CCNC Press Release: HARPER, LIBERAL CABINET MINISTERS SUPPORT APOLOGY FOR CHINESE HEAD TAX

image
Stephen
Harper is now going farther than Martin in apologizing… but Jack
Layton was really the first party  leader to call for an apology –
see the NDP press release from November…  NDP MP Libby Davies
has worked on this issue for years, following the pioneering work by
Margaret Mitchell in the 1980's.




FOR
IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 
 
HARPER,
LIBERAL CABINET MINISTERS SUPPORT APOLOGY FOR CHINESE HEAD
TAX

 
Toronto,
January 4,
2006
: Opposition
Leader Stephen Harper today called for an apology for the Chinese Head Tax and
Exclusion Act.

 
At his news
conference, in
Mississauga,
Ont., this morning, he stated: “It is tough to immigrate to
Canada
and it will probably never be easy. In the past it was harder, sometimes
unjustifiably unfair. That's why, for example, our Chinese Canadian community
deserves an apology for the Head Tax and appropriate acknowledgement and
redress of that wrong.” 

 
Mr. Harper
was also the first party leader to issue formal support for head tax redress as
early as a Dec. 8, 2005, news release issued to foreclose any further support by
his Caucus member, Inky Mark [Dauphin–Swan River—Marquette] for the Liberal’s
much maligned position of “no apology, no compensation.”

 
Mr. Harper’s
comments, made as part of the Conservatives’ policy platform on immigration,
follows Industry Minister David Emerson, currently contesting the riding of
Vancouver-Kingsway where Chinese Canadians comprise 42% of the population, who
today repeated in the Globe and Mail that he’s prepared to support an apology
now that “he's heard from lawyers and the consensus is that an apology doesn't
imply liability.”

 
“We told
them from the beginning that the courts have ruled that there’s no legal
liability, but they also said there is a strong moral obligation to provide
redress,” said Avvy Go, legal counsel for the Ontario Coalition of Head Tax
Payers and Families. “This is just an excuse for the Liberals’ arrogant refusal
to apologize for 62 years of legislated racism.”

 
Health
Minister Ujjal Dosanjh also called for an apology and broader consultation
within the Chinese community presumably in answer to criticism that the group
picked by Multiculturalism Minister Raymond Chan to sign a rushed pre-election
deal was unrepresentative and head tax families were excluded from
consultations.

 
Prime
Minister Paul Martin has tried several times to state his “deep sorrow” and
finally in a radio interview on AM1470, when he was asked will he apologize, he
said, “Do I apologize? Yes, I don’t know how anyone could not regret what
occurred. The way to correct that wrong now is to place our focus now on
acknowledgement, commemoration and education.  We must recognize what
happened and ensure that never recurs – that’s where I think resources should be
concentrated.” 

 
“They’ve had
to be dragged kicking and screaming to just give an apology for the injustice –
and only because the issue has galvanized Chinese Canadian voters,” said Raymond
Lee, past president, Sien Lok Society of
Calgary.
“They have yet to agree to an all-party resolution to make the apology in the
House of Commons so that it is an official apology of the Government of
Canada.”

 
“They
finally appear to be ready to talk to head tax families. Let’s hope that means
there will be immediate redress for the approximately 250 head tax payers and
spouses still alive today,” said Bill Chu, spokesperson for the B.C. Coalition
of Chinese Head Tax Payers, Their Spouses and Descendants. “In fact, they could
just use the $2.5 million announced before the election to deal with the people
who lived through the years of isolation and exclusion because of that racist
legislation. They are all in their 90s now and should see justice while they are
still with us.”

 
Prime
Minister Martin has consistently refused to speak with James Wing, 94, a head
tax payer living in his riding of Lasalle-Emard in
Montreal
and his government has ignored requests from groups representing head tax payers
like Mr. Wing and their families to engage in open and transparent consultations
and negotiations.

 
“The process
of reconciliation cannot begin until the government deals directly with the
surviving head tax payers, their spouses and families,” said William Dere of the
Chinese Canadian Redress Alliance [
Montreal].
 
“After 20
years, the head tax campaign has finally gained some ground: all parties are
calling for an apology, most recognize the mistake of not consulting head tax
families, Chinese Canadian voters have been motivated across the country and
politicians are feeling their clout,” said Susan Eng, co-chair of the Ontario
Coalition. “But most important – because head tax redress is now clearly an
election issue – all Canadians are watching to see what the government,
regardless of who forms it, does to redress the injustice inflicted by
legislation on generations of Chinese Canadians.”

 
Canada's
“National
Dream” was realized when the Last Spike was driven to complete the
transcontinental railway in 1885. Instead of gratitude for the Chinese railway
workers – thousands of whom gave their lives to the building of this country –
the government imposed a head tax on all new Chinese immigrants, collecting more
than $23 million by 1923. That year, the government passed the Chinese Exclusion
Act to stop all Chinese immigration

to
Canada.
The racist legislation was not repealed until 1947.



–30–
 



MEDIA
CONTACTS:

 
Ontario
Coalition of Head Tax Payers and Families

(Toronto
and
Ottawa)
Susan Eng,
co-chair, (416) 960-0312

Avvy Go,
legal counsel, (647) 271-9357

           
Yew Lee, co-chair, (819) 827-3357

 
B.C.
Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Payers, Their Spouses and
Descendants

(Vancouver)
Bill Chu,
spokesperson, (604) 261-6526

 
Sien Lok
Society of
Calgary
(Calgary)
Raymond Lee,
past president, (403) 288-3903

 
Chinese
Canadian Redress
Alliance
(Montreal)
William
Dere, (514)
488-0804

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