Victor Mah at the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre, 2005

Victor Mah at the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre, 2005.

“My heritage is very important to me, and because of that I helped to build the Chinese Cultural Centre and I am now President and Chairman of the Board.”

Glenbow Museum
Glenbow Museum, Victor Mah

CHINA
Calgary, Alberta, CANADA
Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA
© 2005, Glenbow Museum/Victor Mah. All Rights Reserved.


I am a fourth generation Chinese-Canadian.

In the early 1880s, near the end of the railroad construction, my great grandfather (Mah Choi Shing) came to Canada. [H]e eventually went to Edmonton and opened the Sam Lee laundry…

My father (Edward Mah) was born in 1910 and came to Canada in 1923. He was one of the last children to enter Canada before the Chinese Immigration Act, which prohibited people of Chinese birth or descent from coming to Canada. He worked in the laundry then went back to China in 1929 for one winter to marry my mother and they had a son.

My father, even though he worked hard in Canada for most of his life and paid the Head Tax of $500 when he arrived, was not able to become a Canadian citizen until 1947, after the Chinese Immigration Act was repealed. [Then], he was allowed to apply for his family to come and join him...

In the late 1960s, Pierre Trudeau opened the door to human rights and freedoms, so the discrimination against the Chinese started to diminish.

I am a fourth generation Chinese-Canadian.

In the early 1880s, near the end of the railroad construction, my great grandfather (Mah Choi Shing) came to Canada. [H]e eventually went to Edmonton and opened the Sam Lee laundry…

My father (Edward Mah) was born in 1910 and came to Canada in 1923. He was one of the last children to enter Canada before the Chinese Immigration Act, which prohibited people of Chinese birth or descent from coming to Canada. He worked in the laundry then went back to China in 1929 for one winter to marry my mother and they had a son.

My father, even though he worked hard in Canada for most of his life and paid the Head Tax of $500 when he arrived, was not able to become a Canadian citizen until 1947, after the Chinese Immigration Act was repealed. [Then], he was allowed to apply for his family to come and join him...

In the late 1960s, Pierre Trudeau opened the door to human rights and freedoms, so the discrimination against the Chinese started to diminish.

© 2005, Victor Mah/Glenbow Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Head Tax Certificate belonging to Edward Mah (Victor’s father), 1923

Head Tax Certificate belonging to Edward Mah (Victor’s father), 1923.

“When my father arrived in Canada, he had to pay a head tax of $500. Under the Dominion Immigration Act of 1885, Chinese immigration to Canada was regulated and limited.”

Government of Canada
Glenbow Museum, Victor Mah

CHINA
Calgary, Alberta, CANADA
Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA
© 2006, Victor Mah. All Rights Reserved.


Audio Clip (1:24 mins, 1.32 MB wma file) Victor Mah reading his father’s letter.

January 25, 1978

Your mother and I were married exactly 48 years ago this Sunday, although it is the thing of the past, I never forgive racial discrimination which allowed the Europeans to bring their wives and family over to Canada but not the Orientals.

We were allowed to go back to China to get married, but were not allowed to bring our wives and children to Canada. Your mother and I were separated for 15 years before immigration laws relaxed, that’s when I sent for your mother, Jenny and Victor, but nevertheless I was robbed of 15 years of my adult life and had 15 years of misery away from my family because of racial discrimination. How many 15 years do we have in our adult life?

Edward Mah
Victor Mah, Edward Mah, Glenbow Museum

Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA
Calgary, Alberta, CANADA
CHINA
© 2006, Victor Mah. All Rights Reserved.


Human rights are integral to quality of life. Victor Mah’s family faced generations of racism and discrimination in Canada.

Victor Mah's Story:

I am a fourth generation Chinese-Canadian.

In the early 1880s, near the end of the railroad construction, my great grandfather (Mah Choi Shing) came to Canada. [H]e eventually went to Edmonton and opened the Sam Lee laundry…

My father (Edward Mah) was born in 1910 and came to Canada in 1923. He was one of the last children to enter Canada before the Chinese Immigration Act, which prohibited people of Chinese birth or descent from coming to Canada. He worked in the laundry then went back to China in 1929 for one winter to marry my mother and they had a son.

My father, even though he worked hard in Canada for most of his life and paid the Head Tax of $500 when he arrived, was not able to become a Canadian citizen until 1947, after the Chinese Immigration Act was repealed. [Then], he was allowed to apply for his family to come and join him...

In the late 1960s, Pierre Trudeau opened the door to human rights and freedoms, so the discrimination against the Chinese started to diminish.

Audio Clip:

January 25, 1978

Your mother and I were married exactly 48 years ago this Sunday, although it is the thing of the past, I never forgive racial discrimination which allowed the Europeans to bring their wives and family over to Canada but not the Orientals.

We were allowed to go back to China to get married, but were not allowed to bring our wives and children to Canada. Your mother and I were separated for 15 years before immigration laws relaxed, that’s when I sent for your mother, Jenny and Victor, but nevertheless I was robbed of 15 years of my adult life and had 15 years of misery away from my family because of racial discrimination. How many 15 years do we have in our adult life?


Taking Action:

What are human rights? Review and discuss the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Consider Victor Mah’s story and discuss how discrimination impacted his family’s quality of life. Discuss how his story reflects the changes in immigration law in Canada over the last century. Is it important to address historic discrimination and human rights abuses? Seek more information about this issue by writing letters to government agencies. Take a stand and follow through by writing your local Member of Parliament on this issue.


Resources for Further Study:

Refugees
CBC site with clips about the Boat People.
http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-69-524/life_society/boat_people/

Teachers Resource Package about Refugees
http://www.unac.org/learn/wrld/Refugees/FINAL%20ENGLISH%20GUIDE.pdf

Human Rights
International Declaration of Human Rights.
http://www.un.org/rights/

Teacher and student friendly version of the International Declaration of Human Rights.
http://www.un.org/cyberschoolbus/humanrights/index.asp

Charter of Rights and Freedoms
http://www.pch.gc.ca/progs/pdp-hrp/canada/guide/index_e.cfm

Vietnam War
http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/learning_history/vietnam/vietnam_teacher.cfm

Cambodia
A PBS site that provides links and resources about the Khmer Rouge and contemporary life in Cambodia.
http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/cambodia/links.html

Thailand
An overview of Thailand on Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thailand

Laos
An overview of Laos on Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laos

Extended biographical information about Thép.
http://www.junerain.com/en/about.php

China
CBC site with clips about Chinese immigration to Canada.
http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-69-1433/life_society/chinese_immigration/


Glenbow Museum
Glenbow Museum, Victor Mah, Rare Method

CHINA
Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA
Calgary, Alberta, CANADA
© 2006, Glenbow Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

Students will recognize and appreciate the importance of human rights in determining quality of life and how globalization affects individuals and communities.

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