How Vancouver’s first Chinese accountant faced racism to help hundreds
August 23, 2019
By Vancouver is Awesome |
Bing Wong had a habit of having to prove himself.
He did so as a child, as a teenager and well into his adult years.
It was rarely, if ever, by choice.
The first accountant of Chinese descent in Vancouver’s history, Wong died Aug. 5. He’s credited with helping hundreds of Chinatown businesses over a career that began in the late 1940s and only ended earlier this summer.
Wong’s family laid him to rest in a private service today (Aug. 23). His story is one of overt racism, service and resilience.
“My dad always had to fight to try to maintain partial equality,” Wong’s son Glen told the Courier.
Wong was born in Vancouver in 1924, and by age six, his family moved to Alert Bay, a tiny community located on Cormorant Island off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.
Friends and family had previously travelled to the area to scout potential business opportunities. Recognizing that most shops were owned by whites who wouldn’t cater to anyone but, the family saw an opportunity.
At the time, Glen said Chinese weren’t allowed in some movie theatres and restaurants in Vancouver.
“The main reason [for the move] was that his father came under too much racism at that time,” Glen said. “He had other friends that had moved to the Island earlier and they told him lots of good things about the Island and that they didn’t see the racism they did in Vancouver.”
Wong’s family was one of only a handful in the area that wasn’t white. There was one Japanese fishing family, and the rest of the population was Indigenous.
The local Boy Scout tropp at the time wouldn’t accept First Nations, and Wong helped change that. Numbers were lacking when it came time to field soccer and baseball teams, and in order to hit the pitch, Wong asked members of the Indigenous community to join.
“The first time they played together, my dad picked all the natives on his team,” Glen said. “The Caucasians asked, ‘Why did you pick the natives?’ The natives asked, ‘Why did you pick us, we never get picked?’ My dad said, ‘I play to win. I don’t care who you are, I want to win this soccer game.’”
The family moved back to Vancouver by the late 1930s, and Wong was a senior at Vancouver Technical School while the Second World War was in full swing. Two-thirds of his graduating class enlisted and Wong did so as well.