100th anniversary of Newfoundland Chinese head tax recognized today – May 10.
Below is a statement from the
was established earlier this year and participated in the cross-country
consultations organized by the federal government. The Committee has
also met with the provincial government.
“We have identified
some 30 families in Newfoundland and another dozen across Canada,”
Robert Hong, Co-Chair of the Committee said today.
“An apology and meaningful redress from both
levels of government means that our families' common experience with racism is recognized and our dignity restored.”
support our colleagues in Newfoundland in seeking an apology from the
provincial government and urge the federal government to redress this
issue expeditiously and preferably before July 1st this year,” Dr.
Joseph Wong, Chinese Canadian National Council Founding President said
today in Calgary.
(May 10) marks the 100th anniversary of the imposition of the NFLD Head
Tax on Chinese immigrants to this province. This is a day not to be
soon forgotten, nor should it. Our many ancestors made the trek here to
the Dominion of Newfoundland in the early part of the last century that
established our roots here in this province.
4, 2006, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor
General of Canada; read the following in
Government's Throne Speech…… “The Government will act in Parliament to offer an apology for the Chinese Head Tax.” This statement set
the tone and start of the beginning of a reconciliation process with
the Government of Canada. The Chinese Canadian community across the
country reacted positively to this Throne Speech.
April 19, 2006, the 1st generation descendants of some Newfoundland
Head Tax payers were provided an opportunity to participate in a
Government of Canada teleconference call with Honourable Jason Kenney,
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister; to discuss the
Newfoundland Head Tax and the Chinese Exclusion Act. We commend Prime
Minister Stephen Harper's government for their initiative and efforts
to resolve this longstanding injustice.
This nation-wide series
of consultations in recent weeks have provided the Government of
Canada an opportunity hear from people who were directly affected by
years of legislated racism and discrimination. This consultation
process has empowered these individuals to speak publicly, many for the
first time, about the pain and suffering they have endured over the
last 100+ years. During the consultation process, many individuals from
the Chinese-Canadian community gave heart-wrenching testimonials and
family stories, the vast majority of which are 1st generation
descendants. As direct victims, they spoke emphatically about the pain
and suffering they experienced due to family separation, lost
opportunity, poverty, discrimination, and racism. A fair and just
redress settlement must include not only the surviving head tax
payers/spouses, but ALL direct victims.
The Dominion of Canada introduced its first federal anti-Chinese bill in 1885 which
instituted a $50 head tax. This head tax was increased to $100 in 1900 and then $500 in 1903. The Dominion of Newfoundland followed suit by legislating “An Act Respecting the Immigration of Chinese Persons” on May 10, 1906. To that effect, this act imposed a head tax of $300 per
on every Chinese immigrant entering Newfoundland between May 10, 1906
and March 31, 1949. When the Chinese Head Tax could not curb the influx
of Chinese immigrants into this country, the Canadian Parliament on
July 1, 1923, passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which excluded all, but about 50 Chinese immigrants into Canada between 1923 and 1947. The Chinese Exclusion Act was not repealed until 1947. No other immigrant group was ever targeted in this way by such racist legislation.
Newfoundland joined Confederation, the Newfoundland Head Tax Act was
repealed. It has been documented in the Library and Archives Canada
that as many as 334 Chinese immigrants arrived in Newfoundland between
1906 to 1949 and paid the $300 head tax. It's a small number compared
to the over 80,000 head tax payers that entered Canada around the same
time. To the best of our committee's knowledge, only three (3)
surviving NFLD Head Tax payers and a number of their spouses remain
alive today. It is of extreme urgency that a resolution be provided
before these surviving NFLD Head Tax payers pass away.
April 26, 2006, Betty Wong (CANL President), Robert Hong and myself met
with the Honourable Paul Shelley – the NFLD Minister of Human
Resources, Labour and Employment, regarding the NFLD Head Tax redress.
It is our understanding that the provincial government are receptive
to the NFLD Head Tax redress issue. As well, Minister John Ottenheimer
-Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat; has also been apprised of the
situation and both provincial government departments are
now studying the NFLD Head Tax redress issue very closely and awaiting
further feedback from our committee.
intensive consultation process with the surviving Newfoundland Head Tax
payers and their immediate descendants and families is still ongoing,
and remains to be completed. Many
descendants of these Chinese immigrant families have left this
province. We have contacted many head tax descendants/families about
the NFLD Head Tax redress and we thank you for your suggestions and
feedback. This has provided our committee a common voice, to bring this
issue to the forefront at both levels of government. We
feel strongly that what has happened to Chinese immigrants in the past
needs to be addressed by the present Government of Canada and
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, speaking as the
representatives of the former Dominions.
May 7, 2006, a letter was sent to Federal Minister Bev Oda – Minister
of Canadian Heritage; outlining our committees concerns and redress
items. The “wrongs” need to “righted” once and for all. If this injustice
isn't addressed, it will continue to shadow future generations as this
issue will never disappear, nor should it. We are the living history of
what has happened in the past and the facts speak for themselves.
Chinese immigrants suffered severe discrimination from both the
Canadian and Newfoundland governments of its day.
co-chairs over the last 24 hours regarding the NFLD Head Tax redress.
Newfoundland and Labrador Head Tax Redress Committee are committed to
working with both levels of Government to resolve this long-standing
issue in a just and honourable manner.
Gordon Jin, P.Eng., FCSCE
Co-Chair, NF & LAB Head Tax Redress Committee
Robert Hong, BA(Hons), MA(History/MUN)
Co-Chair, NF & LAB Head Tax Redress Committee