MP Jenny Kwan draws strength from heritage
immigrating to Canada.
“It gave me the foundation, the understanding and the motivation to return to Canada and contribute in a more meaningful way,” she said.
After returning, Kwan worked as an advocate at the Downtown Eastside Residents Association after finishing her bachelor of arts degree in criminology at Simon Fraser University. The advocacy work started her on a path to politics.
In 1993, Kwan was elected the youngest councillor to the Vancouver City Council and later moved on to provincial politics in 1996.
In deciding which political party to join, Kwan researched and learned that it was NDP that fought for the rights of Chinese people. And indeed, it has been 42 years since NDP Premier Dave Barrett brought the first Canadian provincial delegation to China.
It was also former premier Barrett’s government that funded the development of the Chinese Cultural Centre as a means to preserve and promote Chinese culture in British Columbia.
Kwan also found out that former Vancouver mayor Mike Harcourt paired Vancouver and Guangzhou as sister cities in 1985. Then as a premier, he twinned Guangdong with British Columbia as sister provinces. Investments were made to strengthen Chinatown with the development of the Chinatown Parkade.
Kwan joined the NDP and became part of the Glen Clark government in 2001. She was one of the first two Chinese Canadians elected to the BC Legislature and the first ChineseCanadian cabinet minister.
“One of my first acts as a cabinet minister was to travel back to China with the premier and a team of business leaders to continue to build relations with China,” she said.
Kwan had a great opportunity to contribute to relations between Canada and China and also to focus on policies important to the Chinese community.
In 2005, Kwan and Member of the Legislative Assembly Mike Farnworth traveled back to China to celebrate Guangdong’s 50th anniversary of relations with foreign countries.
“We have and continue to invite and receive delegations from China in an effort to continue to build and expand our relations with China to exchange and promote cultural, economic and investment opportunities,” Kwan said.
They organized the support of British Columbians for the designation of the Kaiping Watch Towers as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They invited Shandong Satellite TV to British Columbia and hosted an agricultural farm tour through BC that yielded 17 film episodes about the province’s agricultural products and tourism opportunities.
They also organized a conference with Chinese and Canadian tourism operators in preparation for the influx of tourists from China after Canada received its approved destination status from China.
“China is now the second-largest economy in the world — within 10 years, it will probably be the largest. There is so much more government and each of us individually can do to promote cultural harmony, economic exchange and build on the great history and relationship we have already built,” Kwan said.
“Let’s continue to work together to strengthen these relationships for our countries’ mutual benefits,” she said.
Kwan said she has returned to China numerous times. “In fact, my first trip back to China was to find my roots, find out where my parents and grandparents came from,” she said.
“I hope that my children will do that, too. I hope that they will go on their own to find their roots and to understand where their mom’s parents, and their parents and the parents before them came from, and to remember that history and our own heritage.”
One of my first acts as a cabinet minister was to travel back to China with the premier and a team of business leaders to continue to build relations with China.”
Jenny Kwan, member of Parliament, Vancouver East Jenny Kwan, member of Parliament for Vancouver East, said that becoming Canadian does not mean that Chinese should forgo their heritage.