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Yellowknife embraces Asian population

Kevin Allerston
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 30/05) - Thousands of kilometres from home, Yellowknife's Asian population is happy with life in the capital.

Robert Hui was raised in Hong Kong and moved to Yellowknife in 1993 looking for work. He runs Hollywood Video and teaches Kung Fu at the Multiplex.

He likes the ethnic diversity he sees in Yellowknife and he makes a point of representing it in his store's movie titles.

Hui said he feels accepted by Yellowknifers, though there is not enough exposure to Asian culture in the city.

"Believe it or not, a lot of people want to know (about Asian culture), but there isn't a lot of opportunity for that to happen," Hui said.

One of the best things about being a Chinese person in Yellowknife is the opportunity for jobs. Because they have a reputation for being hard workers, Hui said, it is fairly easy to find work.

And his ethnicity has helped him as a Kung Fu instructor.

"Of course, being Asian, people trust you. People say 'of course, being Asian, he must know something!'" Hui joked.

Cooking Chinese "soul food" presents its own problems.

He prepares a lot of his own food to get a taste of home, but Hui said it is hard to find some of the ingredients for traditional Asian foods around town.

He often has to order from Hong Kong to get what he needs.

Thuy Ha immigrated from Vietnam with her mother and has lived in Yellowknife for 16 years. She runs Thanh Dat, an Asian clothing and gift store in the Centre Square Mall.

She said that while Yellowknife's climate is cold, she loves the people, the friendliness of Yellowknifers who help her break the language barrier.

Ha rarely has the chance to wear "ao dais," the vivid tropical dresses she sells in her store.

She welcomes days of the year like Canada Day when she and other Vietnamese people get together to celebrate their culture and eat Vietnamese food.

In Canada, freedom is something people sometimes take for granted, but for Ha, it is the best thing about this country.

"I can go anywhere; I can do anything I want," Dat said.

Deebak Kumar immigrated from Bombay, India, in 2003 to be with his wife, whom he met while she was visiting Bombay in 2000.

He now works as a Hindu priest out of Northern United Place and would like to start up a multicultural group here.

Like many Canadians, he appreciates the country's multiculturalism.

"I see Yellowknife as the whole world," Kumar said. "If you live here, there are people of different cultures and they really respect each other. And that's the most beautiful part of Yellowknife."