Monthly Archives: June 2006

Canada Day…. what I love and hate about this country

Canada Day…. what I love and hate about this country

This year, Canada Day is bittersweet.

For the Chinese community… starting in 1923, the day of the Chinese
Exclusion Act, July 1st became known as “Humilation Day.”  How
else can you describe the country of your birth or choice, not wanting
you because of your ethnicity or skin colour… not wanting “your kind”
so much, they they pass laws banning any immigration of your ethnicity
or ancestry, from anywhere in the world.

While the Conservative government has apologized officially for the
Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act, it has failed to recognize all
payers of the head tax.  They have offered financial payment to
“living head tax payers and spouses… who were directly

But what about the head tax payers and spouses who died waiting for the
apology?  And weren't familes direcly affected by the head tax and
exclusion act, which deliberately deterred families from being together
and ultimately separting them for decades?

Prof. Henry Yu of UBC, says that “giving redress only to those head tax
payers and spouses still alive, is like giving redress to First Nations
people who are still alive after their land was initially
stolen.”  Hmmm… I guess they would have to be 150 to 250 years
old now.

If my father's father was still alive today, he would be 140 years
old.  He had to pay $500 to bring my father's mother to Canada,
which would have been the price of a house, or 2 years salary.  In
today's world that would cost $200,000 to $350,000.

If the Canadian people thought that the $1000 immigrant landing fee
that the Martin Liberal government repealed last year was unfair to new
immigrants – a $200,000 deliberately prohibitive head tax is
unbeliveably unfair.

July 1st 1923, was the first day of the Chinese Exclusion Act. 
The present redress package only addresses the surviving head tax
payers and spouses.  Chinese immigrant families have always been
multi-generational and lived together because of  1) family values
2) economic necessity.  So yes… descendants are directly
affected by both head tax and exclusion act.

My friend Bill Chiu just sent me this information:

In the case of the reconcilation movement in Australia with the
aboriginals before Australia's 2000 summer Olympics, the country had a
reconciliation plan that affects every community, every institution and every
government( Knowing
full well that 2010 is coming up, if we can build up the community to
that level, the momentum will be there to transform the government and
the community.

On Friday night, last week, we held a celebration/fundraiser dinner for Joy Kogawa and Kogawa House.  Wow!!!  Joy received the Order of BC on June 22 in Victoria.  The Land Conservancy of BC
purchased historic Joy Kogawa House on May 30th, and we will work
together to create a writing centre, and writer's in residence, as well
as a national landmark for Canada.

On last Saturday, I attended a board meeting for the Canadian Club Vancouver
I have now been appointed to co-chair the annual Order of Canada – Flag
Day luncheon – the premier event of the Canadian Club Vancouver…
indeed an honour.  My co-chair is Linda Johnston, Director for
Canadian Heritage, Western Region.  For 2005, I helped organize parts of the 2005 Order of Canada luncheon with Joy Kogawa as keynote speaker, Margaret Gallager as MC, and Harry Aoki as special guest musician.

CBC Television is going ahead with the follow up to the award winning
series “Canada- a People's History,” titled “Generations.”  
They want to do a episode following the 7 generations of the Rev. Chan
Yu Tan family
.  Wow!  I have been co-chair of the Rev. Chan
Legacy with my mom's cousin Gary Lee.  Chief Rhonda Larrabee is
excited, and I have also talked to my cousin Joni Mar – former CBC
reporter.  All agree this is good for the family, and good for

And then there is our Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dragon Boat team.  30
individuals of different ages, ethnicities, interests and abilities…
paddling together for fun and recreation to help move the boat
forward.  Gee…. that sounds like Canada.  Maybe if Bob Rae
wins the Liberal leadership, we can get him in a dragon boat with his
guitar singing his self-composed song “We're All in the Same Boat Now!”

What I love about Canada, is Canadian's willingness to be inclusive,
and to think beyond their own needs and beyond their own selves. 
We can be incredibly giving to other countries…. but sometimes we
forget to look in our own backyard, or in our own mirrors. 

What I hate about Canada, is the petty selfishness of people to resent
and stereotype First Nations and non-white Canadians with negative and
ignorant characters.

Canadians we dislike (hate is a strong word… almost un-Canadian)
Trevor Lautens
Pamela Anderson
Doug Collins
selfish self-centred people
all of the above

Canadians we love
Joy Kogawa
Joy Coghill
Thomas King
Roy Miki
Sarah McLachlan
David Suzuki
Wayne Gretzky
Steve Podborsky
Rick Hansen
Madeliene Thien
Evelyn Lau
Bryan Adams
Paul Yee
Shelagh Rogers
Sheryl Mackay
Prem Gill
Heather Deal
Harry Aoki
Mom & Dad
+ many more  (it's just so much easier to Love, than to Hate)

There's lots to cheer and boo about Canada…  but like any
family, you wish every member the best, you encourage them to grow and
learn, and you love them in spite of themselves.

