Jen Zielinski/Black Press Xiaoping Li and founder Hua Meng of the Okanagan Chinese Canadian Society stand with banners of Asian Heritage Month and the OCCA. The pair are featured in the first video for Carli’s Cultural Connection, which can be found at kelownacapnews.com.

Carli’s Cultural Connection: Chinese history in the Central Okanagan

Every two weeks, the Capital News will feature different cultures in the Central Okanagan

Upon arriving during the gold rush in the Interior, Chinese migrants made the Central Okanagan their home.

Xiaoping Li is a member of the Okanagan Chinese Canadian Society and chair of the sociology department at Okanagan College. Hua Meng is the founder and general administrator for the OCCA.

The pair sat down to explain the history of how Chinese migrants came to the Okanagan, and why the recent unveiling of a sign commemorating Chinese pioneers in City Park carries so much meaning.

Q: How did Chinese migrants end up in the Central Okanagan?

Li: The first wave of Chinese migrants came to Canada for the gold rush in the Interior. Many Chinese people moved from San Fransisco, so there were thousands of Chinese working in mines. After the gold rush ended some of them stayed and they dispersed in B.C.

Another wave came for the constructions of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The railway was completed in 1885 and many of them stayed because they didn’t have the money to even buy a ticket to go home. The government and the railway company broke their promise in providing a ticket home.

They were forced to stay and they dispersed in B.C.

Q: What role did they play in developing the local economy during that time?

Li: In the 1880s Kelowna was going through an industry change from cattle to agriculture so the Chinese workers filled a gap for labour. So they worked on the farms and in the orchards.

Q: There was once a Chinatown in Kelowna, where was it located?

Li: It was located between Water Street and Abbott Street and Harvey and Leon. It was just a dirty road. At the time it was the outskirt of downtown Kelowna so the Chinese were actually not included so they basically settled in that area.

Q: Chinese residents once made up 15 per cent of the population, what’s the percentage now?

Li: In about 1910 there was around 500 Chinese. According to the Statistics Canada census, the Chinese population is 2,340, and 10 years before than it was 1,500.

Q: Tell us about the sign project in City Park and it’s importance to the Chinese community.

Meng: In 2015, the province made the apology to Chinese people in B.C. about the historical wrongs. Before this, the government was doing consultations on how to make an apology. I was contacted and asked for the society’s support. I started to investigate the history as I came in the ’80s.

I think it’s important for the younger generation to understand the history of our ancestors and we don’t want the historic events to come back again, so we supported the B.C.’s governments initiative. There was an old sign, but it was not sufficient and we decided to replace it with a bigger one.

Q: What Chinese traditions are celebrated in Kelowna?

Meng: The OCCA holds a series of events each year. The spring lantern festival is the largest in Chinese tradition. This year we’ll be holding the eight annual of the spring lantern festival. May is Asian Heritage Month and the Moon festival in September.

Q: If someone wanted to learn more about the history of Chinese Canadians, where would they go?

Meng: Visit the museum, we’re also in process of establishing an online history. There’s a section on the Asian Heritage website, said Meng. (Asian Heritage Month information can be found at https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/asian-heritage-month/about.html. The OCCA can be found at http://occabc.ca/)

The OCCA was incorporated in 2010 as a charity. The charity aims to promote Chinese culture, help new immigrants, provide youth education and promote multiculturalism.

If you have a cultural idea for Carli Berry, email her at carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Shuswap bottle drive to support pediatric cancer research

Young cancer patient doing her best to help others with the disease that hits one in 333 kids

Regional district directors’ pay conflict resolved in new bylaw

11th-hour attempt for more by CSRD electoral area directors fails

Iconic Shuswap sternwheeler undergoing work for return to service

Sicamous business owner Mike Helfrick hopes to offer dinner tours on historic vessel

Salmon Arm Silverbacks on a hot streak at Bauer BCHL showcase

Shuswap skaters put up back-to-back wins against Victoria, Alberni Valley

In photos: Ready, set, roll!

Friendship Day Soap Box Derby excitement in downtown Salmon Arm

Weekday weather update

A look at your Okanagan-Shuswap weekday weather for Sept. 24

Edmonton cannabis company revenues more than triples to $19.1 million

Aurora Cannabis revenues more than triple in fourth quarter

B.C. pharmacist suspended for giving drugs with human placenta

RCMP had samples of the seized substances tested by Health Canada

Seattle one step closer to NHL after arena plan approved

Seattle City Council unanimously approved plans for a privately funded $700 million renovation of KeyArena

Harvest Moon to light up B.C. skies with an ‘autumn hue’

It’s the first moon after the autumn equinox

Hockey league gets $1.4M for assistance program after Humboldt Broncos crash

Program will help players, families, coaches and volunteers after the shock of the deadly crash

Don’t feed birds in the parking lot

Vernon wildlife control services owner says feeding ducks and geese, or any wildlife, is bad

Canada has removed six out of 900 asylum seekers already facing U.S. deportation

Ottawa had said the ‘overwhelming majority’ had been removed

Most Read