Edmonton Journal (Apr 18): “Chinese urged not to gouge gov't on head tax

This
is an interesting article. The Edmonton Journal interviews an academic
originally born in China, and who only came to Canada in 1987. 
Wenran Jiang is an expert in Chinese issues – not Canadian
issues.  Chinese head tax is a CANADIAN issue.  The people
who paid the head tax and their descendants are CANADIANS of Chinese
ancestry.  The Coalitions of head tax payers, spouses and
descendants recognize the importance of not appearing “Greedy” to the
general Canadian population.  We have already acknowledged we are
asking for a symbolic redress – one that matches and recognizes the $23
Million that was paid in racist head tax.

Chinese urged
not to gouge gov't on head tax

Compensation
should be symbolic, head of U of A China Institute says

 

image

 

 

Wenran Jiang, director of the University of Alberta's China Institute, says it's
right that the federal government offer an apology and compensation for the
Chinese Head Tax.

Photograph by : Ed Kaiser, The
Journal

 

 

Duncan
Thorne, The Edmonton
Journal

Published: Tuesday, April 18, 2006

EDMONTON – Families who paid the infamous
Chinese Head Tax should avoid making excessive compensation demands, says the
director of the University
of Alberta's China
Institute.

“It
could look very bad,” Wenran Jiang says.

The
compensation issue is gaining attention since the federal government's
throne-speech commitment “to offer an apology” for the hefty tax on
Chinese immigrants between 1885 and 1923.

Jason
Kenney, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's parliamentary secretary for
multiculturalism, will be in Edmonton
April 22 to discuss redress with members of the local Chinese community.

As
part of the apology, there's broad agreement in the community that the
government should pay back part of the tax.

Jiang,
an international affairs adviser at the U of A who came to Canada from China in 1987, agrees there should
be compensation. He simply urges people not to get greedy.

“I
could understand a lot of people would want to take advantage of this to get a
lot of money from the federal government,” he says in an interview.

“That
would be a wrong approach. They look at the trees without looking at the
forest.”

He
says they should see compensation as a symbolic recognition of the injustice
their families suffered, not as a way to make a quick buck.

Jiang
says it's right that the government accompany the promised apology with
compensation, as material recognition of the wrong. He just cautions against
going for sizable amounts, and particularly against trying to recover all they
paid, adjusted for inflation.

“That
would get very messy,” he says.

The
government imposed the head tax after Chinese workers in Canada finished
building the Canadian Pacific Railway. The tax started at $50 a head and rose
to $500 by 1903, making it onerous for the men already in Canada to bring
their wives and children here.

When
it hit $500 a head, the tax is said to have equalled
two years' wages for a Chinese labourer. There was no
similar tax on people from other countries.

The
government replaced the head tax in 1923 with an almost total ban on further
Chinese migrants. It wasn't until 1947 that it ended the discrimination.

For
years the Chinese community has fought for redress.

Jiang
says Harper's commitment to an apology is a signal that Chinese are becoming
politically important. He says they account for one in 30 Canadians and, after
decades of not being politically involved, are increasingly seeking public
office.

The
Chinese Canadian National Council is one of the main groups lobbying for
redress, including compensation. Its founding president, Dr. Joseph Wong,
figures the cost of payments to the surviving couples who paid the head tax can
be reasonable.

“We
are talking less than 300 old folks, in their 90s and 100s, who suffered so
much,” Wong says.

His
council has proposed payments in the range of $15,000 to $30,000. If he's right
about the number of survivors, the total compensation for them tops out at
about $9 million.

Contrary
to a report last week from Toronto,
the government has offered him no assurance that it will pay compensation, Wong
says. But he says it has talked of “apology and appropriate redress,”
which he takes to include compensation.

His council estimates more than 15,000 Chinese came to Canada during
construction of the Canadian Pacific. Wong says 4,000 died on construction
through the Rockies.

Wong
wants the government to apologize and compensate those who paid the tax by July
1.

“Many
of these old folks are dying very fast, in front of our eyes,” Wong said.

Four
Edmonton-area people who paid the tax have died since registering with the
local Chinese Head Tax and Redress Committee, says committee spokesman Kenda
Gee. He says the four, the only ones to register with the committee, all died
within the last two years.