Cheers, Todd

Globe & Mail: June 28: Apologies Have Power

Globe & Mail: June 28:  Apologies Have Power

Here is the Op-Ed piece from this week's Globe & Mail.  Erna Paris is the author of Long Shadows: Truth,
Lies, and History. 
gives a nicely balance arguement for apologies having a healing and
progressive course of action for our country and society.  Enjoy –

Apologies have power

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to Chinese-Canadians last week, a
barrage of criticism focused on the prospect of “victims” lining up
at the public trough. Most missed the central point: confirmation that human
rights still matter in this country.

How many
Canadians knew about the punishing head tax imposed on 15,000 Chinese workers
brought here to build the CPR? How many knew up to 1,000 of these men died
during this back-breaking labour? Or that families were divided because Canada refused
to allow wives and children of those who had raised the money to join them?
Without formal recognition of injustice, the darker side of a nation's past is
unlikely to make it into school history texts, which are the bedrock of the
national narrative.

In an
ethnically mixed society, social adhesion is threatened without a public
acknowledgment that the state, itself, maltreated minorities living within its
borders. Although those of us who were not affected by head taxes, residential
schools, or wartime internment as “enemy aliens” may spend little
time thinking about this “other” history, Canadians who were have not
forgotten. The story of maltreatment is passed down from generation to
generation, until the survivors, or their progeny, have the courage to demand
formal redress. State-instigated human-rights abuses live in a category of
their own, as the history of the 20th century makes abundantly clear.
Unaddressed, they are increasingly corrosive to the body politic. When
addressed, they contribute to healing and, by extension, national unity. It is
no surprise an elderly Chinese-Canadian interviewed on the day of the apology
declared that she finally felt she was a Canadian.

Trudeau said he and his government were not responsible for Canada's past,
only its future. He was wrong. It matters not one whit whether human rights
abuses were carried out yesterday, or decades ago. Those who occupy the seats
of power today carry, and are responsible for addressing, yesterday's corrosive
legacy, for the unreconciled past inevitably sends long tendrils into the

countries have also begun to acknowledge that at a time when human rights were
undervalued, or not valued at all, their governments committed grave abuses
that decades later, threaten national unity. In France,
for example, President Jacques Chirac formally apologized for the actions of
the collaborationist Vichy
regime, which willingly assisted the Nazis in deporting 78,000 Jews to death
camps. His courageous acknowledgment ended decades of official myth-making and
prevarication that was taught to children as factual history. France also
held criminal trials for the German Nazi, Klaus Barbie; the French Nazi, Paul
Touvier; and the bureaucratic paper-pusher, Maurice Papon, who signed away
thousands of lives with a flourish of his pen. This reversal in policy came
about because a few survivors of the deportations never forgot that the country
of their birth had betrayed them, and neither did their children. They
correctly believed that France
would be unable to normalize its present until it was willing to acknowledge
what had been carried out in the state's name.

Japan, on the
contrary, has never formally apologized to the families of those who survived
the Rape of Nanking in 1937, among many other atrocities; in fact, Japan's Prime
Minister makes provocative visits to a Shinto shrine where the
“souls” of several convicted war criminals are glorified. This
unresolved tear in the historical fabric has affected relations between Japan and China.

cannot afford to ignore the state-inspired cruelty of the past. Which is not to
deny that reason and balance must reign. More than half a century ago, the
fledgling United Nations published the Universal Declaration of Human Rights —
the key word being “universal.” These must be the foundational
yardstick for assessing claims against the Canadian government.

acknowledgments, memorials, museums that tell the truth about the past, and token
reparations to surviving victims are symbolic ways of separating the unlovely
past from the present. And for promoting unity among the diverse peoples of Canada.

Erna Paris is the author of Long Shadows: Truth,
Lies, and History.

Announcement: Walk for Redress to Mark Chinese Head Tax/Exclusion on Canada Day:Still Humiliation Day Without Appropriate Redress to Head Tax Families

MEDIA ADVISORY - June 29, 2006

Walk for Redress to Mark Chinese Head Tax/Exclusion on Canada Day:
Still Humiliation Day Without Appropriate Redress to Head Tax Families

Vancouver, BC – The BC Coalition of Head Tax Payers, Spouses and Descendants
will mark July 1 - Canada Day – with a Walk for Redress. The Conservative
government’s June 22 unilaterally imposed redress package ignored and rejected
calls from head tax families for a just and honourable settlement. The BC
Coalition calls on the federal government to commit to complete the two stage
framework presented by redress groups to Canadian Heritage Minister and
Beverley Oda and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Jason
Kenney at a March 24, 2006 consultation in Toronto.

Date: Saturday, July 1, 2006 – Canada Day
Time: 11:00am call time – walk to begin shortly after
Place: Courtyard in front of Sun Yat-Sen Gardens
50 East Pender, Vancouver

The two stage framework calls for an apology and as well as urgent appropriate
redress to surviving head tax payers and spouses. This was completed June 22,
2006. The second step is appropriate redress to head tax families without
surviving tax payer or spouse to be completed by July 1, 2007, the 60th
anniversary of the Chinese receiving the federal vote and 100th of the Chinatown
race riots in Vancouver.

