Letter to Vancouver Sun: No Head Tax is Voluntary

Letter to Vancouver Sun: No Head Tax is Voluntary

My friend Victor Wong also happens to be executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council. This is the group that helped to start organizing head tax payers and descendants in the 1980's to appeal to the federal government for redress for the 62 years of legislated racism against ethnic Chinese immigration to Canada from 1891 to 1947.  This systemic racism included not giving voting franchise to Canadians of Chinese ancestry born in Canada, such as my Grandmother who was born in 1910 in Victoria BC.  Victor writes a very good rebuttal to people who say that the Chinese pioneers paid the head tax voluntarily and didn't have to come to Canada.  I feel that his arguement is weak, because it ignores the fact that no other ethnic group had a head tax placed on them, and is and was, and still remains blatantly racist.
– Todd

Letter to Vancouver Sun:

the CPR was built and the Chinese labourers excluded from the Last
Spike photo, the Canadian Government moved swiftly to restrict Chinese
immigration by imposing the racist Head Tax. Some suggest that this tax
was “voluntary.” But no tax is voluntary: the GST, income tax, property
tax are modern day examples. In 1923, the Canadian Government imposed
the Chinese Exclusion Act to prohibit further Chinese immigration. Did
the Chinese “voluntarily” subject themselves to the Chinese Exclusion
The Head Tax and
Chinese Exclusion Act are unique pieces of legislation in that they
specifically target a racial group and with an expressed purpose to
restrict and then prohibit further Chinese immigration. The Canadian
Government collected $23 million in head tax levies, a sum with a
present value of over $2 billion today. These laws served to subject
the Chinese community to overt and systemic racism well beyond its
repeal in 1947: families were separated for generations, some remain
separated even today.
The Head Tax
redress issue is one of the few community-drive election issues. Over
and over again, our seniors have reminded us that the issue is not
about the money per se but more about human dignity. Our youth have
asked “Are we not doomed to repeat these or similar mistakes if we just
brush things off as a history lesson? Where is the education value in
providing no redress to the very people who endured the 62 years of
legislated racism?”
Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act were immoral laws, even in their
time as non-Chinese who spoke out against its racist nature. During
this election campaign all Parties have agreed to a Parliamentary
aknowledgement and apology, and the Conservatives, NDP and BLOC have
agreed to an inclusive process to finally resolve this longstanding
issue.  As one of my colleagues asked: “If the Head Tax and Chinese
Exclusion Act was morally wrong, then what is the morally right thing
to do?”
With the Lunar New Year upon us, this is the time for family, reconciliation and hope.

Victor Wong

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