Student Fellows 2010-2012

Chinese Canadian Stories Research Team 2011-2012. Back Row (L-R): Joanne Poon, Henry Yu, Denise Fong, Alejandro Yoshizawa, Jennifer Yip. Front Row (L-R): Elena Kusaka, Wendy Phung, Rosanne Sia, Ethan Wong, Sarah Ling.

Chinese Canadian Stories Research Team 2011-2012. Back Row (L-R): Joanne Poon, Prof. Henry Yu, Denise Fong, Alejandro Yoshizawa, Jennifer Yip. Front Row (L-R): Elena Kusaka, Wendy Phung, Rosanne Sia, Ethan Wong, Sarah Ling.

Elena Kusaka

Elena graduated with a B.A. in International Relations and Women’s & Gender Studies in 2010, following a joint U.B.C. – National University of Singapore course and an internship at Asia Research Institute in Singapore. Working with Al Yoshizawa in Montreal, she assisted with oral history interviews and short documentary films. Her last project with Chinese Canadian Stories was the coordination of Kosher Combo, later evolving into oral history interviews for the U.B.C. Japanese Canadian Students of 1942 Tribute Ceremony. After assisting with the development of, in 2013 Elena completed an M.A. in History and Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of Toronto. Her researched included oral history interviews with Vietnam War veterans, A.R.V.N. veterans, and anti-war activists, focusing on the war in Canadian memory. She has worked with oral history interviews for Know History Historical Research Firm, the Hemmingford Archives, and continues to document, interview, and create.

Sarah Ling

I was born and raised in Prince Rupert, BC, the traditional territory of the Tsimshian people. As a Masters student the UBC Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program with a major in English Literature and minor in First Nations Studies, I work closely with the Musqueam Nation to remap the rich history of Chinese market gardening on Musqueam Indian Reserve 2. Growing up I witnessed people from many different First Nations gather in my parent’s store. Customers often provided my family with a delicious array of seafood. Early in my MA program, Professor Henry Yu encouraged me to investigate my family roots. I came across the story of my great-great-uncle who was the first Chinese merchant of Prince Rupert in 1910, a trader with Coastal First Nations, and the father of 11 children including veterans Cedric and Albert Mah.

Chinese-First Nations relationships are an integral yet hidden part of Canadian history that I’m excited to help expose. My current work features Elder Larry Grant, a teacher, friend, and mentor of Chinese and Musqueam ancestry who I highly respect for the knowledge and kindness he shares to strengthen communities. Working with Chinese Canadian Stories has deepened my understanding of and appreciation for my ancestry, equipped me with valuable skills like film editing, and has guided my passion for revitalizing marginalized histories.

Wendy Phung

I’ve had a passion for discovering history since I began taking social studies in elementary school. I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a History major and a minor in Political Science. At UBC I took an Asian Migration History course with Professor Henry Yu and got the opportunity to rediscover my own family past ties to ethnic Chinese as Sino-Vietnamese refugees using multimedia film as a resource of creative and historical expression. It continued to ignite my passion with storytelling and discovering history with an artistic digital medium. I worked with Chinese Canadian Stories as a film researcher interviewing individuals and families about their histories and unique stories. I had a special opportunity to interview my father Luan Van Phung about his own unique story seeking refuge after leaving war torn Vietnam. My parents were one of many who dangerously escaped Vietnam by boat in hopes of building a better life abroad. My father’s story was included in our Chinese Canadian Stories digital media kiosk showcasing the different stories and migrations of Asian Canadians. I’ve had such an amazing opportunity to learn and share truly unique stories that connect people across Canada and will continue to encourage storytelling for the future.

Jennifer Rodriguez

Research Assistant, 2010-2011

Rosanne Sia

Rosanne Sia holds a BA in History and English Literature and an MA in History from the University of British Columbia. Rosanne is fluent in French and English and has worked on Chinese Canadian history. She has also served as a researcher for the city of Vancouver on Aboriginal and immigrant groups in the city. Rosanne’s MA thesis, “Making and Defending Intimate Spaces: White Waitresses Policed in Vancouver’s Chinatown cafes” explored cross-racial intimacies between working women and Chinese men. She now wants to expand her research by exploring similar intimacies in cities across early twentieth century North America. She is currently a Ph.D student at the University of Southern California.

