Jen Zielinski/Black Press Xiaoping Li and founder Hua Meng of the Okanagan Chinese Canadian Society stand with banners of Asian Heritage Month and the OCCA. The pair are featured in the first video for Carli’s Cultural Connection, which can be found at

Carli’s Cultural Connection: Chinese history in the Central Okanagan

Every two weeks, the Capital News will feature different cultures in the Central Okanagan

Upon arriving during the gold rush in the Interior, Chinese migrants made the Central Okanagan their home.

Xiaoping Li is a member of the Okanagan Chinese Canadian Society and chair of the sociology department at Okanagan College. Hua Meng is the founder and general administrator for the OCCA.

The pair sat down to explain the history of how Chinese migrants came to the Okanagan, and why the recent unveiling of a sign commemorating Chinese pioneers in City Park carries so much meaning.

Q: How did Chinese migrants end up in the Central Okanagan?

Li: The first wave of Chinese migrants came to Canada for the gold rush in the Interior. Many Chinese people moved from San Fransisco, so there were thousands of Chinese working in mines. After the gold rush ended some of them stayed and they dispersed in B.C.

Another wave came for the constructions of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The railway was completed in 1885 and many of them stayed because they didn’t have the money to even buy a ticket to go home. The government and the railway company broke their promise in providing a ticket home.

They were forced to stay and they dispersed in B.C.

Q: What role did they play in developing the local economy during that time?

Li: In the 1880s Kelowna was going through an industry change from cattle to agriculture so the Chinese workers filled a gap for labour. So they worked on the farms and in the orchards.

Q: There was once a Chinatown in Kelowna, where was it located?

Li: It was located between Water Street and Abbott Street and Harvey and Leon. It was just a dirty road. At the time it was the outskirt of downtown Kelowna so the Chinese were actually not included so they basically settled in that area.

Q: Chinese residents once made up 15 per cent of the population, what’s the percentage now?

Li: In about 1910 there was around 500 Chinese. According to the Statistics Canada census, the Chinese population is 2,340, and 10 years before than it was 1,500.

Q: Tell us about the sign project in City Park and it’s importance to the Chinese community.

Meng: In 2015, the province made the apology to Chinese people in B.C. about the historical wrongs. Before this, the government was doing consultations on how to make an apology. I was contacted and asked for the society’s support. I started to investigate the history as I came in the ’80s.

I think it’s important for the younger generation to understand the history of our ancestors and we don’t want the historic events to come back again, so we supported the B.C.’s governments initiative. There was an old sign, but it was not sufficient and we decided to replace it with a bigger one.

Q: What Chinese traditions are celebrated in Kelowna?

Meng: The OCCA holds a series of events each year. The spring lantern festival is the largest in Chinese tradition. This year we’ll be holding the eight annual of the spring lantern festival. May is Asian Heritage Month and the Moon festival in September.

Q: If someone wanted to learn more about the history of Chinese Canadians, where would they go?

Meng: Visit the museum, we’re also in process of establishing an online history. There’s a section on the Asian Heritage website, said Meng. (Asian Heritage Month information can be found at The OCCA can be found at

The OCCA was incorporated in 2010 as a charity. The charity aims to promote Chinese culture, help new immigrants, provide youth education and promote multiculturalism.

If you have a cultural idea for Carli Berry, email her at

To report a typo, email:


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Missed a week of news? We’ve got you covered

Every Saturday, we post popular stories from the week

Long-time Hedley fan weighs in on concert

Davis Wiggs attended Hedley’s final show last night

Kelowna couple hoping for a miracle

Endang Suslash is hoping to stay in Canada so she continue receiving treatment for kidney failure

Highway potholes under ministry jurisdiction

The District of Lake Country doesn’t touch the highway when it comes to filling potholes

Embattled band Hedley plays last show in Kelowna before hiatus

About 3,000 tickets had sold for final performance at Prospera Place

Bottle drive held for Kelowna fire victim’s family

Springfield Elementary held a bottle drive today to support the Van Gool family

B.C. umpire has developed thick skin after 30 years listening to insults

Scott McLaren pays no mind to comments from the cheap seats

Musicians Sarah Harmer, Grimes join B.C. anti-pipeline protests

Musicians are in Vancouver for the Juno Awards on Sunday night

Canadian cities hold March for our Lives events in wake of Florida shooting

Hundreds of people support the massive March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C.

Health officials called after acid spill near B.C.-Alberta border leaks into creek

Tanker truck crashed south of Dawson Creek, spilling 17,000 litres of hydrochloric acid

Trudeau to exonerate B.C. First Nations chiefs hanged in 1860s

Prime Minister to absolve Tsilhqot’in chiefs in relation to deaths of 14 construction workers

Snowfall warning for Highway 3

Kelowna - A snowfall warning is in effect from Paulson Summit to Kootenay Pass

Canucks sing the Blues as they fall to St. Louis 4-1

Berglund nets two, including the game-winner, to lift St. Louis over Vancouver

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Most Read