"Yeah, but where are you really from?" It’s a question familiar to many Chinese-Canadians who grew up feeling torn between different cultures, identities and places. This Sunday, seven young Montrealers of Chinese descent will share a roundtable discussion on what it means to be Chinese in a multicultural Canada.
"The media plays such a huge role in how others see us," says Shuang Liu, a Marianopolis College student who helped organize the discussion. "When you think about Chinese food, you think about General Tao. When you think about a Chinese guy, you think he must do kung fu and talk like ‘Ching-chong ching-chong.’ The influence is huge and how I perceive myself is not really separate from that."
Like many young Chinese-Canadians, Liu has struggled to find her place in Canadian society. Born in Beijing, she immigrated with her family to ethnically homogenous Sherbrooke when she was two years old. After a few years of being the only Asian kid on the playground, Liu adopted an English name, Melissa, to better blend in. It wasn’t until after her family had moved to more cosmopolitan Montreal that she decided to change it back. "I’m still trying to find that balance between how Chinese I am and how Canadian I am," she says.
Cedric Sam, another roundtable organizer, thinks the discussion will be a perfect opportunity for Chinese-Canadians to ask questions, share experiences and vent frustrations. "It’s a way to speak out, to say that we’re here. I would have liked to have had a thing like this when I was growing up," he says.
General Tao, Kung Fu and Ching-chong: Chinese Identity in a Multicultural Canada will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 3, at the Chinese Family Service Centre (987 Cote) in Chinatown. The discussion will be in English and French. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.