Debates of the Senate  
2nd Session, 40th Parliament,Volume 146, Issue 77.
  Thursday, December 3, 2009
 
People's Republic of China
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, during the week of November 8, I visited Guangdong Province, China. I was invited by Mr. Wu Ruicheng, Director of the Guangdong Overseas Chinese Affairs Office to participate in the opening ceremony of the 2009 International Tourism and Culture Festival and Pearl River Delta Tourism Promotion Convention. I was also invited to participate in the opening ceremony of the Guangdong Overseas Chinese Museum in Guangzhou.

My father, Quan Leen Yook, was born in Xichengli, a village in the Xian Gang Township, Kaiping City District, province of Guangdong. When the Chinese government officials learned that a first-generation daughter of the Wuyi Chinese was a scientist, a former Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and now a Canadian senator, they invited me to participate as a foreign dignitary in opening ceremonies to meet with government officials and visit Xichengli.

The people's government of Guangzhou province promotes the root-searching of foreign-born Chinese descendents by having them visit their ancestral homes. The Guangdong government sees this as a way of furthering the culture of the area, as well as furthering economic ventures such as tourism and foreign business partnerships.

Honourable senators, the big cities of Guangdong, Kaiping and Jiangmen, are as modern as any other in the world and, in my ignorance, I had assumed that the little villages, like Xichengli, had been destroyed during modernization. I found out, however, that the Guangdong government has preserved these historic villages and maintained museums dedicated to remembering the history of the early Wuyi Chinese who immigrated to other countries like Canada in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The early Wuyi emigrants, like my father, sent money back home to China to support their families or relatives. Many were able to build homes in their homeland. Some, like the Kaiping Watchtowers, are elaborate, unique structures that have become recognized as world heritage sites by the United Nations.

Honourable senators, my father's greatest wish had always been to bring his first-born son from his Chinese family to Canada. He was not able to do that due to Canadian legislation in effect until 1948 that prevented his Chinese family from immigrating to Canada. We were able, however, to bring part of Xichengli back to his gravesite in Swift Current.

As a Canadian senator, I was able to bring honour to his homeland and meet with many government officials and villagers. I sincerely hope that my Senate work will help bring about closer relationships between our two countries.