Sid Tan and Gim Wong make news for Head Tax apology reaction

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Sid Tan and Gim Wong make news
for Head Tax apology reaction

My friends Sid Tan and Gim Wong keep turning up in newspapers today.
There's the front page of Metro News, and a picture in the Vancouver Sun (see below)

Last night I saw them on Global News, holding court in the Guys and Dolls
Billiards where Sid decided to hold a press conference as he and Gim
watched the Throne Speech on television.

I went down after work, and had a bite to eat with Sid, as he told me what
happened. He was very pleased that about 7 televison cameras had
shown up. Gim was not dressed in his Air Force uniform. He is the WW2
veteran that rode his motorcycle across Canada to Ottawa this past summer,
to protest the government's refusal to redress Chinese head tax.

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Gim Wong in Ottawa – his motorcycle with the sign “Ride for Redress”,
speaking with NDP leader Jack Layton outside the Museum of Civilization.

Sid describes the event:

The media event went well this afternoon. Gim Wong was the warrior he

always is – on and off message about WW II and life in Chinatown.

Gim was truly happy about the mention in the Throne Speech and

showed it. That'll be the bite that gets out. Generally, we were on message

about two stager, framework timeline, auspicious announcement times, etc..



I counted six or seven cameras including CBC, Global, City CTV and

Fairchild.  Multivan could have been there. CBC radio and some others.
Vancouver
Sun, Metro News and local Chinese language media.

Below is the Vancouver Sun Article

Chinese-Canadians hail move on head tax

Activist says the Tories are offering an apology and
redress in order to win political support in key urban areas

 

Doug Ward

Vancouver Sun


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

 

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CREDIT: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun

National Director of Chinese Canadian National
Council Sid Tan (left) and Canadian war veteran Gim
Wong await word on the Chinese head tax issue.

The
reference to an apology for the Chinese head tax was brief, but its inclusion
in the Conservative government's throne speech Tuesday was hailed as a major
victory by Chinese-Canadian activists who have pushed the issue for many
years.

“We
wish it was a louder and stronger signal, but it was a signal
nonetheless,” said Sid Tan, the grandson of a head-tax payer and a
director of the Chinese Canadian National Council.

Tan
said he's “cautiously optimistic” that an apology will be followed
by compensation in the coming budget for the approximately 200 surviving
head-tax payers and their survivors.

He
hopes the money will be announced on July 1 — the anniversary of the repeal
of the head tax.

Tan,
who helped spearhead the drive for an apology, watched the throne speech at a
pool hall on Main Street.
There he heard Gov.-Gen. Michaelle Jean read:
“The government will act in Parliament to offer an apology for the
Chinese Head Tax.”

Tan
told reporters he wasn't upset about waiting until the end of the speech to
hear one sentence about the head tax.

“I've
waited 20 years for the government to announce something. I think it's a
positive step. It's more than has ever happened before.”

The
head tax, which soared to $500, roughly two years' salary, was in place from
1885 to 1923. About 81,000 Chinese immigrants paid $23 million to enter Canada under
the head-tax program.

Many
of the Chinese-Canadians who paid the tax built Canada's first trans-continental
railway.

Ottawa's aim was to
keep Chinese immigrants out of Canada.

The
head tax was enforced until July 1, 1923, when it was replaced by the Chinese
Immigration Act, which excluded Chinese immigrants
altogether until it was repealed in 1947.

Tan
watched the throne speech with Gim Foon Wong, who grew up in Vancouver's
Chinatown and whose parents paid the head
tax.

Wong
called the throne speech mention of a head-tax apology a “huge
breakthrough.” He added: “Instead of talking about it, let's settle
it, for God's sake.”

Last
summer Wong, 83, rode his motorcycle to Ottawa
to seek redress for the head tax.

Tan
said the Conservatives are offering an apology and redress in order to win
political support among Chinese-Canadians in key urban seats.

“Why
else would they be doing it? They saw the wind blowing during the
election,” he said.

“But
I would like to think that they are doing it because it's an issue of
justice.”

The
Tories had earlier supported the Liberal position that an apology could open
the door to costly legal claims by Chinese-Canadians and other groups who
believe they've been subjected to discrimination.

But
at least three of Harper's B.C. candidates, Darrel Reid, John Cummins, and Kanman Wong, broke from that position and called for a
new deal that includes at least an apology and possibly compensation. Then
Conservative leader Stephen Harper reversed his position early in the
election campaign, calling for an apology.

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