Vancouver Sun Newspaper
100 Influential Chinese-Canadians in B.C.Meet some of the people of Chinese descent who strengthen our community.
Published: Saturday, October 21, 2006
The first Chinese newcomer to reach what would soon become B.C. stepped onto a Victoria wharf in the early summer of 1858. He had travelled north by steamer from San Francisco, in search of a golden opportunity on the sandbars of the Fraser River.
His arrival in the bustling colony was considered noteworthy enough to appear in the pages of the Victoria Gazette, as a harbinger of changes to come. And so indeed he was, followed close behind by a tidal influx of Chinese workers as the inhabitants of whole villages emptied out across the wide Pacific -- tens and tens of thousands, mostly men at first -- to pan the rivers, build the railways, stock the shelves and run the laundries.
History lost track of what became of that first "Chinaman," but his pioneering footsteps cleared a path for innumerable others.
Today, people of Chinese ancestry are the province's most populous ethnic minority, numbering almost 500,000 in the Lower Mainland. They wield immense influence on every aspect of our shared society. In field after field -- arts, politics, law, medicine, science, finance, business, religion, community affairs, philanthropy -- Chinese-Canadians have taken their rightful place as leaders and innovators.
In some ways, this is Canadian multiculturalism at its very best, a colour-blind gathering of talent and shared purpose.
There's just one problem: For most of our history, we have been anything but colour-blind. It wasn't the Anglo-Europeans of British Columbia who had to fight for the right to belong, or who endured a century of racism of the most despicable and institutionalized sort. It wasn't the Anglo-Europeans who were reminded over and over, for generations, that they were different, lesser than other Canadians: required to pay taxes but not allowed to vote.
These dark facts make the contemporary accomplishments of Chinese-Canadians in B.C. all the more impressive. Not only have they distinguished themselves in so many ways, but Chinese-Canadians have done so against a background of racism and discrimination that only just began to abate in the second half of the 20th century.
Prejudice has finally given way to politeness, but our divisive history lives on in the way the Anglo-European majority and the so-called Chinese community (actually not one homogenous group, but many sub-groups divided along linguistic, political and cultural lines) continue to conduct themselves as two solitudes: nodding acquaintances who sometimes still ignore one another.
Earlier this year, The Vancouver Sun's senior editors and writers began discussing new ways to reflect the depth and breadth of multicultural life in British Columbia. As a newspaper, we disagree with the old adage that good fences make good neighbours. In our experience, communities need ways to connect cultures, not separate them.
In multicultural Vancouver, bridges make better neighbourhoods than fences do.
With that in mind, we present this special tribute to the influence and contributions of our region's Hua-ren (meaning, literally, "China-people," regardless of whether they were born overseas and arrived a year ago, or are the Canadian-born great-grandchildren of 19th-century immigrants).
In the pages that follow, we profile 100 individuals whose talents and world views greatly enrich our shared life as British Columbians.
The Chinese character, Hua, which introduces this special feature, was brush-penned by Johnson Su-Sing Chow, 84, of Vancouver, specifically for The Vancouver Sun. Chow, who is revered internationally as a master painter and calligrapher, has lived in Vancouver since 1980.
His contributions both to world art and to Vancouver's cultural life are acknowledged more fully inside these pages. The fact that he has been here for a quarter-century and has never received a mainstream museum exhibition is one small example of the two solitudes in action.
To create our character, Chow used what is known as cursive or grass style calligraphy, an ancient brush style that prizes the free-flowing movement of hand and arm. While the original meaning of Hua is blossom, or flower, or flowering, nowadays it also usually connotes, in different contexts, the notion of China and of Chinese person, in the widest and most poetical sense -- including that of people from China, or people of Chinese descent, living abroad.
We felt that this character and its layers of meaning create an apt symbol for the blossoming of contemporary Chinese-Canadian influence in the Lower Mainland.
To create this special feature, we began by canvassing the newspaper's senior editors and reporters for suggestions of whom to include. Those preliminary lists were scrutinized by our colleagues at Chinese-language newspapers, who had many other names to add. We also consulted officials at the University of B.C. and Simon Fraser University, as well as trusted members of the community, who provided important counsel and advice.
One person who deserves particular thanks for his participation is Jan Walls, the director of the David Lam Centre for International Communication at SFU. Walls, whose profound understanding of Chinese language and culture regularly earns him the admiring sobriquet of "more Chinese than the Chinese," would certainly have appeared on our list in his own right, except for his Caucasian ancestry.
We do not intend the list to be a Top 100 ranking, or comprehensive in any hierarchical way. We see it more as an assembly of individuals who have made significant contributions in their respective fields. We have tried to balance the various areas of endeavour, gender and geographical origin. Where necessary, we opted to include people whose influence is already well-established, rather than younger individuals at the start of promising careers.
We opened the list to anyone living and working in British Columbia on a permanent basis, whether they are Canadian citizens, or longtime foreign residents.
Early on, we decided not to include the names of pioneers who are deceased. This was a difficult decision because it meant overlooking people such as Lilian To, whose humanity and drive made Vancouver's immigrant aid society, S.U.C.C.E.S.S., one of the largest institutions of its kind in North America; and Douglas Jung, the first Chinese-Canadian Member of Parliament, whose valiant efforts as a Canadian soldier during the Second World War were partly responsible for Chinese-Canadians finally being enfranchised in 1947.
The list, in its final form, presents an astonishing array of talent and dedication. Here are history-makers like Dorothy Kostrzewa, the first Chinese-Canadian woman to hold elected office in this country, still serving her Chilliwack constituents more than 30 years later; David Lam, B.C.'s former lieutenant-governor, the first Chinese-Canadian to hold a vice-regal post; and Madame Justice Linda Loo, the first female Chinese-Canadian to serve on the B.C. Supreme Court.
