Head Tax: What's happening?
Open letter to Cabinet from BC Coalition of Head Tax Payers, Spouses & Descendants
Conservative government is planning on making an apology on June 22 or
June 23. We have been hearing that they are planning to make
different compensation amounts for surviving head tax payers, spouses
and sons and daughters – but not for surviving grandchildren if their
parents and grandparents are pre-deceased. This issue has nothing
to do with who is still surviving… but is a tax refund, that should
go to the estate of whomever paid for it. If the Conservative
government waits a few more years, not only will all the original head
tax payers and spouses be dead, buy maybe so will all their children
Coalition of Head Tax Payers, Spouses & Descendants
June 6, 2006
You will have
received a letter from Susan Eng, Co-Chair of the Ontario Coalition of Head Tax
Payers, Spouses and Descendants. We
agree that the Government's promised apology for the Chinese Head Tax and the
Chinese Exclusion Act is being welcomed by many including our organization and
its members. However, we believe,
and the various ministers and PM Harper himself have acknowledged, that the
people directly affected are entitled to appropriate redress.
As Ms Eng
mentioned, when the redress campaign was started in 1984, there were about some
4,000 living head tax payers or widows who registered with head tax redress
organizations across Canada.
After 20 years of government refusal to act, most have passed away leaving about
20 head tax payers and about 300 widows – all in their 90s, many over 100 years
of age. In BC alone, we have 4 surviving couples, 5 widowed head tax payers and
88 widowed spouses, one of whom is 103 years old today. One widow, Mrs. Wong died weeks ago and
another has also passed away recently.
daughters, grand-daughters and grandsons of payers and widows who have passed
away are also asking for redress as a result of the separation and hardship
endured as a direct result of the Head Tax and the Exclusion Act. In BC, we have collected information
from some 500 families in this category.
We have heard
that cabinet has been asked to consider redress of $20,000 to each head tax
payer but the amount to the spouse and sons and daughters would be substantially
less – maybe even less than $5000.
Setting aside our concerns about the
amount of redress, here are some fundamental principles and concerns you should
be aware of.
Husbands and wives should not be treated differently – they suffered
together and often the women were left behind in
look after the children in abject poverty. We would argue that the women
suffered even more than the men from the Head Tax and the Exclusion Acts.
Therefore both the payers and widows should receive the same amount. To leave out or discriminate against the
widows by giving them a lesser amount- would seem to be politically unwise and
magnify the unfairness.
To leave out the sons, daughters, grandsons and grand-daughters where
their parents died before seeing justice would mean that the government benefits
from its own intransigence. Indeed,
to leave out other family relations would be unfair given that the numbers are
not so large in total to justify this generational or familial
discrimination. The government has
allotted much larger amounts to Japanese Redress, residential schools, even as
donations for earthquake relief overseas.
Head tax and
Exclusion Act redress groups across the country have asked to meet with
government officials so that we can work on a resolution to this awful chapter
in our nation’s history to a mutually satisfactory conclusion. The government has well deserved the
good press it has received for its promises. We strongly support Ms Eng’s
contention that “it would be a shame to ruin it all now by making the wrong
choices based on narrow legal interpretations or misdirected monetary
Mary Woo Sims
& Karin Lee on behalf of the
BC Coalition of
Head Tax Payers, Spouses and Descendants