Last updated on 17/01/2011
I was born in Vancouver and after completing high school I went to Japan in 1968. I spent four years in the Kansai area before returning to Canada in 1973. I entered McGill where I began studying Chinese and East Asian history. I dropped out after getting involved in the Quebec student movement and going to work in a steel mill for four years. I returned to university in the 1980s and completed all my degrees at the University of British Columbia where I obtained my Ph.D. in 1994. I worked as the co-ordinator of the Labour Studies Programme at Capilano College in North Vancouver for two years before taking on my current position in the department of history at the University of Victoria.
My graduate research focused on postwar Japan, particularly the history of the labour movement and economic development. My dissertation was published by Cornell University Press under the title Japan Works: Power and Paradox in Postwar Industrial Relations. Beginning around the year 2000 I began to broaden my research interests to Canada-East Asian relations. For a number of years I studied and published articles relating to Canada and the Cold War in East Asia (see publications), with a particular focus on Herbert Norman, the Canadian diplomat and preeminent historian of Japan. However, as I learned more about this history, I became concerned that conventional historians placed too much emphasis on state-to-state relations, underestimated other social actors, and largely neglected the important impact of race in Canada’s history with East Asia. This led to some major rethinking and delayed publication of my research monograph. That study is now in press and will come out under the title Orienting Canada: Race, Empire and the Transpacific (UBC Press). I am currently working on a biography (with my collaborator in China, Ningping YU) of Victoria Cheung, the first Chinese Canadian to graduate from University of Toronto Medical School and the longest-serving medical missionary to China. My major research program focuses on the life stories of fifteen people with transpacific roots whose experiences will form the basis for a new history of Pacific Canada.
I identify as a scholar and social activist and have been organizing all my life, first as a student activist at McGill in the 1970s to the 'Too Asian', Talk Back project this year. Over the past ten years I have had the privilege of working with a number of people and organizations in Asian Canadian communities particularly around redress for victims of World War II in Asia and with the Anniversaries of Change Steering Committee that organized the 100th anniversary commemorative events related to the 1907 race riots in Vancouver. Work and social activism takes up most of my time but I find time to play badminton, squash, tennis and to go hiking. I am an avid cyclist. I am married with two grown children. I live mainly in Victoria during the teaching semester and commute regularly across the Coast Salish Sea to Vancouver where my partner, Margaret McGregor, lives and works.