Major Opposition Parties commit to Full Head Tax Redress

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 

MAJOR
OPPOSITION PARTIES COMMIT TO FULL HEAD TAX REDRESS

Toronto and Vancouver, January 8, 2006:

Despite his widely reported apology for the injustice of the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act, Prime Minister Paul Martin and his party are the sole remaining hold outs in refusing to formally commit to full head tax redress. Three of his cabinet ministers have publicly supported some elements of a just resolution and transparent reconciliation process including an apology but none have put it in writing.

 The Conservative Party, the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have issued formal responses to the election questionnaire posted on the web site: www.headtaxredress.org [the responses and earlier news releases issued by the parties may also be found there].

The three opposition parties all support the call for a an official apology of the government to be given in Parliament, direct redress for the surviving head taxpayers and spouses, immediate cancellation of the rushed deal to allocate $2.5 million to the National Congress of Chinese Canadians and good faith, broadly based consultations and negotiations including head tax families.

“At this rate, we don’t need the Prime Minister’s commitment since we will have the support of the majority of the House of Commons no matter which party forms a minority government.” said Susan Eng, Co-chair, Ontario Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Payers and Families.  “So it’s hard to understand why the Prime Minister and his party persist in refusing to do the right thing.”

At an all candidates’ meeting in Markham on Saturday January 7th, Minister of Revenue, John McCallum endorsed the Prime Minister’s apology but refused to countenance any compensation even for the 250 or so surviving head tax payers and spouses, calling it a “slippery slope” – presumably referring the chance of legal liability. He held onto this line despite being confronted with the fact that the court has ruled that there is no legal liability but a strong moral responsibility to provide redress for the 62 years of legislated racism.

The opposition parties agree that the $2.5 million deal under the so called ACE program should be rescinded. The Liberal candidates do not address this although they are still the government until Election Day and the only party able to actually do anything with the deal immediately.

“The one thing in their power is to stop payment under the rushed deal that has so enraged a growing segment of the Chinese Canadian community.” said Bill Chu, spokesperson for the B.C. Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Payers, Their Spouses and Descendants. “They must know by now that the group picked by the government to sign a rushed pre-election deal was unrepresentative and head tax families were excluded from consultations. 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 the 90s now and should see justice while they are still with us.”

Earlier this week, the Ontario Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Payers and Families (Ontario Coalition), along with the B.C. Coalition of Head Tax Payers, Spouses and Descendents (B.C. Coalition) and the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) issued a list of some 20 federal ridings in which the Chinese Canadian vote could affect the outcome of the election over the head tax issue.

All federal political parties were pushed to take a stand on this important issue with more than 1 million Chinese Canadians – who account for 3.5% of the total population and for as much as 40% of constituents in several key ridings, particularly in British Columbia and Ontario. According to Statistics Canada, 40% of Chinese Canadians live in the Toronto area, while 33% live in the Vancouver area.

 “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 Colleen Hua, National President, Chinese Canadian National Council. “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.
 

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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

Chinese Canadian National Council
Colleen Hua, National President (647) 299-1775
Christine Li, CCNC National Executive, (416)731-3727

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