THE CHYSSEM PROJECT

Celebrating the 50 year story of Tibetan-Canadians 

Members of the first group of Tibetans in Quebec [1971]. Photo courtesy of the Canada Tibet Committee archives. 

‘Chyssem’ is a Tibetan term used to describe the quality of caring about the collective welfare, a person who is community-minded.  The choice of this expression as a project name is a tribute to the first wave of Tibetans, founding members of today’s community in Canada, who embodied that spirit and shared it with their children.

About the Project

The ‘Chyssem Project’ is a grassroots community effort to create a permanent archival record about the first Tibetans who arrived in Canada in the early 1970s. To mark the 50th anniversary of Tibetan immigration to Canada in 2021, the Project will facilitate the inclusion of the Tibetan immigration story as part of the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 collection. The Project will also include an e-book containing individual stories and photographs.

The purpose of this website is threefold:

   (1) to explain the project and encourage participation;

   (2) to validate and collect information;

   (3) to fundraise.

Why it Matters

The first wave of Tibetans who immigrated to Canada are part of the last generation born in Tibet prior to Chinese occupation. Their journey to Canada was preceded by years of hardship due to war, forced exile, and life as a refugee in India. Their stories are part of our collective history and shared sense of identity. Oral stories remain the only personal connection between new generations of Tibetans born in Canada and those who were born in a free Tibet. In order to preserve that connection to Tibet, a permanent and public record of those individual stories must be created for future generations to access.

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Tsering Dorjee Wangkhang, one of the first two Tibetans to arrive in Canada, meeting with Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau in the early 1970s.