provoking thoughts about the presence of our past

Friday, May 19, 2017

Public Hearing on 105 Keefer on May 23

The public hearing to consider the re-zoning of 105 Keefer in Chinatown will begin on May 23. This is the letter I sent opposing the proposal.



Dear City of Vancouver staff and City Council

This letter formally expresses my opposition to the 105 Keefer Street rezoning proposal. Currently, my research and teaching at UBC focuses upon Chinatown's heritage and history, as well as it's future development as a signature community and destination site for all of Vancouver. Chinatown was a large part of my childhood. But I am not alone in seeing Chinatown as a crucial asset for all Vancouverites, whether they grew up there or not. Even though Chinese Canadians now live in every neighbourhood of the city, and other clusters of businesses and restaurants provide services that historically were located in Chinatown, there is no other place in Vancouver that can become the centre of gravity and place for meaning-making and heritage that Chinatown represents. The history of Chinatown as a neighbourhood dating back to before the founding of Vancouver makes it a unique site that once lost, cannot be recovered. 

Chinatown is a special part of Vancouver, and it needs to be a dynamic and vital community which retains its special characteristics even as it changes. Vancouver cannot afford to allow 105 Keefer to be rezoned for such an underwhelming proposal. Although this building would not face opposition if it were located 5 blocks southward, it is the fault of the developer that they chose the wrong location. The city cannot change its zoning and its commitments made in the Council-approved Chinatown Vision of 2012 in order to rescue a developer from its bad decisions. The fact that three rezoning proposals have already failed indicate that the mistake is on the part of the developer. The adage in real estate of the top three factors for all development decisions being "1. Location. 2. Location. 3. Location" is clearly belied by the poor decision-making of the developer in choosing this location to plan a condominium development that requires rezoning. Why should city taxpayers and the local neighbourhood pay for their mistake? Why should we rescue them from their lack of awareness of simple neighbourhood plans and desires, which took over a decade to create through the consensus-building process into which community members and City Planners put so much effort?

Approving this project will set a precedent for future projects that creates an unsustainable path and corrosive effect that in essence debilitates the strategic goals set out and approved by Council in the Chinatown Vision. As a minimum consideration, I urge you to not approve the rezoning application for the following narrow yet important criteria under existing rezoning criteria:

- The Keefer Triangle is a culturally significant site for both the community and all of Vancouver that should not be used for residential condos. 

- The height of the proposed building is significantly and disproportionately greater than the buildings next to it, in particular the protected heritage buildings that abut it on Pender

- It is more massive and dense than all the buildings next to it, with an FSR that is multiples higher than any other part of the city, let alone Chinatown

- There is insufficient seniors housing as a Community Amenity Contribution when the opportunity cost of the development is considered. 

The rezoning proposal was rejected by the City of Vancouver Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee, from which the City of Vancouver should take direction. There is a reason that the rezoning proposal has been rejected already three times by community groups, by CHAPC, and by a broad spectrum of those who care about Chinatown from all across Vancouver. It is not the right use of a crucial anchor space in Chinatown, and once it has been improperly used, the devastating effects on the whole neighbourhood will be irreversible. The opportunity cost of a failed and inappropriate use of this important location will have consequences far beyond the existing space, since the proposed building adds nothing to Chinatown and in fact creates a huge deficit by squandering a crucial site that could leverage surrounding heritage and public use sites. 

It would be politically untenable and undemocratic to have a representative committee such as CHAPC be ignored in such a high profile decision that goes to the heart of why CHAPC exists in the first place. It would be an insult to the community volunteers who in good faith work on that committee, and lead to a corrosion in faith in city government. The consequences for every city project moving forward in Chinatown but also city wide would be irreparable. This is the line in the sand that has been drawn, and the political cost to City Councillors will be high if it is approved, but perhaps more devastating will be the widespread belief among so many young Vancouverites who have come out in opposition to the 105 Keefer development that their voices are not being heard and that their passionate devotion to the future of Chinatown is being dashed. The fallout from such a blow is hard to calculate, but I would predict that it will have severe consequences that go far beyond 105 Keefer. This rezoning proposal has been a tipping point for the last three years, and how it is solved will reflect upon City Government for decades to come. 

I urge City Council to create a process by which we can have a win-win for all, rather than the lose-lose which an approval of the rezoning will create. Even the developer will lose if this rezoning is approved. Whether they realize it or not, the building they propose will never be accepted even after it is built, and their brand and the building itself will become a symbol for generations to come of their folly and the weakness of the City Council in the face of the hard decisions that they are elected to make. 

