Continued in Part II: Photos and Part III: Reference Links

Kenny and I, Sue-On, are the 4th generation of our family in Canada.
Many families were here before us.
Our family, however, have been in Canada, Manitoba since pre-1900

* Great Grandfather Choy Yet Seed was the first of the Choys to come to the Gold Mountain (North America)
        (Photo of Cho Yet Seed)

* As with the Choys, southern Manitoba has a long history of Chinese settlement with most families coming from the Taishan region of southern China. With connections, many settled along the Yellowhead Route (Highway 16) (See photo section for list of Manitoba restaurants)

* Great Grandfather's son, Choy Him, followed him in 1911 later to Canada as a merchant and did not pay the $500 Chinese Head Tax. “Grandpa came as a merchant, working for someone in Vancouver, learned a little English, then he ended up in Winnipeg to be a houseboy for the Commissioner of Water Works, Prior to that, Choy Him ran a restaurant in Ferrigan, Saskatchewan.

* In 1923, Choy Him had sent for his thirteen-year-old son, Choy Soo, and he would pay his $500 Head Tax to come to Canada. (See Head Tax Certificate photo)

* In 1930 they moved to Newdale, a village in SW Manitoba, where they bought a hotel with a restaurant and pub. When the Provincial Liquor Laws would not allow Chinese -- who were deemed non-citizen aliens -- to obtain a liquor license to operate a beer parlor, they were forced to sell the hotel.

* Choy Him then bought a building down the street in which he established the Paris Cafe. (Newspaper Photo of Soo and Paris Cafe)

* In the beginning, it was mainly the men who came because of the 1923 Chinese immigration Exclusion Act (Bachelors).

• Our grandfathert Choy Him returned to China in 1937. Soo then ran the Paris Café in Newdale for more than 20 years. During this time, the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed (1947) and Soo, like most other Chinese men, started making plans and saving money to bring his family to join him in Canada

• Prior to 1947, like other Chinese families, the family was separated for 24 years because Canada’s 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act. This act banned most Chinese - especially families - from coming to Canada. However, Soo would make trips back to China, as allowed under the legislation, in the years 1925, 1928, 1931, 1936, and 1948. He had married Yook Hai and would have five children.
(Photo of Sue-On and Mom in front of the China Home)
(Photo of the Choy Home in China)

* In 1947, the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed and families were allowed to be reunited.
          New arrivals would get support from the ones who came before. (Photo: Part of first family wave gathered in Choy House)

• In 1958, 10-year-old Sue-On and her Mother joined Soo in Newdale. Son, 21-year-old Kenny, followed in 1959. (Photo: Immigration Pictures and HK Airport Departure - Family Farewell)

• Once his family joined him, Choy Soo and his family would run the restaurant for another 14 years.
• Families would connect and gather on days off to socialize as many of the women didn’t speak much English. (Photo: Choy clan gathering in Paris Cafe)

• Southern Manitoba has a long history of Chinese settlement with most families coming from the Taishan region of southern China. Often, it’s through sponsorship among families and friends.

* New families were able to settle in because they are related, came from the same area, and spoke the same dialect.

* Restaurant business was the one the early generations all excelled in with minimal English.

* Soo and Jade, and daughter Sue-Sem, who had come later, retired from Newdale Paris cafe in 1972 and moved to Brandon. After moving to Brandon, Kenny and Choy Soo decided to open Soo’s Chop Suey House.

* The parents worked hard so that their kids would have better careers. Today, descendants have all risen to the top in their respective careers: university professors, lawyers, doctors, judges, architects, accountants, health and medical fields, IT spcialists, etc.

• Our family never encountered the racism that grandfather Choy Him experienced from 1911 to the 1930s.
Soo had good friends, he ran a good business. He came in when he was 13. He spoke perfect English and even became the first Chinese-Canadian Master in the Masonic Lodge in Manitoba. (Photo of Soo)
Dad was just one of those guys who got along with everyone.

* Oldest son Gene lived with his wife Susan and family in Seattle. They had four children: Martin, Linda, Janet, and Menzie. They all work in the medical and academic field.

* Daughter Sue-Sem Gin: arrived in Newdale 1968 with 8 year-old daughter Ilym. Her husband Wai Kai Gin was detained in China for a number of years before finally allowed to emigrate.

* Sue-Sem lived and worked with her parents in Newdale until they moved to Brandon in 1970. Ilym attended school in Newdale until the move.

* Ilym graduated from Brandon University and went on to study medicine at McGill University.

* After retiring from Soo’s Chop Suey house in 1992, Sue-Sem and husband Wai Kai moved to Burnaby, B.C. After her husband passed, Sue-Sem has lived in Burnaby with daughter Ilym (a family doctor) and husband Paul (dentist). They have two children:
Brendan studied in Australia for his Masters in Physiotherapy. Daughter Alanna works in Marketing in a software company.

* Kenny trained in Laboratory Technology at BMHC.

