Head Tax redress looking hopeful – BC Coalition for Head tax payers press conference

Head Tax redress looking hopeful – BC Coalition for Head tax payers press conference

Gordy Mark, Bill Chu and Cynthia Lam, speaking about the discussions about head tax redress with the Conservative government – photo Gabriel Yiu

“Look for Chinese head tax redress to make its way into the
Conservative throne speech, as well as an apology before or on July
1st,” said Bill Chu, spokesperson for the BC Coalition of Head Tax
Payers, Spouses and Descendants, at a press conference on Saturday

The BC Coalition is feeling very hopeful but cautious, as talks were
held in Toronto with Bev Oda, the Minister of Heritage, and Jason
Kenney, Harper's point man for the redress talks.  A first meeting
at 10am with representatives of Chinese community groups not initially
included in the Liberal Party/ National Congress of Chinese Canadians
Agreement-in-principle that led to the controversial ACE program, that
promised “Acknowledgement, Commemoration and Education” – but not
Apology or Compensation.

“You have a very reasonable offer,” Oda told the group, reported by
Bill Chu, who attended.  He said that it was great to
see representatives from BC, Alberta, Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa and
Toronto, in addition to the Chinese Canadian National Council – many
that he had only knew through e-mail contacts.

Chu also said he heard that things did not
go as smoothly with the afternoon meeting with Oda and Kenney, for the National
Congress of Chinese Canadians.  Some members of the NCCC still wanted the
Conservative government to honour the AiP ACE program to which
Bev Oda
replied, “The ACE program is not worth the paper it is written on… 
if we sign it, then that means no apology and no compensation.”

“The next time we meet, it will be as
one group,” Kenney told the NCCC, implying that it
will be combined with the CCNC and the Head Tax Coalition groups from across
Canada.  Kenney also pointed out despite claims to unity that there was little unity
amongst the NCCC which claimed to represent all Chinese Canadians, as they were
divided amongst themselves on whether to follow the lead of the CCNC and
Coalition groups in asking for the apology, or staying with the ACE program
which they worked
long for.

Bill Chu emphasized that
important point made at the meeting was that “The success of the redress will not be
gauged by the dollar figure but by how racism and discrimination against Chinese-Canadians
are being treated by the government and the community at large. Reconciliation
after all is not a transaction where claims against wrongs are simply bought

Also at the press conference were Gordon
Mark, and ex-Montreal community worker  Cynthia Lam.  Mark, who is 2nd generation Chinese-Canadian on his father's side and 4th generation on his mother's side, explained
that the Head Tax and Exclusion Act created a drastic uneven playing
field for Chinese immigrants, who were unable to have the same
immigration opportunities as non-Chinese, resulting in separated
families for generations.  He said that immigration for Chinese
was still unfair up to 1967, when the “point” system was
created.  Mark told the audience that racial discrimination was
systemically wide spread because Canadians born of Chinese ethnicity
were not full citizens, as they were kept off the voting lists. 
And even if they went to university they couldn't practice as doctors,
lawyers or engineers, because they could only join the associations if
they were on the voting lists.

“There used to be thousands, now there are only 250.  It is so sad,”said Cynthia
Lam, emphasizing how many head tax payers and spouses have died
since 1984, when head tax redress first became a major issue.  She
said that she agreed with Chiu, that there is hope, but we must still
be cautious.  “There have been so many governments that have said
no, no, no, over the years.

Below is a newstory from CKNW

Quicker headtax compensation promised

Mar, 25 2006 – 5:30 PM


– Compensation for headtax payers may not be more than one year away.
Bill Chiu from the BC coalition of headtax payers says this is the
promise he received from the new Conservative government. Chiu was
among a broad group of representatives who met with Canadian Heritage
Minister Bev Oda on Friday to discuss the long-standing issue of
redress. He says resolution of this issue affects all Canadians.

one was picked upon and discriminated upon for a long time then it's up
to the rest of the country to embrace and welcome coming into
acknowledgment of this apology towards this darker part of our history.
And hopefully that we will become better Canadians because of that.”

Chiu says the Tory's plan for redress includes a formal apology and
compensation within the next year. A second phase of the plan also
involves some form of symbolic consideration for this part of Canadian

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