Canada Day…. what I love and hate about this country
This year, Canada Day is bittersweet.
For the Chinese community… starting in 1923, the day of the Chinese
Exclusion Act, July 1st became known as “Humilation Day.” How
else can you describe the country of your birth or choice, not wanting
you because of your ethnicity or skin colour… not wanting “your kind”
so much, they they pass laws banning any immigration of your ethnicity
or ancestry, from anywhere in the world.
While the Conservative government has apologized officially for the
Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act, it has failed to recognize all
payers of the head tax. They have offered financial payment to
“living head tax payers and spouses… who were directly
But what about the head tax payers and spouses who died waiting for the
apology? And weren't familes direcly affected by the head tax and
exclusion act, which deliberately deterred families from being together
and ultimately separting them for decades?
Prof. Henry Yu of UBC, says that “giving redress only to those head tax
payers and spouses still alive, is like giving redress to First Nations
people who are still alive after their land was initially
stolen.” Hmmm… I guess they would have to be 150 to 250 years
If my father's father was still alive today, he would be 140 years
old. He had to pay $500 to bring my father's mother to Canada,
which would have been the price of a house, or 2 years salary. In
today's world that would cost $200,000 to $350,000.
If the Canadian people thought that the $1000 immigrant landing fee
that the Martin Liberal government repealed last year was unfair to new
immigrants – a $200,000 deliberately prohibitive head tax is
July 1st 1923, was the first day of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
The present redress package only addresses the surviving head tax
payers and spouses. Chinese immigrant families have always been
multi-generational and lived together because of 1) family values
2) economic necessity. So yes… descendants are directly
affected by both head tax and exclusion act.
My friend Bill Chiu just sent me this information:
aboriginals before Australia's 2000 summer Olympics, the country had a
reconciliation plan that affects every community, every institution and every
government( http://www.reconciliationaustralia.org/i-cms.isp). Knowing
full well that 2010 is coming up, if we can build up the community to
that level, the momentum will be there to transform the government and
On Friday night, last week, we held a celebration/fundraiser dinner for Joy Kogawa and Kogawa House. Wow!!! Joy received the Order of BC on June 22 in Victoria. The Land Conservancy of BC
purchased historic Joy Kogawa House on May 30th, and we will work
together to create a writing centre, and writer's in residence, as well
as a national landmark for Canada.
On last Saturday, I attended a board meeting for the Canadian Club Vancouver…
I have now been appointed to co-chair the annual Order of Canada – Flag
Day luncheon – the premier event of the Canadian Club Vancouver…
indeed an honour. My co-chair is Linda Johnston, Director for
Canadian Heritage, Western Region. For 2005, I helped organize parts of the 2005 Order of Canada luncheon with Joy Kogawa as keynote speaker, Margaret Gallager as MC, and Harry Aoki as special guest musician.
CBC Television is going ahead with the follow up to the award winning
series “Canada- a People's History,” titled “Generations.”
They want to do a episode following the 7 generations of the Rev. Chan
Yu Tan family. Wow! I have been co-chair of the Rev. Chan
Legacy with my mom's cousin Gary Lee. Chief Rhonda Larrabee is
excited, and I have also talked to my cousin Joni Mar – former CBC
reporter. All agree this is good for the family, and good for
And then there is our Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dragon Boat team. 30
individuals of different ages, ethnicities, interests and abilities…
paddling together for fun and recreation to help move the boat
forward. Gee…. that sounds like Canada. Maybe if Bob Rae
wins the Liberal leadership, we can get him in a dragon boat with his
guitar singing his self-composed song “We're All in the Same Boat Now!”
What I love about Canada, is Canadian's willingness to be inclusive,
and to think beyond their own needs and beyond their own selves.
We can be incredibly giving to other countries…. but sometimes we
forget to look in our own backyard, or in our own mirrors.
What I hate about Canada, is the petty selfishness of people to resent
and stereotype First Nations and non-white Canadians with negative and
Canadians we dislike (hate is a strong word… almost un-Canadian)
selfish self-centred people
all of the above
Canadians we love
Mom & Dad
+ many more (it's just so much easier to Love, than to Hate)
There's lots to cheer and boo about Canada… but like any
family, you wish every member the best, you encourage them to grow and
learn, and you love them in spite of themselves.