‘Very emotional’: Chinese-Canadian veterans honoured ahead of Remembrance Day – Global News

They put their lives on the line for our country at a time when they were treated as second-class citizens.

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Ahead of Remembrance Day, a group of Chinese-Canadian youth paid tribute to Canadian veterans at the Chinese-Canadian Military Museum in Vancouver’s Chinatown on Sunday.

Click to play video: 'Last living member of Force 136 reflects on legacy of heroic squadron'

Last living member of Force 136 reflects on legacy of heroic squadron

“I feel like it is really important for us, especially as Chinese, to learn their history, and to learn their struggles that they’ve come through,” A student named Anita said.

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Even though they had long faced racism in Canada, approximately 200 Chinese-Canadians volunteered for the Canadian army during the First World War.

More than 600 Chinese-Canadians served in the Second World War.

It’s difficult for Canadian Armed Forces veteran Paul Lee to describe what some of his fellow Canadians, who became prisoners of war, endured in Japanese war camps.

“A lot of Canadian POWS so malnourished. It was skeletal, it was so sad, so tragic, that sometimes I cannot even continue,” said Lee through tears.

The walls of the Chinese-Canadian Military Museum tell the stories of bravery during discrimination.

Lee, who serves as curator and vice-president of the museum society, is sharing the painful past with young Chinese Canadians.

“It’s very emotional because of the way we were treated before,” Lee told Global News in an interview Sunday.

Canada’s first Chinese immigrants were subjected to a head tax for decades, and in 1923, the federal government passed the Chinese Immigration Act. Commonly known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, it barred most Chinese immigrants from entering Canada until the government repealed it in 1947.

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Chinese Canadians were also only awarded the right to vote after fighting in the Second World War.

By 1949, all eligible Chinese Canadians were finally given the right to vote federally and provincially.

Those privileges, according to the Chinese-Canadian Military Museum Society, led to membership in professional societies such as law, engineering and medicine — careers previously closed to Asians.

Click to play video: 'Chinese-Canadian soldier’s contributions are finally being remembered'

Chinese-Canadian soldier’s contributions are finally being remembered

“Our youth need to understand and know what had happened and what our ancestors had fought for, and how today did not come easy,” said Wendy Yuan of the Vancouver Sunshine Lions Club, which organized Sunday’s tour and tribute.

The hope is the youth, who owe some of their freedoms and democratic rights to Chinese Canadian veterans, will now carry the torch forward.

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“We cannot forget what has happened in the past and that’s how we learn about the history so that we will not make the same mistakes in the future,” Lee said.

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