Monthly Archives: March 2006

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

Cherry Blossom Friendship dragon boat regatta: March 26th at Dragon Zone

Cherry Blossom Friendship dragon boat regatta: March 26th at Dragon Zone

The cherry blossoms are out all around Vancouver, and the inaugural Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is happening!

The theme of the festival is friendship.  And I thought – Wouldn't
it be fun to have a dragon boat event for the public, where people can
come and experience the tremendous frienship and fun that is cultivated
through dragon boat paddling?

So…  March 26th.
2pm to 4pm

Come to Dragon Zone, the Alcan Dragon Boat Festival clubhouse at Creekside Park – just south from Science World.  Click here for an aerial photo map of Dragon Zone.

We will have dragon boats to take the public out on, and teach people
how to paddle.  We will take experienced paddlers from different
teams, and mix them up so that they can paddle with paddlers from other

We provide the personal floatation devices, paddles, boats… and instruction.

This is meant to be a fun event, rather than competitive.
It is way too early in the season to be having serious races or competing with 100% effort.
This is the inaugural event for Dragon Zone's public paddling Sunday sessions.

Wear comfortable but warm clothing.  Ideally I like to wear
polypropeline undershirt with running tights and a fleece vest. 
Later when the weather warms up, I will wear shorts and t-shirts.

Look for me, Todd Wong, wearing a red fleece jacket, looking like I am organizing things.

Come join the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team, and celebrate interculturalism in action – twisting Scottish and Chinese stereotypes, having fun, and staying fit!

BBC Radio Scotland calling: Wants to interview Toddish McWong for Tartan week

BBC Radio Scotland calling: Wants to interview Toddish McWong for Tartan week

This week I was e-mailed by a researcher for BBC Radio Scotland's arts and culture programme ('The Radio Café').

contacting you because I'm looking for people who live outside of
Scotland but in some way celebrate Scottish culture, and I understand
you organise an event called Gung Haggis Fat Choy. I'm very interested
in speaking to you about this: what is Gung Haggis Fat Choy; why are
you interested in haggis (Scottish cuisine?)… Ideally, I would then
arrange to record you to be broadcast as part of a series on non-Scot's
celebrating Scottish culture. Currently I have a Scottish folk music
enthusiast in Cologne and (hopefully) the Philippines one and only
bagpipe player. I do hope this is of interest to you.

The interview will be broadcast on BBC
Radio Scotland's arts and culture programme, 'The Radio Café' the week
starting Monday 3rd April. It's a series I'm running across the week
with New York's Tartan Week (April 1-8) as the peg.

The aim of my series is to
reflect the influences of Scottish culture throughout the globe. The
sort of things I'll want to get from you – as discussed on the phone –
will be your personal story: why you're interested in Scottish culture;
what aspects of Scottish culture (the Chinese / Scottish angle is
v.v.v.interesting stuff; the maple leaf tartan; your 'clan name'!…
It's going to be a great interview

I explained to Bronwen that for me, Scots and
Chinese culture are the two unofficial founding cultures of the province of
British Columbia, compared to Canada's official English and French founding
cultures.  And of course there is the First Nations peoples

Growing up Chinese-Canadian, I was definitely not Scots.  In fact,
the Scots represented a lot of the White-Canadian power and
institutional racism of Canada.  The first Prime Ministers were
born in Scotland, as well as the “father” of BC – James Douglas. 
It was the first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. MacDonald, born
in Glasgow, under whose government imposed the very first head tax on
Chinese immigrants to Canada in 1885.

But I have learned to embrace the
Scots as part of Canada's multicultural heritage.  And now…. I have attended the Burns Club of Vancouver annual
“Big Night” dinners, and have been asked about joining.

I have put on
annual Gung Haggis Fat Choy World Poetry nights at the Vancouver Public Library,
where we read traditional Robbie Burns + celebrate with contemporary
Scottish-Canadian and Asian-Canadian poets.

And I shared that I have learned
lots about Scottish culture, while reading Diana Gabaldon'sOutlander” novel

Toronto Sun: Chinese to get Redress?

Chinese to get redress?

Apology, compensation could be in throne speech

March 25, 2006

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's vow to officially apologize for a "head
tax" and restrictions on former Chinese immigrants took a giant step forward
here yesterday.

Applause and smiles were exchanged after Heritage Minister Beverley Oda
and parliamentary secretary Jason Kenney met privately with delegates from
across Canada at George Brown House.

Oda said she and Kenney will report "positive progress" to Harper in
negotiating the apology's wording and undisclosed financial compensation to

"We will fulfill the commitments our government made," she said.

