Scholastic Canada: I Am Canada

A Note From Gillian Chan
author of I Am Canada: Defend or Die

I grew up hearing stories of World War II, even though it occurred before I was born. My father was in the Royal Air Force and he inspired my earlier novel, A Foreign Field.

My husband is from Hong Kong, born there just three months before it fell to the Japanese in 1941. He told me of his father, a doctor, who worked for the British during the battle for the colony. By chance, while doing some other research, I stumbled upon the fact that two Canadian battalions, the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada, had been sent to defend Hong Kong just months before it was attacked. When I started to look into it, I knew that I had to write this story.

It has been the hardest book to write. The experiences of the Canadian soldiers, both in battle — fighting in unfamiliar territory and without much of their equipment still to arrive by ship — and later in the brutal prison camps, do not make for easy reading. The bravery, tenacity and endurance of these men inspired me. In writing the book I wanted not only to honour their memory and sacrifice, but also to bring their story to a wider audience. I hope I have done this.

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