The Wong Family Experience

A century of immigration

The immigration story of Frank Wong and his family parallels that of many Chinese immigrants. Their dream of a better life was achieved through hard work, citizenship, and perseverance.

Frank’s great-grandfather Wong Shai Non came to Saskatchewan at the turn of the last century. His grandfather, Wong Chok Yip (Jimmy Wong, 1897-1962), immigrated to Canada in approximately 1916. He left behind his wife, Yee (Yu) Mee Yee.

Jimmy and two of his brothers worked in southern Saskatchewan in the laundry and restaurant business. They eventually settled in Swift Current, Saskatchewan where they worked and finally owned and ran the Modern Café. A “married bachelor”, Jimmy worked to support his family in China. He returned to China every 3 or 4 years to visit his wife and family; thus each of his sons was born following his visits. In 1958, Jimmy and wife lived together for the first time in a long time when Mee Yee immigrated to Canada.

Frank was born Woon Woon Wong in December 1948 in the family village at Chow Buck Alley, Chow Tung 38 Village, in Toi Shan, Kwang Tung, China. As the oldest child of Wong Sut Ying (a communal farmer and bookkeeper) and Yee (Yu) Kwan Sin, Frank was chosen to join his grandfather in Canada. At the age of 5, he moved to Hong Kong with his grandmother. His family saved a year’s salary to purchase his identity papers.

Frank was 9 years old when he immigrated to Canada under an assumed name, Woon Tong Chiu. He arrived in Vancouver in the spring of 1958, as the “son” of two other individuals posing as his parents, ‘Susan Chiu’ and ‘Mr. Chiu’.

That summer Frank joined his grandparents in Swift Current. He started school under the name of Frank Chiu. In 1963, after the death of his grandfather, Frank and his grandmother moved to Oyen, Alberta. His uncles owned the Star Café, where Frank worked when not in school. A portion of his earnings was sent to his parents in China. After high school, Frank took Architectural Technology at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary.

In 1970, Frank took advantage of the amnesty program and reclaimed his family name of Wong. In December of 1971, Frank moved to Red Deer to work for the Red Deer Regional Planning Commission. He began the process of sponsoring his parents and siblings to move to Canada. For two years he worked at the Planning Commission, Silver Star Restaurant, the Club Café and John Horn Surveys to save enough money to support his family’s move. He applied for their immigration in 1975, and on January 7, 1977, his parents and younger brother and sister arrived in Canada and came straight to Red Deer. One sister stayed behind, as she was over 21 and married. She eventually immigrated in 1997.

Frank is an active citizen and has helped shape the City of Red Deer.

As a Planning Assistant, he spent more then 30 years sketching subdivision lines, developing land-use bylaws and helping to name Red Deer streets.

He has been an active member of: the Red Deer & District Chinese Community Society, Knox Presbyterian Church, the Kidney Foundation of Canada, the Red Deer Cultural Heritage Society, Friends of Sunnybrook Farm Society, the Red Deer & District Museum Society and was an original member of the Red Deer Regional Hospital Foundation.

Frank was first elected to City Council in 2004 and retired from council in 2021.

Timeline

  • 1877

    First Chinese to settle in the Canadian Prairies arrive in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

  • 1880

    First Chinese residents settle in Alberta.

    1880

  • 1885

    Chinese Immigration Act introduce a Poll Tax or Head Tax to be paid by all Chinese immigrants. Chinese merchants soon became exempt, leaving tax to be paid by labourers. The Head Tax was $50.00.

  • 1900

    The Head Tax was increased to $100.00.

    1900

  • 1903

    The Head Tax was increased to $500.00.

  • 1923

    Chinese Immigration Act, or Exclusion Act, stated that all Chinese citizens who had arrived prior to 1924 had to be registered and could only leave Canada for two years or less. It was an outright ban on Chinese Immigration to Canada with the exceptions of merchants, diplomats, students, and “special circumstances” cases.

    1923

  • 1947

    The 1923 Immigration Act was revised to allow limited family reunions. Chinese men in Canada registered their wives and children as potential immigrants, even if there was no plan to immigrate. This created “paper slots”, whereby newly opened immigration spots were sold to aspiring Chinese immigrants willing to assume the identity of the open slot.

  • 1950s

    The Peoples Republic of China was under going monumental changes that saw land reform, social revolution and economic transformation after the Chinese country side.

    1950s

  • 1960-73

    *The Amnesty Program was part of the Chinese Adjustment Statement Program, whereby Chinese immigrants who had entered Canada illegally could come forward to state how they immigrated. If they had good character and had not participated in any systemic illegal immigration, they were allowed to remain in Canada.

  • 1967

    Canada eliminates the “place of origins” section in the Immigration Policy.

    1967

  • 1991-97

    Thousands of Hong Kong Immigrants arrive in Canada in response to end of Great Britain’s 99 year lease on Hong Kong.

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