BC Liberal’s plan to use Head Tax apology to woo ethnic vote

Oopsie… SHAME on BC Liberals, trying to use a proposed apology for Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act, as a ploy to win votes prior to the next election. Waitasec… the Paul Martin Federal Liberals tried to do the same thing back in 2005, but it backfired big time, and it was the Harper Conservatives that made the official Apology in June 2006, after they were elected in January 2006.  I know this because, I was also active on the Chinese Head Tax Redress campaign from 2005-2006.

Document outlines “quick wins” such as making apologies for historical wrongs

I heard Jenny Kwan speak on CBC radio Wednesday afternoon and she is very passionate about doing an apology for the “right reasons” – not for “quick wins” as outlined in this Liberal document. In May 2012, The BC Liberals worked through an apology for the internment of Japanese-Canadians and it was both successful and meaningful – especially with Liberal MLA Naomi Yamamoto’s father having been interned during WW2 – but the timing is all wrong now… a head tax apology would have been much better soon after the Federal apology in 2006, or just prior to Chinese New Year on Feb 10, 2013… or anytime in between… but the optics are all wrong now. http://www.straight.com/news/bc-government-apologizes-internment-japanese-canadians

I had heard that Liberal MLA’s Richard Lee and John Yap were working on an apology for Chinese Head Tax, similar to the apology for the Japanese-Canadian internment.  I know that Richard and John have always been active with Chinese-Canadian Community groups.  Richard has attended our Asian Canadian Writers Workshop events in the past and presented “Appreciation Certificates” on behalf of the BC Government.  I usually see John at events for the Chinese Canadian Military Museum, and he was the MLA who gave the Chinese-Canadian veterans recognition in the Victoria Legislature many years ago.  I know they work hard in the community, but the timing of this announcement for a head tax apology linked with vote-winning is unfortunate.

I have been following the issue of the BC Liberals creating an apology for the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act.  For the past 2 weeks, I have heard rumblings in the Chinese-Canadian community about a possible apology.  However I have also heard that community groups were invited to meetings on very short notice, such as a few days, and they felt this was disrespectful.  The Federal process for an apology took place over many months, and this is after it took decades of meetings and asking for a simple apology, not including ex-gratia payments.

My grand-uncle Daniel Lee was a WW2 veteran, and part of the successful campaign that helped to repeal the racist Chinese Immigration Act of 1925 that excluded all immigration of Chinese to Canada, resulting in the restoration of voting rights to Canadians of Chinese ancestry.  Every year Uncle Dan would sell poppies on the streets of Vancouver, and he would write a letter to the Federal government asking for an apology. 59 years after the restoration to voting rights, he was able to see the apology in 2006.  Unfortunately neither his father nor mother were not eligible for a head tax ex-gratia payment because they pre-deceased the apology,  dying around 1925 and 1975.

A proper and meaningful apology by the BC Government should be done with respect to the descendants of the original Head Tax payers, and not simply used as a method to woo votes from a growing list of voters who are recent immigrants who have no experience of the hardships of the Head Tax and Exclusion Act periods of BC history.

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