Canadian Immigrant Magzine: Portrait of Hong Kong-Born Toronto MP
June 1, 2012
Occupation: Member of Parliament
Country of Origin: Hong Kong
She studied fine arts, philosophy and religion, but, in the end, Olivia Chow turned to the sometimes dirty business of politics. At least she can be proud of the fact that she has remained clean, credible and a well-respected politician of our times. Some might even call the Hong Kong-born immigrant an ideal public servant.
“My first political involvement was when Vietnamese Boat People started arriving in Canadian shores,” Chow remembers. “Canada is a rich and big country, certainly we can accept people in distress.” That was her perspective and she rallied along with other like-minded people in front of Queen’s Park in Toronto to voice her view.
In Chow’s opinion, if you see injustice happening around you, you have to take action — don’t wait for others to take the initiative. She began her social activism by helping members of her ethnic community. “It’s a blessing that I can speak in both English and Cantonese, to be able to understand both the cultures [Chinese and Canadian], and be proud of my heritage,” she says, noting that this quality makes her a true Canadian.“We as Canadians celebrate the uniqueness of us being diverse.”
That’s why she advises immigrants to become politically active, too. Chow urges new Canadians to join a party or movement that is striving to make positive change. “Find a party that best represents your values, learn the political process and how elections work, and get to know people in movements that are making changes both inside and outside the government.”
When she made her own political choices, Chow joined the New Democratic Party. She then became one of the first elected Asian women school board trustees in 1985 and the first Asian woman councillor in metro Toronto six years later. “I was taught by many different mentors and friends who helped me out.”
Among them was Jack Layton, her late husband and political partner of 25 years. You could often see them together at various events, including those in support of immigrant issues.
Before passing away in September last year, Layton was returning to the House of Commons as Official Leader of the Opposition, and Chow as a member of Parliament for the third time, representing the Trinity-Spadina riding in Toronto.
Indeed she is an exemplary immigrant, having scaled such heights in politics, while proving that it can be done in a noble fashion.
Source: Canadian Immigrant Magazine