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Chinese Canadian soldiers honoured for WW II efforts at new museum exhibit

05/09/2015 05:01 EDT | Updated 05/09/2016 05:59 EDT
When Canadian veteran George Chow was accepted into the army in 1940 to fight in the Second World War, he hadn't realized that he was one of the few among his Chinese Canadian friends who actually got in.

"[It was] not until I heard about it later on — then I found out some of them tried to join the army, some of them tried to join the Air Force, but they wouldn't accept them," Chow told On The Coast.

"But I just walked in there. I was made a soldier all within two hours from the time I went in."

Chow, who is from Victoria, B.C., said he decided to join the army because he didn't want to become a pig farmer like his father.

After training at the Seaforth Armouries in Vancouver, he became a gunner and served in an all-Canadian crew that shot down the first German plane on English soil.

He was also a part of the forces that helped liberate Holland from German occupation in 1945.

Fighting for a country that didn't want them

Chow was one of the roughly 600 Chinese Canadians who served in the Second World War, despite being disenfranchised by a mounting head tax and later, an anti-Chinese immigration policy.

Many Chinese Canadians' contributions to the war have gone largely unnoticed. However, 70 years after VE Day, the Chinese Canadian Military Exhibit in Vancouver wants to bring their stories — including Chow's — to light with a new exhibit opening on Saturday.

"When the war was declared, the Chinese Canadian community had this really big debate," said museum curator Catherine Clement.

"There were those who said, 'We should go and serve because if we do this, we will prove our loyalty to Canada and we can win the right to be full citizens.' And others said, 'Why would we bother to fight for a country that's treated us this way?'"

Clement said the Second World War was significant for Chinese Canadians because two years after the war ended, the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed and Chinese Canadians were allowed to get full citizenship.

"We always try to call World War Two our double victory — victory over Germany and Japan, but victory for … the Asians at home who finally became full citizens," she said.

The Chinese Canadian Military Museum is located at 555 Columbia Street in Vancouver.

To hear the full story, listen to the audio labelled: Chinese Canadian soldiers exhibit opens at Vancouver museum

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