Alan Lowe, VHS 1979 Activism Is His Passion

Alan Lowe, VHS 1979  Activism Is His Passion

By King Lee, VHS 1958

It has been 45 years since Alan Lowe had balloons raining down into the Vic High Auditorium from the venerable school attic in his campaign for Prime Minister of the Vic High Parliament [student council] for the 1978-79 school year. “Mr. [Principal Duncan] Lorimer wasn’t too happy,” Alan laughs, “but I won.”

Alan played field hockey at Vic High and was a member of the chess club. He remembers popular science teacher Mr. Blasner as one of his favourites. “Vic High, I think, was very valuable to me,” says Alan, a sentiment that continues to this day. Since graduation he’s been an avid supporter of the Vic High Alumni, heading up the 2008 Vic High Homecoming week-end, helping organize Class of 1979 reunions, and always cheering for Vic High.

In the 1979 Vic High Camosun yearbook, his write-up stated: “Alan was our Prime Minister this year and was bothered by school apathy and the number of stairs VHS has. He hopes to retire at 30 and says, ‘Life cannot be any easier than now, so make the most of it.’ (Like Heck!!)”

Surprising as it was to learn that Alan even knew the word “apathy,” he did fail miserably at his goal of retiring at 30. (like most of us do!) He obtained his Masters degree in Architecture in 1985, and continues in the field to this day. In 1990 he was elected to Victoria City Council, and in 1999 became the city’s first mayor of Chinese descent. He held the position until 2008.

Boys’ Field Hockey Team Because the yearbook was sent in at the end of March, we were unable to tell how the boys did in the league. However, with an enthusiastic group of players under the coaching of Miss Hanslip, we hope for a good season. Standing L-R: Steve Ashwell, Shawn Coates, Jack Leung, Mike Bourne, Harjit Nandhra, Gordon Wilson, Wayne Russell, Paul Sapsford, Marc Gaudet, Mark Haliday, Albert Low. Kneeling L-R: Miss Hanslip (coach), William So, Doug Crouch, Alan Lowe, Don Descoteau.

Along the way, Alan was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for community service in 2003 and was listed in the Top 100 Most Influential Chinese Canadians of 2006. He was also named an honorary Citizen of Victoria in 2018 and honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of the Canadian Scottish Regiment in 2020.

Alan’s life of activism and advocacy, started with his Vic High experiences, continues still, as he shows off the Victoria Chinatown Museum in Fan Tan Alley he helped launch in early 2020. He is past chair of the society which runs the museum that’s drawn many visitors since opening.

In early 2020, Alan was asked by the provincial government to be part of a working group which included John Adams, VHS  Thomas Chan and Winnie Lee, to explore the feasibility of a provincial Chinese museum. All four are founding directors of the Victoria Chinatown Museum Society.  Its Board of Directors includes Dr. Grace Wong Sneddon, Robert Fung, Kyman Chan, Ronald Greene, Kevin Sing, Dana Hutchings and Michelle Urquhart.

On July 16, 2020, Premier John Horgan announced a $10 million grant to establish a Chinese Canadian museum, a first in Canada. Alan said it made sense to have it based in Vancouver, but proposed Victoria should have a satellite location because it is the home of the oldest Chinatown in Canada which has national heritage status.

The Chinese Canadian Museum Society was formed, based in Vancouver, and Alan and John (Adams) from the Victoria board were also appointed to the provincial board. “We’ve had some differences,” he acknowledged, “and it’s been a tight-rope act to serve on the two boards.” But it’s all working out.

The Vancouver-based board of the Chinese Canadian Museum has hired former Victoria councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe to work part-time at the Fan Tan Alley Museum. The Victoria group has about 30 volunteers, Alan said.

He was most excited about the Victoria Chinatown Museum Society receiving charitable status in November, which he says should help with fund-raising efforts.

A curatorial committee decides what to display at the museum, located at 10-14 Fan Tan Alley, and some changes are forthcoming. One of the new displays features the late Tony Eng, a well-known Victoria magician. Tony’s daughter, Julie, who is also a magician, travelled to Victoria from her Toronto home, to attend the official unveiling of the display on December 7.

The Victoria Chinatown Museum in Fan Tan Alley is open Thursdays to Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and entry is presently by donation. Inquiries can be made to 250-382-9883.