Apr. 23, 2016 – Toronto Sun (with video)
Arlene Chan was all smile on Saturday, when two Ontario Heritage Trust plaques were officially unveiled to honour her mother, Jean Lumb, the community activist who fought to preserve Toronto’s Chinatown decades ago.
“I think it’s so important because my mother was one of many of the early pioneer Chinese who really helped to turn around people’s perceptions about the Chinese in Toronto,” said a beaming Chan.
Her mother assisted in changing immigration laws and rallied to save Chinatown when it came under threat from construction of the new City Hall, she added.
“Because of her community work, she was the first Chinese-Canadian to be appointed to the Order of Canada for her leadership and her work,” Chan said. “So this is for me a really exciting day, and I’m just thrilled that it’s happening.”
Lumb passed away in 2002. Originally from British Columbia, she came to Toronto in 1935 and became known for her work in the community as well as her business ventures.
“She was a very special person,” said former Toronto mayor David Crombie. “She had a great business head as well as great charm.”
In 1976, Lumb became the first Chinese-Canadian to receive the Order of Canada. Her community work lives on through a foundation that hands out the annual Jean Lumb awards to exceptional high school students of Chinese heritage.
A pair of plaques honouring her contributions to Toronto stand at the corner of the Downtown Diversity Garden behind City Hall, near Chan’s parents’ former restaurant.
“To go through all the usual angst when you’re a teenager, I was kind of initially very shy,” Chan recalled. “But seeing my mother being so outspoken and so vocal was a big inspiration for me.”