Retired Markham Ward 8 Councillor Alex Chiu with Frank Scarpitti, Mayor of Markham in Luneta Gardens commemorating Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal (2019).
Name: Alex Chiu
Place of Birth: Candaba, Pampanga, Philippines
Elementary School: Manila Chinese Patriotic School
High School: Manila Chinese Patriotic School
After High School: Mapua Institute of Technology
1.When did you come to Canada (year and age)? We moved to Canada in 1973. I was 35 years old.
2. What are some of the reasons why you (left the Philippines) and immigrate to Canada? Why did you choose Canada above other countries? I left the Philippines on my own in 1966. I was 28 years old. Canada was not my first choice. I applied for a Student Visa, studying Computer Programming in Iowa, USA. I was then sponsored by the Gillette Company.
3. Describe your experience (what was involved) in the process of immigrating to Canada? After I got married, we decided to move to Canada. Canada is a very beautiful country and very open to immigrants. We also thought that it would be easier to bring the rest of our families to Canada. There were plenty of jobs in Toronto during that time. And we were used to the “big city”. Both my wife and I found our jobs in Toronto very easy. Also, there’s a lot of good food in the GTA.
4. Describe your experience of growing up, living, and/or working in Canada? The hardest part was taking care of our family. We did not have any family or relatives in Canada to help us, so both of our kids grew up with babysitters and in daycares. Our time had to be planned every day. In the morning we dropped the kids at the sitter and daycare. I would have to pick them up in the afternoon, rush home to cook and eat dinner, give the kids baths, play with them a bit then bedtime at 8:30 pm. Everyday we were rushing.
When we moved to Markham in 1981, it was a very new community. There was nothing for our kids to do during the summer or after-school programs. I got involved with our kids’ school, which just opened that September. We started the Parent Teacher Association and did fundraising for school computers and library books. I also helped start the Milliken Mills Softball Association so that our kids could play in the summer. I also became involved in building our church, St. Thomas the Apostle. With all of my community involvement, most of the community leaders urged me to run for Ward 8 Councillor, so I did. I thought I would only serve 2 to 3 terms, but I ended up serving 10 terms (33 years).
5. What are some of your major accomplishments? What were/are some of your major struggles? I did not originally consider becoming a politician as my career. I only planned to serve for 2 terms, but seeing the difference I was able to make, I continued to help our community and the City of Markham. And 33 years later (10 terms), I’m still here helping the community. Recently, I was able to fulfill my vision to have a Dr. Jose Rizal life-sized statue in Markham to pay tribute to our national hero as well as to my kababayans (fellow Filipinos). This was a long and painstaking process. I had to look for a developer that would allow me to have the monument erected in their park. I also had to obtain the support of the Mayor and my colleagues. And my biggest hurdle was to fundraise over $150,000.00 to pay for the bronzing, pedestal, and maintenance fee to the City of Markham. My wife named the surrounding area of the statue Luneta Gardens. Finally, my dream came to fruition on Sunday, June 9, 2019. Right across the Rizal statue and monument is Rizal Avenue, which I had named for Dr. Rizal. I’m so proud of all my accomplishments and our community.
In addition, I helped Dr. Ken Ng start the “Taste of Asia” after the SARS outbreak, to encourage people to eat Chinese food and to support different restaurants. “Taste of Asia” is one of the biggest Asian festivals in the GTA to date.
I’m also one of the founding members of the Markham Federation of Filipino Canadians and the Federation of Chinese Canadians in Markham. I also started the flag raising of the Philippine Flag at the City of Markham since 1989. I’ve also had the week of Philippine Independence Day proclaimed by the City of Markham Council as “Philippine Week in Markham”.
Through my annual charity golf tournament, I was able to raise funds to build 51 homes and a community centre in Las Piñas, Philippines through the assistance of ANCOP International Canada. The community is called “Markham Village”. After Typhoon Yolanda hit the Visayan Islands, I helped fundraise for another 40 homes. Just recently, through my golf tournament, we were able to send 6 students to college. I’ve also helped the youth fundraisers/initiatives at “Night it Up”. Through my golf tournament, I have been able to help Markham Stouffville Hospital, Mackenzie Health, Southlake Hospital, and different Chinese charitable organizations such as CICS, SEAS, CHerish Integrated Services.
I was the first visible minority that was elected to council in Markham. Everyone on council at that time was caucasian. While I can’t say that anyone was racist or would anyone admit that they were, there was a clear difference in their treatment with me. There was no one to help me. You either sink or swim! Luckily, Regional Councillor, Mr. Ron Moran, took me under his wing and showed me how to do a lot of things on council. I was able to help a lot of my constituents by listening to their complaints and suggestions. I also learned how to influence my fellow councillors to support my ideas for implementation and improvement of my community.