Ethan Wong

My name is Ethan Wong and I’m a recent graduate from UBC with a History major. During my studies at UBC, I took a course with Professor Yu that required me to learn through hands-on historical research experience, throwing me into the world of video editing, interviewing and even resulting in self-discovery. Through research work outside of the classroom, I was exposed to a Vancouver History that I was intrinsically apart of and coincidentally contributing towards. In 2011, I was the President of the Chinese Varsity Club, annually one of the largest social clubs on UBC campus. During my tenure, I was able to promote awareness for Chinese Canadian Stories directly and indirectly through cultural events and initiatives. My most memorable experience as part of the Chinese Canadian Stories was examining my family’s past within the Wong’s Benevolent Association, and my grandfather’s tenure as principle at Mon Keang Chinese School. Because of his contributions, I was privileged with the opportunity to examine historical documents, photos, and handbooks dating back to Mon Keang’s inaugural graduating class.  This experience definitely showed me the vast history that is present around us, and the importance of restoration and digitization efforts to help showcase overlooked aspects of history.

Jennifer Yip

I am a Chinese Canadian who comes from a family with a history of migration to Canada. Despite this, and even growing up in Vancouver with many other Chinese Canadians, I felt disconnected from my heritage. Neither my family nor my school curriculum helped me explore what it meant to be Chinese Canadian. My family thought their stories of migration and lives in Canada were insignificant. In my social studies class, I remember spending only a week on Chinese Canadian history. Even as I listened to the teacher talk about the Chinese labourers who worked on the Canadian Pacific Railway, I knew there was something missing.

To compensate, when I entered the University of British Columbia, I was determined to explore my cultural background. I studied History and Asian Studies, with an intense focus on Chinese history and literature. I even spent a year learning Mandarin in Taiwan, in spite of the fact that my family is Cantonese. Yet, little of my studies connected me with what I really searching for: something Chinese Canadian.

In my fourth year of university, I finally started to find the stories that I had been searching for. That year, I took a history class about Asian migration to Canada. It was through this course that I and another student, Alejandro Yoshizawa, made a film about Vancouver’s Chinatown. Graciously funded by the CHRP, our film not only told the story of Chinatown through its buildings, it also validated the role of Chinese Canadians through its use of oral histories. Through the creation of this film, I finally saw how my family, and even I have had a hand in shaping Canadian history.

Through my engagement with CHRP, such as creating a film about Vancouver’s Chinatown, and organizing various community-based workshops, I have had the opportunity to help recover some of the lost stories of our Canadian past. But I am not alone, as over the past 7 years, over 1000 other students have also undertaken a similar journey recovering our Chinese Canadian stories. And I believe that all of us, as today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders, have a crucial role to play in rethinking our history for the past, present, and future. Heading towards our 150th year as a nation, I hope that what we as Canadian students have accomplished so far in telling and recovering the stories of Chinese Canadians serves just as a starting point for what is to come.

Alejandro Yoshizawa

My name is Alejandro Yoshizawa and I am a graduate student in the History department at Concordia University (Montreal), having previously graduated from the University of British Columbia (Vancouver) with a Physics major and History minor.  I currently live in Vancouver.

While taking a course at UBC in 2008 with Dr. Henry Yu, I discovered and recovered my family’s role within Canadian history by creating a 60-minute film about my Japanese grandfather’s life in Canada entitled, From Issei to Sansei: The History of My Grandfather’s Life. The film was screened at the 20th Anniversary of the Japanese Canadian Redress Conference later that year. Since then, I have been very interested in oral history and film, and have continued to work in the field of Asian Canadian history. I was hired as the lead filmmaker for the Chinese Canadian Stories project, which afforded me the opportunity to work with both the local community and academics in a variety of exciting projects. Among the films produced were Covered RootsKosher Combo, Lillian Dyck: Not Just Chinese, C.D. Hoy: Family Portrait, An Afternoon with Lillie Louie, Montreal Portraits, Wonton Soup for the Soul, and Robert H. Lee: A Canadian Story. I have also been involved with the UBC Japanese Canadian Students of 1942 Tribute project, directing the films A Degree of Justice and 70 Years Later. My most recent film, The Hunt for Matsutake, was a result of my studies at Concordia.

The most exciting part of my job is being able to work with individuals in the community. There are so many interesting stories out there, which taken as a whole, make up Canadian history.  This history is not static and “already written”, but dynamic and constantly being added to.  I see it every day, and learn something new every film I make – hopefully the viewers do as well.