Here are people who helped define an era, such as Roy Mah, the longtime editor of the English-language Chinatown News, and David Y. H. Lui whose passion for the arts persuaded some of the world's greatest performing arts companies to come to Vancouver.
We meet titans of business like the dentist-turned-developer Benjamin Yeung, whose modest personal demeanour belies a portfolio of current development projects worth $800 million; and humane financier Milton Wong.
Here are architectural giants, responsible for the new face of Vancouver, James Cheng and Bing Thom; as well as writers, artists, dancers, choreographers. Here are scientists, peeling back the mysteries of disease, including Weihong Song and Victor Ling; politicians, media moguls, athletes, essayists and philanthropists.
Attempting to identify only 100 luminaries in a community of nearly 500,000 people, is of course going to be dogged by omissions, whatever criteria are applied. With that in mind, we invite readers to nominate their own influential Chinese-Canadians. A factbox at the end of this story will explain how to do that.
In the process of interviewing the many people whose profiles are included here, one quality presented itself repeatedly. Perhaps it is a vestige of long-held Confucian principles, deeply laced into family memory; perhaps it is a result of personal style, but again and again our reporters noted the abiding humility of the people they were interviewing.
No matter the accomplishments, no matter the distinctions and honours, many of the people we celebrate in these pages present a very un-Western lack of pretense to the world.
Perhaps lawyer and vintner Eugene Kwan put it best. Formerly the managing director of the Hong Kong office of Stikeman Elliott -- one of Canada's leading law firms, senior counsel to some of the largest Asian investors in North America and a very active board member at VGH/UBC Hospital Foundation, Kwan was uncomfortable being part of this list.
"You want to put me on a list of the 100 most influential Chinese-Canadians in the Lower Mainland," he asked. "Gosh, I don't know about that." A long pause.
"If it were the 10,000 most influential, that I might just deserve to be on."
The Vancouver Sun 2006
Wency Leung, Michael Scott and Yvonne Zacharias, Vancouver Sun
Sunny Bai and his younger brother James Wang (who goes by his mother's surname) are the president and vice-president of Canadian Overseas Holdings Inc., whose holdings are far-reaching. The company controls an immigration services firm, the Canada Swan International Travel company, Pattison College Inc., and the weekly China Journal newspaper. It also owns the master franchise for the Blenz coffee chain in China.
Publicity-shy brothers Caleb and Tom Chan have considerable golf course and real estate assets in B.C. and beyond. Caleb Chan oversees Burrard International Inc., the parent company of GolfBC, which owns nine golf courses in B.C. and five in Hawaii. The Chans are also known for sharing their wealth. The University of B.C.'s Chan Centre for the Performing Arts was largely funded by a $10-million gift from the Chan Foundation of Canada. The centre's Chan Shun Concert Hall is named for Caleb and Tom's late father.
Tung Chan, who rose from busing dishes at the Terminal City Club to become district vice-president at TD Canada Trust, leaves his banking career next month to take over the reins of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., the province's largest aid agency for immigrants.
Chan was a Vancouver city councillor in the early 1990s, and has long been a driving force behind the NPA party and the West Coast arm of the federal Conservative party. His decades of community service were recognized with a Jubilee Medal in 2002.
The list of organizations to which he has donated time and energy is astonishingly long, including the Hastings Institute, Vancouver city planning commission, the Main Library steering committee, United Way, Association of Chinese-Canadian Professionals, Richmond Public Library, the Vancouver Foundation, Kwantlen University College, the Boys' and Girls' Club of Vancouver, the B.C. Chamber Orchestra, the editorial board of Business in Vancouver and many others.
Chan has said he is not the type to "hang around, or occupy a position for life." His preferred activity: "I like to start up things."
Victor Chan spent four years in the 1980s travelling 42,000 kilometres through Tibet. He subsequently published what remains the single most authoritative guide to the mountain kingdom.
He is a close friend and associate of the Dalai Lama, and the driving force behind Vancouver's Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education.
Henry Chau's enduring contribution to community life in the Lower Mainland is his advocacy on behalf of the Chinese democracy movement that sparked the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Chau's organization, the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement, or VSSDM was founded the same year as the Beijing uprising. Chau became president in 1994. The organization's principal activity is organizing the candlelight vigil that takes place outside the consulate of the People's Republic of China in Vancouver each year, on June 4, the anniversary of the massacre. Two hundred or three hundred people attend the service, but many hundreds more belong to the organization.
Juliana Chen, one of the few female magicians with an international career, was born and raised in Hunan province, where she was trained in ballet, acrobatics and juggling from the age of 10. As a teenager she travelled the world as part of a celebrated Chinese acrobatic troupe. Sidelined by a leg injury, she began to practise magic tricks and slight-of-hand, and eventually returned to performance as a stage magician. Within four years she was ranked the top magician in China, with a decisive win at the All-China Best Magician competition. She came to Vancouver in 1988 and after a hiatus of several years resumed her performance career.
Look at the Vancouver skyline and you will see the work of James Cheng. After receiving his master of architecture degree from the graduate school of design at Harvard University, Cheng established his eponymously named firm in 1978 upon winning the competition for the Chinese Cultural Centre in Vancouver. The firm is currently involved in major high-density mixed-used projects in China, the U.S. and Canada. Cheng is responsible for many of the towers lining False Creek and Coal Harbour built since 1999. The firm's work has received numerous awards, including Canada's governor-general's medal in architecture. Cheng has taught at UBC, served as a visiting critic at Harvard University and has been a member of juries at various competitions and award programs. He is widely recognized as the influence behind the urban high-density housing that is often referred to as the "Vancouver style."
