Jean Lumb (nee Wong), C.M., one of 12 children, was born in Nanaimo, B. C. in 1919. She left school at the age of 12 to work and support her family. In 1935 at age 17, she moved to Toronto and opened her own grocery store. She married Doyle Lumb, her husband of 50 years. The mother of six children and grandmother of nine grandchildren, Jean Lumb was the co-owner and director of the Kwong Chow Restaurant in Toronto for 23 years.
Jean Lumb was the first Chinese Canadian woman and the first restaurateur to receive the Order of Canada for her tireless community work. Most notably, she was recognized for her pivotal role in changing Canada’s immigration laws that separated Chinese families in 1957 and for her contribution in saving Chinatowns in Toronto and other cities. Renowned as a community spokesperson of dynamic energy, she has also been honoured with many other awards, including the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Award, the Governor General’s Award, the City of Toronto Award of Merit, YWCA Woman of Change Honour Roll, Order of the Knights of Rizal, Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award, the last two awarded posthumously.
Jean Lumb was very active in community work throughout her life. She achieved many firsts: First Chinese woman on the board of governors of the Women’s College Hospital; First Chinese woman on the board of University Settlement House; First Chinese restaurateur and first woman to receive the Fran Deck Award for outstanding achievement in Toronto’s restaurant industry; First Chinese-Canadian woman to sit on the Board of Rotary-Laughlen Centre. She also served as Director and Honourary Advisor of the Yee Hong Chinese Nursing Home for Greater Toronto and the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto. Her seven-year term as Citizenship Court Judge brought her great joy to preside over hundreds of new Canadians taking the Oath of Citizenship and becoming Canadian citizens.
In 1996, the Jean Lumb Awards were established to honour her contributions to the community. Four high school students of Chinese heritage are recognized annually for excellence in Academic Achievement, Community Service, Athletics and the Arts. Jean Lumb died in 2002.
Arlene Chan, a retired librarian, has authored three children’s books. Awakening the Dragon: the Dragon Boat Festival, published by Tundra Books in 2002, launched her passion for dragon boating. Her two earlier books are The Spirit of the Dragon: The Story of Jean Lumb, a Proud Chinese Canadian, selected as a Choice Book by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, and The Moon Festival: A Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, shortlisted for the Silver Birch Award.
Arlene is President of the Jean Lumb Foundation and an Appointee to the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers Advisory Council, Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.