Although there are many possible uses that do not squander the location's importance and possibilities, we should have a considered and consultative process with the proper planning tools (cultural and social planning, as well as developer incentives), so that the site can be considered in the context of a broader plan for the Keefer Triangle/Square and south Chinatown entry.  

We need to wait for a proper plan for Keefer Triangle/Square and the south entrance to Chinatown. This is vital because of the development that will follow the Georgia Street Viaducts being removed and the False Creek Flats being rezoned. If we do not actually create a plan that uses the rezoning of this crucial site with some strategic purpose, then why are we allowing a rezoning?  

At the memorial for Joe Wai in early February, the parallels between this moment and the freeway fight were clear. Not only were veterans of that struggle clear in how they saw the connection, most of the 100s of attendees were girding themselves for a similar struggle and inspired by the death of Joe Wai to not squander his life's work by allowing a rezoning that he literally spent his final days opposing. 

As with the Chinatown Freeway and Strathcona struggle four decades ago, this is a generational fight that will define the history of the city itself. Do you want to be on the wrong side of history? 

Dr. Henry Yu
余全毅

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Under Fire: Community Screening & Discussion

An event coming up on Saturday, May 27, that I'll be attending that will be well worth it (and mouthwatering as well!) The film is a wonderful look at how BBQ meat and Chinatown activism have been entwined, and was made by ACAM student Christy Fong (who is currently leading a group of UBC and CUHK students through Kaiping (Hoiping) in China, and long-time researcher and project manager for many of our UBC Chinese Canadian history projects, Denise Fong.
See you there!

Under Fire: Community Screening & Discussion 

Join us for the screening of Under Fire: Inside a Chinese Roasted Meats Shop in Vancouver produced by Christy Fong and Denise Fong, followed by a panel discussion on historical and contemporary activism in Chinatown. Produced in 2016 for UBC FIPR 469a, Under Fire has screened at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival and was a nominee for the VAFF Best Canadian Short Award 2016.

Date: May 27 2017
Time: 1 - 3 pm
Location: Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Gardens (Carrall Street entrance)

Synopsis:
This documentary short brings you into the kitchen of an East Vancouver grocery with an unexpected menu item: roasted pig. Discover the secretive cooking methods and Chinatown’s historical struggles with this iconic dish against municipal, provincial, and federal legislation. Featuring rare soundbites from “Pender Guy,” the 1970s grassroots radio program.

Panel moderator: Joanna Yang
Panelists: Christy Fong, Denise Fong, Fred Mah, June Chow

Admission is free with registration, - RSVP here.

Monday, May 15, 2017

City of Vancouver Community Forums on Historical Discrimination Against Chinese in Vancouver





You are invited to attend a community forum:
Historical Discrimination Against Chinese People in Vancouver
This initiative is in response to a Council motion directing staff to: 
• research on past civic laws, regulations and policies that discriminated against Chinese residents in Vancouver;
• consult with the Chinese community, and;
• recommend steps and actions in support of reconciliation, including a public acknowledgement and formal apology.
As space is limited, registration is required to attend the forum. Please select one of the following:
Wednesday, May 17, 6 - 8 pm 
Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch, 350 West Georgia Street, Alma VanDusen and Peter Kaye Room
Wednesday, May 246 - 8 pm 
Vancouver City Hall, 453 West 12th Avenue, Ground Floor, Town Hall
Saturday, May 27, 10 am – 12 noon 
SUCCESS Choi Hall, 28 West Pender Street, (conducted mainly in Chinese)
These forums will provide opportunities to inform interested public on the preliminary research findings and to gather feedback on potential steps and actions which can prevent discrimination against any
individual or groups in the future.
For more information: Phone 3-1-1 or email: hdc.info@vancouver.ca

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The 70th Anniversary of the Repeal of Chinese Exclusion

Lillian Eva Dyck, Victor Oh and Yuen Pau Woo: Canada’s sordid history of treating Chinese-Canadians as ‘undesirables’

http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/lillian-eva-dyck-victor-oh-and-yuen-pau-woo-canadas-sordid-history-of-treating-chinese-canadians-as-undesirables

