S. also operates a seniors care home, an adult day centre, and an assisted-living facility.

      "Our family is humbled by the continued advocacy of Maggie Ip, the founding chair of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., the board of directors of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., and those in the Chinese community in pursuing the honouring of our wife and mom," To's son Daniel said in a news release. "Lilian cared deeply for new immigrants, having been one herself, and identified with their ongoing struggles to survive in a new land while aspiring to be contributing citizens of our wonderful country. We thank the City of Vancouver for this great honour and hope this plaque and the future naming of the street will inspire others to continue in the important work of lending much needed assistance to vulnerable populations.”

      Mayor Gregor Robertson and S.U.C.C.E.S.S. chair Grace Wong attended the unveiling of a plaque honouring Lilian To outside the agency's social-service centre at 28 West Pender Street.

      In her heyday, To was often quoted in the media and was instrumental in educating many politicians and journalists about the difficult challenges immigrants face. During the late 1980s, To also offered a steady and calming voice when some Vancouverites became agitated over the pace of immigration and investment from Hong Kong.

      “Lilian is an immigrant settlement service pioneer and a visionary advocate," Ip said in the news release. "We were extremely fortunate to have had Lilian. She gave her best to lead S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Her sincerity and humility moved all who worked with her. She was well known in the immigrant community across the country. Her dedication continues to be an inspiration to all of us.”