The BC Coalition of Head Tax Payers, Spouses and Descendants are today’s
Chinese Canadians. We are from different ages, from all walks of life,
all having one thing in common. They or someone in their family paid the
head tax.
We are neighbours, friends and family who have endured journeys of
hardship, sacrifice and suffering due to the effects of more than six decades
(62-years) of racial discrimination specifically targeted at the Chinese in
Canada. We welcome all Canadians to join us in this quest for justice and honour
for our Chinese adventurers and pioneers and their families.

- 30-

Joy Kogawa Celebration Dinner on Friday June 23

Joy Kogawa Celebration Dinner on Friday June 23

Joy Kogawa recieved the Order of BC on June 22nd, at Government House
in Victoria BC. It was presented by Iona Campagnolo the Lieutenant
Governor of BC. 

We held a celebration dinner on Friday, June 23, at Flamingo Chinese
Restaurant, on Fraser St.  This was a celebration dinner for both
Joy's Order of BC, as well as to celebrate the purchase of historic
Kogawa House, Joy's childhood home, by The Land Conservancy of
BC.  The home had been confiscated by the Canadian government from
her family while they were interned in Slocan during World War II, and
also played a central figure in Joy's literary works Obasan and Naomi's

Joy Kogawa, MC Todd Wong (Kogawa House committee), and Anton Wagner (secretary of Kogawa House committee) – photo Deb Martin.

Anton Wagner is an independent film maker in Toronto.  He filmed
the Order of BC ceremony, and showed it at the dinner.  
Another film highlight that Anton shared with the audience, was an
excerpt that featured Joy from his film, Veterans Against Nuclear
War.  Joy spoke about how the Nuclear bomb that dropped on
Nagasaki was created by Christian Americans, and dropped on the largest
Christian Church and Christian community in Asia, located in
Nagasaki.  It is a very moving speech, that Joy gives.

Todd introduces Ramona Leungen, the composer of Naomi's Road opera,
produced by the Vancouver Opera.  Vancouver Opera will recieve the
inaugural Gung Haggis Fat Choy intercultural arts achievement award,
for their incredible production Naomi's Road which toured BC schools,
as well as in Red Deer Alberta, and Seattle Washington.

Todd Wong, Nancy Tiffin (TLC development officer), Ramona Leungen and
Joy Kogawa – enjoying the presenations and the food for the evening –
photo Deb Martin.

Dan Seto and Gail
Thompson, senior paddlers on the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team,
present Joy with a Gung Haggis Fat Choy, team shirt. – photo Deb Martin.

Joy Kogawa is the honourary drummer for the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon
boat team this year.  For the Alcanc Dragon Boat Festival, we
changed the team name to Gung Haggis Fat Choy Kogawa House, to ensure
that the 90,000 people who attended the Festival all heard the name
“Kogawa House.”  The team shirt is emblazoned with “lucky gold
coins” – four on the front and fourteen on the back.  This year we
listed The Land Conservancy of BC, and Save Kogawa House Committee, as
our special “sponsors” – as we also listed the websites to help create
awareness for these wonderful organizations.

For more information, go to:

To donate for Kogawa House go to:

Edmonton Journal: 110 year old head tax spouse (Alberta’s oldest person) dies

Edmonton Journal:

110 year old head tax spouse (Alberta’s oldest person) dies

This is a good story about the sacrifices and challenges the head tax payers made, and the costs of racial discrimination by the Canadian government because of the head tax and Exclusion Act.

Mrs. Mah is no longer “living” – so does she NO LONGER qualify for head tax redress?  But she was living on June 22nd, when the government apologized and presented the
redress package.  But what about the people that died the previous day, week, year or decades?

Fair and honourable means fair and honourable.  The present Chinese Canadian Redress package should do the same.  People paid the head tax from 1885 to 1923.  If a person was 20 years old in 1885, then they would be 141 years old today.  If they were 20 years old in 1923, they would be 103 today… and most likely they would want their children and
grandchildren to be able to enjoy the redress payment.


The redress package for Japanese Canadians included people who were interned and born up to or before 1947.  1947 was also the year that the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed.  Maybe the Chinese head-tax and Exclusion Act redress package should
include “One certificate – one payment” to the surviving representative descendant as long as they were born before 1947. Or given it is 22 years since the issue was first brought up in 1984, how about we set 1967 as the date.So if the head tax payer has died, their spouse had died, theirchildren have died… then a grandchild can recieve the symbolic “taxrefund” – as long as they were born before 1967.


Tuesday » June 27 » 2006


Alberta‘s oldest person dies
at 110

Raised children alone in wartime China,
finally joined husband here in 1958


Amber Shortt

The Edmonton

Tuesday, June 27, 2006



CREDIT: Chris Schwarz, the Journal, File

Mrs. Fong Ping Mah, who died Sunday, lived a long
and varied life.


Ping Mah lived in a bamboo hut at the end of the 1800s. She wore silk dresses in the ’20s and hid her family in caves when the Japanese occupied China during the Second World War.

When she died Sunday after nearly five decades of living in Edmonton, she was 110 — Alberta’s oldest person.

Family members sat by her bedside at Capital Care Norwood on Sunday, recounting their favourite stories of grandma and holding her hands as she slipped away due to pneumonia.

