1.1 Background

The story of CDNIS did not start in September 1991, the month it first opened its doors to its students. It tied in intimately with important events of the past that affected Hong Kong.

It had its root in 1989. That year started out as a boom year for Hong Kong but the incident in June 1989 in China had shattered the economic upturn and the people of Hong Kong lost confidence and directions as to their future. 

For those who could afford it, they discussed and found ways of migrating overseas to seek an asylum for their fortunes and family or ways or means to obtain a passport and with it, the flexibility of going overseas in times of necessity in the future. 

It started “the brain drain” and fortunes were moved from Hong Kong to overseas; people started to leave and migrate overseas with their families. Canada was one of the most favourite destinations. 

In 1989, an International Business Committee (“IBC”) was formed by the Hong Kong government and chaired by Sir David Ford, then Chief Secretary, to deal with various issues facing Hong Kong and the international communities in Hong Kong. 

One of the issues discussed and identified at the IBC meetings was the shortage of international schools with North American curricula in Hong Kong. A sub-committee chaired by Mr. K.Y. Yeung, then Secretary for Education and Manpower, was set up to deal with the issue. 

One of the participants of the IBC meetings was the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of Hong Kong (“the Chamber”). At the time, the Chamber proposed to work towards the establishment of a Canadian International Schools Foundation which would then consider detailed proposals for the setting up of a primary Canadian International School by the mid-nineties. 

The Chamber recognized, and was of the opinion, that the task of forming a Canadian International School was a very complex one and considered that it was beyond its scope on its own to take up the task. 

Many of the international schools in Hong Kong are funded by their national governments in various forms. 

The Canadian government, however, has no constitutional jurisdiction over education here in Hong Kong and it was expressly stated at one of the IBC meetings that no financial support would be available. 

1.2 Formation of CDNIS

Chinese Canadian Association (“CCA”) was a young association established in 1987 by a group of returnees from Canada. Their active members shared the concern of the government and the plight of the middle to lower class returnees from Canada.

At the end of 1990, Art McInnis, one of the attendants of the IBC meetings, attended a special executive committee meeting of CCA to explain the intended project. CCA immediately responded and formed a sub-committee to found a non-profit-making organization in the name of Canadian International School Foundation Limited (“the Foundation”) for the project.

The decision to establish CDNIS was made in or about December 1990 and the target date was to open the school in September 1991. Richard Wong was elected to chair the group.

During Richard’s chairmanship, it was a hectic year of building CDNIS from scratch. It included the search and appointment of Ian Robertson as the first Principal of CDNIS, recruitment of staff, the establishment of the school logo and uniform, the curriculum, the Nomination Rights and capital levy, promotion of the school, and the entering into the tenancy at 7 Eastern Hospital Road, the renovation of the school premises with limited budget, etc.

1.3 The seed money

Fund-raising was a problem and the skepticism of the community was understandable. Initially, each founder provided HKD10,000.00 as a personal loan to start CDNIS.

Albert Wang was responsible for fund-raising and had to scratch his head many times to find the ways and means to accomplish his task. He was finally able to secure the donation by Mr. Raymond Chan, a personal friend, a sum of HKD500,000.00. 

Roger Chow used his connection and was able to secure HKD250,000.00 from Standard Chartered Bank (H.K.) Trustees Limited. 

On June 26, 1991, Albert Wang, under the auspices of CCA, organized the first fund-raising event for CDNIS. A Gala Premiere was hosted at the Hong Kong Convention Centre – Theatre 1. The film “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The Ooze” sponsored by Golden Harvest Group, was shown for the occasion at HKD1,000 per ticket. The proceeds in the sum of around HKD400,000 were donated to CDNIS. 

These three major contributions provided the seed money to start the School. At the time, efforts to secure donations from Canadian organizations had turned out to be fruitless. 

The sub-committee worked extremely hard in those nine months including regular breakfast meetings on every Monday, on top of the other meetings of the sub-sub-committees. CDNIS, operating under the auspices of the Foundation, formally opened its door to students of all nationalities in September 1991 at 7 Eastern Hospital Road, as a primary school with classes ranging from Preparatory to Grade 5. 

The Founding Members made a major decision in that education had to be offered with quality at an affordable price. It was decided not to sacrifice standard for the sake of admitting more students. As a result, the intake was only around 80 in September 1991.