New plaque commemorates Vancouver Chinatown’s significance in immigrant history

May 14, 2017

By Vancouver Sun |

A new plaque unveiled in Vancouver’s Chinatown Saturday commemorates the national historic significance of the Chinese neighbourhood and the role it played in welcoming immigrants who arrived in Canada.

Nellie Yip Quong and Wong Foon Sien were also both recognized as key figures in Vancouver’s Chinese history.

Saturday’s event featured a lion dance and other cultural performances, and a presentation by North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson.

Chinatown was established in the 1880s and is recognized as one of the oldest and largest Chinatowns in Canada. The neighbourhood at the end of Carrall Street grew out of what was initially a self-segregated enclave, but soon became a home to many new immigrants seeking a welcoming community and a celebration of Asian culture.

Foon Sien was born in China in 1901 and died in 1971. As a child, he moved to Cumberland with his family. He later studied law, worked as a journalist with Victoria newspaper the New Republic Chinese Daily, and advocated less-restrictive immigration policies.
He was known as “the unofficial mayor of Chinatown,” and his efforts during a national campaign to pressure the federal government helped pave the way for immigration law that helped reunite many families.

Yip Quong was a Caucasian woman born in Saint John, New Brunswick, in 1882, and who died in 1949. She later met and married Charlie Yip Quong, a Chinese jeweller from Vancouver. The couple lived in China for some time before returning to Canada in 1904. At the time, they were the first interracial married couple in Vancouver.

Yip Quong, who spoke five Chinese dialects, worked as a midwife and provided health and social services to the Chinese community, which were hard to access at the time due to racism. She was an advocate for working-class Chinese women and helped translate for immigrants dealing with legal authorities and immigration services.

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