I am a fifth-generation Vancouverite. My grandfather paid the headtax, my great-grandfather paid the head tax. I had the pleasure to talk with filmmaker Karen Cho ( In the Shadow of Gold Mountain ), and I was amazed when she told me that the British/white side of the family was more angry about the head tax than the Chinese side of the family.
Todd Wong, Vancouver
original article: Chinese Says Apology Long Overdue
Vancouver Courier, February 13,
Letters: Canada owes Chinese justice
Happy Lunar New Year and many thanks for your story on Daniel Lee's
efforts to seek an apology for the racist head tax on
Chinese immigrants from 1885 to 1923 (“Chinese senior says apology
long overdue,” Feb. 17).
It enriches our country when elders such as Daniel
Lee speak up for a redress that tests Canadian laws and
conscience. All Canadians should be inspired by this.
Since 1984, over 4,500 head tax payers, spouses and
descendants, each representing a head tax certificate, have asked
the Chinese Canadian National Council to represent them in seeking
not only an apology, but a symbolic return of a portion of the
head tax money collected.
Where possible, the money should be returned to
individuals and families who paid it. The present day valuation of
the head tax collected would exceed a billion dollars. In the early
1900's, the $500 could buy two houses in Chinatown. Keep in mind
the CCNC seeks a refund of head taxes paid, not compensation for their
The Canadian government unjustly enriched itself by
$23-million with a law to initially deter and then profit from
Chinese immigration. That was close to the cost of building the
Canadian Pacific Railway, which tied together a coast to coast
confederation called Canada. So not only did Lo Wah Kiu (old
overseas Chinese) forbears build the most difficult and dangerous
last 300 miles of the railway, they paid for all of it!
The few living head-tax payers are in their 90s so
redress is urgent if they are to see it. We hope Prime
Minister Paul Martin will finish his father's work to redress this
racist chapter of Canadian history. In 1947, the elder Paul
Martin, as Secretary of State, brought forth in the Commons the
Canadian Citizenship Act, which allowed the Chinese, then with
“domestic aliens” status even if born here, to become citizens.
No amount of money can take away the hurt, angst and
oppression of Lo Wah Kiu heroes and heroines who endured and
prevailed over 62 years of targeted racist legislation. However, a
redress which commemorates them and their achievements is a start.
Along with an apology, we are asking for what any Canadian
would want- refund of an unjust tax and amends for the
racist family-separating exclusion. Where there are no claimants, the
money could start a foundation for education and research to end
Justice now. It's only fair.
Sid Chow Tan, director
Chinese Canadian National Council