Peter Stock
The Interim

A few years ago, Toronto pastor Dominic Tse was an apolitical member of his Chinese-Canadian community. Today, he is one of the leading voices in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious coalition attempting to halt the progress of Bill C-38, the federal Liberals’ legislation redefining marriage. In mid-February, he found himself in Parliament, speaking in defence of marriage at a news conference hosted by the defendMARRIAGE Coalition (

He was there on behalf of a swelling number of Chinese-Canadians who can no longer stomach the extreme social agenda of Paul Martin’s Liberal party.

His transformation from quiet Canadian to political activist began just two years ago. “In the spring of 2003, there were a succession of court cases that declared the definition of marriage unconstitutional. Gay marriage was declared legal. Those decisions started a change in our community,” he told The Interim.

Members of his congregation, and those of other ethnically Chinese evangelical churches in the Toronto area, felt they had no option but to engage their politicians. “We participated in rallies and wrote letters. It was our first political activity,” said Pastor Tse.

Political action is highly unusual for his culture, the pastor said. “In general, Chinese people are very conservative and non-political. The older generation came from war-torn China and communism. They have an abhorrence of anything political, and many don’t even vote, “ he said.

As he pointed out, “Chinese people separate religion and the world and they don’t usually venture into the public sphere. Instead, we focus on spreading the Gospel among Chinese people.” The only time there has been any political discussion at all among Chinese-Canadians was in the early 1990s, at the time of the Tiananmen Square demonstration and massacre, “and that was really a China issue, not a Canadian political issue,” he said.

In fact, Pastor Tse pointed out, the reason his community immigrated to Canada was “to raise our kids, give them a better future and have a peaceful life. But, this movement to redefine marriage strikes at the heart of the family and the very reason we came to Canada. If we don’t stop it, our children will be bombarded with pro-gay literature in the public schools. We are very concerned about our families.”

And, once stirred to action, Pastor Tse and his community have been very visible. A Toronto demonstration in August 2003, on the heels of the first Ontario court ruling attacking heterosexu0al marriage, saw more than 10,000 gathered to protest the ruling. A subsequent rally in Ottawa the next month attracted over 3,000 Chinese-Canadians, who travelled from Toronto and Montreal and formed about half the crowd of 6,000.

The most active Chinese-Canadians are drawn from evangelical churches, most notably the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Baptist and Evangelical Free Churches. However, Pastor Tse pointed out, “Even the Chinese Christians in mainline churches are firmly against redefining marriage.”

Another change he’s witnessed, he said, is that a large number of Chinese-Canadians “have become voters since the rulings. A lot of Chinese typically don’t vote.” In addition, their voting patterns have changed substantially. “We always used to vote Liberal. There was this idea that Trudeau was our benefactor. The Liberals are the reason we came over here. But, we’re realizing we have a higher master. And, our vote can no longer be taken for granted. So, more are now voting for the Conservative party, because of their strong family stand. Our vote is becoming more issues-based,” he said.

Pastor Tse had a message for politicians who buck the Chinese community on marriage: “If you continue defying our wishes, we’ll have to vote you out next election. And, that day may not be far off.”