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A Brief History of the VCCA

During the winter of 1990-91 a group of Victoria business people began to recognize that they were part of a distinct and vibrant part of Victoria’s business community, centered in Chinatown, and an organization was needed maximize  the  potential of this segment of the community.  Original members Sinclair Mar, Thomas Chan, Willie Eng, Alan Yuen and Georgina Wong found a receptive audience for their idea and others joined them to found a Chinese Chamber of Commerce. It was eventually called the Victoria Chinese Commerce Association and was incorporated as a society in September of 1991.

The roots of the new organization go back to the Miss Victoria Chinatown Pageant whose organizers had a close relationship with the Hawaii Chinese Chamber of Commerce. This Hawaiian club ran the Narcissus Queen Pageant in Honolulu. The new VCCA constitution was modeled on the constitution of the Hawaiian group. Delegations from both organizations visited each other several times.

Soon after the incorporation of the VCCA, the Honourable David See-Chai Lam, Canada’s first Chinese Canadian Lieutenant-Governor, immediately accepted an invitation from the VCCA to become our organization’s honorary chairman, an honour that his office would normally only grant  to an organization that had been in existence for at least five years. His Honour was not only the Honorary Chairman but was influential in subsequent endeavors.

In 1992, the first VCCA golf tournament took place under the leadership of event chair Sam Chan.  It was held at the Prospect Lake Golf Club with more to follow in subsequent years at Upland Golf Course.

In 1993,VCCA members raised funds to sponsor the Moffatt brothers  who were young musicians and singers in Victoria. This Moffatt project was successful in that the VCCA (along with others in the Victoria Community) helped launch the brothers’ successful entry into the entertainment world.

In 1993, President Sinclair Mar and chair Alan Yuen proceeded with the idea to bring Dragon Boats to Victoria.  As luck would have it, Victoria was hosting the 1994 Commonwealth Games. More importantly, it would be the last time Hong Kong would be participating in the games because in 1997 Hong Kong would revert to China.  The VCCA worked with the Commonwealth Games cultural committees to bring a demonstration race of dragon boats to the Inner Harbour for the first time. Honorary chair Dr. David Lam was of great assistance with his involvement in the start of dragon boat races and festival in Vancouver. Together with the help of the likes of Milton Wong, the cooperation of the Vancouver Festival organization was readily given. The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office based in Toronto also helped to bring about the demonstration race. As a result, in 1994, the VCCA was able to bring the first dragon boat races to Victoria as a demonstration in the Inner Harbour.  Thus began the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival!

In 1987 the VCCA board decided that it was time to separate the operations of the Dragon Boat Festival and the VCCA, and the Dragon Boat Festival Society was formed in August 1997.  Today the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival has grown into a three-day event and is one of the premier festivals in Victoria.  From its inception as with many dragon boat festivals, it had a strong affiliation with breast cancer survivors and continues the affiliation today. The Victoria Dragon Boat Festival Society, as the child of the VCCA, now continues to present the festival annually and celebrated 17 years of dragon boating in 2011. VCCA members have provided leadership and volunteers for the festival from inception to the present day.

The focus of the VCCA developed over the ensuing years with more involvement in business and with community business leaders. Today the VCCA continues to present a business series as a part of its regular meetings.  A tradition also developed over the years  for the VCCA to host an annual address by the BC finance minister.

As time moved along, the immigration and economic patterns of the world changed, and soon after 1997 China’s economic power grew.  As a result the VCCA found another role:  to meet and host many business and political delegations from China. This role continues to the present day and now numerous VCCA members travel back and forth to China for their own business purposes.

By 2007, it was time to start planning for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Chinese in British Columbia.  The VCCA struck a committee to plan events to celebrate this milestone. The committee involved many from the community outside of VCCA and was led by Celebration chair Sinclair Mar and co-chair Amanda Mills.

A plan was laid to present an original production in the Royal Theatre that would dramatize the story of the Chinese in Canada over 150 years. The Golden Mountain Achievement Awards were created to illustrate Chinese Canadian achievements since their arrival in the 19th century. These two initiatives culminated in two events: 080808 (August 8, 2008), the most auspicious night, was a gala awards night in the main crystal ballroom of the Fairmont Empress Hotel and the next night saw the dramatic Royal Theatre presentation of the story of Chinese in Canada since their arrival in 1858.  The VCCA was lucky in getting tremendous support from federal, provincial and City of Victoria funding and recognizes the significant support from our provincial minister, Ida Chong and then City of Victoria Mayor, Alan Lowe (both VCCA members). A legacy website can be seen at :www.150goldenmountain.ca

Through the efforts of the VCCA, Chinese Canadian Heritage Days were declared by the provincial government from August 3 to 10th, 2008.  Throughout 2008, the VCCA participated in and produced various media and cultural events around the city.

In 2011, member Tony Joe, spear-headed the first Chinatown Night Market on the last Wednesday of July, August & September. The VCCA supported this initiative by offering Title Sponsorship and by member businesses participating in the Market.

There are many community leaders who have supported the efforts of the VCCA, including Mel Cooper (Mr. Radio in Victoria for decades), John Chew, Dr. David Lai, Ron Lou-Poy, Alan Yuen, Dan Parker, to name a few.

The VCCA has donated to many organizations over the years, including

  • Santa’s Anonymous
  • Hoy Sun Benevolent Association
  • Chinese Cemetery Restoration Project
  • Victoria Police Historical Society
  • Intercultural Association of Greater Victoria
  • Victoria Chinatown Care Centre and Foundation
  • Greater Victoria Hospital Foundation
  • United Way of Greater Victoria
  •  

The VCCA has also shown support for future business leaders by offering a scholarship at Camosun College School of Business, This award is presented annually to a student in the Camosun’s Entrepreneurship program.

 

The VCCA membership elects on an annual basis, a Board of Directors from its members to oversee its administration, initiatives, events, and regular monthly meetings. From within this elected board, there are five key executive positions: President, two Vice Presidents, Secretary, and Treasurer – referred to as the executive board.

 

 
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