A stylish woman until her last day, Mrs. Mah would get weekly pedicures and never left her Norwood room without her lipstick and compact, said her granddaughter, Winnie Mah, 44.

“Always look your best and do your best,” Winnie said, recalling her grandmother’s advice. She said her grandfather used to take his wife shopping to Eaton’s to keep her in the latest styles.

“Like a little fashion plate, Granny was,” Winnie said with a laugh.

Mrs. Mah was nine years old when Alberta became a province in 1905. Last September, she met then-prime minister Paul Martin during Alberta’s centennial activities and fell asleep during the speeches.

Winnie said her grandmother’s greatest advice was just to have faith.

Mrs. Mah was born on Sept. 28, 1895, in Kwangtung province of southern China. Around
1920, she married Lip Gar Mah in an arranged marriage.

He had emigrated to Edmonton in 1910, doing menial jobs to make a living that would have been a small fortune in China. He was forced to pay a $500 head tax under Canadian law and leave his new
bride behind.

Mah visited his wife only every few years, but on those trips he built her a brick house, dressed her in style, fathered two daughters and adopted a son.

“They were considered well off,” Winnie said, since most houses in China were
built from wood or straw.

In 1923, the year their first child was born, Canada’s Chinese Immigration Act barred all Chinese immigrants from Canada and extinguished any hope of Mrs. Mah joining her husband.

But Winnie said her grandmother never gave up faith. “They just thought one day they will be together,” she said.

Mrs. Mah was left to raise her children alone.

When the Japanese invaded China in the 1930s, she hid her family in nearby caves.

“You could hear the bombing and they would flee to the mountains to hide,” Winnie said. “A lot of times (they) went hungry.”

As political turbulence in China grew, Mrs. Mah’s husband stayed in Canada, fearing conscription into the army.

When communists took control in 1949, they confiscated Mrs. Mah’s brick house. Her son, Jack, feared his mother would be put into forced labour and insisted they move to Hong Kong.

“Given their wealth, they were branded as capitalists,” Winnie said.

Mrs. Mah’s daughter-in-law sold 100 silk dresses to pay for safe passage.

Mrs. Mah was finally able to immigrate to Canada in 1958 and reunite with her husband in Edmonton.
The two had not seen each other for 19 years.

“It just became one long honeymoon for them afterwards,” Winnie said.

She said her grandparents lived a simple life in Edmonton. She would stay overnight and her
grandmother would set the table while her grandfather made waffles for breakfast. She always gave Winnie a special blue cup.

“She had a way of making us feel she loved us the most,” Winnie said. “Little did I know, all us kids used that special blue cup.”

After her husband died in 1985, Mrs. Mah lived alone until age 99.

At Norwood, she shared a room with her son, who had been partially paralyzed by strokes. She fed him and made him comfortable each day. He died in 2001 at the age of 72, said Winnie.

“She was the poster-mom for single moms at her age,” Winnie said. “She reminded us, don’t be so busy. Don’t forget what’s important.”

Mrs. Mah has 15 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and 17 great-great-grandchildren.

© The
Journal 2006


City of Toronto Asked to Proclaim Chinese Canadian Head Tax Redress Day



City of
Toronto Asked to Proclaim Chinese
Canadian Head Tax Redress Day


TORONTO, June 27, 2006 – On Wednesday June
28, Toronto City Council will be asked to proclaim June 22 as Chinese Canadian
Head Tax Redress Day in the City of Toronto.
On June 22, 2006, following 22 years of hard work by the Chinese Canadian
community, the Government of Canada offered an apology for the Chinese Head Tax
and expressed sorrow over the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Government also announced
symbolic redress for surviving Head Tax payers and the spouses of deceased


“I am honoured to join Mayor
Miller in asking City Council to designate June 22 each year as the day for
Torontonians to formally recognize the terrible injustice of the Head tax and
Chinese Exclusion Act and to honour the tremendous
contributions of the Chinese Canadian community to our city,” said Councillor Fletcher, whose motion will be heard on


The Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) and redress-seeking individuals
and groups, including the Ontario Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Payers and
Families, have been invited to City Hall on Wednesday at 2:00 pm to witness the historic vote. Mayor
Miller and Councillor Fletcher will host a reception
following the vote to recognize Chinese Canadian Head Tax families.


“We are honoured to receive the
head tax families and members of the Chinese Canadian community,” Mayor
David Miller said today. “June
22, 2006 marks a historic moment in Canadian history when the
contributions of Chinese Canadians to nation-building efforts are finally



2:00 pm                 Introduction of Head Tax Redress Motion in City Council Chambers


3:15 pm                                Press
Conference and Chinese Head Tax Family Reception in

Room 1, City Hall, 2nd Floor, 100 Queen Street West



Background: The Chinese head tax was imposed in 1885. Estimates
are that 82,000 Chinese individuals paid a total of $23 million in head tax –
ranging from $50 to $500 each – to come to Canada. In 1923, with the
introduction of the Chinese Exclusion Act, all but a handful of Chinese
immigrants were barred from Canada.
That legislation was repealed in 1947. Today, approximately half of the
country's Chinese Canadian population lives in the Toronto area. A copy of the Head Tax motion
is available by calling 416-392-4060.