"The Liberals talked for 13 years and did nothing," Kenney said. "We are
working to redress this issue." Delegates are seeking a July 1 apology for
the head tax, which raked in $23 million from 1885 to 1923, to coincide with
the start date of the Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese newcomers from 1923
until 1947.


Susan Eng, co-chairman of the Ontario Coalition of Head Tax Payers and
Families, said compensation for 200 survivors in their 90s and even
100s should come soon. Nine of the seniors have died since the fall.

"We're extremely encouraged," she said. "We hope we have an announcement
in the throne speech (April 3)."

Tories, the NDP and Bloc Quebecois have supported the apology and, Eng
said "we hope the Liberals will join."

Oda and Kenney promised to continue consulting the Chinese community
aboutdetails and redress amounts. No figures were quoted yesterday, but Dr.
Joseph Wong said anything paid to the elders must be "significant and
meaningful ... a dignified amount."

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.

Vancouver International Dance Festival highlights Denise Fujwara, Battery Opera and Kokoro Dance Theatre

Vancouver International Dance Festival highlights Denise Fujwara, Battery Opera and Kokoro Dance Theatre

Contemporary dance in Canada has long integrated cultural themes and identities.  I have been fortunate to meet Asian-Canadian choreographers Andrea Nann and Denise Fujiwara, as well as watch performances by Battery Opera and Kokoro Dance Theatre over the years.

Jay Hirabayashi and Barabara Bourget lead Kokoro Dance, and also organize the the Vancouver International Dance Festival.

Earlier last week Toronto dancer/choreographer Denise Fujiwara, and Battery Opera, both performed at The Roundhouse in Vancouver.  Kokoro Dance performs March 21 to Saturday March 25 at The Roundhouse, and Sunday March 26th at the Scotia Bank Dance Centre.

Ming Pao: Head Tax redress – “Harper expected to agree to an apology first”

Ming Pao: Head Tax redress – “Harper expected to agree to an apology first”

during the federal election campaign, the Chinese language media has
been hot on the trail of the continuing Chinese-Canadian head tax
redress developments.  Here is the latest reported by Ming Pao.

MingPao A2  Mar 21, 2006


Oda invites Chinese community
and head tax redress groups to Friday meeting

MingPao Ottawa – Heritage Minister Oda and PM
Harper’s trusted ally Jason Kenny sent sudden communication
via email last Friday evening inviting the two large Chinese rights groups and
leaders of many head tax redress groups to go to Toronto to meet on Friday.  At the
Friday meeting, the views of these leaders will be canvassed, it is “very
likely” to have to do with the final drafting of the Throne Speech to be
made public next month. 

Conservative Party Senior ranking information source
discloses to MingPao: “ Harper intends to reiterate his campaign promise when he gives his first throne speech to
address the head tax issue swiftly.  

“However since it is anticipated that there
won’t be an agreement reached soon over the issue of compensation to the community
or to the individual head tax payers between the two main community organizations, therefore it is very
probable Harper will, via the Friday meeting by Oda and Kenny, raise it with
the attendees of the meeting to agree to an apology first, then to look into
suggestions with regards to the form of compensation
thereafter.  With the hope that they will agree, in the upcoming parliamentary session, and with no objection
from other opposition parties, to
table and pass the official apology motion, to make good the first step to the

With respect to what is described by some of the Heritage Ministry officials as
“pretty difficult” issue over the form of compensation,
the Conservative Government “is inclined to” set up a “joint
committee” made up of leaders
of various main compensation claim
groups in order to seek a “most appropriate satisfactory

Though Oda is the Minister responsible in name, the actual
work of the plan will be carried out by Harper’s former parliamentary
secretary for multiculturalism, Jason Kenny.  The information source went
on to say : “The HMO still
hasn’t given the final green light to this action plan, whether it will
come to fruition or not still depends on the results of the Friday meeting in

Initial reactions from
the various compensation claim
groups have been quite positive since news about this went out among the Chinese
community across the country.
 All indicate their “willingness to co-operate with the Harper
government”, in order to seek an appropriate resolution and to
“give the conservative government a period of time to show its sincerity
and commitment”.

Manitoba conservative MP and one who is
quite closely connected to work on Head Tax, Inky Mark “feels deeply
surprised” that he hasn’t been invited by Oda to the Friday

He says: “Oda and Kenny do not understand this issue,
obviously there’s another plot that Harper appoints them to embark on
this action.  I offer a piece of advice to meeting attendees not to be
overly optimistic, because there still isn’t a unified opinion inside the
Conservative party re how to resolve this issue.”


