In September, 1939, Canada entered the Second World War.
Dad, Canada went to war, I want to join the army,” announced Wong Junior.
“We are not treated as citizens, I thought we can’t enroll in the army?” responded his father.
“Canada is our homeland now, it’s our responsibility to serve and protect it,” Wong Junior insisted.
While it was true that Canada and China were allies in this war, Canada was reluctant to allow Chinese Canadians to enroll because they were afraid that the Chinese would later demand the right to vote in return. At the same time, there was a conscription crisis in Quebec.
Even though the Chinese continued to be treated as the bottom of Canadian society, and victims of racial discrimination, they worked in Canadian factories in support of the war effort and bought several million dollars’ worth of war bonds. At the same time, they donated money and volunteered to help China fight against the Japanese invasion.
But Wong Junior, holding a newspaper in his hand, persisted: “Canada is suffering great casualties. I must join the army!”
Old Wong: “Last time you tried to sign up, they turned you down because you’re Chinese. And it might be better that way, because war is not something to be taken lightly.”
Wong Junior: “They’re just afraid that we’ll come back from the war demanding our political rights….”
Old Wong: “And that wouldn’t be surprising: some of the Chinese who fought alongside Canadians in the Great War were subsequently granted citizen status.”
(Narration : about 300 Chinese volunteers served in the Great War; 10 or more were granted Canadian citizen status.)
Old Wong mused sadly, “If you were to go to war and to come back dead, what good would citizen status bring?”
“For our country, Canada, and for the future generations of Chinese Canadians, I will go to war,” Wong Junior insisted.
Eventually in 1944, around 500 Chinese Canadians joined the army. Wong Junior became a gunner for the Royal Canadian Air Force at a time when the casualty rate for pilots was 85%, and 95% for gunners. Wong Junior was one of the lucky few who survived the war. Unfortunately, his friend Quon Louie, son of the wealthy H.Y. Louie died in the war. Quon Louie had always been a top student, an outstanding soccer player and a table tennis champion; and in Canada’s hour of need, this young man had selflessly taken up the cause.