For further information:


Matthew Lee, Office of Mayor Miller, 416-338-7109

Councillor Paula Fletcher, 416-392-4060

Victor Wong, CCNC, 416-977-9871, 647-285-2262 (c)

Avvy Go, Ontario
Coalition, 416-971-0676, 647-271-9357 (c)

Todd Wong on CBC Newsworld Sunday – speaking about head tax descendants

Todd Wong on CBC Newsworld Sunday – speaking about head tax descendants

I was interviewed for CBC Newsworld interview – at 10:35 am.  PST Sunday morning about the Chinese head tax and it's impact for descendants.

As the Conservateive government Chinese head tax redress package stands – only LIVING head tax payers and their spouses will recieve $20,000 in individual compensation – rather than a refund of $500, with accrued interest (value $100,000+)

But if your head tax paying father died, then there will be no payment.
If your head tax paying grandfather or grandmother worked their butts off for 5 years paying back the loans they incrued to pay the head tax, then lived in poverty for the next 10 or 40 years… then there will be no payment, if they are no longer living.

The host for CBC Newsworld Jackie Perrin asks me why descendants should recieve compensation.

“It's not for me. It's for my mother, whose father paid the head tax, but is now dead.  It's for my father, whose parents paid the head tax but are now dead.  It's for Gim Wong, who at 83 years old, rode his motorcycle across Canada from Victoria to Ottawa to ask for a simple apology from Paul Martin… but his head tax paying parents are now dead.

“One certificate – one payment.  It's only fair.”

British-Canadian girlfriend reminded me that morning, to speak about
the separation of families…  Families were purposely kept apart. 
Families were broken because of the head tax and the exclusion act.

In January, Deb Martin had watched “In the Shadow of Gold Mountain” on
television and was captivated by the stories being shared and told. 
Afterwards, she stated, she was “ashamed of being Canadian”, because Canada treated the Chinese so poorly, and had never apologized or made redress.

Canada wants to help educate all Canadians about the head tax/exclusion
act, and to ensure this kind of racism never happens again… then
rather than commemorative projects of Bronze walls…. please send
dvd/vhs copies of “In the Shadow of Gold Mountain” by Karen Cho – to
every home.  Send copies of Paul Yee's book “Struggle and Hope: The
story of Chinese Canadians to every home.”  Send copies of “The
Concubines Children” by Denise Chong.  Mount the play “Mom, Dad, I'm
Living with a White Girl,” by Marty Chan. 

redress will not bring back loved ones, it cannot make up for the extra
years of hard work paid in blood, sweat and tears.  It cannot erase the
memories of Gim Wong being beaten and urinated on as a child.  It
cannot take away the shame that Chinese Canadian soldiers felt

it sends a message to Canadians that this is the RIGHT THING to do. 
Justice in OUR time.  The people who lived through the Head tax period
and Exclusion Act are still alive.  It is THEIR time. It is still OUR
time.  It is OUR time, as long as we choose to do something about it.

we choose to walk away from it, then we are doing what non-Chinese
Canadians did back then – by letting the Head Tax happen, by letting
the Exclusion Act happen.  

we choose to walk away from it, then we are doing what non-Japanese
Canadians did back then – by letting the internment happen, by letting
the confiscation of property happen.

we choose to walk away from it, then we are doing what the non-Jews in
Germany did back then – by letting the hooligans riot in the street on
“Crystal Night”, by letting Jews be put on trains to be sent to
concentration camps.

we are to be the best Canadians we can… then we will be inclusive of
ALL Canadians.  White, black, yellow, red, brown and pink, as well as
every shade inbetween and every shade beyond.  Because this is what it
means to be Canadian.  To be inclusive… to embrace cultural diversity
as our strength… to find the THIRD WAY….   We do not fight for Win
– Lose.  We fight for Win-Win-Win.  You, me and the community at
large.  If somebody loses, then we all lose.

we are to be the best Canadians we can… then we accept that the 1st
generation Chinese Canadians were also “directly affected.”  They
suffered as their parents suffered.  We know that in the JC community,
whole generations tried to ignore and deny the internment process.  We
know that whole generations succumbed to “Stockholm Syndrome” – to
survive, they had to believe that they had done something wrong, and
that the oppressors were their friends, and doing the right thing.

certificate – one payment.  It is only fair.  If the government says…
“sorry, the tax we charged you 120 to 80 years ago was wrong” but does
not pay a dollar – is that right?

If the govt uses ill-gotten money because of racism for it's own purposes…  is it right for the govt to profit from racism?

What is the amount of $500 with accrued interest from 1903 to 2006?

the Government were to charge the equivalent of the head tax amounts
today… people would be outraged.  The Martin govt removed the $1000
immigrant landing fee, because it was seen as prohibitive for new
immigrants.  What would the equivalant racist head tax be if it were
charged today?

$350,000?  That's what Charlie Quan said.

The equivalent of a house, or 2 years salary – maybe more.

Would a landing fee of $100,000 keep undesirable aliens from wanting to come to Canada?

But what if they keep coming… even if we raise it to $200,000 – then $300,000.

federal govt is getting rich from these new immigrants – but the public
opinion doesn't want them in the country – because they are dirty,
smelly, have strange customs, will never adapt to Canadian ways.

