William’s reflections on the road to Gaspé

What strikes me the most about the Chinese who settled in the Regions of Québec is their strength and their determination to make their lives there. Here are some of the people we met.

  • St. Agapit, Jinn Zhou has two PHD’s in biology but cannot find a job in his field. He was sweeping the front of his dépanneur as we pulled up. Being the only Chinese in St. Agapit, his broad smile revealed how happy he was to see some Chinese faces. He was very positive in his efforts to learn French and to make his living in this small village 40 km south of Québec City, “parce que les gens ici sont trés sympathique”.
  • Québec City, Napoléon and Jaime Kate Woo, father and daughter who own and operate the Wok N Roll, which serves classical Chinese-Canadian food on Boulevard Charest. I am lobbying for stair racing as an Olympic sport so I can see Jaime Kate compete. Four generations of Woos have lived in Québec and this is where they belong. Jaime Kate tells me that once or twice a week, some Québécois customer would say, ”tu parles très bien français, juste comme nous.”
  • Mikaël Tam, 20, captain of the junior Remparts hockey team was surprisingly eloquent in his own identity as a Chinese athlete in hockey crazy Québec. Malcolm was caught up in that hockey fever as he entered the Québec Colisée.
  • Parker and Bethany had some Zen moments in Charlesbourg as they were treated by Lya Wu Bin. Lya, a holistic estheticist made a calm and conscious decision to root herself in Québec, as her Chinese values blend into those of her new home. Lya considers herself “Ambassadrice de la beauté et interculturelle Québec-Chine.”
  • Where was Québec City Chinatown? Has it become just virtual, as created by Michel Parent? “It used to be Chinatown, today it’s a parking lot.” – Robert Lepage, La Trilogie des Dragons.
  • Rimouski – we arrived at the Hotel Lyse late at night. Imagine our surprise when an Asian woman in her pajamas came to greet us at the counter. I quickly established that she is Chinese, named Lin He who moved here in March with her husband Ben and 4 year son Simon. The couple arrived in Canada 6 years ago from Chengdu and lived in Montreal and Winnipeg. They prefer the simple life in small towns. They are learning French and find the people here very friendly and helpful but they haven’t found a Québécois who could pronounce their family name He.
  • At UQAR (Université du Québec à Rimouski) we met up with Ting and Tianyu, two students from China active in the International Students Association. Everyone at UQAR seems to know them. The effervescent Ting (who really works as a tour guide) took us on a whirlwind tour of Rimouski and Le Bic. Ting and Tianyu are considering their options on whether to stay in Rimouski after their studies. In the words of Ting, “immigrate ici, ah?’
  • Gaspé – In the parking lot of Place Jacques Cartier, we met up with two members of the band Dji Dji who were performing at the concert au bout du monde along with Parker. We were looking for signs of Chinese living here and they were looking for any signs of Chinese food. Together, we discovered Le Bourlinguer, a restaurant owned by Lisa Tam and Danny Xie.While they don’t speak much French, their 18 year son, Victor, speaks French with a Gaspésie accent.
  • One impression that struck with me from the people we met is the courage and determination they have to make a life for themselves and their families in the regions of Québec. There was Ling, who met her Québécois husband over the Internet. With little French or English, she left her family and the comforts of China determined to make a life for herself with her new husband in Rimouski.

Now the tough part starts, we will try and shape all that we discovered into a film to show what it means to be Chinese in Quebec and what that means for our future struggles here. It will be a fun film!

– William Ging Wee Dere