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Dr. David Chuenyan Lai

Submitted by Barb Roberts, Development and External Relations - Social Sciences, Office of the Dean

"When Dr. David Chuenyan Lai joined the Geography Department in 1968, Canada did not even recognize the People's Republic of China and UVic lacked courses and resources for studying China.

To change that, Dr. Lai offered Continuing Studies courses about China, East Asia, and Chinese immigration BC.

He also catalogued the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association's archives, which date back to 1884 and document the history of Victoria's Chinatown, and which Dr. Lai saw donated to the library in 1973.

Dr. Lai also persuaded Victoria's Chinese community to help establish 13 scholarships and awards to encourage UVic students to study China and Chinatown, and to subsidize trips to China.

In 1972, the Geography Department asked Dr. Lai to contribute something about Victoria's Chinatown to a colloquium. Researching the history of Canada's oldest Chinatown, then considered a slum, became his life's research.

In fact, his 1979 report for the City of Victoria directly resulted in Chinatown being restored rather than bulldozed. The Gate of Harmonious Interest erected in 1981 recognizes the importance of Victoria's Chinese heritage, which Dr. Lai worked so hard to preserve.

If a single individual should get credited for saving Chinatown, it's Dr. Lai."

Victoria's Chinatown.  Victoria's Chinatown 

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