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The bones of Ng Chung lie here. And although his grave is unmarked and his story may never entirely be told, his name is being remembered now for the first time in the more than 100 years since he was sent to this small island off the coast of British Columbia to die.

The City of Victoria is acknowledging a shameful chapter in its history a century after establishing Canada's first Chinese leper colony on what has remained for many years a forgotten island of ghosts.

Ng Chung was one of the first five Chinese men with leprosy to be banished to D'Arcy Island after they were discovered in a shack in Victoria's Chinatown in 1891.

From a distance, D'Arcy Island's outline in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains appears as idyllic as any of the Gulf Islands. It can be seen in the Haro Strait from Victoria's coastline and is a 40-minute boat ride away.

But closer to its pebbly shores are grim reminders of the estimated 49 Chinese lepers banished here between 1891 and 1924.

"This is one of the graves," said Victoria's Mayor Alan Lowe, pointing beyond a crescent-shaped beach to an unmarked pile of rocks and dirt overgrown with thistle.

"Back there is where their garden was," he said, gesturing toward a trail dotted with empty campsites underneath a green canopy of Douglas firs and arbutus trees.

The only other signs of the leper colony left on the uninhabited island are the crumbled pieces of a red-brick chimney and a rusted iron bed frame.

A ceremony will be held later this month to remember the Chinese lepers who were exiled to D'Arcy Island with food rations and coffins.

Most of them emigrated along with tens of thousands other Chinese to work as cheap labour building Canada's railway. They contracted leprosy from living in crowded barracks.

"It is a part of our history," said Mr. Lowe, Victoria's first Chinese-Canadian mayor. "It is important for us to recognize and remember the men who died on this island."

Mr. Lowe, a 39-year-old architect and son of a butcher, was elected mayor last year after six years on city council. His grandfather, Say Lowe, immigrated to Victoria to work as a labourer in a rock quarry in 1905, paying $50 in head tax levied on the Chinese by the federal government at the time.

The city will erect a plaque on D'Arcy Island, now a provincial marine park. It will list the names of 14 men who died and mention another four whose names are unknown. It is uncertain how many died between 1906 and 1924, when the colony closed.

A documentary and a soon-to-be-published book have recently raised awareness about the former colony.

It was run by the City of Victoria between 1891 and 1906. The province pressed the federal government to assume responsibility for the island and Parliament passed the Leprosy Bill in 1906.

Victoria's Chinatown, established in 1858, was the first in Canada. The influx of Chinese immigrants to British Columbia during the late 1800s and early 1900s fuelled prejudice, leading to segregated schools and the establishment of the Anti-Asian League, which resulted in several riots.

Whites afflicted with leprosy in Canada during the same period were admitted to a federally operated leper colony in Tracadie, N.B., a hospital-like setting run by doctors, nurses and nuns. But Chinese lepers were sent to D'Arcy Island.

In 1894, the B.C. government turned down a request by a U.S. missionary who offered to care for the lepers.

A ship carrying a medical official and food supplies visited the island four times a year, the lepers' only contact with the outside world until 1907, when the federal government installed a caretaker on the island and a translator.

Some of the residents of D'Arcy Island were deported to China while others were transferred to nearby Bentinck Island in 1924. That leper colony, operated by the federal government, closed when the last man died in 1956. It is now used by the Department of National Defence as a demolition range. A total of 13 people died on Bentinck Island.

After he was discovered with the disease in 1981, Ng Chung tried to commit suicide while boarding a ship with the four others. He was 37 and had a wife and child in China. But he lived and was banished to the colony.

The men lived in a row of huts, planting a garden, raising chickens, tending to each other as their illnesses worsened and eventually burying the dead.

Chris Yorath, the author of A Measure of Value: The Story of the D'Arcy Island Leper Colony, said he was surprised their sad story merits so little mention in history books.

A retired geologist who sails near D'Arcy Island, he started researching its past after stumbling across a reference to the leper colony in a tourist guide.

"Their humanity was taken from them by no fault of their own," Mr. Yorath said. "It was taken from them by this horrible disease and the racist attitudes of the time."

By remembering the forgotten lepers, Mr. Lowe said he hopes their souls will come to rest.

"I knew there was racism and cruelty. We do move on. The hard work of our ancestors gave us the respect that we have today."