Upcoming symposium explores 150 years of Canada-Asia relations

Upcoming symposium explores 150 years of Canada-Asia relations

Crossing the Bridge Mackay Built: 150 years of Canada in East Asia and East Asia in Canada International Symposium will take place virtually on June 23 and 24.

On March 9, 1872, George Leslie Mackay arrived in Taiwan as a missionary for The Presbyterian Church in Canada. This year marks the celebration of 150 years of Mackay in Taiwan and the founding of the first Canadian overseas mission in Tamsui, Taiwan. His ministry involved preaching, training of new ministers, dentistry, and medicine. He also established 60 chapels, several schools, and a hospital.

Mackay is recognized as a great missionary within the Presbyterian Church and admired with statues and memorial plaques. He captured the historical interest of researchers and visitors of the land.

The symposium will focus on what has happened in Canada-Asia people-to-people relations over the last 150 years. The presentations reach from exploring the life of Mackay’s wife Tiun Chhang-mia, to contemporary Canadian sister city exchanges with Japan. Curators from the Royal Ontario Museum will present a virtual tour of unseen artifacts from its 1893 Mackay collection. The symposium speakers’ schedule is available online.

“Unlike many of our events which were centered on the experiences of Asian diaspora in Canada, this symposium focuses on the history and legacy of George Leslie Mackay’s engagement with Asia, a subject that would lead us to consider the history of Canadian diaspora in Asia, and perhaps Canada’s distinctive role as a global player,” says Abidin Kusno, director of the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) and an event co-organizer.

The symposium is organized by Reverend Michael Stainton, a former missionary to Taiwan, anthropologist, and associate of the YCAR.

Rev. Stainton notes he hopes the symposium will raise awareness of the importance of people-to-people relations in Canada’s foreign relations and stimulate new thinking about the man who started it all in 1872. 

This event is organized by the Canadian Mackay Committee with support from the Centre for Asian-Canadian Theology and Ministry at Knox College and the York Centre for Asian Research, York University.

All are welcome to attend the event. Registration is free.


Image: Statue of George Leslie Mackay. Installation erected by the New Taipei City government. Photo credit: Wang Jung-chang