The City of Burnaby is acknowledging the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923. Recognition of the centenary of this discriminatory legislation includes acknowledging historic discrimination by Burnaby’s municipal government against people of Chinese descent.
In February 2023, Burnaby City Council approved a process to review, acknowledge and apologize for its historic discrimination against people of Chinese descent, with the goal of advancing reconciliation with the Chinese Canadian community. Throughout 2023, the City will host conversations with community stakeholders. Outreach and engagement will be delivered in Chinese languages as well as English. We look forward to providing more details on these opportunities soon.
Public survey on reconciliation now available
Share your voice on the actions the City should take to address the legacy of historical discrimination in the context of the City of Burnaby. This includes sharing your opinion on special places, stories and cultural traditions of historical significance to Chinese Canadians that should be recognized by the City.
These opportunities to provide input are available in Traditional and Simplified Chinese as well as English.
Chinese-Canadian Reconciliation Advisory Group
To guide this process, we have convened an advisory group which will provide advice to staff for engaging with the community and identify potential actions for reconciliation for historical discrimination against people of Chinese descent, including acknowledgement, a formal apology and actions for reconciliation.
The advisory group is comprised of 2 City staff members of Chinese Canadian heritage, a historian/academic advisor, and 4 community members comprised of historic families, educators, and representatives of community organizations, with a focus on those that serve Burnaby’s Chinese Canadian communities.
Members represent a range of Chinese Canadian perspectives in Burnaby, including recent and established immigrants and people from different occupational backgrounds. The advisory group reflects the diversity of language speakers, source countries, and generations that form the Chinese diaspora in Burnaby.
The Advisory Group meets up to 4 times a year over a 2-year term beginning in July 2023.
Actions to date
As part of the reconciliation process, the City has released a report detailing the discriminatory laws, regulations and policies of the City of Burnaby that targeted people of Chinese descent between 1892 and 1947. The City’s actions restricted the lives of Chinese Canadians in many ways, including:
- restricting voting rights
- advocating for discrimination
- restricting access to livelihood
- targeting enforcement and regulation of Chinese-owned businesses
- restricting access to land
The City is committed to reconciliation, including acknowledgement and a formal apology. The work is part of the City’s commitment to ensuring Burnaby is a place that is inclusive and welcoming to everyone.
Advisory Group Members
Jimmy Chow is a retired property master in the motion picture industry, member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscars), and long-time Burnaby resident since 1972. He has over 50 years of experience working with television and film. His credits include: The BFG, Warcraft, X-Men 2, Fantastic Four, Watchmen, Tron Legacy, Man of Steel, Superman, Legends of the Fall, Little Women, Seven Years in Tibet, Snow Falling on Cedars, Shanghai Noon, The Shipping News, among others. Jimmy’s great grandfather arrived in Canada in 1898, and his father came to Vancouver in 1920. Both of them were subjected to the Chinese head tax. After the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Jimmy and his mother were finally able to reunite with his father in Canada in 1953.
Ben Fok moved to Canada 40 years ago from Hong Kong when he was just six years old. He has a firsthand perspective of how Canada has changed in the past four decades. He graduated from UBC and quickly completed his MBA shortly after. Ben is a senior certified immigration consultant with over 12 years of experience and taught the immigration practitioner courses as well as mentor new immigration consultant licensees. He is currently a licensed Private Investigator focusing on various issues from theft and fraud, to bylaw violations. He is also a Reservist with the Canadian Armed Forces. Weekends are usually devoted to his three young children taking them swimming and various family activities.
christina lee (she/they) is the manager of operations and special projects at the hua foundation. They are a 2.5 generation Cantonese settler, born and raised on the unceded and ancestral lands and territories stewarded by hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ (Downriver Halkomelem) and Skwxwú7mesh sníchim (Squamish) speaking peoples. christina currently leads the Language Access Project (LAP), to advocate for better language accessibility and equity across governments and institutions. They also lead hua’s internal transformation projects and co-leads the capacity building and consulting portfolios. Born and raised in these lands now known as Burnaby, their family operated several grocery stores in Burnaby and Vancouver in the 1950s-1970s.
Gordon Mark has lived in Burnaby for over 40 years. His mother was third generation Canadian born Chinese and his father emigrated from China in 1921, paying the required $500 head tax. His community involvement includes serving as a past President of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society and an Executive Director for the Chinese Cultural Centre of Vancouver. At the Richmond Regional and Vancouver Heritage Fairs, he participated as a judge and adjudicator. He has also helped conduct historical and educational walking tours of Vancouver's Chinatown. His knowledge and techniques in conducting genealogical research and making audio/visual presentations is something he frequently shares with others.
Dr. Henry Yu is an Associate Professor in the University of British Columbia's history department. Between 2009-2012, he was the Co-Chair of the City of Vancouver’s project Dialogues between First Nations, Urban Aboriginal, and Immigrant Communities. In 2015, Dr. Yu was appointed as the Co-Chair for the Province of British Columbia’s Legacy Initiatives Advisory Council implementing legacy projects following the province’s apology in May 2014 for BC’s historic anti-Chinese legislation. He also served on the Advisory Group for the City of Vancouver’s apology consultation process for Historical Discrimination Against People of Chinese Descent (HDC) from 2016-2017 that resulted in the City of Vancouver’s formal apology for its historical discrimination against its Chinese Canadian residents on April 22, 2018.
City of Burnaby Staff
Anita Chan is the Public Engagement & Awareness Coordinator at the Burnaby Public Library. As a librarian and second generation Chinese-Canadian, Anita is interested in how surveillance documentation produced by the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act shapes genealogy research of Chinese-Canadians, and impacts how families understand their histories today. When she isn’t researching for work, she is learning about histories she’s picked up from her local travels.
Kim Lai is currently the City of Burnaby’s Manager, Accounting Services. She is a CPA, CGA, and holds overseas designations such as the ACA, FCCA, CA, CIA, and an MSc degree. She has worked for the City of Vancouver, Bentall, Colliers and PCI. She was a full scholarship holder and worked for POSB and public-listed WingTai in Singapore. She immigrated to Canada in 1990 and is bilingual in English and Chinese. She believes in social justice and has fought for worthy causes like music education. She is a GFOA Budget Reviewer and Treasurer of two not-for-profit organizations, Rise Women’s Legal Centre and Tri-Cities Single Parents and Children Support Society and volunteers at her community church.