Armstrong salutes Chinese community

New plaque recognizes contributions of Chinese to city's 100-plus years

Armstrong Heritage Committee member Gail Salter (left) and Mayor Chris Pieper unveil a plaque that will be erected in the new Huculak Park to recognize the Chinese community's contribution to the city's heritage.

Armstrong Heritage Committee member Gail Salter (left) and Mayor Chris Pieper unveil a plaque that will be erected in the new Huculak Park to recognize the Chinese community's contribution to the city's heritage.

It’s 50 pounds and, when it arrived, it was – fittingly – wrapped in a page from a Chinese newspaper.

The Armstrong Heritage Committee presented a plaque at Monday’s regular council meeting that recognizes Chinese historic places in B.C.

In this case, the plaque honours the Chinese market gardeners in Armstrong, also known as “Celery City,” (as it says on the plaque).

The plaque will be installed in the new Huculak Park at a later date.

“We nominated the Chinese market gardeners who we felt met all the criteria and certainly deserved recognition,” said Gail Salter of the Armstrong Heritage Committee.

In November 2015, the B.C. Labour Heritage Centre advised of their project “Remembering Working People: Plaques Around the Province.”

There were two aspects to the project: identifying and cataloguing existing memorials that fit the criteria, and installing a new series of cast bronze plaques that document events, actions, groups, individuals and experiences that have not been recognized, with a focus on locations outside of metro Vancouver.

The plaque inscription on The Chinese Farmers of “Celery City” reads:

Armstrong’s early agricultural success owes much to the hard-working Chinese immigrants who cultivated the city’s fertile bottomlands. As many as 500 Chinese labourers lived in huts in the fields and bunkhouses in Chinatown in the winter.

They grew crops that included celery, cabbage, lettuce and potatoes which were shipped across Canada. Life for Chinese farmers was challenging. They faced restrictive immigration laws, a prohibitive head tax and were later barred from entering the country.

They could not own land and endured much racial animosity. Despite these obstacles, Chinese workers were an integral part of Armstrong’s history and helped it become what was once the “Celery Capital of Canada.”

“We wrote the inscription with help from (Armstrong residents) Asia and Mary Jong, and Donna Sacuta of the Labour Heritage Centre found the picture of the Chinese market gardener then, lo and behold,  we received this beautiful bronze plaque,” said Salter. “It’s red and gold and very eye-catching.”