Government of Canada recognizes the national historic significance of Mon Keang School

News release

Designation highlights the role of schools in teaching Chinese culture and language in Canada

May 31, 2024                                       Gatineau, Quebec                        Parks Canada

National historic designations encourage us to acknowledge the full scope of our shared history, both the triumphs and the struggles that define the story of Canada and help us reflect on how to build a more inclusive society for present and future generations.

Today, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced the designation of Mon Keang School as a national historic site under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration.

Founded in 1923 and opened in 1925 by the Wong Kung Har Tong (now the Wongs’ Benevolent Association), Mon Keang School in the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown is an example of the important educational and social services provided by Chinese associations in Canada. Founded when Chinese people in Canada faced considerable racism, and when immigration from China was severely restricted, Mon Keang School provided students with Chinese-language education and helped create a cultural link with China.

This and other Chinese-language schools showed the value that Chinese Canadians placed on education and cultural retention. Initially a primary school on the top floor of the building, the school expanded in 1947 to include the top two floors and opened the first Chinese-language high school in Canada.  Mon Keang School closed in 2011 and, since 2016, it has provided space for the Youth Collaborative for Chinatown to offer a Cantonese Saturday School. 

The Government of Canada, through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, recognizes significant persons, places, and events that have shaped our country as one way of helping Canadians connect with their past. By sharing these stories with Canadians, we hope to foster understanding and reflection on the diverse histories, cultures, legacies, and realities of Canada’s past and present.

The designation process under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration is largely driven by public nominations. To date, more than 2,240 designations have been made nationwide. To nominate a person, place or historic event in your community, please visit the Parks Canada website for more information: https://parks.canada.ca/culture/designation/proposer-nominate.

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Copyright: Charlotte Hung

Quotes

“The designation of the Mon Keang School as a national historic site highlights the important services provided by Chinese associations in Canada and the role of schools in teaching Chinese culture and language. That this school’s origins came during a time of intense anti‑Chinese racism is a testament to the strength and determination of Chinese Canadian communities.”

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

“Mon Keang Language School, in the heart of Vancouver's vibrant Chinatown, has been honoured with a national historic site designation by the Government of Canada, recognizing its significant cultural and educational contributions. This designation celebrates the school's role in preserving and promoting the Cantonese dialect and traditional practices of the Chinese diasporic community, a testament to Canada's rich multicultural heritage. It stands as a cherished landmark, reminding us of the resilience and history of the Chinese community in Vancouver and across Canada, from the time of the Exclusion Act when it was founded in 1923, to today as a cultural institution and leader.”

Stephanie Leo,
Executive Director of the Chinatown Celebration Society and proponent of the nomination 

Quick facts

  • With distinct architectural elements and well-conserved interiors, the Mon Keang School has notable architectural value that supports its designation as a national historic site, in addition to falling within the historic district of Vancouver's Chinatown National Historic Site.

  • Initially a primary school on the top floor of the building, the school expanded in 1947 to accommodate a growing student population. The second storey was converted from a restaurant into five well-lit classrooms with high ceilings, a library, washrooms, and a central recreation area. That year, Mon Keang School was the first Chinese-language school in Canada to open a high school division, offering a grade 10 diploma that was recognized in China. Students learned Cantonese, calligraphy, poetry, math, history, science, and English. 

  • Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding the national significance of persons, places, and events that have marked Canada’s history. Together with Parks Canada, the Board ensures that subjects of national historic significance are recognized under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration and these important stories are shared with Canadians.

  • Parks Canada is committed to working with Canadians in our efforts to tell broader, more inclusive stories in the places that it manages. In support of this goal, the Framework for History and Commemoration outlines a new, comprehensive, and engaging approach to sharing Canada’s history through diverse perspectives, including shedding light on tragic and difficult periods of Canada’s past.

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Contacts

Kaitlin Power
Press Secretary     
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
819-230-1557
kaitlin.power@ec.gc.ca

Media Relations
Parks Canada
855-862-1812
pc.media@pc.gc.ca

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