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Canada Launches Museum to Commemorate Achievements of Chinese Migrants

Canada opened a new and permanent museum on Friday, highlighting the contributions of Chinese migrants to the country’s development and growth.

The Chinese Canadian Museum, which was officially opened in Vancouver’s Chinatown, was to honor the history, legacies and contributions of Chinese Canadians, organizers said.

The Chinese workers first arrived in the Canadian province of British Columbia in 1788 for the gold rush that swept the west coast of North America.

Mary Ng, Canada’s minister of international trade, export promotion, small business and economic development, said in a gala ceremony that the federal government provided 5.1 million Canadian dollars (3.85 million U.S. dollars) for the museum, as the stories of the Chinese migrants, their achievements and hardships, needed to be told and preserved for posterity.

The 1,200-square-meter museum is housed in a refurbished building, the oldest building in the city’s Chinatown.

Ng said if the walls of this building and the surrounding neighborhood could talk, they would tell stories about the determination of Chinese migrants to make new lives for themselves, the hard work of Chinese merchants growing their businesses and of a community planting its roots and nourishing its culture and heritage.

“But those stories would also tell us about the struggles of immigration and acceptance, of facing prejudice, discrimination and racism, of being made to feel different and not belonging,” she said.

“Its exhibits will highlight the stories of the complex and layered history of the Chinese Canadian community that is fundamentally part of the fabric of our country today,” she added.

The museum features an opening exhibition “The Paper Trail to the 1923 Exclusion Act,” which banned the Chinese immigrants from entering the country for 24 years.

Chinese were the only group of people to face this discrimination and systemic racism, which ultimately led to great hardships for those already in the country, the organizers said.

David Eby, premier of Canada’s western-most province, said the museum project had “pulled together energy and support from across the community.”

“This (exclusion act) is the most racist piece of legislation ever passed in our parliament. We can’t forget that legislation was championed and pushed from the province of British Columbia,” he said.

“(It is not only) a physical building but (also) a symbol of the remarkable endurance, perseverance of the Chinese Canadian community, not just in British Columbia but across Canada, because this is the first Chinese Canadian museum in the entire country,” he added. 

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