What will we do?
Create an exclusion act.  Ban them completely.

what about the ones who are already here, and want to bring over their
wives and children.  The immigrants from America and Europe are
bringing in their wives and children.

No… we don't want them breeding in Canada.  Keep the wives and children out.  They're not really human anyways.

No redress payments for 1st generation descendents.
This is what the Conservative government is saying.

Do you agree?

Gabriel Yiu writes:

we take a closer look at the Japanese Canadian settlement, for a father
whose house and factory were confiscated and himself put into
concentration camp during WWII, when he passed away before the
government redress was announced, if his offspring wasn't born prior to
1947, they would received [sic] no compensation.

father was born before 1947.  Gim Wong was born before 1947.  Alex
Louie, WW2 Veteran and subject of the NFB film “Unwanted Soldiers” was
born before 1947.  Roy Mah OBC, founder of Chinatown News, was born
before 1947.  But they will not recieve redress payment because they
parents who paid the head tax are predeceased.  Were they still
“directly affected” by the impact and legacy of the head tax and
exclusion act?  Many will argue yes.

Under the JC redress paremeters, they would recieve redress payment, even though their parents are predeceased.

many head tax payers and spouses have died between 1984 and 2006, when
the issue of redress was first announced.  The government needs to
acknowledge and honour those that have died before redress was made. 
Otherwise, the ghosts are not properly buried and will come back to
haunt the government.

It is only fair, just and honourable.

It is merely the end of one head tax era, and the start of another era of exclusion.

Todd Wong
5th generation Canadian
head tax descendant for 4 generations.

North Shore News: Canada's future includes head-tax descendants – by Todd Wong

North Shore News: Canada's future includes head-tax descendants – by Todd Wong

the opinion piece I wrote for the North Shore News.  I felt it was
important to share with North Shore readers that many prominent head
tax descendents live amongst them. 
This is also designed to be an
educational piece explaining the hardships and the effects of systemic
racial discrimination, and to highlight North Shore connections to the
Chinese community.  I wanted it to serve as a stand alone piece to

balance a previous June 2nd opinion piece that was ignorantly critical
of the Conservative government's decision to make an apology for the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act
Harper blunders with Head Tax Apology by Trevor Lautens in the North Shore News.  It had prompted a June 18th response from my friend Grace Wong Head Tax lessons not learned,
which explains how much suffering the Chinese pioneers had to go
through because of paying the exhorbitatn head tax, plus separation of
family due to both the head tax and the Exclusion Act.  
I removed any original references to Lautens from my original article –
as much as I wanted to put him in his place, crate him up and send him
back “where he came from.”   – Todd 

Trevor Lautens  June 2nd

Grace Wong's letter to NS NEWS  June 18th

Canada's future includes head-tax descendants

Todd Wong

Contributing Writer

My ancestors first arrived in Canada in 1888 and 1896.

They weren't railway
builders or gold seekers. My paternal grandfather, Wong Wah, was a
respected merchant in Victoria, and my maternal
great-great-grandfather, Rev. Chan Yu Tan, was a respected pastor for
the Chinese Methodist Church. My family has lived in North Vancouver
since 1974. I am a fifth-generation Chinese-Canadian head-tax

My name is Todd Wong, and
I am active on the B.C. Coalition for Head Tax Payers, Spouses and
Descendants. As well, I devote community service to the Save Kogawa
House campaign, the Asian Canadian arts community, and dragon boats. I
am also currently a director for the Canadian Club. Every September, I
speak at Terry Fox Runs as a Terry's Team member, serving as a living
example that cancer research has made a difference.

But I am better known
around the Lower Mainland as Toddish McWong – the creator of Gung
Haggis Fat Choy, a Robbie Burns Chinese New Year dinner, which is
increasingly recognized as a unique cultural fusion event, which also
inspired a CBC television performance special that aired in 2004 and

Multi-racial harmony and
understanding cultural diversity is important to me, and increasingly
important to both Canada and the North Shore.

It is unfortunate that so
many people criticize Chinese head-tax redress payments as wrong and a
burden on Canadian taxpayers. They say that head-tax descendants should
move on and “get over it.” But how can you move on, when it has been
ingrained over decades – over a lifetime – that you are inferior,
second-class, and worth less than white Canadians?

Both the
Japanese-Canadian and the Chinese-Canadian communities were victims of
the Anti-Asiatic League in the 1907 riots by white Canadians who
attacked both Chinatown and Japantown. Yes, the Chinese pioneers had a
choice to come to Canada, but being victimized by social and legislated
racism is not a choice.

Systemic racism continued
long after Chinese were finally given enfranchisement to vote in 1947.
They believed in the ideals that Canada stood for, equality and
fairness, despite understanding the notion of having a “Chinaman's
chance” in a court of law. The early pioneers learned to keep their
heads down, not make a fuss, and be “good Canadians.” Rev. Chan Yu Tan
emphasized that his family learn Canadian ways, and he successfully
appealed the wrongful conviction of Chinese houseboy Wong Foon Sing for
the murder of Scottish nanny Janet Smith.

