Here’s why one B.C. centenarian made Chinese Canadian history

A Victoria man who recently celebrated his 100th birthday has seen many changes in B.C. over the years, including how people of different ethnic backgrounds are treated.

Wayne Chow was born in Cumberland on Vancouver Island on May 4, 1924.

His father had emigrated there from China to work in the coal mines.

Wayne ended up getting married and eventually fathering five children.

“He’s so happy that he could bring up five children in Canada and give them the opportunities,” his son Douglas Chow told Global News.

Weeks after Wayne was born, he became one of the first Chinese Canadians ever documented with a certificate of immigration called the C.I.45 certificate.

According to The Paper Trail exhibit in Vancouver, when the Chinese Exclusion Act was brought in to replace the Chinese Head Tax in 1923, every Chinese person in Canada had one year to register with the government.

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The C.I.45 certificate was created to identify first-generation Chinese born on Canadian soil.

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Despite most of the recipients of the C.I.45 certificate being born in Canada, the document still included the sentence, “This certificate does not confer any legal status in Canada” at the bottom.

Wayne’s certificate now hangs on the wall of the Chinese Canadian Museum as part of the Paper Trail exhibit.

“So that’s really the conflict there is that it was required of Canadian foreign Chinese, but it says it does not establish legal status in Canada,” Douglas said.

He added that if it wasn’t for the Chinese Canadian Museum, an exhibit of this size showcasing Chinese culture and heritage in Canada would never have been possible.

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“My dad can personally see the change, you know, because I mean, how many other 100-year-olds do you know?” Douglas asked.

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Canada’s first Chinese-Canadian Museum to open in B.C.

The Exclusion Act was repealed in 1947, three years before Wayne graduated from the University of Manitoba with a degree in electrical engineering.

He eventually went on to a career with BC Hydro.

“I think Canada is a very equal country to live in,” Douglas said.

“It’s a very just society and we know we are so fortunate to be Canadians.”

Details on the Paper Trail exhibition can be found here.

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