Chinese Canadian Head Tax issue one of 2006's top events
So was it? or wasn't it?
The Chinese head tax issue made
top newsmaker in every chinese media's year end review. But was
rarely seen in English Language media year end summaries.
Chinese-Canadian stories listed by Susanna Ng includes Head Tax redress
apology plus the resignation by Michael Chong over recognizing Quebec
as a “nation” within a united Canada. see Susanna's Chinese in Vancouver: Year end review and her stories on Chinese Head Tax.
Chinese head tax should be more than just an “ethnic issue.” It is a
Canadian issue. Canadian parliament charged a head tax from 1895
until 1923 when parliament creeated the “Chinese exclusion act” which
lasted until 1947. That's 52 years of legislated racism! Oh…
plus an additional 49 years without an apology – not to mention a tax
language media was a leading force in the head tax issue, covering it
almost every day during the election campaign after November
25th, when 200 people protested the Liberal signing of the ACE program
Chinese Head Tax: Protest in Vancouver Chinatown.
English Language media still seemed slow on this issue, often relegating it to ethnic issue side bar stories. The first real head tax story in the Vancouver Sun was from Toronto head tax descendant Brad Lee who wrote The liberals bungle a great opportunity to do the right thing: This was followed by Daphne Bramham's Dec, 2 column
Compensate Chinese immigrants fairly: I didn't see an actual news story in the Vancouver Sun, until Dec 8 when
Stephen Harper and Conservatives jump on the Head Tax apology band wagon.
But also notable was the coverage by the Georgia Straight's Charlie Smith. Head tax unites activists,
Georgia Straight: Harper Stickhandles Redress as well CBC Radio did a number of audience call-in shows + interviews with head tax redress activists.
year end of 2005, Chinese head tax was listed in the top ten by a
number of Asian newspapers, citing it to have both importance for
Canada, as well as global importance. Last year, this time, the
Chinese Head Tax emerged as the sleeper issue for the January 2006
Federal Election. Three Conservative candidates broke from Stephen
Harper's former No Apology stance, to join with the NDP, Bloc Quebecois and
Green Party. Then with the Liberals facing themselves behind the
Conservatives in polling, Liberal PM Paul Martin mumbled a so-called
personal apology about head tax on Fairchild Chinese language radio
station, but would not commit to a formal governmental apology – nor
did he repeat the same “apology” for English language media. see:Political debate heats up over Chinese head tax.
Then on June 22nd, the
Head Tax Apology Ceremony
finally happened. In the days leading up, English language media
finally got on the head tax band wagon, literally, by putting reporters
on the head tax redress train from Vancouver to Ottawa.
In October, The Vancouver Sun even put together a list of 100 Influential Chinese Canadians in BC…
listing head tax activist Sid Tan. But while the Sun made it
their lead feature on the front page, they relegated a story about Charlie Quan receiving the first head tax redress cheque to backwater pages in the West Coast section. Even the Globe & Mail had made it the lead story in their BC edition.
Head Tax redress groups say the Conservative government hasn't gone far
enough for a just an honourable redress, only honouring 0.6% of a total
81,000 head tax certificates that were issued from 1885 to 1923.
Only surviving head tax payers and spouses will receive a $20,000
ex-gratia payment. And it took the government months and months
to settle on the definition of a spouse, even asking that
Head Tax Payer in a conjugal relationship of some permanence that would
be, as an indication, for at least a year.” see Head Tax – Applicant's Guide
the Conservative cabinet ministers and MP's make a big photo
opportunity of presenting the ex-gratia payments to senior citizens in
the '90's, at great distress and effort on behalf of this very aged
seniors. My own maternal grandmother is 96 years old, and is much
too weak to be trotted out for display. And the irony is that
there will be NO ex-gratia payment for her father's head tax
certificates because he died back in the 1920's. Any family whose
head tax paying parents or their spouses died prior to the
Conservatives reaching power in February 2006 is out of luck. Too
bad… so sad…
David Wong also writes about it for his year end observation the-tax-on-giving-head on his blog titiled The Ugly Chinese Canadian and “struck a nerve” with many readers getting many comments including my own.
anything, the head tax redress campaign served as a wonderful history
lesson for all Canadians. It also exposed past racism as well as
present bigotry and ignorance.
Will the Conservative government follow through on the two stage redress process proposed by the Chinese Canadian National Council, or will they stall at only honouring 0.6% of head tax certificates?
the Liberals under Stephane Dion step up to the plate, eager to one-up
the Conservatives, after opening up the redress can of worms with their
appallingly underwhelming ACE program for acknowledgement,
commemoration and education of head tax redress, not even considering a
formal apology or individual compensation which the Mulroney
Conservatives did for Japanese-Canadian internment redress?
the NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green Party, continue to support individual
compensation for head tax descendants whose original payers left them
in care of the head tax certificates, hoping that one day there would
be a tax refund?
All I can say is this:
I will continue to
support head tax redress for descendants whose ancestors are
predeceased for the present Conservative ex-gratia program.
I will continue to blog and attend head tax issues and events.
I believe in social justice, and that each head tax certificate should be treated equally.
Chinese Year of the Dog is not over until February 18th, when the Year
of the Pig takes over. 2007 was a good year for Chinese head tax
redress. It's been a long time since Margaret Mitchell first
raised this issue in Parliament back in 1984.
have thought that it would take 24 years before the 1923 Chinese
Exclusion Act would repealed in 1947? Who would have thought that
it would take until 1988, 46 years later, when the Japanese Canadian
would receive redress, after their homes and property were
“confiscated” from them from 1942 to 1945.