Henry Woo was born on the 18th of March 1929 in Lethbridge, Alberta and passed on the 24th of November 2014 in Edmonton. He served as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta (MLA) for the Edmonton-Sherwood Park riding from 1979-1986, for the Progressive-Conservative Party. Woo was very active in both his community and the politics surrounding it. His hard work earned him a wide variety of awards and achievements. From being inducted into the Order of Canada (1990) and eventually being awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal (2012) for his exemplary service through his career. (Kay, pp. 18)
Woo’s life was undoubtedly interesting. His service in the military led him to train at the ‘…infamous Camp X… [and he also] worked as an undercover RCMP operative.’ (Kay, pp. 5) He participated in a 1960 sting operation to convict foreign diplomats whom were smuggling heroin. (Legacy.com, pp. 2)
Originally hailing from Lethbridge, Woo grew up on a farm just outside of city limits. His parents were Chinese immigrants and they came during the enforcement of the Chinese Head Tax. “Lim Goot Ying and her husband Ming… Both had to pay the scurrilous $500 head tax the Canadian government imposed to discourage Chinese immigration.” (Stock, pp. 9)
Woo himself ‘…faced a great deal of discrimination in his early life, but refused to allow it to block his interests.” (Kay, pp. 4) In the 1970s, Woo worked with Roy Lynn Peipenburg ‘…Harold Cardinal during the First Nations pushback against Pierre Trudeau’s White Paper in the 1970. Woo worked alongside First Nation groups resisting the policy.’ (Kay, pp. 11)
Peipenburg recalls, “No matter how difficult the going was, he was cheerful, and positive and we rallied around him… He had excellent rapport with the people, he was just something to behold,” In reference to Woo’s capability to win over even the more stubborn groups under an advocacy umbrella. (Kay, pp. 12)
Ernest Bastide, a close friend of Woo’s, says that,
“He left a legacy not just in Sherwood Park, but all of Alberta. He left a legacy for the Chinese-Canadians, (who) should be so proud of him. He did so much for the Chinese community; he did so much for Sherwood Park, for not just the Park, but all of Alberta, and then Canada. He served the country with honour and distinction, he served in the provincial legislature with honour and distinction.” (Kay, pp. 18)
During the 2nd Legislative Session, Woo presented a petition of over 11,000 signatures to the Assembly to prevent the City of Edmonton from annexing Strathcona County. He also ran for a second term in the 1982 general election and was reelected unanimously. After his second and final term ended, Woo decided to pursue consultancy for trade and development.
“Woo told Journal columnist Nick Lees in 1988, “That [two terms] was long enough for nearly anyone to hold a political post before they begin to lose touch with reality.” (Stock, pp. 16)
Family for Woo was a cornerstone in his life. His daughter Sheri says that,
“He was a single parent when I was a baby and he would take me to work, hiding me in the pantry [he worked shifts in a kitchen at the Ontario Hospital] so he could keep an eye on me when he worked… When the nuns discovered me they offered to find a good home for me, but there was no way my dad would give me up for adoption.” (Kay, pp. 7)
Sheri also mentions that, “Being a politician was just one small part of his life… He loved to cook — especially cream pies — paint, play baseball — he was a windmill pitcher for many teams in southern Alberta — loved animals, and raised me as a single parent from when I was just a baby. Nobody loved me more than he did. He loved music — especially bagpipes and marching band songs. He was a Sea Cadet. But more than anything, he was a very kind-hearted person.” (Stock, pp. 5)
Woo also wrote stories for his daughter and in one passage it reads,
“When I was growing up on the farm, I used to sit beside our pond and just daydream,” he also wrote. “I would lie in the grass and watch the water beetles skate on the water and watch the red-winged blackbirds sitting on the cattails. And I would dream of the time when I would be grown up and the mighty things I would do.” (Stock, pp. 17)
There is no doubt that Woo did achieve the things that he dreamt of and that legacy will live on.