Raymond Cheung has established himself firmly as an innovative and hardworking businessman. At the age of 23, he started his own business importing photo sticker machines from Japan. He constantly drives himself toward new challenges. As his most recent venture, he started Richmond's Night Market, which is now in its sixth year. He knew that such an event would be an excellent opportunity for the community to come together, for vendors of all cultures to showcase their products and for the celebration of multiculturalism in one of North America's most culturally diverse communities.
Award-winning Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant is consistently dubbed the city's best Chinese restaurant by Vancouver's top food critics, thanks in large part to the creations of long-time executive chefs Sam Cheung and Wing Wu. Cheung heads the kitchen, while Wu is in charge of the restaurant's famed dim sum at the Vancouver location.
Author, teacher, historian and high-profile public intellectual, Josephine Chiu-Duke is the best-known faculty member in UBC's Asian studies department. In the past six years she has been interviewed more than 60 times on the subject of Chinese history, politics and contemporary events. Specializing in Chinese intellectual history, and the periods of Tang and Sung dynasty China, Chiu-Duke was awarded a top Taiwanese honour in 2005 for her collection of essays honouring the liberal historian Lin Yu-sheng.
David Choi is CEO of Royal Pacific Realty Group, the largest independent real estate organization in Western Canada. Since he founded the company in 1995, it has expanded from a staff of fewer than 30 agents to 720, and now deals with transaction volumes of $4.3 billion a year. Choi attributes the company's reach to its multi-ethnic and multilingual staff, which reflects the diverse market.
Ida Chong is B.C.'s Minister of Community Services and Minister Responsible for Seniors' and Womens' Issues. Her political career spans more than a decade. Chong first entered politics in 1993, as a municipal councillor for the District of Saanich. "I have always been interested in politics and wanted an opportunity to serve and represent my community," she said.
It would be difficult to overstate the international eminence of Johnson Susing Chow as a painter and art scholar. His work is the subject of 18 foreign-language books, and Chow has written several authoritative textbooks on Chinese art technique. His paintings are owned by the national museums of several countries, including Canada's National Gallery. In 1993, Chow founded the Chinese Canadian Artists Federation which now has more than 250 active members. A lively and insightful teacher, Chow has trained a generation of Chinese-style painters in Vancouver. He has never had a major museum exhibition in Vancouver.
James Chou has practised accounting ever since he arrived in Canada with an MBA from San Jose State University in California. But his enduring contribution here has been in the sphere of community service and multiculturalism. Since the mid-1990s, he has been deeply involved in the Taiwanese-Canadian Cultural Society -- leading the organization during the years that attendance at its annual festival grew to 50,000. Chou was also a central figure in the movement to change government policies on the tax status of foreign assets -- an issue of critical importance to many immigrants.
An engineer by profession, Bill Chu has been an activist on a number of fronts, largely through an organization he founded called Chinese Christians in Action. He formed a coalition against gambling expansion, acted as a spokesman for a group seeking redress for the head tax and has worked to foster ties between the Chinese and the aboriginal communities. To that end, he has organized visits between the Mount Currie reserve and Chinatown.
Vancouver International Airport Authority is looking to capitalize on major markets in Asia, and Gordon Chu is the man with the plan. Chu is YVR's senior policy adviser. Before working for YVR, Chu was the Vancouver Port Authority's director of trade development, responsible for setting up the port's Beijing office in 1993 -- a move that propelled China to the port's top source of cargo.
Andrea Eng, the former Miss Universe Canada representative, established her name on both sides of the Pacific in the world of real estate, working for some of Asia's most powerful tycoons. She is currently a private fund manager and global business strategist, guiding investments in real estate and high tech.
Peter Eng is the head of the Allied Holdings Group of companies, which develops and owns numerous properties and hotels, with interests in the Crowne Plaza hotels in Edmonton and Toronto. Eng donated to Simon Fraser University the downtown heritage building that is now the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. Eng serves as a director at HSBC Bank Canada and was a founding board member of the B.C. Achievement Foundation.
Albert Fok has been instrumental in getting the federal government to recognize Chinese traditional medicine. As an advisory member for Health Canada's Natural Health Products Directorate, and president of Kiu Shun Trading Co., Ltd., Fok has helped the government create a new category for regulating herbal remedies that were formerly classified as either food or drugs.
Johnny Fong is chairman of Canasia Toys & Gifts Inc., an importer and distributor of consumer products. He is chairman and president of International Sources Ltd., an importer and distributor based in Vancouver. He also has real estate investments. Fong is extremely active in benevolent work. To name just one of his efforts: In 2003, he was instrumental in setting up a relief campaign for families hit by the devastating Kamloops forest fire. He has raised huge amounts of money for cancer research and health care initiatives.
A property developer who cut his teeth with Concord Pacific, Robert Fung now focuses on restoring and developing heritage buildings on the Downtown Eastside. Fung's enlightened approach combines social conscience with a rigorous business model.
With wide-ranging interests in commercial real estate (Aberdeen Centre) and media (Fairchild TV), Thomas Fung has amassed an enterprise worth more than $200 million US. Time magazine has named Fung as one of the most influential people in Canada. Business in Vancouver magazine chose Fung as one of the top 10 business people for the past decade.
