Anyone who’s seen politician Katrina Chen deliver a speech reaches an inescapable conclusion: she’s very comfortable on-stage.
With her ever-present smile and dynamic presence, B.C.’s minister of state for childcare speaks with conviction and confidence.
But it wasn’t always this way for the co-chair of Premier-designate David Eby’s B.C. NDP leadership campaign.
“I used to be very shy,” Chen tells Pancouver over the phone. “I used to hide at the back of the class all the time. And now, I’m in front of the microphone.”
It was Chen’s love of arts and culture that enabled her to undergo this metamorphosis. She learned piano as a child and she still taps away on the keyboard at home when she’s feeling stressed out.
“When I was in high school, I joined band, I joined choir,” she recalls. “Through singing, through playing music, that was how I made friends. Music is the universal language.”
Her Canadian journey began on Halloween in 2000. That’s when she arrived as a homestay student from Taiwan at the age of 17.
“It was the first time I had left my family,” says Chen, now the MLA for Burnaby-Lougheed. “I was really excited but I was also very nervous.”
She had already studied tourism in Taiwan at a junior college, which was the equivalent of high school in Canada. Once she arrived here, she attended Langley Secondary School before going on to Langara College and then to Simon Fraser University, where she majored in political science and history.
At university, Chen joined the SFU jazz choir, which expanded her social network.
See Katrina Chen play some original music that she wrote during the pandemic.
She also joined a Taiwanese-Canadian band and learned how to play the guitar.
“So, music has always been an important part of my job to be more Canadianized or integrated in the local community—or connect with others,” she says.
Chen has continued her love of music as a member of the B.C. legislature, occasionally getting together with colleagues to perform together.
In the 2020 video below, NDP MLA Bob D’Eith is on piano as Chen and fellow MLA Bowinn Ma sing a cover version of Avril Lavigne’s “Keep Holding On”.
MLAs Bob D’Eeith, Katrina Chen, and Bowin Ma demonstrate their musical chops.
Kids’ books eased transition
Chen also credits children’s books for helping her master English, which she now speaks so confidently from the podium. She studied the language in Taiwan, but discovered that she needed to know so much more when she became a resident of an English-speaking country.
Fortunately, her homestay mom was an educational assistant.
“I actually went to her school and learned the work she did,” Chen says. “It was an interesting experience. And then she encouraged me to start by reading children’s books.”
Chen then became a collector of these books and shared them with others.
“That’s how I learned English,” she declares. “I started to improve on my reading. When I had my son, those books became really useful.”
The immigration experience hasn’t always been easy on Chen. She speaks candidly about experiencing unfair treatment and discrimination at times in her life.
“We all face this,” she acknowledges. “That’s why fighting anti-racism and public awareness is so important.”
Chen also encountered a new set of challenges when she become a single mother, which forced her to grow in different way.
“I was alone here, other than my son,” she says. “That was probably the biggest struggle I faced. But that being said, throughout that journey I am so grateful for the friends around me who are like family to me—and the support that they’ve provided to me.”
Chen adds that she’s also so appreciative of the diverse connections that she has been able to make on “this beautiful unceded territory”.
“So, yes, there are challenges,” she says reflectively. “I think every challenge comes with an opportunity. That’s what I tell myself.”
Chen also sees some common threads between Taiwan and Canada when it comes to diversity.
“It’s so important to be open-minded, to welcome diverse ideas—diverse connections—because we all learn from this and do better,” she states.
Her parents always encouraged her to embrace diversity and to volunteer in order to connect with other people.
“Whether it’s through music, through art, through daily life, or through volunteer work, I think that is so critical,” she says. “That experience helped me to be able to adapt to a new environment right here in Canada.”
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter @charliesmithvcr.
然而，身為新任省長尹大衛（ David Eby） 卑詩新民主黨競選團隊聯合主席的她，以前並非這個模樣。
陳葦蓁透過電話告訴 Pancouver：｢我以前很害羞，總是躲在教室的最後排。 但到了現在，我卻站在麥克風前。｣
她的加拿大之旅始於 2000 年萬聖節。當時只有17 歲的她，以寄宿學生的身份從台灣來到加拿大。現已成為本拿比洛歇選區省議員的陳葦蓁表示，那是她第一次離開家人，心情既緊張又興奮。
那時，她已經在台灣專科學校（相當於加拿大高中）完成觀光學位。 來到加拿大後，她最初就讀於蘭利中學（Langley Secondary School），再升讀蘭加拉學院（Langara College），最後進入西蒙菲莎大學（Simon Fraser University），主修政治學和歷史。
在大學期間，陳葦蓁加入了 SFU 爵士合唱團，擴大了她的社交圈。
在下面拍攝於2020 年的影片中，新民主黨省議員狄議思（Bob D’Eith） 正在彈奏鋼琴，而陳葦蓁和省議員馬博文（Bowinn Ma） 則一起翻唱了艾薇兒·拉維尼（Avril Lavigne）的歌曲「Keep Holding On」。