BC Association of Community Response Networks

Addressing Financial Abuse in BC’s Chinese Speaking Communities


A new initiative by BC CRN’s Chinese Community Response Network (CCRN) is tackling the complex issue of financial abuse head-on in Chinese-speaking communities in the province.

Led by the CCRN team of Daisy Au, CRN Coordinator and Seniors Club Coordinator with MOSAIC, Melanie Fong, an independent community outreach consultant, and Lin Chen, an independent contractor who has worked with Seniors First BC and several lower mainland CRNs, the initiative aims to open up discussions with Chinese seniors and their families about financial literacy and the resources available that can support important financial decisions.

“Financial abuse is prevalent in the Chinese community and it often takes place between senior parents and their grown children,” says Daisy. “At the same time, no one wants to talk about it. No one wants to cause the family any disgrace or shame, so seniors often suffer in silence.”

The CCRN wanted to help break that silence.

Part 1: Understanding What Chinese Seniors Believed

The initial idea for the project was tabled at the start of the year, and after three months of brainstorming and planning, the team facilitated a series of focus groups and engaged a total of 38 seniors, including community members, peers, family members, and volunteer bystanders. Discussions were conducted in Mandarin and Cantonese and took place in April 2021.

From those first interactions, the team learned that Chinese seniors who have or continued to experience abuse did not seek help because of shame, social isolation, and/or a lack of knowledge of available resources. Focus group participants also felt abusive behaviours came from an individual’s character flaws and had little to do with specific cultures.

“Of the participants who shared their experiences, they also told us that they were willing to quietly endure hardship for the benefit of the next generation, which lines up to traditional Chinese ethics and belief systems,” says Lin. “Chinese seniors are often a part of multi-generational households where financial responsibilities are delegated to the adult children. Focus group participants also felt society and younger generations viewed older adults as unable to keep with the times. There is going to be conflict in the house.”

The team also received valuable insight on how Chinese seniors liked to receive important information.

“Digital literacy has to be considered when sharing information about abuse prevention in the Chinese community at large,” continues Lin. “Traditional media sources, like radio and TV, were identified as key information-sharing tools. Others also said WeChat, TikTok, and WhatsApp are being used more and more.”

Part 2: Using Chinese Proverbs to Open Up the Dialogue on Financial Abuse

The data collected from the focus groups formed the groundwork for developing tools to get important messages of financial literacy, community resources, and how bystanders can help to the larger community.

“We used two popular Chinese proverbs to anchor the information about abuse prevention. It made the content much more meaningful and impactful to our seniors,” says Melanie.

The proverbs, and their meanings, are:

  • Do not air the family’s dirty laundry in public (家醜不外傳): Discussing or arguing about unpleasant or private things in front of other people is frowned upon in Chinese culture.
  • Do according to one’s ability (量力而為): Doing the best you can when you can.

The team then collaborated with volunteer actors and writers, seniors, and community partners to produce two videos – essentially radio dramas – and a core engagement presentation based on BC CRN’s It’s Not Right! program. The development team is comprised of 14 seniors.

The first video shows a senior who has a joint bank account with their adult child and the impacts of this decision. The second video focuses on the impacts of senior parents transferring their property title to their grown children. Cantonese and Mandarin audio are both available.

“These two scenarios are the most common in the Chinese community,” says Daisy. “We included discussion questions at the end that set up the audience for more discussion.”

The videos were completed and launched as part of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2021 last June 15. The team used Facebook and YouTube to help with the “shareability” of their content to anyone in the community. (Search by “華人社區響應網絡 Chinese CRN”.)

The videos are already making waves in the Chinese community. “There are a lot of conversations taking place in the community. I’ve received several calls since we released the videos from people sharing their stories about what is happening in their households,” continues Daisy. “We also are making more training available to those who want to learn more about how, as bystanders, they can safely and correctly help seniors being abused.”

Part 3: In-Person and Virtual Forums Deepen the Discussion in the Community

Starting this month, the Chinese CRN is partnering with the community – MOSAIC, the Chinese Community Policing Centre, Chimo Community Services, Seniors First BC, South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, S.U.C.C.E.S.S., Yarrow International Society for Justice, CCM Vancouver Centre, and several others- to conduct financial literacy forums with the general Chinese-speaking public.

Funded by BC CRN, six forums are planned between now and May 2022 and will delve deeper into the topic of financial abuse with participants. “We also will be sharing a spreadsheet of relevant resources, all translated into Chinese characters, to help seniors access the services they need without any language barriers,” says Melanie.

The forums will also help the Chinese CRN team collect feedback about the tools created to date and additional data on the impact the program is having on the community.

“We will review our findings in June,” says Daisy. “Our goal for this project is to help make this topic less taboo so people can start stepping up to support others. That is our hope.”

“The Chinese CRN has made incredible strides in this community,” says Joanna Li, BC CRN Regional Mentor – Vancouver. “Thank you for your leadership and accomplishing so much in such a short amount of time.”

Look for follow-up articles on this initiative in future E-Connector editions. For more about the Chinese CRN, contact Daisy Au at daisyau@mosaicbc.org or Joanna Li at joanna.li@bccrns.ca. Please give their Facebook page and YouTube channel a follow!