Teresa Wat, Minister of International Trade and Minister Responsible for the Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism has said “B.C.’s Chinese community has played a pivotal role in shaping British Columbia into what it is today. This monument commemorates Cumberland’s Chinese Canadian pioneers and stands as an enduring testament to their strength, their dignity in the face of great adversity, and their many contributions to British Columbia.”
A commemorative monument unveiled today in the historic Cumberland Chinese Cemetery recognizes the contributions of Chinese Canadians to B.C.’s rich cultural, historical and economic mosaic.
The natural stone monument with cast bronze plaques is accompanied by an interpretive signage panel to illustrate the connection of the cemetery to the larger Chinese community and concrete replicas of cedar post grave markers in memory of the people whose wooden grave markers have decayed and disappeared over time.
The monument reflects the 2014 apology delivered on behalf of the B.C. legislative assembly to Chinese Canadians for historical wrongs committed by past provincial governments. It will also serve as a permanent reminder of the racism, discrimination and hardships faced by Chinese Canadian pioneers who lived and worked in area coal mines and helped with the construction of the nearby rail line.
Many pioneers also established local businesses within Cumberland’s once-bustling Chinatown and some of their descendants still live in the area.
The monument is the second in a series of up to 15 markers – interpretive signs, plaques and monuments – that will be established in communities throughout B.C. in coming months. The first marker was erected in Kelowna in December 2016. Locations were recommended by the provincial Legacy Initiatives Advisory Council (LIAC), which provides advice to government on B.C. Chinese legacy projects. Government is providing $100,000 in Chinese legacy funding for the provincial monuments project.
As one of several provincial Chinese legacy projects completed or currently underway, the commemorative monuments project resulted from a report on the Chinese historical wrongs consultations. The report includes a recommendation for one or more regional plaques or monuments to be created to commemorate the positive contributions of Chinese Canadians to B.C.’s history, culture and prosperity.
Extensive provincial consultation with British Columbia’s Chinese Canadian community, including a community forum held in Victoria in November 2013, led to the decision to establish this monument; government heard from local community members who were directly and indirectly impacted by historical discriminatory legislation.
The Cumberland monument was created in consultation with the Village of Cumberland. The monument project responds to the B.C. government’s commitment to create a Chinese legacy for all British Columbians.