* Tested Water from the Assiniboine River and surrounding communities ~ Tested milk from Manco and Modern Dairies ~ Blood samples, etc. in the lab.

* He became Chief Medical Technologist at BMHC and later as Assistant Administrator at Westman Lab before retiring in 1983 to focus on other business ventures.

* His childhood sweetheart Rebecca, a trained X-ray technologist, came to Canada in 1964 when they got married. Rebecca worked at the original Assiniboine Hospital.

* They have three daughters: Cindy, an architect ~ Lindy, a Provincial Court Judge ~ Anna, a charter accountant.

Married Bill Hillman in 1966, which led to a 57 year career in the music, recording and entertainment field -- locally and Internationally. In addition we graduated from Brandon University with degrees and entered the education field in high schools, university and Manitoba's Department of Education. (PHOTO: Memoir Book Cover with Albums)

* Even though our parents' dream was to keep us out of the restaurant business, all our families were fully involved in SOO'S restaurant. . . all our kids earned their way through university while working at the restaurant. They went on to successful careers:
Ja-On an Osteopath ~ Robin an IT specialist ~ China-Li a doctor of radiology.

* In Brandon, the Chinese community has expanded in recent years as employers like Maple Leaf Foods hired new immigrants from China, Mauritius, and the Ukraine to fill vacancies in their plant. The city’s Chinese community has increased dramatically, composed of those families who came from China — the Toishanese, and those who have come recently from northern China, most whom speak Mandarin. Also, Brandon University has attracted many students from China.

THE HEAD TAX MONUMENT - IN BRANDON CEMETERY (Photo: Kenny and Sue-On Dedication)

* Since 1991, Kenny had been thinking about some kind of memorial to dedicate to the Chinese ancestors who once settled the community. Many of them are buried in the Brandon Municipal Cemetery on 18th Street South, including our parents. Some of the graves are over 100 years old, many forgotten, without descendents to remember them.

* "We needed something to remind the new immigrants and to remind the young Chinese people that are coming up in the next generation to remember what kind of sacrifices were made by their ancestors. It’s because of their ancestors they had the opportunity to come,” notes Kenny.

* Kenny’s idea would become a practical plan to build the first Head Tax Monument in Canada. This was followed by the formation of the Westman Chinese Association in Manitoba in 2007 followed by the creation of a Chinese Pavilion for the Lieutenant Governor's WinterFest in 2008. The association continued to present the pavilion for a number of years. (Photos of Winterfest)

* This was a huge combined effort between folks who spoke different dialects: Mandarin and Toisan/ Cantonese. But it worked.
All these events raised awareness of the Chinese culture for the people of Brandon and surrounding area.

* On June 22, 2006 Prime Minster Stephen Harper gave a full apology for the Chinese head tax and for the ban on Chinese immigration from 1923–1947
* Surviving wives and children of the early immigrants who paid the Head Tax were financially compensated.

* Kenny’s idea of a memorial to the early Chinese settlers was becoming reality: (PHOTO)

KENNY: (Head Tax Monument -- June 26, 2011) (PHOTOS: Unveiling)

 * FUNDING for the monument:  Canadian and Provincial governments -- along with the Whitehead Foundation, Rotary Club, Westman Chinese Association, private donations, City of Brandon (land?)

* Manitoba sculptor, Peter Sawatzky, was commissioned to do the bronze sculpture of the monument based on design by Kenny, family members, and mock up by daughter Cindy Choy.

* The proposed monument became a bronze Chinese coin - five-feet in diameter on a three-foot pedestal. This symbol was chosen to represent the time (this type of coin was used in 1800 China) and economic reasons for immigration to Canada. There are engravings on the coin to depict the history of the Chinese immigrants, as labourers who helped build the Canadian railroads, established businesses such as laundries and restaurants, and finally the unification of the Chinese families after 1947.

* The bronze coin sits on a large black marble pedestal. This represents the dark page of history due to the Exclusion Act and the Chinese Head Tax.

* The granite for the monument foundation is from Manitoba. This is to recognize that the Chinese immigrants have built solid foundations in Canada and Manitoba.

* The monument is located in the Brandon Cemetery, facing East towards China.

* The inscription is prominent at the base of the coin, indicating the Chinese Head Tax link, both in Chinese characters and English.

* The main purpose of this monument is to show how the Chinese have persevered and ultimately became good Canadian citizens in the face of restrictions such as discrimination and the Head Tax. It is hoped that such a visible lesson will help society to understand that every immigrant should be given the opportunity to establish a new life in this country. (Photo: Card Front and Back and Symbolism)

* We thank you all for coming and invite everyone to visit the Head Tax Monument and peruse some of the items we have put on display here.

* We have featured much more information and thousands of Chinese-related photos in the links displayed on the REFERENCE LINKS PAGE

PART ONE: The Choy Family Story
PART II: Photo Section
PART III: Chinese Reference Links

WebMaster: Bill Hillman
Bill and Sue-On Hillman Eclectic Studio
Brandon, Manitoba, Canada
Photos and Text Copyright 1996-2023