Hamilton Spectator (Apr 17): We enticed the Chinese to build our CPR, then scorned them

Hamilton Spectator (Apr 17): We enticed the Chinese to build our CPR, then scorned them

The Hamilton Spectator has published an interesting story that includes references to the Chinese Canadians attempts for redress through the Canadian legal system and the United Nations.  I have included references below to demonstrate that in 2004, the United Nations did ask Canada to make reparations for the Head Tax, as well New Zealand made reparations in 2002.

enticed the Chinese to build our CPR, then scorned them


By Evelyn Myrie
The Hamilton
Spectator (Apr 17, 2006)

In its first Speech
from the Throne, the new Conservative government repeated Stephen Harper's
election promise to issue an apology for the notorious 19th-century head tax
imposed on Chinese immigrants.

The promise of an
apology is welcome news to the many Chinese-Canadians and their supporters who
have lobbied hard for many years to reach this goal. They have successfully
pushed this important historical wrong onto the front burner of the political

Canada is doing the right thing by issuing an

In the 1870s and
'80s, about 15,000 Chinese were enticed to Canada to help build the Canadian
Pacific railway. Hundreds, if not thousands, died carving out the path for the
railroad through the Rocky Mountains.

Once their job was
done, Canada
wanted them to go home. Failing that, they did not want friends or family
joining them in Canada.

The Chinese
Immigration Act of 1885 required all Chinese entering Canada to pay a
$50 fee. When that did not prove sufficient discouragement, the government
passed the Chinese Immigrant Acts of 1900 and 1903 which raised the levies to
$100 and $500 respectively. Later, the Chinese Immigrant Act of 1923 excluded
Chinese immigration altogether.

By imposing this
racist levy on Chinese (and only Chinese) immigrants, Canada denied the railway workers the right to have their families join them in Canada. This
head tax was equivalent to two years' salary for a Chinese worker.

The costly and
discriminatory head tax made it financially difficult, most often impossible,
for families to reunite in Canada,
and destroyed many families in the process.

pointed to Ottawa's
1988 apology and compensation to Japanese-Canadians for interning them and
confiscating their property during the Second World War.

Since those actions
had been based on the basis of race, Canada's Chinese community felt the
cases were similar and deserved similar treatment.

In 1994,
Chinese-Canadians sought redress from Ottawa,
but were rebuffed by then multicultural Minister Sheila Finestone
who reportedly told the group that Canada “cannot rewrite

Despite their
disappointment, activists journeyed on. In 2001, they took their case to the
United Nations World Conference on Racism, Xenophobia and Other Related
Intolerances in South Africa.
Again they asked Canada
for an apology and got none.

Another blow to
their case came in 2002 when a Ontario Superior Court
judge struck down a class-action lawsuit on behalf of surviving immigrants,
ruling that modern remedies can't be applied to historical laws.

The group, made up
of nearly 4,400 survivors and descendants, sought $1.2 billion in compensation
and a formal apology. (The lawsuit claimed that between 1885
and 1923 Canada collected $23 million in head taxes, which equals about $1.2
billion today.)

discrimination against Chinese immigrants was not limited to the head tax. They
were unable to own property and had limited occupational choices.

Chinese-Canadian community has persevered and continues to make significant
contributions to Canada.
An apology for past wrongs is welcomed.

Freelance columnist
Evelyn Myrie lives in Hamilton. She is co-chair of the Hamilton
Black History Committee.




But UN Report Recommends It Pay Reparations
April 2-15, 2004 — Doudou Diene, the UN special rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, recently spent 10 days in Canada and submitted a UN draft report recommending Canada consider paying reparations for the head tax once levied against Chinese immigrants. The government's response to the UN recommendations was the same as it has been for the last ten years: No.  Click
for More.

February 8, 2002   Edmonton & Montreal
— In anticipation of a formal apology by New Zealand's Government to its own Chinese on February 12th, members of Canada's Chinese Head Tax & Redress (HTEA) Committee in Edmonton and organizers in Montreal called upon Ottawa to negotiate directly with families who paid extortionate Chinese “head taxes” from 1885-1923 and faced exclusionary laws until the late 1960s. The New Zealand Government is expected to apologize for imposing “poll taxes” and other discriminatory laws against its Chinese on the Lunar New Year.  Click
for More.

For reference – please check

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