Chinese Head Tax: Protest in Vancouver Chinatown
We chanted loud and proud. We walked up Pender St and down Keefer
St. We were interviewed by radio, TV and newspaper
journalists. We waved at the Primeminister. We were ordinary
Canadians who just happened to be Chinese. We were descendants of
head tax payers and we were supporters of a cause. We were senior
citizens, we were Baby Boomers, and we were Generation X. We were
all asking for an apology and for redress.
Somehow on Saturday, I ended up being a protest organizer. I have
never done this before. Yes, I have organized Chinese
Robbie Burns dinners for 600, and organized dragon boat races for
thousands. I have been an advocate for mental health, cancer
programs, Terry Fox Runs, dragon boat and Chinese Canadian issues – but
never before have I picked up a megaphone and urged the crowd to chant
“Apologize Now” – nor direct a crowd in a peaceful demonstration when
the Prime Minister was arriving at an event.
I woke up Saturday morning, and went down to Home Depot to buy some
correplast to make placards. I arrived at the Chinese Cultural
Centre courtyard at 10:45am and Sid Tan, shouted out “The power of
two!” to onlooking media types. I immediately asked Sid for the
markers he promised and started making signs, as Sid would shout out
“The power of Three”, and “Now we are Four!” Our crowd would grow
steadily to 50, then 60, and more. People would bring banners and signs
saying “BC Coalition of Head Tax Payers and Descendants”, “Head Tax
Redress is only Fair”, and “NCCC Doesn't Speak for Me.”
My signs were little history lessons which said:
2004, the United Nations asked Canada to apologize and make reparations
for individual head tax payers and descendants. Canada has
NOT? Why ?
1885 – $50
1903 – $500
1923 to 1947- Exclusion
2005 – Apology FREE!
Forgiveness and Love is Forever!
A – Actual
C – Canadians
E – are NOT excluded
Redress for Head Tax Payers
and Descendants Now!
It was great to see so many people out on Saturday. Lots of
cameraderie despite not being able to speak English or Cantonese to
everybody… but it didn't matter… there were lots of smiles.
We tried our best to translate English and Cantonese for each
other. We shared our stories and we helped each other out.
took pictures. Epoch Times, Sing Tao and World Journal all showed
up at the Chinese Cultural Centre courtyard. There were security
guards at the CCC Multipurpose Hall who did not let our Coalition in
the doors. the NCCC had invited many Chinese community
organizations and their members from across Canada – but they did not
invite our group or the Chinese Canadian National Congress which had
registered over 4000 individual head tax payers and descendants.
So we protested and we asked Minister of Multiculturalism Raymond Chan
to come speak with us and answer our questions.
Lots of onlookers came by and asked us questions. We explained the
facts. They said they sympathized with us. We saw some of the
conference goers peering out at us from behind the doors.
We spontaneously decided to take it to the streets and marched up
Pender St, across Main St, then down Keefer St. and back to the CCC
Courtyard. All the while a Global TV cameraman filmed us and
interviewed Sid Tan – event organizer.
We decided to take a little break and get some buns and water for
everybody. This is when the police arrived and started asking us
what we were doing. Very calmly and politely we told them, as we
continued updating our signs in anticipation of the Prime Minister's
arrival. We changed some of the signs to read “Liberals Sold us
out!” “PM Martin breaks his promises.”
In front of the SUCCESS front, I was interviewed by
Toronto Star and CKNW 98 Radio. Sid was interviewed by many
CBC television was there… The PM's security tried to move us back
from the front entrance and off to the side -but we pretty well held
our ground. More and more people showed up. People I never expected to see in
a protest. People from many aspects of the community. Very
respectable people. And we shared our signs, smiled and chanted
We moved to better line up along the street and make sure the PM saw our newly renovated signs when his limosine pulled up.
When Prime Minister Paul Martin did show up, there was a lion dance with drums banging
loudly. PM Martin was quickly hustled into the SUCCESS building
where he shook hands with boy scouts then went into the meeting to
speak to the NCCC and the organizations they had gathered to highlight
their ACE program for redress – which neither apologizes nor gives
Outside we chant some more, sign up more names on the petition,
exchange phone numbers. I grab the megaphone and thank everybody
for coming. I announce that “We were interviewed by the Vancouver
Sun, Toronto Star, Global TV, Ming Pao, Sing Tao, Fairchild and many
more. We have demonstrated that we are a community. We have
asked for apology and redress. And we have been heard!
It was an exhilerating day…
I hope some pictures of the event come our way soon….
See Alex Mah's short video film of the event:
picture: PM Paul Martin arrives amidst protestors in Vancouver ChinatownVancouver, British Columbia
On November 26, 2005, government compliant groups met at the Chinese
Cultural Centre in Vancouver to put forward a “no apology, no compensation”
agreement-in-principle between the National Congress of Chinese Canadians
and the Liberal federal government represented by Multiculturalism Minister
Individuals and community groups, representing head-tax payers, their
spouses, descendants and supporters organized a leafletting and information
line at the conference and subsequent photo opportunity attended by Prime
Minister Paul Martin at the SUCCESS complex in Chinatown.