My father taught me early
on that because I was born of Chinese heritage I had to work harder
than white people to prove myself equal. His elder brother graduated
near the top of his UBC engineering class, but was not hired. Chinese
were disallowed from being members of professional organizations
because they weren't allowed on voting lists until 1947, but racism
continued beyond that. Barred from living in West Vancouver's British
Properties, Chinese-Canadian pioneers and their descendants were
challenged to overcome the learned helplessness created in the face of

My mother remembers
taking the ferry as a child from Vancouver to North Vancouver and
having picnics in Mahon Park and Horseshoe Bay. The North Shore has a
rich and hidden Chinese-Canadian history, descended from those pioneers
who paid the head tax. They came to Canada like emigrants from
Scotland, England, France, Russia and Italy. Yet only the Chinese were
so unwanted and treated so badly that legislation was passed to create
an immigration deterrent called the Chinese Head Tax followed by the
outright banning of all Chinese immigration from 1923 until 1947 under
the Exclusion Act. It was the contributions of Chinese Canadian
veterans in the Second World War like my Uncle Dan and his brothers who
helped overturn it.

Not many Chinese lived
here in North Vancouver's early days, but gradually it would become
home to some of our greatest role models. Former North Shore resident
Bev Nann received the Order of British Columbia in 2001. Retired high
school teacher Bill Chow taught generations of students at Balmoral and
Windsor secondary schools. Donna Wong-Juliani has made incredible
contributions to the Vancouver-area arts scene. She both grew up and
still resides in West Vancouver. The granddaughters of Alexander Won
Cumyow, the first Chinese born in British Columbia, went to school with
me at Balmoral and Carson Graham. Next in line is my second cousin,
14-year-old Tracey Hinder, national CanSpell finalist last year in

The Chan family was
featured in the Chinese Cultural Centre exhibit Three Pioneer Chinese
Families in 2002, and we have just been approached by CBC television to
be the subject of one of their episodes for a future series titled
Generations. Our family contains two Miss Canada contestants (one
Caucasian, one Chinese). Cousin Rhonda Larrabee is chief of the Qayqayt
First Nations and her daughter lives on the Burrard Band Indian
Reserve. Rhonda jokes that her mother's side of the family lost their
land, while her father's side had to pay the head tax. Our family is
“so Canadian.”

But no government should
be allowed to profit from racism. Twenty-three million dollars was paid
to the Canadian government in blood, sweat and tears – above and beyond
what any other immigrant was forced to endure to become part of
Canada's society. The symbolic return of the $23 million should be
viewed as a tax refund which is simply 80 years in the making, albeit
without interest!

In 2004, The United
Nations asked Canada to make an apology and financial redress,
following New Zealand's example. Canada needed to make the apology so
that our country could move forward in its cultural and social
development. Financial redress is simply an important part of that
process. Future generations of multi-racial Canadians and head-tax
descendants need to know that Canada recognized its wrongs, and did not
refuse to make a fair and honourable redress while head-tax payers,
spouses and descendants were still alive. This is the legacy, not a
burden, which we leave to all our children and all their children.

We must believe that for the healing of our country – our inclusive, multicultural country – nobody should be left behind.

published on 06/25/2006

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Edmonton Journal: “Canada isn't Canada anymore”

Gee…  I wonder what the First Nations people say about all the white people coming to their homeland, cutting down the trees, polluting the water, taking over the best fishing areas….  Todd

June 26, 2006

isn't Canada


hauls himself out from under my kitchen sink like William Shatner
in those Kellogg's commercials. But instead of offering me some All-Bran, he
nods his head towards the TV and asks: “What's he doing?”

“he” in question is Stephen Harper, and he's apologizing to the
Chinese-Canadian community for the racist head tax once imposed on immigrants
from China.
And for the 24-year outright ban on immigration from China.

is a fine speech indeed, one that makes me proud to be Canadian. Harper calls
the head tax “a great injustice.”

he terms the apology the “decent” thing to do. And so it is.

I say to the plumber, who has been labouring under
the sink in a valiant effort to discover why it refuses to drain.

“To who? And why?”

“To the Chinese community in Canada for the head tax.”


explain the main points, having just learned the precise dates myself. I tell
him that starting in 1885, the Canadian government charged Chinese people $50
to stay here and, in 1903, it raised that amount to $500. All of this in an
effort to make the very workers it had brought here to build the CPR go home.

like a great idea,” he says. “We should be doing that now.” He
leaves me open-mouthed.

fully accept the moral responsibility to acknowledge these shameful policies of
our past … ” Stephen says to the accompaniment of a snort of derision
from under the sink.

emerges again. “They should all be sent back,” he says.

“They, who?” I ask.

Asians,” he replies patiently, as though I am some dim child who refuses
to learn her ABCs.

