"He [Grandfather] says that the Exclusion Act and the head tax made it difficult for this family to come together ..."

- David Wong

David Wong

Vancouver architect David Wong's family history in Canada is a confusion of events and missed opportunity caused by the Exclusion Act. Their story involves decades of separation and a detour to Mexico by David's 94-year-old maternal grandfather, Kwan Chu Wing, who struggled to find his own father.

"The whole purpose of the family is to be under one roof ... to have each others' company," says Kwan, who was born in 1916 in Majianglong Village, Kaiping (Hoy Ping) County, Guangdong Province. His own father, Sam Kwan, had left for Canada with two brothers to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Because Sam Kwan was sending money back home, David's grandfather was able to attend Pu Ying Middle School in Guangzhou, where he learned English. He later became a high school teacher. Kwan Chu Wing wanted to join his father and uncles in Canada, but this was impossible under the Exclusion Act, which lasted from 1923 to 1947. World War II and the ensuing Chinese civil war kept David's grandfather in China until the late 1950s. Meanwhile, his father and uncles, and their families, had settled in the Prairies, some in Calgary and others in Saskatchewan.

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In 1957, Kwan Chu Wing finally was able to leave China with his wife and daughter, but they only got as far as Hong Kong. With his family still in the then British colony, he made a short trip to Canada, spending a few days in Vancouver to arrange a marriage for his daughter. During the trip, he briefly met his father, Sam Kwan, but then he had to leave Canada. Kwan Chu Wing traveled south to Mexico, where he worked for several years. He never saw his father again; Sam Kwan died in 1961 and he is buried somewhere near North Battleford, Saskatchewan.

The marriage he arranged for his daughter, however, was successful. She married Bing Wong, who had immigrated to Canada as a teenager. Together, they raised a family with four children. David is the first-born and eldest son.

David has promised his grandfather that he will find his great grandfather's grave, if only to know the final resting place of the man who brought his family to Canada.

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David with his grandfather, who speaks about family separation ...

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