________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 20 . . . . June 9, 2000

cover Unwanted Soldiers.

Jari Osborne. (Director). Karen King (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1999.
47 min., 21 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9199 084.

Subject Headings:
World War, 1939-1945-Participation, Chinese Canadians.
Chinese Canadians-History-20th century.
World War, 1939-1945-Commando operations-Asia, Southeastern.
Race discrimination-Canada-History.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.
Review by Joan Payzant.

**** /4

Many Canadians are aware of the dire fate of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, but perhaps few realize the stress suffered by Chinese Canadians. Jari Osborne, the director of Unwanted Soldiers, had always wondered about her Chinese father's part in that war. Every Remembrance Day, he polished his medals and marched in the parade with many of his friends. She assumed that his experience had been rather humdrum, but, when he told her of his early life in Vancouver's Chinatown and of his war experiences, she discovered that not only had he played a dangerous role, but he had helped to improve the status of all Chinese Canadians.

Previous to the 1939-1945 war, Chinatown in Vancouver was a ghetto, and its inhabitants were not welcome outside its boundaries. Even though many of them had been born in Canada, they were not classed as Canadian citizens and, therefore, were denied the right to vote. Chinese people were shunned and treated much as were the blacks of the southern United States.

Jari Osborne's father, Alex Louie, with his expressive, serious face, gives a sensitive account of his life as a young man. His mother (and other women) were sent back to China, and it was his dream to save enough money to bring her back to Canada. Then came the war, and life looked a little brighter, the young Chinese men thinking that, by enlisting, they could serve their country and finally gain citizenship. But, to their great disappointment, they were rejected by the Canadian army. However they were destined to play an enormously important part in the war when a British Major, Francis Woodley Kendall, conceived of a plan to form a Special Operations Executive Force which would be trained as undercover agents to push back the Japanese advance in China. And who better to serve in this capacity than the Chinese in Canada who could speak, write and read in both English and Chinese? They could blend in with native Chinese but serve as spies. They were trained at a secret fortress near Poona in India as commandoes learning about sabotage, demolition, radio operation, and swimming. They were proud to be fighting for their country although far away in the jungle of Malaya.

When Hiroshima was bombed, the war ended, and the Chinese Canadians helped to repatriate the prisoners of war who were described by one of Alex Louie's fellow soldiers as "skeletons, walking ghosts." Alex Louie said he felt like a real Canadian citizen as soon as he put on his uniform, but unfortunately, when the commandoes returned to Canada, they were disappointed because they still did not have the vote and the Legion rejected them as members. Four hundred Chinese men had fought for their country, but not until 1947 were they finally allowed to cast their first ballots. Alex Louie realized his other dream and brought his mother to Canada where she reveled in getting to know her children and grandchildren.

This is an excellent film, moving, educational, and inspirational.

Highly Recommended.

Joan Payzant is a former teacher-librarian living in Dartmouth, NS.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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