The Backstory to Exclusion: A conversation between curator Catherine Clement and Dr. Henry Yu, UBC History



Tune in live on YouTube or Facebook


Want to understand the backstory to the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act?

The long-awaited exhibition “The Paper Trail to the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act,” will open July 1, 2023 marking the 100th anniversary of this dark but largely forgotten period in Canadian history. This national exhibition is an unflinching look at the quarter-century of exclusion (1923-1947). The show will reveal stories and objects uncovered through interviews and extensive research: stories of loss, despair and fear, as well as powerful examples of courage and perseverance.

Since the exhibition focuses heavily on the exclusion period, we wanted to offer you an opportunity to learn more about the backstory to this unique chapter in Canadian history.

What led Canada to design such a drastic and unprecedented law? Why were Chinese singled out from all other migrant groups, including other Asians? How did circumstances, world events and the U.S. shape the thinking of Canadian lawmakers? What propelled these ideas to grow, and how did other Canadians react? Finally, why did exclusion create such an enormous paper trail?

Join us for a special, live online event.

The Backstory to Exclusion:
A conversation between curator Catherine Clement and Dr. Henry Yu, UBC History

Monday, June 26

5:00 p.m. Pacific time
6:00 p.m. Mountain
7:00 p.m. Central
8:00 p.m. Eastern
9:00 p.m. Atlantic
9:30 p.m. Newfoundland


Here is your opportunity to better understand what shaped this momentous period and get a glimpse into what your ancestors were hearing and experiencing as the doors to Canada began to close.


Tune in live on YouTube or Facebook



Sponsors and partners:
Chinese Canadian Historical Society of BC
Chinese Canadian Military Museum
Chinese Canadian Museum
UBC Public Humanities Hub
UBC Studios


Speaker Biographies

Catherine Clement

Catherine Clement is a community curator and designer based in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Her work focuses on uncovering and sharing the lesser-known stories of the community.

She is the curator and exhibition designer for The Paper Trail to the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act, a national exhibition and archive that will commemorate the 100th-anniversary of this dark period in Canadian history.

Catherine is perhaps best known for her 10-year search uncovering the hidden works of Yucho Chow, Vancouver’s first and most prolific Chinese photographer. That project resulted in an exhibition of crowd-sourced materials in 2019, a book in 2020 and a comprehensive community archive of over 600 private photos taken by Yucho Chow. The book Chinatown Through a Wide Lens: The Hidden Photographs of Yucho Chow, was awarded the prestigious 2020 B.C. Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing and the 2020 Vancouver Book Award.

Catherine also has curated and designed a number of exhibitions for the Chinese Canadian Military Museum. She has focused on uncovering the forgotten, personal stories of war.

In 2017, for Canada’s 150, she art directed the Chinatown History Windows project which brought history to the streets through the installation of 22 large storefront window murals. The project was shortlisted for a 2017 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Community Programming.

More recently, Catherine provided stories and artefacts for A Seat at the Table, an exhibition created by the Museum of Vancouver/Chinese Canadian Museum. And she has volunteered her time supporting community organizations (e.g., the Wong Benevolent Association) and numerous families on ways to preserve their archives.

Catherine is on the boards of the: Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia; Chinese Canadian Military Museum; and Youth Collaborative for Chinatown.

She is a recipient of the Governor General’s “Sovereign Medal for Volunteers” (2016). And in October 2021, was bestowed with an Honorary Doctorate from Simon Fraser University.


Henry Yu

As a history professor, Dr. Yu’s research and teaching has been built around collaborations with local community organizations, civic institutions such as museums, and multiple levels of government. He is passionate about helping British Columbians and Canadians unlearn the cultural and historical legacies of colonialism and to be inspired by the often hidden and untold stories of those who struggled against racism and made Canadian society more inclusive and just.

In 2007, he was the Co-Chair of the Steering Committee for the year-long “Anniversaries of Change” marking the 100th anniversary of the anti-Asian riots of 1907. Between 2009-2012, he was the Co-Chair of the City of Vancouver’s “Dialogues between First Nations, Urban Aboriginal, and Immigrant Communities.”

In 2015, Dr. Yu was appointed as the Co-Chair for the Province of British Columbia’s Legacy Initiatives Advisory Council implementing legacy projects following the province’s apology in May 2014 for BC’s historic anti-Chinese legislation. Dr. Yu served on the Advisory Group for the City of Vancouver’s apology consultation process for Historical Discrimination Against People of Chinese Descent (HDC) from 2016-2018 that resulted in the City of Vancouver’s formal apology for its historical discrimination against its Chinese Canadian residents on April 22, 2018.

Dr. Yu’s interests in anti-racism work dates back to being on the founding boards of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of BC in 2004;; the founding Board of the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation in 2010; the founding Board of PCHC-MoM; historical advisor and one of the authors of the Province of BC’s bi-partisan apology for historical anti-Chinese discrimination in 2014; the founding Board of the Chinese Canadian Museum of BC in 2020; and most recently Co-Chair of the Organizing Committee of the National Forum on Anti-Asian Racism convened by UBC in June 2021 and the Steering Committee for the commitment by UBC to combat anti-Asian racism through the creation of a Centre for Asian Canadian Research Engagement (ACRE).

Prof. Yu was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 and the Province of BC’s Multicultural Award in 2015 in recognition of his research and community leadership. His book Journeys of Hope: Challenging Discrimination and Building on Vancouver Chinatown’s Legacies received the City of Vancouver Heritage Award of Merit in 2019, and the exhibit “A Seat at the Table: Chinese Immigration and British Columbia” received the Canadian Historical Association Public History Prize in 2021.