“The Chinese, the ones from India, all of them.”

the first time he notices the look on my face. “I'm not a racist,” he
counters. “But there are too many of them. Canada
isn't Canada

father came here from Scotland
when he was 20. Maybe he should have been sent home,” I offer.

plumber looks at me pityingly.

can't get control of my mouth: “But I guess that was OK,” I say. “Because he was white.”

salvo is greeted by a withering silence. I am once again the idiot child with a
lot to learn about life.

think immigrants make the country more interesting and more vibrant,” I
continue weakly, wondering where our pre-apology conversation went.

hah!” he says. “My old neighbourhood, I
don't feel comfortable there anymore. There's so many of them, I'm the

consider telling him that I hope to hell he is in the minority, that I don't
want a totally white Canada
where people can be arrested for Driving While Off Colour.

doesn't give me a chance, and begins a story about his cousin's son, who
evidently didn't get into university because so many of “them” had
money and bought their way in.

I can say anything, he takes a quick breath and tells me about all the single
aboriginal women who evidently have mobs of children and rip off welfare.

I am
reminded of an aboriginal friend's favourite joke. A
white person screams at a First Nations person: “Go back where you came

says my friend with satisfaction. “He pitches a tent in the white dude's

the worst part is you can't say what you think anymore. You have to be careful
or someone will call you a racist or sue you,” says the plumber.

has discovered the problem. The sink is working again.

gathers up his tools, gets my signature on his worksheet, tells me, if somewhat
insincerely, that he hopes I have a good day and heads for the door.

has finished his speech and now an elderly Chinese man, whose name is cut off
by the sound of the door closing, is speaking.

am grateful,” he says into the reporter's microphone. “That I lived
to see this day after so many years of trying to get the Canadian government to
say 'Sorry.' ”




Ottawa Citizen: Take second look at history – by Pauline Tam



 » June 26 » 2006



Take second look at history


Pauline Tam

The Ottawa Citizen

Monday, June 26, 2006


the word “sorry” finally appeared on official letterhead, it was written,
not in English, but in Chinese — a language that many couldn't read. It
seemed that in the government's rush to cobble
together a statement of remorse, no one had a clue that these old-timers
were, in fact, native English speakers.

one day last week, they were accorded the absurd celebrity of “head-tax

country still has a thing or two to learn about cultural labelling.

such minor indignities mattered little to James Pon,
88. The retired engineer happily accepted the apology, even if it was
something of an afterthought. Besides, he was grateful to have lived to see
the day.

about two dozen of the roughly 82,000 Chinese who once paid up to $500 to
enter Canada
are still alive. Seven, including Pon, made the
trip to Parliament Hill.

oldest, 106-year-old Ralph Lee, helped build a
nation by building its railroad. The country showed its gratitude by keeping
his family out. Lee never knew his daughter, Linda, until she was a teenager.
Her brother died in China
never having met his father.

Thursday's reconciliation brought a measure of healing to the Lee family. It
was a day when the grand gesture mattered more than the details. It was also
a day when politicians stood in the House of Commons and broke with protocol.
In owning up to a racist past, they ventured halting words in a language that
was neither English nor French.

gn ju.


day after hearing Prime Minister Stephen Harper utter those words, Pon smiled and declared: “I have never felt more

reflected on the historic apology as a VIA Rail train, dubbed the
“Redress Express,” rumbled its way out of Ottawa, bound for Pon's home in Toronto. It was the final leg of a journey
that retraced the route forged by his ancestors.

Pon's grandfather was among thousands
of Chinese labourers who were recruited in 1880 to
do the dangerous work of building the Canadian Pacific Railway.

five years later, when the last spike was driven into the ground, no one
invited them to the completion ceremony. Instead, they found themselves
stranded in a country that punished them with a fee designed to keep their
wives and children from joining them.

1923, that levy was replaced by a law that shut out Chinese immigrants
altogether. Ironically, it was enacted on July 1 — a day that Chinese
Canadians learned to equate with humiliation rather than patriotism.

Pon, then five, and his mother were
among the last to get in. Like Pon's grandfather
before him, his father had toiled to save enough money to find a wife in China.

borrowed $1,000 to cover his family's entry fees and, like many of his
compatriots, became an indentured labourer.

12, Pon was left to fend for himself because his
father couldn't afford to keep him — a memory that still evokes bitterness. Pon supported himself by working in restaurants. At
school, he became a punching bag for children who picked on him.

Pon's head-tax certificate, which he
sealed in an envelope, remained a shame that he kept from his wife and
children for years.

other families, the certificates were brandished as peace bonds or proofs of
payment — a tenuous stake on a sense of belonging. Doug Hum, one of 4,000
children of the head-tax generation, remembered his father shaking a tattered
sheet of paper at him and saying, “You're here because I paid

of fear and powerlessness, some produced the papers whenever there was
trouble. Others, fearing deportation, never went anywhere without them. It
seemed no one realized how much it hurt to live as second-class citizens.

forgotten in the rush to equate a commendable gesture with pandering to the
ethnic vote, promoting victim politics and straining the public purse is that
justice is an elastic concept.

acquires meaning through the accumulation of experience. It requires us take
another look at history, take stock and make restitution, however symbolic.

head tax is a highly visible example of the need to be mindful of how we
conduct ourselves in the present. It's one thing to
say never again — until another group is singled out. Let it be a reminder
that there is a price to be paid for the wounds of the past.

Tam's column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Email:

© The
Ottawa Citizen 2006