Social & Cultural Life : Chinese Canadian Club

Chinese men and women, Vancouver

Portrait of Chinese men and women, Vancouver

“I want to join the Canadian military,” Kiam said.

We all turned to see what Father would say.

“You're not a citizen of Canada ,” Father said, calmly, “You were registered in Victoria as a resident alien. We've had this talk before. When the Dominion says we are Canadian, then we will all join up!”

from The Jade Peony, p. 226, by Wayson Choy



While the older locally born men were more integrated into the Chinese language institutions and society of British Columbia and belonged to Chinatown-based organizations such as the Chinese Benevolent Association or Chinese Freemasons, the members of the Chinese Canadian Club were Canadian-born, and were mostly in their mid-to-late teens. Formed in 1914, Chinese Canadian Club enabled its members to socialize with others of a similar age, gender, and experience rather than for expressly political purposes. The Club's social space even had a library of the best authors as well as a formation of a soccer team.

The Chinese raised in the Exclusion Era became were more Westernized than their parents, and many attended English school and had increasingly worked in businesses that were traditionally not opened to Chinese. The intermingling of these young Chinese with the wider western culture resulted in the emergence of a uniquely Chinese Canadian culture. The Chinese Canadian Club members had relatively strong social and cultural standing as they were overwhelmingly made up of people from well-off merchant households and middle-class households.

The Chinese Canadian Club allowed fellow members to relate with others who were caught between two societies. While English was their principal common language, cultural improvement and latest current events would have been among their main outlets for discussion. Far from victims caught between first-generation Chinese migrant society and English Canadian white supremacy, Chinese Canadian Club members actively sought to create their own spaces of comfort and identity.
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