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation, another anniversary must not go overlooked. May 14, 2017 marks 70 years since the repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act, the only law in Canadian history to bar a specific ethnic group from coming to Canada.
Today, roughly 1.5 million people of Chinese descent live in Canada. Although most arrived over the past two decades, the first significant wave began in the 19th century. Chinese migrants came to Canada during the 1850s for the gold rush in British Columbia’s lower Fraser Valley. Chinese prospectors earned little money because they were prohibited from working in mines until others had moved on from them.
Another wave of Chinese migrants came between 1881 and 1885 to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. They were exposed to harsh weather conditions and were tasked with the most dangerous and backbreaking jobs of building bridges over valleys and digging tunnels through mountains. These conditions led to 600 deaths, among the more than 15,000 Chinese labourers.
The Chinese head tax created poverty and fractured families.
After the railroad was completed in 1885, many Chinese labourers remained in the country. Some headed for the prairies and eastern Canada, but most stayed in B.C.
Once Chinese labour was no longer needed, the government passed laws to limit and then prohibit Chinese immigration. In 1885, Sir John A. Macdonald’s government enacted the Chinese Immigration Act, which imposed a $50 head tax (more than $1,000 in today’s dollars) on all Chinese immigrants.
The head tax created poverty and fractured families. The majority of Chinese immigrants were men who came to the country to find work. The costly head tax forced them to leave their wives and children behind. Families that paid the fee would spend years paying off the outstanding debt.


On July 1, 1923, the federal government implemented the Chinese Immigration Act, banning Chinese immigration altogether. Other policies further restricted their ability to vote, hold public office, or practice law or medicine. Municipalities enacted additional policies. For instance, Vancouver barred Chinese from swimming in public pools.
Since the Chinese Immigration Act took effect the same day as the anniversary of Confederation, this day became known as “Humiliation Day” among Chinese-Canadians. In protest, some Chinese-Canadians closed their businesses and boycotted Dominion Day (the precursor to Canada Day) celebrations every July 1 until it was repealed. This community felt compelled to reject the nation’s birthday.
It was not until 1947 that the federal government repealed the Chinese Immigration Act, in large part due to the lobbying efforts of activists from across Canada, including lawyer Kew Doc Yip. There was also broader public support for the repeal, as a result of Chinese-Canadians’ significant contribution to the Second World War effort. However, restrictions on Chinese immigration and other discriminatory laws remained in place.
King said Canada had the right to determine who it considers ‘desirable future citizens.’
In the House of Commons that year, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King said Canada had the right to determine who it considers “desirable future citizens.” “Large-scale migration from the Orient would change the fundamental composition of the Canadian population,” he said.
It took another 20 years for this attitude to change. In 1967, Canada introduced a points-based policy that gave Chinese equal opportunity to immigrate to Canada. It allowed immigrants to apply based on education and skills. By the 1980s, Chinese immigration was on the rise, enhancing the status of Chinese communities across the country.
Finally, on June 22, 2006, the Canadian government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, issued a formal apology for the Chinese Immigration Act. It was an important step towards reconciliation. It reaffirmed to Chinese-Canadians that they are full and equal members of Canadian society and that their contributions were valuable to Canada’s development.
Lillian Eva Dyck, Victor Oh and Yuen Pau Woo are Canadian senators of Chinese descent.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Councilor Andrea Reimer's Motion for Naming of City Assets to Reflect Diversity of City's History

Had an interesting conversation with Kirk LaPointe on Roundhouse Radio about Vancouver City Councilor Andrea Reimer's recent motion for a new process for naming city assets such as streets, buildings, and courtyards that would better reflect the diverse history of the city...

Friday, January 27, 2017

Media Stories about All Our Father's Relations

Out today online a great story by Joanne Lee-Young in the Vancouver Sun, the Vancouver Province, and the Calgary Herald (and in the print versions tomorrow--Saturday, January 28), for Chinese News Years and the screening of All Our Father's Relations downtown...

http://vancouversun.com/entertainment/local-arts/musqueam-siblings-trace-fathers-roots-to-china-and-find-little-told-b-c-history

http://www.calgaryherald.com/entertainment/musqueam+siblings+trace+father+roots+china/12792366/story.html

http://www.theprovince.com/entertainment/local+arts/musqueam+siblings+trace+father+roots+china+find/12792366/story.html


Musqueam siblings trace father's roots to China and find little-told B.C. history



Published on: January 27, 2017

Howard Grant on the banks of the Fraser River at the Musqueam reserve in Vancouver along with film producer Sarah Ling. MARK VAN MANEN / PNG














At the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts on Saturday night, there will be a different kind of Lunar New Year event, one rooted in less-inclusive and shameful times of race relations in Canada.