Wong
proposes a second stage of redress, to establish an education and commemoration
fund and to compensate the children of people who paid the head tax. He says
the children are also victims because many lived in poverty during the years
their parents paid off loans that covered the tax.

He
accepts that negotiating compensation for the children will take a long time.

Wong
acknowledges that other groups, such as Ukrainians who were rounded up and
imprisoned by the thousands in the First World War, may also have a case for
compensation.

“But
different cases really deserve consideration on their own merits,” he
says. “Case by case.”

Dennis
McKerlie, a University of Calgary
expert on fairness, says there's a risk of overdoing redress for past wrongs.
As someone of Scottish descent, he knows there were “questionable
things” done to Scottish immigrants.

“I
wouldn't myself think any compensation was either desirable or required in that
case,” McKerlie says.

There
should only be redress when the government does something that causes
significant hurt as a result of “in-your-face discrimination.”
Chinese Canadians have good grounds for compensation because the government
imposed blatantly discriminatory laws on them, with no apparent justification,
he says.

McKerlie rejects the view that government
should avoid apologizing for wrongs done by previous generations.

“In
that era (of the head tax) people didn't necessarily think that it was wrong to
engage in explicit racial discrimination, but if you think about both Canada and the United States now, our governments
and our courts are very cautious about race-based policy.”

Canadians
today are entitled to think their views are more reasonable than our ancestors'
views were, he says. “We're the ones who have to make the decision about
the compensation.”

Today's
society should also be willing to accept that it may make moral choices that one
day will be seen as mistakes, McKerlie says.

“You
might well hope that if we do things in good faith that are actually horribly
wrong, maybe some time in the future someone will do what they can do to repair
the damage that we did.”

dthorne@thejournal.canwest.com

PUBLIC
MEETINGS

Federal
consultations over redress for the Chinese Head Tax take place across Canada between
Wednesday and April 30. The public meeting in Edmonton
is April 22 at the Royal
Alberta Museum,
from 1:30 to 4 p.m.

© The Edmonton Journal 2006

 

 

Today's Singtao article is on page A4
Heading
:  Old and new needs to reach a common ground
(reporter: not stated)

Subheading:  Heritage minister will be in Richmond on Friday for
community consultations.  Within the Chinese community, everybody should
reach an agreement and shouldn't fight each other in order to maximize the win
for the community.  David Choi reported
said:  Li Bao On is in the process of contacting
CCNC hoping that they (unspecified) can meet within a couple days (before
Friday) in order to express opinion to the government.

NCCC plans to bus participants to the Richmond meeting.  They expect some 10s
of people (from different backgrounds, including head tax descendants, regular
citizens and also retired Chinese-Canadian veterans) to speak.  They will
be seeking an apology, using lawsuit as a “shield” to obtain ACE
funding (??!!!!!) .  Lum
Chong Qiang (pacific region
chair of NCCC) said:  a second apology is directed for Exclusion Act
(1923-1947).  This is discrimination is deeper than the head tax because
all Chinese were blocked from entry.  He noted that apology and
compensation, these two terms/demands, are common to both NCCC and CCNC.

As for the ACE funding, because Canada needs to commemorate a number of (national building) contributions by the Chinese
Canadian (pioneers) who were miners and railroad workers.  Mention of
representation by Italians and Ukrainian communities.

They claim to have a legal opinion indicating that the AIP
has validity and is legally binding and NCCC will not be afraid to seek legal
recourse in the courts.

David Choi (NCCC board member –
also Liberal supporter) suggested two major head tax redress organizations to
reach a consensus and not give the government an excuse to stall on
action.  It is a test for the Chinese community to use democratic process
to solve problems with wisdom, without the help of government.  He felt
everybody can reach a consensus and support each other and also fight for what
they need. If anyone insists on their own opinion and suppress
others, this is not a democratic action.   (does
he mean debate?)

CCNC's Sid Tan said an apology and compensation is what CCNC has been
fighting for the past twenty years.  It appears to be a common goal by all
groups now.  But, he questioned NCCC grounds as being unclear.  For
the past three months, NCCC has not been supporting these two points.  Quoted “I don't agree with the consenus,
but I won't block”.
  For many years, NCCC has not been
supportive of CCNC.  CCNC will be having a meeting at Success on Wednesday
and NCCC can send reps there. 

 Th

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