2012 February Monthly Article

An Extraordinary Experience

Today, I would like to share with you an extraordinary experience I had in the weekend of Sep 24th and 25th, 2011. I took part in a tour to the Fraser Canyon to learn about how Chinese contributed to the early economies of British Columbia (also about the Aboriginal communities there). It was organized by Bill Chu who is also a St. Paul's graduate (1965). He is the founder of an organization in Vancouver called Canadians For Reconciliation. The organization aims to develop a new relationship with the Aboriginal people, one that signifies an apology for past injustices and a willingness to honor truth.

In the 24th morning, a group of 42, half Chinese and half Caucasian, was carried by a comfortable tourist bus heading east, turning north at Hope, passing Lytton, and arriving Lillooet for the night. The next morning we turned southwest passing Pemberton, Whistler and Squamish, and returning to Vancouver in the evening. At a deserted gold mine near Lytton, native people living there for generations told us how their ancestors describing Chinese miners in the mid-19th century using a superior hydraulic technique brought from China (that was even before the Confederation of Canada). At Lillooet, natives described the significant Chinatowns with ten grocery stores lasting until the 1930s. At Barkerville, in the Cariboo, over half the town's population was Chinese. Between Kent and Hope on the north shore of Fraser River, we visited an abandoned CPR tunnel. Between 1881 and 1884, as many as 17,000 Chinese took part to build the portion of the railway from Eagle Pass near Revelstoke to Port Moody, for a dollar a day subtracting food and camping gear rental. While other workers did not have to pay for these things and were paid double. Chinese workers were given the most backbreaking and dangerous work including blasting tunnels through the rock. Every kilometer of the railroad, three Chinese were killed. We visited a Chinese graveyard near Lillooet, which has been protected by the native people out of respect. A native woman driving by saw us. She greeted us and then returned home to get some dry salmon as gifts to us.

A CBC TV reporter and a cameraman accompanied us for the whole trip. A report was shown in the National in Oct, 2011. The focus of the report was on Bill's effort in reconciliation with the Aboriginal.

Paul Yuen


Contents under the Alumni Corner section are personal opinions and do not reflect the views of the Association.