Redress Train to Ottawa…. Gim Wong featured in Vancouver Sun Story

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Redress Train to Ottawa…. 
Gim Wong featured in Vancouver Sun Story


My father used to joke that Canada honoured the Chinese railway workers by naming the rail line after them.

CPR….
Chinese People's Railway….

83 year old Gim Wong will be hopping on board the “Redress Train” to Ottawa for the June 22nd Ceremony and announcement for Apology and Acknowledgement for the Chinese Head Tax.  Last year Gim rode his motorcycle to Ottawa to ask Prime Minister Paul Martin for an apology for the racist head tax.  Martin's office denied Gim a meeting, but current Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Gim during a vist on May 25th with Chinese community elders, head tax payers and descendants.

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I blogged Gim's 2005 Ride for Redress with pictures and contributions from across Canada.

Gim was featured in a June 15 Vancouver Sun story today on page B5

Senior recalls closed doors made him feel second-class:
Chinese RCAF veteran heading to Ottawa to hear prime minister apologize in Parliament on June 22  (see below)

Here's something I have just written… to help send off Gim at the VIA RAIL trainstation on Friday.
Main and Terminal streets in Vancouver.
4:00pm  Ceremony and Media Information at Th
5:30pm  Train Leaves.

This Train is Bound for Redress
(to the tune of This Train is Bound for Glory)
http://sniff.numachi.com/~rickheit/dtrad/pages
tiTHSTRAIN;ttTHSTRAIN.html

This Train is Bound for redress, this train….
This Train is bound for redress, this train…
This train honours the head tax payers
This train honours Chinese railway builders
This train is bound for redress this train.

This Train is Bound for redress, this train….
This Train is
bound for redress, this train…
This train is justice and fairness
This train is sharing our stories
This train is bound for redress this train.

This Train is Bound for redress, this train….
This Train is bound for redress, this train…
This train wants apology and action
This train wants symbolic compensation
This train is bound for redress this train.

This Train is Bound for redress, this train….
This Train is bound for redress, this train…
This train honours all our stories
This train honours all Canadians
This train is bound for redress this train.

Senior recalls closed doors made him feel
second-class

Chinese RCAF veteran heading to Ottawa to hear prime minister apologize in
Parliament on June 22

 

Maurice Bridge

Vancouver Sun


Thursday, June 15, 2006

 

image

CREDIT:
Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun

Wearing
his RCAF uniform, Gim Foon Wong, 83, rode this
motorcycle to Ottawa
last year to try to protest the head tax his father paid.

“Slaves
at least were worth something — you could sell a slave if you didn't want him.

“Chinese?
Dime a dozen, not even a dime a dozen. Worthless!”

There
was no mistaking the visceral bitterness in the words. In a few short minutes,
83-year-old Gim Foon Wong electrified a news
conference Wednesday, explaining the long-repealed Chinese head tax in terms of
a life bent and shaped by legislated Canadian racism.

His
father arrived in B.C. from China in 1906 and paid the $500 head tax to escape
starvation in China, thanks to two elder brothers who shovelled
coal for a dollar a day in Cumberland for a decade. A century later, Wong let
his frustration off its leash and revealed the long reach of the discriminatory
legislation.

“I'm
not saying I'm a smart guy, okay?” he said, sitting in Strathcona
Community Centre next door to the school he graduated from in 1936. “I had
potential, [but] any degree in university would have been useless, so what did
we do? Drop out in Grade 9 and go to work.

“In
1941 in a cannery in Prince Rupert,
I was getting 121/2 cents an hour. The guy next to me — the kid was 12 years
old — was earning 25 cents an hour [because] he's a white man.”

Wong
fought his way into the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War,
but could not shake the feeling of being a second-class citizen.

“Invariably,
everywhere I went, I was the only Chinese. You know what that was [like], 60
years ago?”

The news
conference was not Wong's first round with the head tax. Last summer, he rode
his big Honda Gold Wing motorcycle across Canada and arrived on Parliament
Hill wearing his RCAF uniform, complete with service medals.

Paul
Martin, who was prime minister at the time, refused to speak to him.

Now he's
headed back to Ottawa, riding the rails laid
down by Chinese workers, to hear Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologize in
Parliament on June 22 for the head tax and the subsequent Chinese Exclusion
Act, which barred Chinese immigration to Canada from 1923 to 1947.

The news
conference was called by B.C. groups seeking redress for the tax.

Compensation
suggestions range from $20,000 to $39,000 per person affected, but Harper has
given no indication whether any kind of compensation will accompany the planned
apology.

“For
over three weeks, redress organizations across the country have asked for a
meeting with government officials,” said Mary-Woo Sims, on behalf of the
B.C. Coalition of Head Tax Payers, Spouses and Descendants.

“We
are ready, willing and able to meet with government any time to ensure that the
redress package is one which will ensure that justice is achieved for those
wronged by government discrimination, and which all Canadians can
support.”

Sims
said the groups are also still waiting to hear details of the “redress
train,” the highly symbolic train trip to Ottawa, which was arranged by the Ontario
Coalition of Head Tax Payers and Families with Via Rail.

Wong
says he will go, and thinks five or six spouses or descendants of head-tax
payers will leave Vancouver
on Friday with him.

There
are believed to be fewer than 20 surviving head-tax payers in Canada, about
260 spouses and a total of about 1,200 related families, or 4,000 people in
all.

Sid Tan,
president of the Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity
Society (ACCESS) in Vancouver, and a national director of the Chinese Canadian
National Council, said more than 82,000 Chinese paid the head tax between 1885
and 1923, effectively covering the cost of the CPR railway which many of them
built.

He
termed the request for redress “a tax refund — this is not compensation.

“We're
not a bunch of ungrateful, greedy bastards. Even if we do get our rightful
return, the money's going to be spent in Canada. We're going to be buying
fridges, hopefully a car,” said Tan.

“This
is not about the money– it's about justice and honour.
This is the dignity of a community finally finding its voice and its rightful
place in this Canadian society of ours, which I'm very proud to be a part
of.”

mbridge@png.canwest.com

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

 

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