How missing Saturday morning cartoons led to being a spokesperson in Hong Kong

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Navy News / August 23, 2019

Lieutenant (Navy) Eric Poon was the first person in his family to be born in Canada. Last year this aspect of his life came ‘full circle’.

In 2018 Lt(N) Poon was given a unique opportunity to travel back to his parent’s birth country of Hong Kong. This experience brought him closer to his extended family and also landed on Chinese television.

In 1990 Lt(N) Poon’s parents emigrated from Hong Kong to Toronto hoping to find new opportunities for their children.

As a Canadian-born child it was hard to see the future benefits of attending Cantonese classes. This was especially true on weekends, he said, as it meant missing all the good Saturday morning cartoons, like Spiderman and Pokémon.

As part of Operation PROJECTION, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Vancouver was making a port visit to Hong Kong and they needed someone to act as translator and flag officer for Rear Admiral Gilles Couturier.

Not only could he speak Cantonese but he had been to Hong Kong a dozen times on family visits. Once in Hong Kong his role quickly expanded to him acting as the ship’s Cantonese-speaking spokesperson.

He ended up doing several interviews for media outlets like South China Morning Post and Television Broadcasts Limited during that trip.

Lt(N) Poon’s knowledge of the region also meant he could give good restaurant recommendations to the Rear Admiral with choices spanning from typical Hong Kong cafes to more ‘adventurous’ options like Steamed Chicken Feet.

While undoubtedly a fun tasking, it was also a powerful life moment, said Lt(N) Poon.

“I just felt that my life in some strange way had come full circle,” he said. “My parents left Hong Kong. From Canada, I joined the military, then I got to go to Hong Kong and wear the uniform and represent Canada in their country and show them what I do.”

After serving ten years, Lt(N) Poon has an incredible passion for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and wants to help the CAF’s drive to improve diversity and representation. He frequently acts as a CAF spokesperson with local Chinese-Canadian media at Chinese festivities.

“What I’d say to Chinese-Canadians who may be considering their career options is ‘have an open mind.’ There are incredible opportunities but there are challenges as well,” he said.