FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NAMES OF CHINESE HEAD TAX
TO MINISTER OF CANADIAN
21, 2006 – Chinese Canadians welcome direct consultations
with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Government on an apology and
appropriate redress for 62 years of legislated racism under the Head Tax and
the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Tonight, Minister of Canadian Heritage Bev Oda
will meet with Chinese Canadian families who were affected by the Head Tax and
Exclusion Act at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time.
On the West Coast, Parliamentary Secretary on Multiculturalism Jason Kenney will hold a similar meeting at the
Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Road,
in Richmond, B.C.,
from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Several hundred people are expected to attend each event in Toronto and in Richmond
where Chinese Canadians will be invited to tell their stories. “There has
been a groundswell of support for redress and for these consultations after so
many years of injustice and struggle to right this historic wrong,” says
Avvy Go, Legal Counsel for the Ontario Coalition of Chinese Head Tax
Payers and Families (Ontario Coalition).
“Since the Throne Speech, when the Prime Minister promised a
Parliamentary apology for the Head Tax, we have been overwhelmed with calls
from surviving Head Tax payers, their spouses and families,” says Victor
Wong, Executive Director of the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC).
“Many holders of Head Tax certificates have left their contact
information with us and we will be delivering their contact information to the
Government during these cross-country consultations,” Wong added.
Since last fall in Ontario alone,
the Ontario Coalition
and CCNC national office have received updated information from nearly 400
people who were affected by the Head Tax (1885-1923) and Exclusion Act
(1923-1947), including six surviving Head Tax
payers – aged 98 to 106 years old – and 59
The B.C. Coalition
of Head Tax Payers, Spouses and Descendents and the Association of Chinese
Canadians for Equality and Solidarity (ACCESS) in Vancouver have collected 200 names, including
2 head tax payers and 33 surviving spouses and will also pass the information on
to the Government.
“It’s a measure of the Government’s commitment to not
only deal with the few surviving Head Tax Payers and spouses on an urgent basis
but also hear from all those directly affected by this historic injustice that
they are now willing to directly consult with the Chinese Canadian community on
appropriate redress,” says Susan Eng,
Co-Chair of the Ontario Coalition.
“It is also in line with the Framework for Reconciliation proposed by our
organizations so we are very hopeful that there will be a resolution by July 1st.”
“We have committed to helping the government reach Head Tax
families by immediately delivering all contact information given to us and
remind the community that no community organization has any official status to
collect or register names. People may contact Canadian Heritage
directly.” added Eng.
“Once we know the exact government office responsible for receiving this
information, we will post it on our web site: www.headtaxredress.org
school principal Rebecca Tam’s personal story of how her family was
affected by the Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act. Ms. Tam will be available
for interviews at the consultations tonight in Toronto.
For more information, please contact:
Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Payers and Families
Susan Eng, Co-Chair, (416) 960-0312 (Toronto); (647) 988-3595 cell
Avvy Go, Legal Counsel, (416) 971-9674 (Toronto); (647) 271-9357 cell
George Lau, Co-Chair (416) 588-1751 (Toronto)
Yew Lee, Co-Chair, (819) 827-3357 (Ottawa)
Chinese Canadian National Council
Dr. Joseph Wong, CCNC Founding President, (416) 806-0082 (Toronto)
Colleen Hua, National President, (647) 299-1775 (Toronto)
Victor Wong, Executive Director, (416) 977-9871 (Toronto); (647) 285-2262 cell
BC Coalition of Head Tax Payers, Spouses and Descendants
Yiu, Chinese-language spokesperson (604) 889-0696 (Vancouver)
Karin Lee, English-language spokesperson (778) 773-1088 (Vancouver)
Harvey Lee, English-language spokesperson (604) 254-7137 (Vancouver)
Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity
Sid Tan, President/ CCNC National Director, (604) 783-1853 (Vancouver)
Chinese Canadian Redress Alliance
William Dere (514) 488-0804 (Montreal)
Walter Tom (514) 341-3929 (Montreal)
Edmonton Chinese HTEA Redress
Kenda Gee, Chair, (780)
Sien Lok Society of Calgary
Raymond Lee, Past President, (403)
Saskatchewan Chinese Head Tax Redress Committee
Sam Gee, Chair, (306) 586-7579 (Regina)
Choon Yong, Vice-Chair, (306) 586-9663 (Regina)
Halifax Chinese Redress Committee
Chairperson, (902) 423-7802
For details on the Framework for Reconciliation and background news
articles, please visit our website at: www.headtaxredress.org
A Daughter ‘s Sorrow
by Rebecca Tam –
Granddaughter of a Head Tax payer
family every time I saw you.
Ever since I was a little girl growing up in
Hong Kong in the 1960’s, there was nothing I worried more about than the
sight of the postman trotting down our street with the mail in his hands.
The scene that followed was all too familiar
to all of us: Mom would sign for the registered mail and the postman would hand
over a thick letter from Canada
to her. Mom would go into her room,
open the letter and sob while she read and re-read carefully every single line
from her parents who were living in Canada. My mom clung to every word
in those letters as if her very own existence depended on it. And who could
blame her? Only through these words and scenes that were described in these
bi-weekly letters, was she able to get a glimpse of what life would be like
with a father and a mother. She could hardly imagine what life would like with
a dad. My mom had not seen my grandpa since the day she was born.
I was born in Macau, but my grandparents were
from Canton, China. Both of my grandfathers went
to North America hoping to better themselves and find gainful employment overseas. In fact, my
maternal great-grandfather came to work in Canada and grandfather followed
Grandpa landed in Vancouver, on April 18, 1918, paying the $500.00 head tax
upon stepping on to Canadian soil. He was 15 years old, a young man eager to
work, learn and start a new life in the land of milk and honey. However, life
was not easy in this strange new land. Chinese workers were discriminated
against and employment opportunities were limited to difficult jobs with long
hours, generally unwanted menial labour or dangerous
jobs, such as laundry workers, domestic servants and railroad workers.
