Canadian Press: Families owed head-tax reparations, activists say

Families owed head-tax reparations, activists say

Chinese-Canadian group wants settlement expanded beyond
surviving immigrants

Canadian Press

TORONTO — The federal government should
provide compensation to the families of Chinese immigrants who paid a
discriminatory head tax, a group of Chinese-Canadian activists said yesterday.

Currently, only surviving head-tax payers or their
spouses are eligible to claim a $20,000 settlement from the Conservative
government, which formally apologized last June for the head tax and the
subsequent 24-year ban on immigration from
China .

But compensation should be extended to the families of
deceased head-tax payers who also suffered as a result of the policy, the
Chinese Canadian National Council said.

That could expand the number of Chinese-Canadian
families eligible for the redress from 500 to 3,000, the group estimates.

NDP MP Olivia Chow and the group have asked to meet
with the government to address the issue.

But Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney wouldn't
commit to negotiations, saying the government maintains an “open
dialogue” with the Chinese-Canadian community.

“The government's made its decision on redress,
and I don't see the cabinet reconsidering that,” he said in an interview
from Ottawa .
“But there's always room for creative thoughts.”

About 81,000 immigrants paid the head tax, which was
imposed on Chinese immigrants entering
Canada from 1885 until 1923. The
tax was set at $50 when it was first imposed in 1885, and in 1903 it rose to
$500 — the equivalent of two years wages.

Newfoundland also imposed a head tax from 1906
to 1949, ending in the year it joined Confederation.

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the formal
apology last summer, Chinese-Canadian groups had hoped the government would
also compensate first-generation children of the head-tax payers.

But the government decided to limit it to those most
directly affected, Mr. Kenney said.

The activists argue that
Canada 's policies toward Chinese
immigrants caused their children to suffer as well, dividing families across
continents and leaving many in poverty while the immigrants struggled to pay
off debts incurred by the tax.

Doug Hum said it took his father and uncle more than
10 years to pay off the $1,000 debt they incurred to cover the head taxes they
paid upon arriving in Canada
in 1912.

They managed to save enough money to return to
China and marry, but couldn't bring their wives
to Canada
under the Exclusion Act, which came into effect in 1923.

“There is a grievous injustice here,” Mr.
Hum said.

“The tax belongs to the families, and it should
be returned. Whole families were affected. Many had to beg, borrow from other
family members to get here.”

While the government acknowledges their suffering, Mr.
Kenney said it had to “draw the line somewhere” when deciding on a
compensation package.

“Part of our concern, quite frankly, is that many
families in this country have suffered hardship or injustice or discrimination,
and we don't want to create social divisions where people start comparing or
compensating each other through their tax dollars for the sufferings of their
parents or grandparents,” he said.

“We are concerned that could undermine social
cohesion in this country, and we want this whole experience of redress for the
Chinese head tax to be a unifying and educational experience.”

Mr. Kenney also said the council's position on
compensating families of head-tax payers isn't representative of the majority
of the Chinese-Canadian community.

In addition to the apology and compensation package,
Mr. Kenney said the government plans to honour the memory of head-tax
immigrants by spending at least $2.5-million on a program to educate Canadians
about that period of history.

The money is part of a $24-million fund the government
announced last June to establish a historical recognition program to provide
grants and contributions to communities for commemorative projects dealing with
past immigration restrictions and war measures that affected many segments of
the population.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20070220.HEADTAX20/TPStory/National

 

Families seek head tax settlement

A
group of Chinese- Canadians says the tax affected entire families.

By CP

TORONTO — The federal
government should provide compensation to the families of Chinese immigrants
who paid a discriminatory head tax, a group of Chinese- Canadian activists said
yesterday.

Currently,
only surviving head-tax payers or their spouses are eligible to claim a $20,000
settlement from the Conservative government, which formally apologized last
June for the tax and the subsequent 24-year ban on immigration from
China .

But
compensation should be extended to the families of deceased head-tax payers who
also suffered as a result of the policy, said the Chinese Canadian National
Council.

That
could expand the number of Chinese-Canadian families eligible for the redress
from 500 to 3,000, the group estimates.

NDP
MP Olivia Chow and the group have asked to meet with the government to address
the issue.

But
Jason Kenney, the secretary of state for multiculturalism, wouldn't commit to
negotiations, saying the government maintains an “open dialogue” with
the Chinese-Canadian community.

“The
government's made its decision on redress and I don't see the cabinet
reconsidering that,” he said in an interview from
Ottawa . “But there's always room for
creative thoughts.”

About
81,000 immigrants paid the head tax, which was imposed on Chinese immigrants
entering Canada
from 1885 until 1923. The tax was set at $50 when it was first imposed in 1885
and in 1903 it rose to $500 — the equivalent of two years' wages.
Newfoundland also
imposed a head tax from 1906 to 1949, the year it joined Confederation.

When
Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the formal apology last summer,
Chinese-Canadian groups had hoped the government would also compensate first-
generation children of the head-tax payers.

But
the government decided to limit it to those most directly affected, Kenney
said.

The
activists argue that Canada 's
immigration policies towards Chinese immigrants caused their children to suffer
as well, dividing families across continents and leaving many in poverty while
the immigrants struggled to pay off debts incurred by the tax.

“The
tax belongs to the families and it should be returned,” said Doug Hum.

http://lfpress.ca/newsstand/News/National/2007/02/20/pf-3647064.html

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