Keeping a Promise: Sid Tan's work on Chinese head tax redress

Keeping a Promise:  Sid Tan's work on Chinese head tax redress

Yesterday, the
Harper Conservative government finally announced redress program
details for the payment to head tax survivors.  Canadian Heritage
has websites for people to access.  Forms are only in English and
French.  There is confusion, because only head tax payers are
being processed right now.  Heat Tax spouses will be looked after
in October.  Head Tax descendants whose parents and grandparents
died before February 2006, will be left out.

My friend Sid Tan has been involved in the Chinese Head Tax redress
movement for about 20 years.  He has a good perspective that since
we've waited through 6 Prime Ministers since Head tax redress became an
issue when NDP member of parliament brought it up in 1984, we can wait
out another minority government to get full head tax redress for all
the head tax certificates that were paid.

Pierre Trudeau apologized to Japan for the
internment of Japanese Canadians – along with Joe  Clark and Turner failed to do anything.
  Brian Mulroney made redress to the Japanese Canadians, then another 3
Prime Ministers refuse redress as Kim Campbell, Jean Chretien and Paul
Martin refuse even a simple apology.

Harper wasn't even in power one month, when he made the announcement
there would be redress for Chinese Head Tax, and follows through with an
official apology in only 5 months.

Sid tells me that:

“Harper sees the vote potential here and rushed to an incomplete redress. That attitude is permeating into the administrative level. Their rush left a Chinese language guideline and application process incomplete or non-existent. We are talking about symbolic payment for Chinese head tax payers for goodness sakes.  And why are head tax payers being paid out before spouses? More dividing head tax families and damn culturally insensitive.”

The following is a letter that Sid has written as a summary of the Head Tax Redress movement up to now.

Keeping A Promise

by Sid Chow Tan

There is
a movement building in the Saltwater City (Vancouver) to outlast Stephen
Harper's government should a just and honourable
redress for Chinese head tax redress not be forthcoming. The Trudeau, Mulroney,
Chretien, Martin and default prime ministerial shifts
of  Turner and Campbell governments are over.
Head tax families are organize and growing stronger. Participating
in the democratic political process.
A little success has increased the
collective credibility. A good example is past Monday's announcement from
Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda on a process for $20,000 ex gratia payments
elderly surviving head tax payers.

Head tax
families are beginning to learn the media can help if you are straight with it.
The redress movement has had big and long legs in the Chinese language media
since last November. In particular in the Saltwater, it's been Thomas Lou of
Channel M and Winnie Hwo on television, Mary Yang of Sing Tao and Eric Chan of
Ming Pao daily papers among literally dozens of
reporters including Fairchild and AM1320 radio now following this. From the
English language side, Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight and Daphne Braham
of the Vancouver
Sun seem to be giving our principled position some ink. Some
CBC radio, notably Rick Cluff.

I'm close
to fulfilling a promise made a few years ago to one of our seniors after today.
Very pleasing. Got Charlie Quan's application off by registered mail Tuesday
Eight bucks! Took us about four hours all
total and also four fifty for me in bus fare.
Charlie, who I call now
the $20K man, has a bus pass and doesn't carry photo ID. Had to go back to his
place and pick up his passport. Reg Chow, a notary in
Chinatown , was gracious when asked cost of
services. He said to Charlie, “No charge. If it wasn't for people like
you, I wouldn't be here.”

No apple
tarts and ice cream tradition today – too full. Hard to
believe eh?
Charlie insisted on treating me for coffee, dai baos
and sticky rice at New Town. He had a BBQ pork bun but insisted I eat until
full. He made a 1984 registration at Overseas Chinese Voice (Wah Kiu Jee Sing), a well-known
Chinese language radio show Hanson Lau once produced and hosted. This was just
after Dak Leon Mark asked Margaret Mitchell, his MP
(New Democrat – East Vancouver , where Charlie
lives), to call on the government for a refund of his head tax. It was Charlie
who offered Quan Lung Sai Tong for organizing the
current BC Coalition during the dark hours of November 2005. It was Charlie who
taught me to invoke the spirit of Kwan Kung, patron protector of warriors,
writers and artists, in our quest. Here we are after twenty-two years, he
summing it all up in that lo wah kiu
way of his, “I won't believe it until I have the money in my pocket.”

Got home
to 27 phone messages, three from media, a couple from Victor Wong and Chinese
Canadian National Council people and most of the rest were inquiries in Chinese
more or less asking “what's going on.” Something (must be media) got
this going. Also handled five calls from same about same
while writing this.
In between a friend came over for a turkey sandwich
and non-redress yak. The calls tell me there's some confusion, mainly from
spouses out there I'm guessing after a few call backs. Have passed a few to
Fanna and Grace and will call back  rest later
today after radio interview. The to-be-formed Programming Committee needs to
decide if and how we address this at coming hip hop event.

