Canadian Press: Chinese-Canadians hail promise for head tax apology

Canadian Press:
Chinese-Cdns. hail promise for head tax apology

It's finally happening…. a
long awaited and hard campaigned for government apology for the racist
head tax imposed on Chinese immigrants to Canada from 1885 to 1923,
when Chinese immigration was banned until 1947.

Members of
the BC and Ontario coalitions for head tax payers, descendants and
families are joined by additional representatives from Winnipeg,
Montreal and Edmonton who were shut out from the previous Liberal
government program “redress” program, that lumped together the
Ukranian, German and Italian WW2 interned citizens under the “ACE
Program,” calling it a program to acknowledge immigration and war-time
wrongs.  These issues should be kept separate and not confused.

Below is a story by Canadian Press on the current progression of apology for the head tax issue.

Chinese-Cdns. hail promise for head tax apology
Canadian Press

— A Chinese-Canadian group hailed a federal promise Friday to formally
apologize and consider compensation for a head tax Canada once forced
on Chinese immigrants.

Heritage Minister Bev Oda held a closed-door meeting with dozens of
Chinese-Canadians, some of whom paid the levy, to discuss how Ottawa
could best rectify a historic wrong imposed for nearly 40 years
beginning in 1885.

“One of the things that we know that will happen is an apology,” Oda
said, repeating a promise Prime Minister Stephen Harper made during his
election campaign.

“As to the form of that apology, we are working on (it) and we will
be going forward to the prime minister with a recommendation on that.”

It's a “distinct possibility” that apology will come before Canada Day, said Jason Kenney, Harper's parliamentary secretary.

That would also be significant for those Chinese-Canadians who
remember the Chinese Exclusion Act, enacted on July 1, 1923, said Susan
Eng, spokeswoman for the Ontario Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Payers
and Families.

Many of those who met with Oda exchanged smiles and handshakes as
they left the meeting – a sign that a long-awaited breakthrough was
made, Eng said.

“I'm impressed first of all because they were interested in talking to us,” Eng said.

“The fact that they're prepared to move ahead and there isn't any community disagreement over it, that's very positive.”

Oda said the federal government will consider compensation on top of
a formal apology, but stressed that nothing had been decided yet.

“It's not a compensation,” Oda admitted of her government's pledge
to apologize. “It's a recognition that there are unfortunately fewer
and fewer (surviving head-tax payers), as time passes on.”

Days before the election call in late November, the Liberal
government swiftly signed a $2.5 million deal with the National
Congress of Chinese Canadians that offered no apology and no

It was unfair to exclude the Ontario Coalition of Chinese Head Tax
Payers and Families, among other groups, Eng said. Roughly 81,000
Chinese immigrants paid $23 million to enter Canada under the head-tax
scheme between 1885 and 1923. The Chinese Exclusion Act followed,
barring Chinese immigrants altogether until it was repealed in 1947.

The tax ranged from $50 to $500 per person. At the time, $500 was equivalent to two years of wages for a Chinese labourer.

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