Time to View the Chinese Community in a New Light

In the crossfire of the recent Michael Chan affair, CPAC (formerly Chinese Professionals Association of Canada) has had the unfortunate experience of being part of the collateral damage.  We are disappointed that the Globe incorrectly portrayed our organization as “pro-Liberal.” This type of mistake is not up to the level of professionalism that we would expect from a national paper.

The fact is, CPAC is a strictly nonpartisan organization and has never taken a position for or against any political party or on a political issue.  As a large community service organization, we have participated in consultations initiated by all levels of government and, for the merit of our work, have been visited by political leaders of all three parties in recent years, including Tim Hudak, Jason Kenney, Alice Wong, Olivia Chow, Justin Trudeau and Joe Oliver.

The background of CPAC’s founding in 1992 had nothing to do with politics. It was simply a result of the human need for socializing. At the time, hundreds of Chinese students graduated from North American universities and left their respective student associations. In their new status as Canadian professionals, they longed for a social support group. The result was the birth of CPAC.

Over the past two decades, CPAC has worked tirelessly and helped thousands of internationally trained professionals integrate and succeed in Canadian society. The organization has evolved from serving just the Chinese community to serving clients from all communities and all cultures. It has also adopted a new, explanatory name: Cross-cultural Professionals Association of Canada.

The Globe conducted dozens of interviews over 10 months, but failed to check the facts with us, despite our willingness to be interviewed. This was bound to create a wrong impression of CPAC among its readers.

For CPAC members and the Chinese community at large, errors of fact are troubling enough, but what concern us more are the uninformed and misinformed conceptions that fuel articles like the recent ones about the Chinese communityand one of its leaders, Mr. Michael Chan.

The Chinese community has been in Canada for close to one and a half centuries. Yet some people in our society still seem to have a hard time accepting a Chinese community becoming more mature and more participatory in the Canadian democracy. The “us” and “them” mentality seems to be still alive and well in certain people’s minds.

The Chinese community has long been criticized as being apathetic in political participation. However, as soon as the community became a little more active, it was singled out and blamed for simply doing what an active community would do in a democracy.

Some Canadians seem to have many wrong ideas about China and the Chinese community. For example, in a recent survey commissioned by the Asian Pacific Foundation, most respondents believed that 25% of Canada’s foreign investment came from China, where in fact it only amounted to 3%. Such misconception has much to do with the way our media report about the Chinese community and the so-called “China’s influence” in Canada.  As an influential national medium, the Globe has a responsibility to objectively report facts and provide balanced, impartial and informative commentary – not to confuse issues or take biased stance.

Those who have ever bothered to look at Canada’s foreign policy changes, immigration policy changes, and major procurement decisions will have no difficulty concluding that “undue” influences on Canadian governments are decidedly not from China or the Chinese community in Canada. On the contrary, the Chinese community has been very weak in terms of lobbying or influencing the government.

In our global village, we firmly believe that good relations between Canada and China are in the best interests of both countries, not just economically and culturally, but also in other intangible forms. The way to do that, as Canada’s former ambassador to China, David Mulroney, said, is to engage China strategically to Canada’s advantage. To that end, international trade efforts like Minister Chan’s should be encouraged not discouraged.  Connections of Chinese Canadians to their home country should be recognized as an advantage and strength, not a detriment.


Margaret Yang

President of CPAC

On behalf of the CPAC Board