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Chinese-Canadian biker, 83, demands formal apology, repayment of head tax
Mon Jun 27, 2:40 PM ET
TORONTO (CP) – An 83-year-old man who defied his wife to ride his
motorcycle from Victoria to Parliament Hill said Monday he's looking
for an apology for the infamous head tax on Chinese immigrants and the
later ban on immigration from China. Gim Wong said it's time got “off his butt” and did something to right past wrongs against Chinese Canadians.
“I'll give him hell,” said the spry and feisty senior.
“He can issue a formal apology. Absolutely.”
Born in Vancouver's Chinatown in 1922, Wong left Victoria on June 3
and arrived Sunday in Toronto on his gleaming, self-customized Yamaha
V-Star 650, having left his heavier 1985 Honda Goldwing in Regina.
He expects to get to Ottawa by Canada Day, the 82nd anniversary of
the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and he is seeking a meeting
The racist law was repealed in 1947.
“If I see Paul Martin, I'll say to him . . . get off your
foot-dragging – it's going to be too little, too late, way too late,”
“They can rewrite history. Set it right. It's wrong.”
For the past 25 years, Chinese Canadians have been seeking redress
for the head tax once imposed on Chinese immigrants and later the
Both measures were adopted by Ottawa to discourage immigration from
China that followed after the Chinese were brought to Canada in 1881 to
build the railroad.
Ottawa collected about $23 million from an estimated 88,000 Chinese,
including Wong's parents, who paid up to $500 each between 1885 and
It's that money that Wong, who served as a commissioned officer in
the RCAF during the Second World War, the Chinese Canadian National
Council and others want refunded to survivors and their families.
“It's a symbolic amount,” said former Toronto politician Susan Eng.
“It's just a symbol of Canada's attitudes towards its own racist past. An apology is not enough.”
Scott Reid, a spokesman for Martin, said Monday he wasn't aware of Wong's request for a meeting.
In the February budget, the Liberal government set aside $25 million
for awareness programs about how various ethnic groups have suffered
racism in Canadian history.
Besides the Chinese, Italians, Ukrainians, Jews, Germans and Sikhs have all at times been wronged.
Activist June Callwood, and a member of the campaign pressing for
redress, said it's not good enough to dismiss the old racist laws as
simply something of the past.
A “decent country” would make the effort to redress the “terrible damage” done to Chinese Canadians, she said.
“This is a deep, deep wound,” said Callwood.
Toronto Mayor David Miller praised Wong for his “long and trying journey” to raise awareness of the “stain” of injustice.
“It wasn't that long ago that Chinese immigrants were barred
from entering our country simply because of their race,” Miller wrote.
“As Canadians, we should all learn about the mistakes that we have made in the past.”