Federal NDP call on Conservatives to apologize for Chinese Canadian head tax redress to mark International Day for the Elmimnation of Racism

NDP call on Conservatives to apologize for Chinese Canadian head tax
redress to mark International Day for the Elmimnation of Racism

March 21, 2006

International Day for the Elimination of Racism

Re: Head tax apology and redress

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

We were very encouraged by your pledge, immediately after the election,
to apologize for the injustice to Chinese Canadians under the Chinese Head Tax
and Exclusion Acts, and to provide appropriate redress. We are writing to urge
you to take action to this end, to direct redress for the surviving head tax
payers and spouses and negotiate/consult with head tax payers family on
appropriate methods of reconciliation.

We believe the apology and the appropriate redress should be delivered
to the now very elderly head tax payers and spouses on or prior to Canada Day,
July 1 of this year. It was on July 1, 1923, the Chinese Exclusion Act was
passed to prohibit Chinese immigration. There are still many Chinese Canadians
who refer to July 1 as “Humiliation Day”.

We believe also that it is critical for the government to immediately
spell out a clear timeline and process to achieve redress and reconciliation.

The former government signed an Agreement-in-Principle on November 24,
2005 with a preconditions of “no apology, no compensation,” and
which designated funds to a third party group which is not broadly recognized
by Chinese Canadians as being representative of the interests of head tax
payers and descendents. We believe such an agreement violates the fundamental
purpose of redress, which is to achieve reconciliation, restore justice and
rebuild trust.

To ensure transparency and accountability, we believe allocations of
public funds should be through the government, and not through arms-length

Please be assured that we are ready to assist your government to right
this historic wrong.

Yours truly,

Olivia Chow,               

Libby Davies
MP Vancouver East 

Wayne Marston
MP Hamilton East-Stoney Creek


Toronto SUn: Head Tax Apology urged – new round of talks slated to happen

Toronto Sun:  Head Tax Apology urged – new round of talks slated to happen

A New round of talks for Head Tax redress will be starting soon. 
Chinese-Canadian groups from across Canada have been invited to attend
discussions with Heritage Minister Bev Oda.  This round will be
much more inclusive, now including the Chinese Canadian National
Council that was left out of the previous discussions because of their
insistence for an apology.

The National Congress of Chinese Canadians is insisting that the
Conservative government still honour the Liberal ACE program, even
though the Liberals promised an apology (that was not part of the
original package).  The Chinese Benevolent Association in
Vancouver has now said that the original redress package should be

Vancouver representatives will include the BC Coalition for Head Tax
Payers, Spouses and Descendants, as well as ACCESS (Association for
Chinese Canadian Equality and Solidarity Society, which helped lead
opposition against the Liberal ACE program which would only give
“acknowledgement, commemoration and education” but not an apology nor
individual compensation.

The Toronto Sun reported on this issue today.

March 22, 2006

Head tax apology urged

Discriminated Chinese migrants are all elderly now


Shee Johnson Wong, 103, is greeted by Dr. Joseph Wong at a press conference. (Photo: Laura Gallella, Toronto Sun.)

Sim Nuey Chin is 94. James Pon is 89.
are among the last survivors and their spouses — there may be as few
as 200 — who paid a head tax of $50 to $500 for Chinese to immigrate
to Canada decades ago.

With the number of survivors
dwindling as they enter their 90s and 100s, an Ontario group urged
Ottawa yesterday to apologize soon for the head tax and subsequent
Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese immigrants for more than two
decades until the end of World War II.
“We urge the
government to act quickly to ensure they see justice in their time,”
said Susan Eng, co-chairman of the Ontario Coalition of Head Tax Payers
and Families.

“100% IRON-CLAD”
The group hopes for a July 1 apology to coincide with the date in 1923 when the Exclusion Act came into force.  Halton
MP Garth Turner, who spoke for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, gave a
“100% iron-clad commitment” yesterday that the government would
apologize and redress past wrongs.

“This will happen,” Turner said, adding more details will emerge
in the Throne Speech on April 3.  Eng said negotiations are slated
to begin Friday with MPs Bev Oda and Jason Kenney.

Groups have not attached a dollar figure to compensation, but Eng noted 82,000 immigrants paid $23 million from 1885 to 1923.
James Pon was just 5 years old when his father paid $1,000 to bring him and his mother to Canada in 1922.

took him 17 years to repay this debt, even though the person who loaned
the money didn't charge him one penny of interest,”Pon recalled
yesterday.  His family was so destitute that Pon was “farmed out” at age 12 to work in restaurants.

“It was horrible. My father couldn't afford to keep me at home. From a boy of 12, I was suddenly a man,” Pon said.

Nuey Chin, whose husband paid the $500 tax, lived apart from her spouse
for nearly 30 years, separated by the Exclusion Act.