Choo Chiat Goh started the Goh Ballet Academy with his wife, Lin Yee Goh, in 1978. The couple quickly established celebrated teaching careers throughout Canada, as well as Hong Kong and Japan. Goh began his training as a dancer on a scholarship at the Royal Ballet in London, England, where he studied with the great pioneers of ballet, Harold Turner and Madame Legat. At the age of 16, he was invited to join the London Festival Ballet, but declined in favour of studying in Beijing with the great Russian ballet master, Pyotr Gusiev. He graduated from the Beijing Dance Academy in 1959 and immediately joined the Central Ballet of China.
Engineering PhD Lawrence Gu, director of BCIT's international business services, won the right earlier this year for his school to host Canada's first Confucius Institute, the Chinese government's new initiative to promote Chinese language and culture around the world, in the manner of Germany's Goethe-Institute or France's Alliance Francaise. Under Gu's leadership, the institute has been an unqualified success with its language and business courses operating at near capacity.
Xiong Gu is a multi-media artist who was born and raised in Sichuan, China. He works in a wide variety of media, including painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, video, digital imagery, text, performance art and installation. He has exhibited nationally and internationally and has had more than 35 solo exhibitions as well as three public art commissions.
Gu's family was swept up in China's oppressive Cultural Revolution, his father disgraced for his western leanings. As the son of a so-called "Capitalist Roader," Gu was forbidden by Maoist authorities to attend school and was sentenced to years of forced "re-education" in a rural work camp. He survived that experience, teaching himself to draw at night, by the light of a kerosene lamp.
After the Cultural Revolution, Gu studied at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, earning a master's degree in fine arts. In 1989, he fled China as a result of his participation in the dissident China/Avant Garde show and in the Tiananmen Square demonstration. In the fall of 2004, Gu returned to China for the Shanghai Biennale, where he was a featured artist. The biennale is China's foremost showcase for contemporary art.
Gu has twice been an artist-in-residence at the Banff Centre for the Arts. He is now an associate professor and teaches painting, drawing and contemporary art theory at the University of British Columbia.
Chan Gunn's pioneering work on the concept of pain following neuropathy led to a major shift in the diagnosis and treatment of pain. His Institute for the Study and Treatment of Pain has treated more than 10,000 patients in its first decade of operation.
Entrepreneur David Ho launched Harmony Airways (initially known as HMY Airways) in 2002, after he and his young daughter were stranded in Maui for 18 hours after their flight was delayed. Ho's response: Start his own airline. Harmony now offers flights between at least a dozen North American cities. Ho attributes the success of the airline to its 370 employees.
Edmund Ho is the president and CEO of Ascalade Communications Inc., a Richmond-based company that designs and manufactures wireless communications products for brand giants such as NEC, Philips and Toshiba. Ascalade is creating a buzz in the industry with its latest portable phones that allow people to use the popular free Internet phone service, Skype, without a computer.
Commercial developer Gary Ho heads the Canadian arm of the Tzu Chi Foundation, a Taiwan-based Buddhist charity with five million members worldwide. Tzu Chi operates in many countries, with 2,100 active volunteers in B.C. and about 8,000 donors. Local contributions include more than $6 million to Vancouver Children's Hospital, UBC, the Red Cross, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Salvation Army; as well as almost $2 million to create the Tzu Chi Institute for Complementary Medicine at Vancouver General Hospital in 1996.
In 1976, while attending Simon Fraser University, James Ho began pursuing a career in the financial services industry through the establishment of Quantum Financial Services Ltd.. In 1989, he established a foreign exchange business called RCG Forex Services Corp. He is president of both of these companies. Fulfilling a longstanding desire to promote multiculturalism through broadcasting, he acquired radio station AM1320 in 1993. He then led a group of well-known investors to acquire television Channel M in 2003.
Victor Leung Mau Ho was named the editor of Vancouver's Sing Tao Daily last year. He worked for Fairchild Radio of Toronto from 1998 to 2002 as chief editor (current affairs). He also worked with Radio and Television Hong Kong as a script writer (2003-04) for public affairs programming. Ho is one of the founding editors of Yazhou Zhoukan in Hong Kong, the only Chinese newsweekly magazine since the late 1980s.
A congenital below-the-knee amputee, Andrea Stephanie Holmes competed in the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens in the long jump, placing seventh. She accomplished this in less than two years of training while completing her degree in commerce at the University of Victoria. She is still on Team Canada, training with the goal of winning the gold medal in the long jump at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. As well, for four years, she has held the national record in the long jump.
Trained at UBC and in Japan, Kenneth Hsieh is the assistant conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. This season, he will conduct the orchestra in more than 35 concerts. He is also the music director of the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra, a group for young professional musicians. His mentors have included Kazuyoshi Akiyama, Lee Kum-Sing, Krzysztof Penderecki and Simon Rattle.
Terry Hui is the president and CEO of Concord Pacific Group Inc., responsible for reshaping False Creek north. Concord Pacific revamped the former Expo 86 lands, which it purchased in the late 1980s, and has turned the area into what the company touts as North America's largest master-planned community.
Maggie Ip, who came to Canada in the 1960s as a grad student, was a co-founder of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., the immigrant aid organization that has become one of the largest of its kind in Canada. Ip also served as a Vancouver city councillor in the mid-1990s. With her husband, Kelly, Ip is widely regarded as a leading contributor to the cause of multiculturalism in the Lower Mainland.
Sunrise Soya Foods was founded by Peter's father, Lesley Joe, in 1956. Since taking over as CEO in 1984, Peter has built the company into the largest tofu manufacturer in Canada with production facilities in Vancouver and Toronto and about 200 employees. Joe is a current director and past president of Soy Foods Canada. He is also a finalist in the 2006 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards (Pacific region).
