Vancouver Sun: Daphne Bramham column addresses politicians,
multiculturalism and Sid and Todd's adventures at a Raymond Chan press
conference in Mandarin
Vancouver Sun columnist
Daphne Bramham has been exploring interesting angles in the Chinese
Head Tax issue, that many media are calling the surprise election
issue. Check out Politicians must represent Everyone: Holding separate news conferences for ethnic media goes against multiculturalism goal, Friday, December 16th, p. B1 & B4.
Bramham explores that while English and French are Canada's official
languages, other languages are becoming increasingly prevalent in major
urban centres such as Vancouver, Surrey, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and
Richmond. In an increasingly culturally diverse Canada, she pleas
that our politicians must use our common language in order not to
isolate, or ghettoize specific cultural or ethnic groups.
Bramham recalls the December 2nd press conference held by Richmond MP
and Minister of State (Multiculturalism) Raymond Chan at his campaign
office in Richmond, which was conducted in Mandarin Chinese for the
Chinese language media. English speaking media were not invited
to discuss the controversial issue of Chinese head-tax redress and ACE
program which Chan has signed with the National Congress of Chinese
This issue has been criticized by both members of the media and the
community for its exclusion of both and apology and individual tax
refund or compensation – not to mention an almost complete exclusion of
negotiating with the Chinese Canadian National Council which has
registered 4000 head tax payers and descendants. This issue has
clearly divided the Chinese community in all its myriad forms of
pioneers, new immigrants, multi-generational descendants, old
immigrants and more.
Bramham included details from my visit to the Chan press conference wrote:
“Two journalists were there who don't speak fluently in either Mandarin
or Cantonese – Sid Chow Tan, who works for Vancouver Co-op Radio, and
Todd Wong, who was writing a piece for the Web magazine, The Tyee.
both speak English as a first language and, incidently, both disagree
with Chan and the Liberal government's handling of the redress issue.
“Chow Tan and Wong had to rely on other journalists and later
translators to get the gist of what was said. And it was heady
Bramham goes on to describe the content of the translation of Chan's
Dec. 2 press release in which Chan accused the Chinese Canadian
National Council and “some members of the NDP of using the issue of the
head tax, the suffering of the head-tax payers and untruthful
information to deepen the conflict within the Chinese community, attack
a political party, many community volunteers and myself in order to
benefit a certain political party and organization.”
“This is a violaiton of justice. Their words and action are dispicable,” continues Chan.
Bramham goes on to point out that “This is headline-grabbing stuff that
got prominent attention in the Chinese media and might have in most
other Canadian media. “Why were only Chinese-speaking journalists
invited,” she asks. “Head-tax redress is not a Chinese issue.
Bramham points out that how Canada deals with head-tax redress will
demonstrate what it means to have a compassionate, inclusive and
multicultural country, using the 1988 redress settlement for the
Japanese Canadians who were interned during World War 2.
Clearly our notions of our country change with every wave of
immigration. How did the initial French and English pioneers
treat the First Nations people? How are the new immigrant Chinese
treating the established mainstream English speaking community
now? Multiculturalism has been under attack in recent years for
becoming a “cottage industry” that perpetuates itself according to
writer Neil Bissoondath.
As a 5th generation Chinese Canadian, I grew up with stories about how
difficult it was for my ancestors and my parents to find acceptance in
Canada – even little things like finding an appartment, getting a job,
going to University – without racial discrimination. But today,
many new Chinese language immigrants take it for granted that they can
live completely in Vancouver without having to speak in English.
At the end of her column Bramham writes:
Multiculturalism is about the kind of
real integration that results from mutual respect, equal economic and
social opportunites and substantive equality. Barriers to
integration of individual Canadians are barriers to the progress of
Canada as a whole.
She then attributes the eloquent quote to Raymond Chan's speech when he
opened a conference in October. She concludes by stating
“Apparently when it comes to multiculturalism, a lot is lost in the
translation of word to action.