It’s a special showing of All Our Father’s Relations, a documentary film about the Grant siblings, three brothers and a sister, the children of a Chinese father and a Musqueam mother.

Over many years, they were shuttled between their childhood home on Musqueam land in south Vancouver and Chinatown as government policies that discriminated against both Chinese immigrants and First Nations separated their family.

Their father, Hong Tim Hing, left southern China in 1920 on a steamship bound for Vancouver, using a “paper name,” illegal documents that made him out to be the blood relative of another settled Chinese worker, and paying a steep head tax to gain entry. He laboured at vegetable farms, living in a bunkhouse there with other Chinese workers. They were all male and single in a faraway land. He eventually met and married their mother, Agnes Grant.

“My mother was the last fluent speaker of hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, our language,” said Howard E. Grant, the youngest brother. “She connected our community.”

The film highlights the cooperation between Chinese and First Nations in early B.C. history. There were about 20 vegetable farms on Musqueam land in the 1950s that supplied produce across Vancouver. And even earlier, there were gold mining operations along the Fraser River where Chinese workers built businesses on First Nations land. 

The film is also a compelling story of family reunion, respect for elders and ancestors, and a welcoming of fresh beginnings, which exemplify the core of how and why the Lunar New Year holiday exists.

“Those are actually the underlying values that have become more eroded now in practice,” said University of B.C. history professor Henry Yu.
The film follows the Grant siblings on their first trip in 2013 from Vancouver to Sei Moon, the village near Zhongshan in China’s southern Guangdong province that their father had left almost a century ago. 

In an outdoor courtyard, they meet Cantonese-speaking relatives, including the youngest brother of their late father. There are hugs and later, tears.




Howard and Larry Grant from Vancouver (centre and right) meet their father’s youngest brother, Lai Sook, in Sei Moon, southern China.  ALEJANDRO YOSHIZAWA / HANDOUT


Said Howard of one relative he met that day: “I found out, that that lady is Uncle Tommy’s daughter.” Grant said his uncle, whom he grew up with and loved, had followed his father to Canada. “What can I say to a woman, who was about my age, who said, ‘Did you know my dad?”

There are other poignant moments. The siblings moved from Musqueam to Chinatown when, with their mother, they were stripped of their status under the Indian Act because their father was not aboriginal. But, growing up in Chinatown with a father who scorned the poor Cantonese language skills of his half-aboriginal children meant they escaped the horrors of the residential schools, which their cousins did not.

The film, directed by Alejandro Yoshizawa and produced by UBC history graduate Sarah Ling, has already won some awards and is gaining interest. Organizers this week added a second screening at 9:15 p.m in addition to the earlier sold out show. (Ticket info is available online at eventbrite.ca.)
Since that first trip, Grant has made another trip to the village and then to other parts of China to learn more about things he feels he has known all his life.

“They were like us. They burned (offerings) for their dead. They fed their dead. They had ceremony. From a cultural perspective, in regards to (eating at) a round table, we have our long house in a circle as well. It gives opportunity for dialogue. Confrontation was not a position we took. It was more, ‘let me hear what you have to say and then let’s talk about it.’ We were so close.”


Thursday, January 26, 2017

All Our Father's Relations 7pm show sold out on Jan. 28 but 9pm show added

The response to All Our Father's Relations has been phenomenal. The special Chinese New Year's screening on Saturday, January 28 has been sold out almost a week beforehand, and to accommodate the high demand a second showing that night at 9pm has been added. Get your tickets before that show sells out too!

Tickets at: www.bit.ly/AOFRJan28




Media attention to the film has been great. I had the pleasure of being on Minelle Mahtani's Sense of Place show on Tuesday morning with Howard Grant and Sarah Ling to talk about All Our Father's Relations. The clip of the conversation can be heard at:
http://cirh.streamon.fm/listen-pl-7569

A powerful and moving moment hearing Howard speak about what the experience of making the film, and going to his father's home village in China had meant to him...

Minelle, me, Howard, and Sarah

A story appeared last week in the Courier, and another in the Source this week. Another story will be in the Vancouver Sun for Chinese New Years and Elder Larry Grant and Sarah will be on CBC's On the Coast Friday. 


