Chinese museum would right historical wrongs, Kamloops group says

A museum honouring the contribution Chinese immigrants made to B.C. and Canada would go a long way to righting historical wrongs, the president of the Kamloops Chinese Cultural Association.

"I would like to see some sort of museum built in Kamloops by the provincial government to properly recognize the people," Joe Leong said Wednesday.

Leong raised the museum issue after the province announced a consultation process would begin to discuss wording for a formal apology to the B.C. Chinese community for past transgressions.

In the coming months Multicultural Minister Teresa Wat will travel the province and meet with Chinese community associations and citizens to identify wording for the apology.

Leong isn't sure how such an apology would please everyone, especially given the lives lost during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the head tax imposed on Chinese immigrants during the late 1880s.

"We'd have to figure out some kind of wording that would be appropriate and positive," he said.

A museum, on the other hand, would be a permanent monument to the province's Chinese heritage, said Leong.

The region was the centre for railway construction during the 1880s. Kamloops is home to one of the largest Chinese cemeteries in B.C. and the only cemetery devoted to pioneer Chinese. Leong said this makes the city a perfect location for such a museum.

"In the 1890s, one third of the population of Kamloops was Chinese," he said.

And Kamloops is the first city in North America to elect a Chinese mayor. Peter Wing was elected in 1966 and served three terms.

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