Chinese groups in Vancouver step up charitable efforts

August 9, 2016

By Chuck Chiang, Vancouver Sun |

Metro Vancouver’s Chinese community — specifically, newer immigrants mostly from China — has in recent years stepped up charity work with a number of Canadian causes, often led by business and community groups.

Within the last two weeks, two major fundraisers (the corporate-led CAChinese Night on July 30, and a ceremony by the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations on Aug. 3) brought together several hundred people to raise $160,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society, and to support Fort McMurray wildfire victims through the Canadian Red Cross.

The following are five things to note from this recent phenomenon of growing charity work within the Chinese community.

1) The activities are similar to those by earlier Chinese-immigrant groups (such as those from Hong Kong in the 1990s).

Previous waves of Chinese immigration, such as from Hong Kong and Taiwan more than two decades ago, also did significant fundraising work after members of those communities adapted to the B.C. social landscape, according to UBC history professor Henry Yu.
But Yu, who also advises the provincial government on the historical importance of B.C.’s Chinese-Canadian community, said there are some differences.

“That (wave from Hong Kong) also was more overt, with David Lam encouraging philanthropy, and featured a stronger tradition of giving to registered charities in Hong Kong,” he said. “Many forms of community involvement do not involve giving cash, such as giving time or quietly using resources without getting credit for the amount. Philanthropy as a giving of cash in an overt way is North American in many respects.”

2) The charity events, despite corporate backing, are organic.

CAChinese Night was spearheaded by Jerry Xie, executive vice-president of Vancouver-based China Gold International Resources, and featured Mandarin broadcaster Phoenix TV as well as the Asia-focused North America Investment Association.

But Yu said there is more to this charitable trend than corporate backing.

“It’s both a deliberate effort to ‘give back’ to Canadian society and an organic reflection of people becoming involved in their communities,” he said. “I wouldn’t use the term ‘integration’, since that’s a term that can mean many things or nothing at all. It’s a concrete reflection of involvement and of putting money into things they care about.”

3) The events can appear to be a dizzying hodgepodge of divergent interests.

The Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations event combined the introduction of its new executive committee with the fundraising effort, which listed 32 community groups and more than 300 individuals who donated in support of the Fort McMurray fire victims through the Red Cross. CAChinese Night, meanwhile, held a beauty pageant during the second half of the evening.

Xie said the mix reflects the wide variety of people and organizations from different Chinese backgrounds, each adding their unique contributions to the overall event. He said that the beauty pageant’s message echoed that of the cancer society.

“Be positive, be confident,” he said. “I believe that’s the message that the cancer society delivers to everyone. … There is nothing more powerful than extraordinary people coming together to share ideas, stories, and hope. It is an opportunity for each of us, corporate or individually, to make a difference in the global battle against cancer. And we’re not alone.”

4) These fundraisers get the attention of Canadian politicians and government officials.

The events do not lack for political star power, drawing the likes of B.C. Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, federal defence minister Harjit Sajjan, B.C. justice minister Suzanne Anton, as well as a full array of MPs, MLAs and municipal politicians.

5) There will probably be more in coming years.

Chu Yuanzheng, the outgoing executive chair of the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations, said that during his two-year term, the group held more than 40 events, raising funds for a number of causes such as the restoration of the Chinese traditional cemetery in the Gold Rush ghost town of Barkerville in the B.C. Interior.

“A community should, and must, make these types of efforts,” Chu said.

Incoming chair Wang Dianqi said the group will continue its efforts. “Even though we started in response to the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 … our group will always be built on the foundations of Canadian society,” he said. “So our work and charitable actions are here, and they will continue to be here.”

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