From THE COURIER:

Documentary connects histories of Chinese immigrants and Musqueam
All Our Father’s Relations screens Jan. 28

JOHN KURUCZ / VANCOUVER COURIER
JANUARY 20, 2017 12:31 PM





Filmmaker Sarah Ling travelled with Larry Grant and his family to their ancestral home in southern China. Grant’s father left the village of Sei Moon and moved to Vancouver in 1920 where he eventually married Agnes Grant, who was of Musqueam descent. 
Photo Dan Toulgoet


Surrounded by total strangers in a tiny village in southern China, Larry Grant experienced a pivotal, if not uniquely bizarre, moment that instantly tied to him a past generation.

Related


It was November 2013, and Grant was flanked by three of his siblings and a documentary film crew tasked with travelling to the family patriarch’s place of birth.
Strangers on the surface, some of those Chinese villagers who greeted the Vancouver group turned out to be blood relatives.
“They were feeding us and introducing us to cousins, nephews and nieces that we had never met when along comes an uncle I didn’t know that I had,” Grant recalled. “I was taken aback. Holy smokes. He was a spitting image of an uncle that had come to Canada and lived for 20-plus years here before his death. Here was this guy who looked like he stepped out of the grave. It was unbelievable.”
The re-unification process that played out is a central theme to the film All Our Father’s Relations, which screens in Vancouver on Jan. 28 at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts to coincide with the Chinese New Year.
The film follows the interconnected histories, relationships and hardships experienced by both Chinese- Canadian immigrants and First Nations from across Metro Vancouver.
The Grant family’s story is a microcosm of those experiences and stories. Grant’s father, Hong Tim Hing, left the village of Sei Moon and moved to Vancouver in 1920. He worked on farmland located on Musqueam territory, and eventually married Agnes Grant, who was of Musqueam descent.
Government legislation of the day, however, prohibited the couple from living together on the reserve; Hing was forced to live apart from the rest of the family. Even though his parents were married, Grant likened his upbringing to being raised in a single-parent home.
Barriers upon barriers targeting Chinese-Canadians and indigenous populations are featured throughout the film: the Indian Act, residential schools, the banning of potlatchs and the Chinese Head Tax, among others. 
The film calls attention to those past wrongs, but also highlights the resilience required to live through those experiences.
“All of those hardships that were endured by our ancestors, of not having parity, equality and equity in society — I would like the viewers to have a better understanding of that,” said Grant, who’s now 80 and still living on the main Musqueam reserve in South Vancouver. “A lot of things were said and done. But you just did your best. I just kept pushing and pushing.”
Grant graduated from high school in 1955 and went on to a career as an auto machinist and heavy duty mechanic in the longshore industry. He now works at UBC in the First Nations and Endangered Languages Program, to help keep the Musqueam language alive.
It was at UBC that Grant first crossed paths with Sarah Ling, a history student and fledgling documentary filmmaker at the time. Their initial collaboration was a trilingual children’s book based on Grant’s life that was published in English, Chinese and the Musqueam language, hən'q'əmin'əm.’
The plan to hatch the film was then born in 2013, shortly before the Grants left for China. In her role as producer, Ling helped family members tell their story and lined up the logistics of the filming and editing process.
Along with director Alejandro Yoshizawa, Ling witnessed first-hand the reunification of families once separated by more than 10,000 kilometres.
“It was really profound — when they first saw their uncle and embraced him, I think it was hard for them to speak,” she said. “You could see so many memories flooding back. I felt really privileged to be there.”
The Grants were in Sei Moon for less than 48 hours. Documenting the trip, bridging the cultural gap and establishing communication — they had three translators along — was pivotal. A journal written in Cantonese was shown to Grant that traced centuries of his father’s roots in China.
“I was told, ‘You are the 17th generation of this house.’ Oh my God. That was my reaction,” he said. “Going there and being hugged and fed, it’s not just something in a book at that point. To be embraced and hear someone say, ‘This is where you belong, this is where you come from’ was very emotional.”  Tickets for All Our Father’s Relations are available online only and cost $15. The screening kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. Ticket info is available online at eventbrite.ca.



Thursday, January 12, 2017

Joe Wai's Passing--Losing A Community Giant Whose Designs and Personal Influence Shaped Vancouver

Every New Year, I look forward to a beautiful hand drawn card in the mail from Joe Wai. The style of his sketches are unmistakable--of buildings, courtyards, of intimate cityscapes--captured in spare line drawings and always accompanied by a personal handwritten message in the same unique penmanship. Opening the envelope at this time every year has always been an honour for me, an annual ritual that filled me with pride to know that I had warranted such gracious attention and respect from one of my personal heroes.

