Head-tax redress is incomplete
The Edmonton Journal
Published: Saturday, June 24, 2006
Re: “Full apology for head tax: Chinese-Canadians win redress
for racist policies,” The Journal, June 23.
This headline is wrong. The government has not made a full
apology for the head tax.
By making payment only to the surviving payers or their
surviving spouses, the government is only recognizing its wrong to a small
percentage of those discriminated against by the head tax. The article says
82,000 people paid the exorbitant fee; only 20 surviving payers and some 200
spouses will be compensated. That is less than 0.3 per cent.
The government, in effect, is saying we do not recognize the
wrong done to the immigrants who are now dead. Every head-tax certificate that
is outstanding should be redressed by the government. That is, it should buy
back each head-tax certificate as if it were a forced-investment certificate,
with a reasonable return.
As it stands, I feel that both my father and uncle, who paid the
head tax, have been forgotten and that the discrimination continues. Why?
Because I have their certificates to remind me of the hardship imposed and the
wrongful action taken by the Canadian government.
By compensating only the survivors and spouses, the government
is saying it did no wrong to those who have since died.
The headline should read, “Fractional apology for head tax.”
Ken P. Mah, Edmonton
payments too, local group says
EDMONTON – Dan Park grew up without his father because of a punitive “head
tax” imposed on Chinese people who immigrated to Canada.
Park's father paid the $500 fee when he moved here in 1919, then spent years
toiling at odd jobs in his new country to pay back friends and relatives who
loaned him the money.
With little income left over, he couldn't send much to his young,
poverty-stricken family in China. The effect was tragic, as Park watched his
sister die from malnutrition and general poor health. His mother soon
Due to a 1923 Canadian policy that banned further Chinese immigration, Park
wasn't allowed to join his father in Canada until 1950.
Now 70, Park was among a dozen local Chinese-Canadians who gathered Thursday
in a Chinatown community centre to watch on TV as Prime Minister Stephen Harper
apologized for the head tax and announced compensation payments for its
As the politicians stood and cheered the announcement in the House of
Commons, the Edmonton group sat in silence. They were disappointed that the
government will provide payments only to those who paid the tax and their
spouses, but not to descendants.
Park said his story shows it wasn't just those who paid the tax who suffered.
Children were victims, too, and deserve equal compensation, he said.
“What the prime minister did was a step in the right direction, but it
doesn't go far enough,” he said. “Although the (immigrants) agreed to pay the
tax, you can't say it was a fair deal. How come the government did not ask
immigrants from other parts of the world to pay the same thing? It was
Grant Toy also spent much of his life without a father due to the head tax
and the immigration ban.
“I didn't see him until was 14. It was very devastating for me to grow up
without a father,” he said. “The compensation should be for everyone. We've
already been punished once, we don't want to be punished a second time.”
Lorna Yee, 82, watched Harper's speech from her wheelchair. Unlike the others
who attended on Thursday, she can expect money from the government because her
late husband George paid the head tax when he came to Canada in 1923.
Yee's son John said his mother has no idea what she will do with the money.
The payment, he said, is far less important than getting the issue out in the
“This (apology) brings us a little closure,” he said. “My sister and I didn't
know anything about the head tax growing up, and I'm not sure my mother did
either. My father never talked about it. This was a part of history that nobody
wanted brought up.”
Kenda Gee, the head of the Edmonton Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act
Redress Committee, said his group may try to further push the federal government
to extend compensation to descendants of those who paid the tax.
“The federal government still hasn't got it right,” Gee said. “They are
essentially redressing 20 surviving tax payers and maybe 200 spouses. That
leaves almost 4,000 families who were directly affected as victims but won't be
acknowledged by today's settlement.”