By Jeff Wang (笑言)
At the beginning of 2015, I was encouraged by the Ottawa Chinese community media CFC News to write about the history of Ottawa Chinese. It challenges my knowledge and the time that can be spent on writing since I currently have full time engagement. But I decided to take on this opportunity with no hesitation.
Personally I am eager to learn this history myself as a Chinese writer who lives in Canada for about two decades. It surprised me that so many people, Chinese and Canadians, lend their hands to help me out with this project.
The first clue came as the lonely grave of Tom Chu which is located in Kemptville. Mr. Shubang Chou emailed me about the story first then I searched Internet and found an article in Mr. Martin Gregory’s blog. In about a week, I was so fortunate being able to have contacted Martin and the two followers who contributed valuable comments. Earleen and Anneke provided more detailed information and made great suggestions. Anneke even offered me to go together with them to Kemptville next spring to visit Tom’s grave and adjacent Dairy Barn’s owner Maria. This story has been written into my book as a section which has been separately published in CFC News Weekly in the language of Chinese.
On February 19, coincidentally the day of Chinese New Year, I met with Mr. Shubang Chou in person at the food court in Gloucester Center. Shubang had an amazing memory and great observation. In the two hours we were chatting there without a pause, he narrated the history back to 1913 when Mr Joe Shung came to Ottawa and those that were already buried in the Beechwood Cemetery. He would introduce me to interview Joe’s son, Mr. Anqiang Chou and his wife who own the Cathy House restaurant and other business in Ottawa. Shubang used to be one of the directors in Ottawa Chinese United Church so he mentioned the history of the church too. In his words, “Chinese churches and communities grew up together.”
With the materials Shubang provided, I learned that the earliest Chinese school in a room at Sparks Street dated back to 1903. This Chinese school related to the Sunday School which turned into Ottawa Chinese United Church in 1962.
The CFC News Weekly posted a notice today to collect the materials and clues from the local Chinese community. Delightfully, this project has received so much support from variously resources. I’m really grateful and looking forward to the completion of this book