Joseph Koo has composed more than 2,000 songs in his career, many of which are now considered classic Cantopop. Koo attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston in the early '60s. Upon graduation, he returned to Hong Kong and worked for both the Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest movie studios. Later, he joined TVB as their director of music, where from the late 1970's until immigrating to Canada in the 1990s, he collaborated with the lyricist Wong Jim on many memorable TV theme songs. In 1982, Queen Elizabeth awarded him member of The Order of the British Empire.
When she won her first term as alderman in the Township of Chilliwack, in 1969, Dorothy Kostrzewa became the first Chinese-Canadian woman elected to public office in Canada. She has served in that role, and more recently as a city councillor in Chilliwack for more than 20 years. In her working life, before she entered politics, Kostrzewa was the accountant at a hospital in Chilliwack. She will become the city's acting mayor in December.
Lydia Kwa has published two novels and a book of poems. Her latest book, The Walking Boy, was nominated for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize in 2005 in B.C. Her first novel, This Place Called Absence, was nominated for the amazon.com/Books in Canada First Novel Award. She is a psychologist in private practice. She also teaches a spring workshop as part of the Simon Fraser University writing and publishing program.
Lawyer Eugene Hsiao Yu Kwan is a senior counsel at Stikeman Elliott, where he practises corporate and commercial law. In his 35 years at the B.C. bar, he has advised many of the province's largest offshore investors and was formerly the managing partner of Stikeman Elliott's Hong Kong office. Away from his legal practice, Kwan is the owner and operator of Domaine de Chaberton estate winery in Langley, and a director of the Fraser Valley Wineries Association.
Jenny Wai Ching Kwan's first career as a legal advocate on the Downtown Eastside gave way to a high-profile life in the political arena. Vancouver's youngest-ever city councillor at the age of 28, Kwan moved to provincial politics in 1996 with the NDP. She was a cabinet minister in her early 30s, and was one of only two NDP members to survive the 2001 election. She continues to represent the Vancouver-Mount Pleasant riding.
Julia Kwan is a filmmaker living in Vancouver. A second (or one-and-a-half) generation Chinese-Canadian of immigrant parents, Kwan was a resident director at Norman Jewison's Canadian Film Centre in Toronto, where she made her award-winning short, Three Sisters on Moon Lake. In 2005, Kwan made her feature film debut with Eve and the Fire Horse.
Eva Kwok has served on the boards of more companies and organizations than you can count on two hands. Kwok is a director of the B.C. Progress Board, a member of the Asia Pacific Trade Council, as well as a board member for several companies controlled by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing. She is also a director for BMO Financial Group. Her own firm, Amara International Investment Corp., helped develop Burnaby's Crystal Mall.
Grace Kwok, owner of Anson Realty Ltd., is consistently named one of Vancouver's top realtors. Recognized as one of the first to start the trend of pre-selling condominiums in the Lower Mainland, Kwok estimates she has sold at least 8,000 units during her 26 years in the business. Kwok is also a marketing consultant for real estate development projects in Toronto and San Diego.
David See-Chai Lam served as lieutenant-governor of B.C. from 1988 to 1995. He was the first Canadian of Chinese heritage to hold a vice-regal post. Lam has an Economics degree at Lingnan University in China and an MBA from Temple University in Philadelphia. He became a prominent real estate businessman in Vancouver, and was a leading proponent of many ambitious development schemes. He is also noted for being a leading philanthropist. In 1986, he helped found the Canadian International Dragon Boat Festival.
Tony Lam, president of the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Area Society and executive director of the Vancouver Chinatown Merchants Association, has the job of revitalizing a neighbourhood that for years has been struggling to compete with Richmond. Lam's strategy is to make Chinatown more accessible to mainstream visitors. He started Chinatown's summertime night market 11 years ago, and the event is still going strong.
Evelyn Lau's memoir of her adolescence, Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid, was published when she was 18. It was made into a CBC movie starring Sandra Oh in her first major role. Lau is also the author of four poetry collections, two short story collections, a book of essays and a novel. Named one of the most influential people in the arts, her work has won four Western Magazine awards, a National Magazine Award, the Milton Acorn Poetry Prize, the Air Canada Award and the Vantage Women of Originality Award.
The CEO and founder of T&T Supermarket Inc. opened the first store at Burnaby's Metrotown in 1993, providing an alternative for families tired of shopping at individual grocery stores in Chinatown. Since then, T&T Supermarket Inc. has become Canada's largest Asian supermarket chain, with eight stores in B.C. and 14 across Canada.
Henry Lee is president and director of leading music store chain Tom Lee Music Co. Ltd., started by his family in 1969. Lee also heads several other family businesses, including retail, investment and real estate firms with properties in Asia and North America. Next year, he'll take on yet another role -- as chairman of Vancouver Board of Trade.
Kwok-Chu Lee is an acknowledged master of the Chinese art of placement and arrangement known as feng shui, but he is a true polymath, expert in many fields including physiognomy, qigong, Taoist exercises, Chinese poetry, calligraphy, and health. His calligraphy, often executed under the pen name of Master Lam Chun, has been the subject of more than 30 international exhibitions. Since arriving in Canada, Lee has been a generous patron of the Richmond Public Library, to which he has donated considerable money and more than 54,000 books to help build the institution's Chinese-language holdings.
Richard T. Lee worked as a programmer analyst at TRIUMF, Canada's national particle research facility, before he was first elected MLA for Burnaby North in 2001. In 2005, Lee was re-elected and appointed parliamentary secretary for the Asia-Pacific Initiative. Currently, Lee serves as a member of the select standing committee on finance and government services and the select standing committee on education.