Grandpa worked extremely hard and after years
of labouring in Canada,
he was able to save enough money to go back to China in 1925 where he found
himself a blushing young bride. Grandpa sailed across the Pacific Ocean; he and
Grandma were married that year in China. Grandpa might have had a
premonition of the political events to come for he stayed as long as he could
with his new bride. The new couple had a long honeymoon and Grandpa stayed
almost a year in China
after the wedding.
My grandpa left China
in 1926, shortly after my mother was born.
After returning to Canada,
Grandpa spent every ounce of his energy and waking moments working, trying to
save enough money to bring his new wife and baby daughter to Canada. He spent a lot of time and
money travelling to town to see the lawyers and he
made numerous appeals to his M.P. asking for help, but all to no avail.
1923 – 1947 – The darkest period
history when our government openly and legally discriminated against Chinese
immigrants. Due to the Chinese
Exclusion Act, there was no way for Grandpa or any Chinese person living in Canada to bring family members to Canada
during this more than 20 year period.
Grandpa was a very determined hard worker.
His dream was to be reunited with his family to provide for them. Even with the
very limited opportunities afforded to Chinese workers at the time, Grandpa was
able to find employment and save enough money to open his own restaurant in Bearmore, Ontario. He consistently sent letters and
money to China
to support and care for his wife and daughter. Meanwhile, my mother was growing
up fatherless in China.
Her constant and only hope since childhood was that one day she would meet her
father and get to know him, a wonderful, generous and caring man, as everyone
who knew Grandpa kept telling her.
My parents got married in 1945. But there was
no possibility for my mother or any one of us to immigrate to Canada.
After WWII, the Chinese Exclusion Act was
finally abolished in 1947. Grandpa was granted full Canadian citizenship on February 5, 1952. He could
now apply to bring his family to Canada.
After a separation of 27 years from her
husband, having raised her only daughter on her own, and going through many red
tapes, Grandma was finally allowed to come and join Grandpa in Canada
I could never imagine what was going through
Grandpa and Grandma’s mind when they met each other again. The last time
they saw each other, they were a newly married couple. The second time they saw
each other again, they were grandparents themselves with grey hair.
How much suffering and loneliness had they
endured? How many possible happy memories and precious time had been stolen
from them in these 27 years?
Unfortunately, my Grandparents were not to be
reunited with their family due to further immigration restrictions. My mother,
who was then 26 years old, a married woman with children of her own, was not
allowed to come to Canada.
The reason: she was an adult, no longer a dependent,
therefore, she was not qualified to come as a dependent child.
Again, the letters went back and forth
between Canada and Hong Kong – still the only link between Grandpa and
Mom. More tears were shed every time when the postman arrived. Grandpa kept trying to bring us to Canada
and to fulfill his life-long dream of seeing his only daughter and now his 7
grandchildren as well. However, the
immigration process was not going smoothly even though by then Grandpa was very
well established in the community and was a proud owner of a very successful
restaurant employing many workers.
The Canadian Government started to open the
doors to non-European immigrants in 1967 when we could apply as a family to
immigrate to Canada.
However, the selection process was lengthy and the criteria were strenuous.
Finally, we received news at the beginning of
1971 that our whole family, all nine of us, had been granted immigrant status.
There was a lot of excitement preparing for our move to Canada. My mother was bubbly,
elated and hardly able to contain her girlish anticipation and happiness of
meeting her father at last for the first time. “Oh, there is so much
catching up to do! And your Grandpa will spoil you children rotten since he has
never had a chance to play with his only child. But he will have all 7
grandchildren to play with!”
Mom was sharing her happiness with us as our family prepared our move to
in July, allowing us to finish school in June.
1971 – A day in March, the saddest day in our
family history. The postman came and the familiar scene repeated for the
umpteenth time. Except this time, within minutes after Mom went into her room,
she let out the most horrifying and ear piercing wailing I had ever heard. My mother was sobbing uncontrollably. My
Dad and my older siblings went into her room to find out what had
happened. More crying and sobbing
came from the rest of my family. Oh, my God, what had happened? Why was everyone
crying as if the sky had fallen?
“Your grandfather had a heart attack
and died recently. He was 65,” my father announced to us. I had never seen my mother so sad in my
entire life. Her life-long dream of seeing her father was shattered. Her whole
world was caving in and she did not see any meaning in life and she saw no hope
at all. Mom stayed in her room all day and night and sobbed for days. She
refused to eat; she refused to come out of her room or to be consoled. She
didn’t understand why life was so cruel to her. All her life, she didn’t
ask for wealth or anything, but just a chance to say, “Hi Dad, how are
you?” in person. She had been robbed of a father, deprived of a normal
family life and an opportunity of knowing the most important, wonderful and
caring person in her life.
O Grandpa, thank you for everything you have
done for us. I am sorry I never had the opportunity to meet you or know you. I
know you must have been a terrific person and the best Grandpa anyone could
have. Even though you have been gone since 1971, on many occasions, and
recently, I still run into people who knew you from before and they
couldn’t stop talking about your kindness, generosity and your
restaurant. Grandpa, I know you would have been very proud of Mom and your 7
grandchildren and many great grandchildren. We have all grown up and we are
doing really well. Thank you for being coming to Canada, and enduring so much
suffering and pain so that we can enjoy our rights and privileges now. We love you and we will never forget
April 20, 2006