Gabriel Yiu: Prime Minister Martin Must Apologize in Parliament

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Gabriel Yiu:  Prime Minister Martin Must Apologize in Parliament



I
have gotten to know media commentator Gabriel Yiu only since November
during the Vancouver civic election.  I have been working
alongside him on the BC Coalition for Head Tax Payers, Their Spouses
and Descendants since December 2005.  I am really pleased to know
him and to call him a new friend.  Even though he is not a head
tax descendant, he cares very deeply about justice, honour and the
Canadian communities.  And his English is much much better than my Cantonese.



Prime
Minister Paul Martin Must Apologize in Parliament

Gabriel
Yiu, 6.1.2006 Global Chinese
Press

 
The
political clout of the Chinese community has finally shown itself in the head
tax redress issue.  Due to the tight
race, Prime Minister Paul Martin is forced to give in.  In order to spread his words, the prime
minister has to offer himself again and again to Chinese-language media for
one-on-one interviews during his hectic campaign schedule.

 
He
offered himself to Fairchild Radio for an interview on January 3.  When he was asked about the head tax
issue, Martin said: “Do I regret this? Yes. Do I apologize? Yes.”  The prime minister has finally
apologized. But it's not enough. 
Furthermore, his sincerity is also being
questioned.

 
First,
the unjust and racist Chinese head tax and Chinese Exclusion Act were legislated
in Parliament and had caused immense hardship to tens of thousands of Chinese
Canadians. The prime minister must apologize in Parliament, so that it would be
written into the history of
Canada.  Apologizing in an ethnic media station
during the election campaign is not enough. The interesting fact is, when the
prime minister was again asked the same question of apology in a press
conference filled with reporters from mainstream media the following day, he did
not want to discuss it. 

 
Second,
shortly before the election campaign started, the Minister of State
(Multiculturalism), Raymond Chan, signed an agreement-in-principle with the
National Chinese Canadian Congress which represents the Canadian Chinese
community in
Canada.
There it is stated that the government’s position is no apology and no
compensation.  If Prime Minister
Paul Martin genuinely apologizes on behalf of the government, he must rescind
the agreement that contradicts his position.  Otherwise, Martin's so-called apology is
merely cheap political tactic.

 
Third,
the meaning of an apology that carries no compensation is also in doubt.  When you did something terrible to a
person, causing great pain and hardship for a long period of time, a simple
apology without compensation is unsatisfactory.  Therefore, if the government has to
apologize, it should also pay compensation to the victims, or reimburse the tax
to those who paid the unfair tax or their descendants.  At the very least, the government should
reimburse the tax collected to about 250 of the surviving head taxpayers and
spouses.

 
Fourth,
Paul Martin should promise in sincerity that his government will re-start
negotiation with the head tax families and their authorized representatives, in
order to complete an honorable redress settlement package.

 
Given
the current situation, a just and historic redress of the Head Tax and the
Chinese Exclusion Act is within reach. 
Nevertheless, unless the prime minister can meet the above four points,
the matter is still unfinished business.

 
On
January 4, the headlines on the front page of Ming Pao were “Martin: I
apologize”, “3 ministers all express support for apology”, and “Raymond Chan
wants to be the first to jump up to apologize
.”The
three ministers are Ujjal Dosanjh, Stephen Owen and David Emerson. Dosanjh and
Owen are lawyers; both had worked as B.C.’s Attorney General and Deputy Attorney
General.  David Emerson has also
consulted a legal expert; they all support making an apology and don't worry
about the likelihood that an apology would open a floodgate to unlimited
litigations.

 
On
the other hand, Raymond Chan, the minister who has been pronouncing that by
apologizing the government would open the floodgates to unlimited litigations,
thus causing taxpayers a huge burden, now wants to be the first one to jump up
to apologize.  The more amusing part
is, in the Ming Pao story, Chan complained: “Conservative leader Stephen Harper
is the most dishonest person in the Head Tax affair.” He also said the first
person who tabled Bill C333, Inky Mak, who is himself a head tax descendent and
a conservative MP, also “agreed with the opinion of legal experts and support
the government’s stand not to apologize.”

 
The
most dishonest person accusing others for being dishonest is shameful
indeed.  The fact is, Bill C333,
first tabled by Inky Mak, had the clause of apology in it.  It was the Liberal Party that amended
and removed the apology clause.  If
Mak truly thought that apology was not called for, his original bill wouldn't
have that clause.  By now, we know
that the floodgates excuse is merely a deceptive fear-mongering tactic.  This time, Minister Chan can no longer
accuse government opponents who don't buy into his reason for misleading the
public.  Now, Chan said he “commends
the prime minister for apologizing.” 
Chan hasn't shown a tiny bit of remorse; he immediately switches the
focus to attacking his opponents.

 
In
this redress campaign, we see a new phenomenon: the Chinese community has
matured and the Chinese media have progressed.  One open-line show after another, what
we hear is Chinese-Canadians not influenced by the authoritative Chinese
minister and the community organizations that signed and supported the unjust
agreement.  Even though the
English-language media give wide coverage to the head tax news, it is the
Chinese-language media that provide a more diverse, in-depth and leading
role.  Also, various community
activists stepped out at the critical moment, working with the media to provide
the truth, explaining the significance and the injustice and exposing the
numerous problems of the agreement. Finally, even the prime minister has to
concede.

 
How
can we make the Liberal do the right thing?  The solution could be quite simple.  When the Liberal candidate's campaign
workers in your riding call or knock on your door to seek your support, just
express your dissatisfaction with their insincere head tax apology and your
hesitation or refusal to vote for that candidate. We will soon hear good
news.

 
Of
course, this is also the time to demand a more clearly defined promise from the
leader of the Conservative.  Unlike
the NDP, Stephen Harper's position on the compensation part is vague.  If Mr. Harper is wise, and publicly
committed to the above redress requirements, he could embarrass his major rival
considerably, at the same time gain respect from the Chinese
community.

 

– Gabriel Yiu
6.1.2006 Global Chinese
Press


The opposition parties' responses to a questionnaire on the Head Tax and Exclusion Act can be found at www.headtaxredress.org
 

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