United Church commends apology and redress of Chinese head taxJuly 1 =
personally find it interesting that the Unitied Church of Canada would
issue a media release… since my great-great-grandfather ancestor is
Rev. Chan Yu Tan, of the Chinese United Church.
arrived in Canada in 1891, and may have been exempt from the head tax
as a missionary or student – but I will have to check it out. The
Chinese Methodist Church (the forerunner of the United Church) taught
Chinese pionner immigrants how to speak and read in English
language. Rev. Chan Yu Tan, also emphasized to his family and
congregation to learn Canadian ways.
commends apology and redress of Chinese head tax
By David Helwig
Saturday, July 01,
Canada Day marks
an opportunity for healing
Canada Day this year will have special significance for Chinese Canadians who bear the
legacy of the 1885-1923 Chinese Immigration Acts and what is known as the
Chinese Exclusion Act.
The 1923 Chinese Immigration Act, known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, was
enacted on July 1, 1923 and prohibited most Chinese persons, from entering Canada until
the Act was repealed in 1947.
July 1 has not been celebrated as Dominion Day or Canada Day by many in the
Chinese Canadian community since that time, but is still known by many as
“Every time we sing, 'O Canada' we sing, 'God keep our land glorious and
free',” says Kim Uyede-Kai, The United Church
of Canada's General Council minister, racial justice and gender justice.
She explains, however, that before the lyrics were revised, the words were,
'O Canada. Glorious and free.'
has not always been free for all its people,”
says Uyede-Kai. “The revised lyrics are a
prayer for peace, justice, and freedom for all people wronged on this
She explains that thousands of men were welcomed to Canada from China to work on the building of
the Canadian Pacific Railway, often at the cost of their lives, and were paid
half the wages of non-Chinese railway labourers.
When the CPR construction was completed in 1885 Canada no longer required Chinese
labourers, considered undesirable citizens.
As the economic situation in British Columbia
began to deteriorate, agitation against the Chinese in Canada grew.
The Chinese Immigration Acts beginning in 1885 were meant to “restrict
and regulate” and thus discourage immigration of “persons of
Chinese origin” as the men began to bring wives and families to Canada.
In 1885 the Act known informally as “Head Tax legislation” was set
at $50 Canadian per person, including ethnic Chinese with British
By 1904 the tax on Chinese immigrants was $500 Canadian.
When the exorbitant tax failed to deter Chinese immigration, the 1923 Chinese
Immigration Act was enacted and prohibited immigration from China with
only some exceptions.
Chinese Canadian organizations and individuals have been seeking financial
compensation and a formal apology since the 1980s.
In 2004, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Racism, Mr.
Doudou Diène, recommended
to the UN Commission on Human Rights that the Government of Canada consult
with members of the Chinese Canadian community on possibilities of compensation
to those affected by the Chinese head tax and exclusion act.
On June 22, 2006, the Government of Canada issued a formal apology to the
Chinese Canadian community for the racist actions of the past Chinese head
tax and exclusion act.
Symbolic individual payments of $20,000 will go to some 30
survivors who paid the head tax and to the living
spouses of deceased payers.
Funds will also be set aside for a national recognition program that will be
directed to related community projects.
The United Church of Canada commends the apology and compensation package
announced by the Government of Canada.
An historic and racist wrong has been recognized and righted.
“Our hopeful prayer is that on July 1, 2006, “Humiliation Day”
can begin to become Canada Day for many in the Chinese Canadian community as
the healing process begins,” says Uyede-Kai.