Those cards will no longer be coming. To me or to any of the large number of people who respected and revered Joe.

Just hours ago, I heard the terrible news of Joe Wai's passing. It is a devastating loss. Just days ago, he had been at the Open House at the Chinese Cultural Centre for the Rezoning Proposal for 105 Keefer, a passionate and vocal activist for Chinatown, saying what needed to be said, and standing up for what he believed was right, even though his health has been a challenge over the last few years. Joe has been an inspiration for me in almost every thing that I do as a historian and as a community volunteer. I cannot count how many meetings I have had the privilege of being at with him, and I can hear clearly in my mind at this very moment the sound of his voice, persuasively articulating what needed to be done or explaining with clarity the history of why things had become the way they were. Although his professional life was as an architect, and in particular as a defining presence in heritage architecture, his most profound effect for me and I am sure for many others has been in his longstanding involvement in the civic life of Vancouver. He was a giant presence in any conversation, but not because he was loud or boisterous, but because of the compelling content of what he would say. Joe Wai the active citizen and community volunteer has profoundly shaped this city, as much as his iconic architectural designs have given shape to Vancouver's Chinatown and Strathcona neighbourhoods. He cared about the issues, but he also cared about the people who came together to argue, and cajole, and sometimes shout at each other about what was best for their community. Often, in such contexts, his was a whisper compared to the heated voices of passionate debate. But his words nevertheless had an impact beyond any angry shout because of the gravity and clarity of what he said rather than the volume at which he spoke.

I would not be working at UBC, in the job I have, if it was not for Joe Wai speaking out while a member of the Board of Governors, asking why in a city such as Vancouver with its population and location, there was so little teaching and engagement of students with the long Chinese Canadian history that had shaped not only his beloved Chinatown, but the city (and UBC) in general. It was that outspoken prompt that led to the creation of a relevant position, the hiring of me and other colleagues who focused on Asian Canadian and Asian migration issues, and as a consequence also the creation of programs that brought hundreds of UBC students over the last decade into meaningful engagements with local Chinese Canadian, Japanese Canadian, South Asian Canadian, and other Asian Canadian communities. Few people realize how crucial a role Joe Wai played as a catalyst in sparking the creation of these new programs.

In a similar way, Joe's voice has helped shape many other initiatives and civic projects over his long fruitful life. His significant impact, often as quiet and low-key as his baritone voice, has been monumental.

When I came home to Vancouver to work at UBC, leaving a job at UCLA, one of the biggest reasons I did so was because of the encouragement and inspiration of Joe Wai. In a café now long gone, sitting for a meal with Andy Yan and Joe's brother Hayne, any trepidations that I had about making this huge change in my life were allayed by the reassurance that Joe Wai would be a supportive ally. He never let me down, or any of the countless students who have gone out from UBC over the last decade in the passionate and engaged manner envisioned by Joe. Some of them were as lucky as I was to meet and learn from Joe himself, in particular those who were interested in Chinatown and its struggles over the last decade not to lose its significance as a special and unique part of our city's heritage. Those who knew him can count themselves lucky to have had him as a kind and supportive mentor, generous with his time and advice, but also candid about the challenges of an active and engaged life.

Changes come sometimes only with persistent and impassioned struggle, and oftentimes a hard won gain is subsequently lost. For those whose youthful energy can wane, discouraged by how difficult entrenched hierarchies could be, Joe was a figure of inspiration but also of consolation, a sage whose wisdom had been hard earned through both victories and disappointments. I remember many of those times, when after a particular discussion or meeting, I felt stunned by the barely veiled cynicism that had shaped a decision. Moments like those threaten to sap the energy it often takes to stand up for what you believe, and like rust, over time break the strength of conviction with the corrosion of cynicism. I have myself been reminded by Joe's own example to not lose hope. His humanity itself was a bulwark against becoming a hopeless cynic. Walking to the car with him after a discussion had ended and hearing him chuckle about a head scratching moment was like a tonic, a reminder that laughing off our human foibles rather than demonizing others allowed one to continue to search for a humane compromise.


My heartfelt condolences to the Wai family, whose loss today and in the days to come far outweigh that of those like me who have had the privilege of benefitting from Joe's generousity.

Joe Wai was a great architect, a great citizen of this city, and a gentleman whose grace and dignity will continue to be an inspiration to many...

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