Born and raised in Vancouver, Robert H. (Bob) Lee was one of the first businessmen in the province to understand the magnitude of opportunities in Asian markets, and his influence sparked major offshore investments here. Lee attended UBC and served the interests of his alma mater for many years, first as a governor, and later as chancellor. His most enduring contribution was developing the university's Properties Trust in 1987, which has generated massive revenues from UBC's land holdings. Lee's community involvement has also led him to leadership roles with the Vancouver Foundation, the Port Corporation, the Board of Trade and many other institutions.
Kin Wah started Kin's Farm Market along with his brother, Kin Hun, and his wife, Queenie Leung, with next to nothing. They began with one produce stand on Granville Island in 1983. With the support of customers and hard work, they soon became the busiest produce stand on Granville Island. Their first store opened in 1987 at Blundell and No. 2 Road in Richmond. Now Kin's has expanded to 21 locations in Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
Trained in Chinese traditional dance and ballet, Lorita Leung travelled throughout China and Korea during the early 1960s as a member of the elite Lanchow Army Song and Dance Troupe. She established her reputation for choreographing traditional dance during a seven-year stay in Hong Kong. Within a few months of arriving in Vancouver, in 1970, Leung founded the Lorita Leung Chinese Dance Company that continues to this day. Leung has maintained close ties to China, and for decades was one of the few Western-based choreographers permitted unrestricted study in that country. She is a frequent guest of honour at Chinese dance festivals. Her influence in Vancouver extends to the thousands of young Chinese-Canadian dancers who have studied and performed Chinese folk, classical and minority dances, as well as Chinese ballet and contemporary Chinese contemporary dance under her guidance.
Ronald Ying Nin Leung is an experienced journalist and a well-known current affairs commentator in the Chinese community. Since 1995, he has been the program host and producer of Hotline, a phone-in program on current affairs at CJVB AM1470 Fairchild Radio. Through the program, he facilitates discussion of social issues and helps his Chinese-speaking audience understand their rights and responsibilities as Canadian citizens. He ran unsuccessfully as a city council candidate in the 2005 Vancouver city election.
When business delegations from China visit the Lower Mainland, George Lian is often one of the first people they encounter. Lian is president of the Canada-China Business Association, an organization with an estimated 700 members that helps Canadian businesses connect with Chinese counterparts. Lian has invited numerous Chinese delegations to B.C., and organizes seminars and meetings with Canadian business leaders and government officials while they're here.
Dr. Victor Ling, a cancer scientist for more than 30 years, is vice-president of discovery at the BC Cancer Agency and an assistant dean at UBC. He is known internationally for his discovery of P-glycoprotein, a mechanism in patients that resists anti-cancer drugs.
His innovative research has been recognized by honorary degrees from four universities, as well as many awards, including the General Motors Kettering prize for cancer research (U.S.), the Josef Steiner Cancer Research Award (Switzerland), the Gairdner Foundation International Award and the Order of B.C.
On finding a cure for cancer, Ling once said, "Cancer is a huge problem. We can bury our heads in the sand and say it is too complicated. But I think any problem that seems to be non-solvable tests a society. And I think if we can be logical and passionate about it, we can go much further here than anybody thinks."
The 21-year-old native of Prince Rupert studied at UBC until she won the Miss Chinese Vancouver title in 2000 and Miss Chinese International in 2001. Bernice Liu was then offered a contract with Hong Kong Television Broadcasts Ltd. and has been extremely popular ever since. As a versatile artist who is proficient in acting, singing and dancing, Bernice has appeared in the leading role in a number of TV drama series.
Alban Lo is one of the few trade finance specialists in Canada. As head of Scotiabank's trade finance team in B.C., Lo manages a portfolio of $2 billion US a year and helps Canadian companies develop their export business, sharing his knowledge about major Asian markets. Lo is also an adviser on Chinese community affairs to Premier Gordon Campbell.
Justice Linda Ann Loo obtained her law degree from UBC in 1974 before practising law as in-house counsel at BC Hydro for 12 years. In 1986 she became an associate with the law firm Singleton Urquhart, later becoming managing partner. As a civil litigator she argued, and won, a case before the Supreme Court of Canada. Loo became a justice of the B.C. Supreme Court in 1996, the first female Chinese-Canadian to serve on that bench.
Brandt Louie is chancellor of Simon Fraser University and head of the H.Y. Louie empire, one of the largest private companies in the province. H.Y. Louie is the parent company of London Drugs, where Louie also holds the title of chairman and CEO. He is also vice-chairman and director of forestry giant Canfor Corp.
Raymond Louie grew up in east Vancouver working in his family's bakery. The father of three young children, Louie was first elected to Vancouver city council in 2002. He has been involved in the Chinatown revitalization process, sits on the boards of the Greater Vancouver regional district, TransLink and the Municipal Finance Authority, and is a member of the mayor's working group on immigration.
The three-term mayor of Victoria, Alan Lowe was the first person of Asian descent to hold that post, despite Victoria's long history of Chinese immigration. He is one of only a handful of mayors of Victoria who were born and raised in the city. Lowe began his third term, in December 2005, with a plan that includes a massive redevelopment of the north end of Victoria's downtown core. His goal, he says, is to make Victoria the "most-livable city in Canada." Lowe's intention to build a safe injection site has been highly controversial.
Once dubbed the Boy Impresario, David Y.H. Lui has been a leading figure in B.C. arts for 40 years. He founded Ballet British Columbia and the cultural program of the Dragon Boat Festival. He served a term on the Canada Council, and is widely considered the dean of the fine and performing arts on the West Coast.
This year, Dr. Harvey Lui established at UBC the first academic university department in Canada dedicated to studying skin and dermatology. Before that, the program had been a sub-unit of another department. His academic career has focused on developing innovative diagnostic and therapeutic uses for light and lasers in medicine.
