Reaction to my interview about Chinese Head Tax
on CBC Radio Early Edition on Wednesday morning
Doing a radio interview by telephone is always weird. You can't engage the person
you are speaking to, or the audience.
This morning my phone woke me up, and somebody asking if I could talk about my reaction
to the mention in the Throne Speech that there would be an apology for the Chinese Head Tax.
CBC Radio called back at 8:15, and I spoke with Early Edition host Rick Cluff.
Of course, after the interview was over, I immediately criticized myself for being more critical,
than positive in my message. I similarly woke up my girlfriend when I telephoned her to
listen to me speaking on CBC Radio One 690 AM. Her feedback was that the conversation
assumed that the listeners knew what the issue already was.
The Early Edition has been covering the issue almost since the Head Tax Story broke back on
November 26th, when we protested at the signing of the ACE program when Paul Martin
came to Vancouver.
Yesterday, I told one of my co-workers about the mention of the apology for the Chinese Head
Tax. She was critical of the government paying out money for the “sins of our ancestors” that
she felt had no connection with. I told her its a more complicated issue, and that 62 years of
legislated racism had a tremendous negative effect on the Chinese community. I told her that the
United Nations had asked Canada to make reparations in 2004, and yet the Liberal Government
continued to refuse. I also asked her to imagine what Canada would be like today, if there had
been no head tax or immigration restrictions. Chinese Canadian culture would be even stronger
today, and much more integrated into the Canadian culture.
Today I telephoned my 95 year old grandmother. And she asked “Will there be any money?”
My grandmother was born in Victoria, BC. The grand-daughter of Rev. Chan Yu Tan, who
came to Canada to preach Christianity to the Chinese pioneers. My grandmother's father Ernest
Lee paid the head tax, as well as my grandmother's husband, Sonny Mar. I can tell you that
they each did the best for their familes given the unfair start they had in Canada, when no other
immigrant ethnic groups had to pay a head tax, and when Canada was giving away land for free
to European farmers on the prairies because they were seen as “desirable immigrants.”
My uncle, Daniel Lee, at Rememberance Day ceremonies, and shaking hands with then
mayor Larry Campbell, and coucillor Jim Green.
I also telephoned my grandmother's younger brother, Daniel Lee. Uncle Dan served in WW2
with the Canadian Air Force. Being of Chinese descent, he was not allowed to enter combat, so
he became an engineer. Each year he writes to Canadian Parliament, asking for an apology, but
never getting an answer. Finally the Chinese Canadian veterans agreed to support the ACE
program for “Acknowledgement, Commemoration and Education” because they believed
that this would be the only way they would ever see the Canadian government recognize the
injustice of the head tax.
Uncle Dan's first question was “Which apology?” asking whether it was for the NCCC or the
CCNC, as each of the groups had been waging disagreements how the redress should be
handled. The National Congress of Chinese Canadians had signed on to the ACE program,
and the Chinese Canadian National Council stuck to their guns and continued to ask for an
apology and individual compensation for surviving head tax payers and spouses.
“It's an apology for head tax. It's the one you keep writing to Ottawa asking for,” I answered.
My cousin Janice Wong, and dragon boat friend Pam Jones heard me on the radio, complimenting
me, so I guess I wasn't overly critical and negative about the forthcoming head tax apology. I
really am happy that it is coming. It is long overdue… and I keep telling my friends and family.
I heard your lovely voice this a.m. on Rick Cluff's show. You sounded
Glad that you mentioned the misunderstanding of the issue at the end
of your interview. That was good, esp. the part about the vote and
professional status deprivation.
At the Global National News broadcast
with Kevin Newman photo 1) Deb Martin, Kevin Newman and me; photo 2)
back row Todd Wong, Deb Martin, Harvey Lowe front row: Imtiaz Popat,
I'm writing to let you know that you are such a
visible and contributing member of your community and the greater community at
large. I listened to you this morning on CBC ( great job, by the way) and
I saw you on Global National when they did a live audience participation of the
Chinese community around the elections. It seems like every time I turn
around, there you are!