for the bus, on the bus, walking in Chinatown
and eating, Charlie and I had great chats today, mostly about food and lo wah kiu recipes. Am reminded both
he and Victor and Gim Wong have been at the forefront
of the redress movement the past five years. Victor and Gim
since redress started over two decades ago. When Gim
and his son Jeffrey left last year on the cross
Canada Ride for Redress, Charlie
and I called on Kwan Kung to to protect them.
Possibly the first time this has been done for anything to do with redress.
When the Conservatives (Bill C-333) and Liberals (AIP) chose the self-serving
lackey values of the National Congress of Chinese Canadians (NCCC) then having
a conference last November 26 in Saltwater City, we called on the Big Guy in
Gold Mountain again. Got great results. Charlie and a
group of us did so again this past June as well to protect Gim
and his wife Jan and the participant's the Redress Train to
Ottawa . Got good media
coverage just before the throne speech when we asked Kwan Kung to give Stephen
Harper and his government courage to do right for head tax families.
so great results – yet!

lost his certificate during the past five years. A copy was located when we
dealt with the files last spring. That seems ages ago. I got screamed at for an
hour by someone back east and someone here (names withheld) in a national
teleconference before last Christmas. Most everyone from the Saltwater in on
the phone call then threatened to quit the BC Coalition then. This was because
I refused to turn the BC head tax files over to the Ontario Coalition. I held
them off saying a “made in BC” solution would be forthcoming. Never
did find out why the files had to leave BC.

a small merry band (hardcore) got five hundred bucks from the CCNC to do ten
thousand pages of photocopy. We bought cases of paper but Downtown Eastside
Resident's Association (DERA) let us use their machine and probably three or
four hundred dollars in toner. For over a month or so of weekends over late
winter and spring we did copying then segued into registrations at Centre
A.  Meetings upon meetings were held, often in the midst of copying.
Wonderful, now we have originals and three copies of the files.

was quite happy when I told him we found a copy of his certificate and gave him
duplicates. When we were not busy photocopying and registering, there were
demands by media and our particular need to confront and counter-act soft
message, apologists and outright sell-out groups and individuals. Then there
was outreach within and without Chinatown . We
made it through with trust and weeding out by just simply getting the
grassroots work done. That was when we were having too much fun, eating too
many apple tarts with ice cream while doing much strong outreach and group
building. Hooray for us!

Did you
know we now have a living Kwan Kung helping lead? That is, in spirit with the
heart of a warrior, the plain words of an honest poet and the eloquent
presentation of an artist? Arrived unexpectedly in the
redress movement and into my life five years ago, when Chinese Canadian
National Council (CCNC) lawsuit was getting nowhere legally but getting a lot
of media.
His name is Charlie Quan and hails from the Quan Lung Sai Tung, a clan association named after the immortal's
birth place. Imagine my surprise when he told me he was a head tax payer. He is
the second living Kwan Kung I have known. The other my late
Grandfather, who would be 106 this year.
Come to think of it, my
Grandmother had this spirit as well.

who will be 100 next February, took some verbal
negatives last year for doing photo op with Prime Minister Paul Martin. That
was the seminal day when our November 26 movement aka the current reincarnation
of the BC Coalition began. Charlie and Gim were
inside. Most of use were outside leafleting and
holding an information line. Gim was picking up info
and literature and bringing it out to us. Charlie was hobnobbing with PM and
telling him he wanted a refund of his head tax. I can still remember the
appropriate welcome the participants of the NCCC conference and Prime Minister
received from us, somehow turning the situation around. Again hooray for us!

election was called a few days later. Then three lower mainland Conservatives –
two who were present at out November 26 action and the other, a two term MP –
broke with the Conservative position on head tax redress. Then David Emerson,
my MP then a Liberal and now a Conservative, broke with the Liberal position.
Harper had announced he would give an apology and appropriate redress. Martin personally
apologized on Chinese language radio. I continued to visit Charlie at his
association but he said his hands were tied. When I asked him what we should
do, he said we were doing good and to continue to do
what we were doing.

after a minority Conservative government, he told me that he asked the PM
Martin for his money back. Martin said he could not do anything about it.
Immediately after the election, Charlie was back in the saddle again, even
coming up with his position the afternoon just before the March 24 consultation
in Toronto . A
few years back, I asked Charlie why he wasn't more visible before the lawsuit.
He said Gim, Victor and I were doing a good job. Then
I asked why he decided to finally get so deeply in the campaign.  He said,
“You, Gim and and
Victor do good job. But you need help. I can help you.”

Did he ever. Victor was still in the
Saltwater City
then and we had been holding meetings two or three times a year to update
seniors. Charlie and Gim were at most of them. It was
then my promise to Charlie was made. I would try to get his money back as long
as there was breath in me. Today he promised to help me get my Grandfather's
money back as long as there was breath in him. After filling out the
registration and mailing it, I feel that ninety-nine percent of my promise to
him is fulfilled. And I feel one hundred percent certain Charlie will keep his
promise to me.

why today was so pleasing to me. Promise made, promise close to being kept.
Charlie says he'll call me when he gets his cheque
and we'll go eat again. His treat. What puzzles me about today is why I didn't
leave room for apple tarts and ice cream. Most times, even when full, there has
always been room in my stomach apple tarts and ice cream. True, I've put on a
few pound the last few months. The first time in years
this has happened over a summer. I usually lose weight in summer. Maybe Kwan
Kung is intervening and hinting at weight loss for yours truly. Ya think?

care.    anon   Sid

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