Edmond Luke is partner at Fasken Martineau, the largest law firm in B.C. Luke specializes in real estate development, and leads the firm's Asia Pacific practice, with clients in Korea, Japan, China and India. He is also co-chairman of the B.C. government's Multicultural Advisory Council, aimed at promoting multiculturalism and fighting racism.
Raymond Mah was the kid doodling in the corner while the rest of the gang played street hockey in east Vancouver. After graduating from the Vancouver School of Art, he worked at CBC for seven years as art director. After leaving the broadcasting corporation, he designed the CBC's 50th anniversary commemorative stamp for Canada Post and then 10 years later, designed another Canada Post stamp for the Year of the Tiger. He formed RayMahDesign and then LeapCreativeGroup, working with clients to design award-winning brand identities and communications.
Even though he was born in Canada, Roy Mah was ineligible for citizenship -- because of his Chinese ancestry -- until 1949. That didn't stop him from volunteering for wartime service. He commanded the first troop of Chinese-Canadians to fight overseas. Beginning in 1953, he edited and published the English-language Chinatown News for 42 years. Prime minister Pierre Trudeau asked him to join the Canadian press corps on the first-ever state visit to China, in 1974.
Dr. Hiram Mok has been an active staff member at UBC/VGH since 1998, when he was appointed to the position of clinical associate professor in the University of B.C.'s department of psychiatry. He works at the UBC Mood Disorders Centre and in VGH cross-cultural psychiatry. He is also associate director of residency training for UBC psychiatry and VGH site director for undergraduate education. He is fluent in English, Cantonese and Mandarin. He is actively involved in clinical work, teaching, research and has served on the board of directors for the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Mood Disorders Association of B.C.
Under Don Montgomery's direction, Asian Heritage Month -- or explorAsian -- has grown to include more than 100 events annually. This past year, the pan-Pacific festival drew 20,000 visitors to its many venues. Montgomery also publishes Ricepaper, a quarterly magazine about Asian-Canadian artists.
Han Shang Ping joined the Vancouver operation of the World Journal less than a year ago as the Chinese-language newspaper's editor-in-chief. Han hails from the World Journal's parent company, the United Daily News group in Taiwan. Launched in Vancouver in 1994, World Journal has a daily readership of about 30,000.
Perry Quan is the founding president of the Wireless Innovation Network of British Columbia (WINBC), an organization representing more than 230 companies in B.C.'s thriving wireless industry. Quan remains a director of WINBC and a strong promoter of the industry. He is president and founder of wireless communications software maker Contec Innovations Inc.
John Shen's company, Palcan Fuel Cells Ltd., is one of the early players in B.C.'s developing fuel cell industry. Palcan, founded in 1998, remains a small operation, but has big ambitions to provide clean power to China. Palcan developed what was touted as the world's first marketable fuel-cell powered bicycle in 2001.
A lifetime advocate for equality and human rights, Mary-Woo Sims is the former chief commissioner of the B.C. Human Rights Commission. Through her consulting practice, she now advises industry and government on human rights, equality and diversity management and on organizational change.
Weihong Song was only 19 years old when he completed his first medical degree, making him one of the world's youngest physicians. Now a professor of psychiatry at UBC, Song directs a research lab whose chief focus is understanding the role of mutant genes in causing Alzheimer's disease. He came to Vancouver from Boston, where he was a faculty member at Harvard Medical School.
Born in a mud and straw hut in Gong On Lai, Guangdong, China, Tan arrived in Canada at age 14 as a "paper son" under falsified papers that showed him to be the son of his grandparents. He has devoted his time to a myriad of movements, most notably his 20-year struggle to redress the $500 head tax imposed by the Canadian government on Chinese people coming to Canada and exclusionary legislation against Chinese. He is a seniors organizer for the Downtown Eastside Residents Association and a community television volunteer. He has a daughter who is a professional poker player in Las Vegas and a son who is a lawyer in Singapore.
Bing Thom's spare, restrained designs help define West Coast contemporary architecture. His projects range from the immense, such as Central City in Surrey and the Aberdeen Centre in Richmond, to the neighbourly, including the Chan Centre at UBC and luminous private residences. His firm also works in the U.S. and China.
Sandra Wilking, who studied sociology in university, has spent her life serving the community around her. She is a former Vancouver city councillor. She was a director of the Laurier Institution and served for many years on the board at S.U.C.C.E.S.S. In 2003, Wilking was appointed a citizenship judge in Vancouver.
Baldwin Wong considers himself a bridge between the municipal government and the communities it governs. As the City of Vancouver's multicultural social planner, Wong keeps the mayor's office and various departments abreast of the issues concerning the city's community groups and new immigrants. His ideas help make the city's services more accessible to everyone.
David Wong is a principal of Vancouver's Robert Ciccozzi Architecture Inc. In the early 1990s, Wong co-founded SLH International Architects in Singapore, which, until it split up, was one of the largest architectural firms in Southeast Asia. A self-described "troublemaker," Wong is active in politics, with a foot in federal and provincial parties of different stripes. He is also the original arts editor for the Asian-Canadian arts magazine Ricepaper.
Wearing his trademark bucket hat, 16-year-old Eugene Wong seems to take top honours in every golf tournament he enters. The Grade 10 Handsworth secondary student from North Vancouver is the reigning B.C. junior golf champion. In his most recent tournament, he came first in the CN Future Links Pacific Championship last April. His golf club and proficient swing have taken him to Japan, Ireland, San Diego, China and Utah.
