The Militant: Canadian Chinese call for redress over head tax

Here's an article from Dec 18th in the Militant

Canadian Chinese call for redress over head tax

I attended the Nov. 25th meeting – check my article:
   Head Tax Familes call  for Good Fatith negotiations- nearly 500 people show up

The Militant (logo)
 
   Vol. 70/No. 48   
       December 18, 2006


 
 
 
Canadian Chinese call for
redress over head tax



(front page)
 
BY STEVE PENNER
AND NED DMYTRYSHYN
 
VANCOUVER, British Columbia—Chanting, “Head tax redress,
justice now!” more than 300 people voted at a November 25 meeting to
demand compensation for every one of the 82,000 Chinese-Canadian
families forced to pay a head tax last century. Many of those attending
the event at the Chinese Cultural Center in Chinatown were in their 70s
and 80s.

The Canadian government imposed the racist head tax on all Chinese
immigrants to this country between 1885 and 1923. Initially $50, it was
raised to $100, then $500 in 1903, the equivalent of two years’ pay for
a laborer.

Frank Chan told the Militant, “People had to work for 10
to 15 years to pay off” the money they had borrowed to pay the tax. “If
they died, their family in China was still stuck with the burden of
paying the money back.”

In 1923 the Canadian government imposed the Chinese Exclusion
Act, which banned all immigration from China and remained in effect
until 1947. As a result, many of those who paid the head tax, almost
all men, were separated from their wives and children for decades.
Chinese-Canadians were also denied the right to vote and faced many
other racist laws and practices.

In June of this year, after a decades-long fight for justice by
Chinese-Canadians, Ottawa agreed to compensate about 400 surviving head
tax payers and their spouses. The Head Tax Families Society of Canada
(HTFS), which organized the November 25 meeting, noted that a bare 0.6
percent of families subjected to the head tax will be compensated.

Wayne Lee, an activist in the HTFS, said that the redress fight
is “important for today because it strengthens other struggles for
justice.”

Another activist, Ron Mah, said winning redress has been a
deeply felt issue for different generations of Chinese-Canadian
families. “I remember how as a boy our family always talked about the
need to pursue justice and how unfair the head tax was,” he said.

Vancouver city councilor David Cadman, who spoke at the
meeting, said, “Many people say this happened a long time ago. But
today in our society there are people who are still being discriminated
against.”

Several members of Parliament spoke, including New Democratic
Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton and former Liberal cabinet minister
Ujjal Donsanjh. Layton said the NDP supports the HTFS demands.

Sid Tan, a co-chair of the HTFS vowed, “We’re building a
movement of such strength” that it will “outlast the [Prime Minister
Stephen] Harper government and any other government” until justice is
achieved.

Grace Schenkeveld, English-language spokesperson for the HTFS,
presented Layton with 1,600 letters from descendants of head tax payers
and a petition demanding redress to be introduced in Parliament.

Dozens lined up to join the HTFS during the meeting. 

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