As assistant dean and director of international programs at UBC's Sauder School of Business, Grace Wong runs overseas programs to benefit the school through degree study for its 2,300 students, and faculty and executive development. Under her leadership, the school has forged strong alliances throughout China, and in Korea, Mexico and other countries.
Hong-Yee Wong, whose PhD in computer science led him first into a lucrative scientific career in advanced visualization, is now engaged in developing the web presence for the Beijing Olympics. In a separate enterprise, he is also the CEO of Iugo Mobile Entertainment, a Vancouver firm that develops games for cellphone use.
Hailed as a nation-builder, Milton Wong is internationally respected for his ethics, his tireless devotion to volunteerism and cultural diversity, and his humane approach to business. Wong is the chairman of HSBC Asset Management Canada, responsible for assets of $5 billion. Since 1999 he has also been the chancellor of SFU. In 1989, he co-founded the Laurier Institution, to study the social and economic implications of multiculturalism in Canada. "One day you wake up and somebody says, 'You're a leader, do something about it,'" he has observed. "And you say: 'Me, a leader!, I'm not a leader!' And they say, 'Yes, you are!' And that goes on for a few years, and finally you realize society wants you to be a leader, so you better behave like a leader."
Patrick Wong's community-mindedness earned him the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002, an honour that acknowledged his work as a Fraser River harbour commissioner, chairman of the port authority, vice-chairman of the Vancouver Board of Trade and a central figure in several Chinese-Canadian business associations. An accountant by profession, he represented Vancouver- Kensington in the provincial legislature from 2001 to 2005, serving as a minister of state for immigration and multiculturalism.
aul Wong is a video artist whose body of work has earned him national pre-eminence. He has been the subject of a solo exhibition at the National Gallery in Ottawa, and in 2005 won the Governor-General's Award. His work, frequently controversial, deals with the issues of race, sexuality and death.
As president and co-CEO of the independent think tank Asia Pacific Foundation, Yuen Pau Woo is a leading expert on Asia Pacific economic affairs. It's no wonder that, when Woo speaks on how B.C. can best capture market opportunities and engage the East, industry and government decision-makers listen.
Since Charlie Wu took on the role of executive coordinator in 2001, the Taiwanese Cultural Festival has become a significant cultural event in Canada. This year's festival drew about 70,000 people for the three-day event. "Ultimately, we would like to see Taiwanese culture becoming an important piece of the cultural fabric for Canada," Wu said.
As director of the China program at the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform, Vincent Cheng Yang is helping the world's most populous nation improve the quality of its justice system. The International Centre is a joint project of UBC, Simon Fraser, and the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law. It promotes democratic principles, the rule of law and respect for human rights in criminal law, both locally and internationally.
William (Bill) Yee trained as a lawyer in B.C. and practised here until 1999, the year he became a Queen's Counsel. That same year, Yee was appointed to the Provincial Court, where he still serves. Yee was a two-term city councillor in Vancouver, and worked closely with the Chinese Benevolent Association and S.U.C.C.E.S.S.
Modest in person and somewhat shy of the limelight, Benjamin Yeung is one of Western Canada's most powerful developers. His firm, Peterson Investment Group's current projects include the Shangri-La hotel and luxury residential tower, the Fairmont Pacific Rim tower and the Woodward's redevelopment -- projects worth a combined $800 million. People are often surprised to learn that development is Yeung's second career; he began his professional life in Canada as a dentist.
The editor-in-chief of Ming Pao (B.C. edition) Raymond Yeung is a journalist with 30 years of experience. He is a newsman who believes in peace and human rights. He is dedicated to managing a diverse, fast-paced newsroom and producing a well-balanced newspaper.
Before immigrating to Canada in 1988, Catherine Yuen was the Hong Kong government's senior executive officer, involved in the civil service bureau, and the departments of planning, urban services and home affairs for the then-British-run territory.
In Canada, Yuen switched gears into real estate, and managed and trained real estate professionals for seven years. Some of her students are top achievers in Vancouver's real estate industry today.
When the Hong Kong government opened a trade office in Vancouver in 1999, it looked to Yuen to join its staff.
"They wanted to find a person who knows both sides, who knows Hong Kong and Canada," she said.
Yuen is now the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office's principal consultant for Western Canada, which makes her the point of contact for facilitating bilateral trade and cultural exchanges, as well as building inter-governmental relations, between Hong Kong and Canada.
Aside from work, Yuen serves on the board of the Hong Kong-Canada Business Association and as director of the Hong Kong University Alumni Association of B.C.
Eleanor Yuen is an expert in library management. She has research expertise in Chinese-Canadian and Hong Kong issues. She has also developed a website entitled Historical Chinese Language Materials in British Columbia (hclmbc.org). She has been involved in community volunteer work in a variety of ways, including serving as founding director and past president of the Vancouver Hong Kong Forum Society and on the advisory board of Strathcona employment assistance services.
Bennie Yung owns a management company and an import/export firm, but says he spends more time doing community service than running his businesses. Yung is a board member of Vancouver Coastal Health and Greater Vancouver Crime Stoppers. He also serves on the premier's Chinese community advisory committee. For his contributions, Yung was awarded the Queen's Golden Jubilee award for community service in 2003.
Sheng-Tian Zheng trained as a painter, but has made his most enduring marks as a curator and editor. After many years directing the Art Beatus Gallery in both Hong Kong and Vancouver, Zheng left to found Yishu, a respected international journal of Chinese arts. His work as curator is also international in scope. In 2004, he organized the Shanghai Biennale, and now works extensively in Canada, China and Europe.
Profiles written by Wency Leung, Michael Scott and Yvonne Zacharias