+ Karin Lee comments.
Hmmm…. the Vancouver Sun writers have taken a strange turn with this article. Guess they were looking for a unique angle that nobody else has written.
the reporter misquoted me yesterday speaking about the logistics of the
train ride for the most elderly of the head tax payers and spouses
residing in Vancouver. I do support the train ride,
and believe it will be historic, and meaningful for those who will ride
across the country for the apology and announcement in Ottawa. Thank
you Susan for bringing it all together. I know it took a lot of
work on your part.
there on Friday with lion dancers and many others to see the group
off. It will be first day towards the end of a long, long journey
and it will culminate in Ottawa with the apology and redress.
hard, and have done our best. Sometimes we make mistakes, but
mostly we've been impassioned to bring about justice for our head tax
families. When the small group of elderly head tax payers,
spouses and descendants met with Prime Minister Harper in Vancouver,
one could feel the honour, respect and sincerity in that
room. We hope this will carry over into the Prime Minister's
apology and the redress package will give honour and dignity to our
head tax families.
When the suggestion of a “Redress Train” was originated in Ontario, BCers thought “Who's going to spend 5 days on a train from Vancouver to Ottawa?” A nice idea for a short trip from Montreal or Toronto to Ottawa – but not realistic from Vancouver.
But many of our leaders from BC will be joining the “Redress Train.” Foon and her husban and have been active on the committee since the November 25th protest agains the ACE program. Gim Wong, who last year rode his motorcycle from Victoria to Ottawa with his son Jeffrey, will be on the Redress Train with his wife. This is the first time his wife is coming to a Redress event – significant and symbolic, just like the Redress Train to Ottawa.
There will be music and lion dancers at the 4:00pm celebration and send off at Thornton Park – Main and Terminal St. in front of the VIA Rail train station. The train departs at 5:30pm.
My suggestions for a new story angle? Find Head Tax descendants who are multi-racial, like filmaker Karen Cho, or any of the 6th generation descendants from my Rev. Chan Yu Tan family. There are Canadians today, who can claim ethnic ancestry from China, England, Scottish, French and First Nations.
That's the story! It's for our future, about our past, and it's happening NOW!
Wednesday » June 14 » 2006
Cold water poured on redress train
Karin Lee of the BC Coalition of Head Tax Payers
has a copy of her mother's head tax certificate
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Vancouver supporters of redress for the Chinese head tax poured
cold water Tuesday on the idea of a national “redress train” crossing
the country to Ottawa for a long-awaited apology from the federal
The Conservative government announced Tuesday it would apologize in
Parliament June 22 for Canada's imposition of the head tax 121 years
ago. The tax required thousands of Chinese immigrants to pay millions of
dollars to enter Canada.
It was introduced in 1885 after Chinese immigrants helped build the
Canadian Pacific Railway. It was eliminated in 1923 and replaced by the
Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese immigration to Canada until
Following the Conservative government's announcement of the
apology, the Ontario Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Payers and Families
announced that head tax payers, widows and their descendants would begin
a train ride Friday from Vancouver to Ottawa to hear the apology in the
“It's almost closing the loop,” said Susan Eng, co-chair of the
Ontario coalition. “People, generations ago, who actually gave their
lives to building the railroad that brought B.C. into Confederation are
now going to ride those rails, all the way to Ottawa to witness the
“It's a novel idea, but I don't think it works for the old people
here [in B.C.],” said Karin Lee, a spokeswoman for the BC Coalition of
Head Tax Payers, Spouses and Descendants.
She said there are fewer than 20 survivors locally who paid the tax
and she did not know of any who would be taking the train.
“I would prefer to see them go on a first-class airplane ride. It's
ridiculous to bump around for five days when you're 101 years old.
“They're talking about June 22, and we're just over a week away,”
she said. “How many people have enough time to gather up their life and
go there and take a five-day trip?”
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, was also unimpressed
by the train idea, and lack of detail about the form of the
“This is an issue of justice and honour, and I'm not sure the
Conservative government understands that,” he said. “They just see it as
a political thing.”
Keith Wong, a volunteer with the Ontario coalition, said he expects
about 10 people and their caregivers to make the trip from Vancouver to
Ottawa. Wong agreed health and old age has played a part in discouraging
many people from participating in an event he said carries “very intense
He said even some living in Toronto have declined to make the trip
to Ottawa because of their age, although he believes as many as 100 are
expected to attend the ceremony. He said many would fly.
The apology was a Conservative election campaign promise.
“We have kept our word by holding an unprecedented series of
grassroots national consultations on redress,” Heritage Minister Bev Oda
said Tuesday in the House of Commons.
“I am pleased to announce that the prime minister will keep his
word by righting this historical wrong when he makes the formal apology
in this House.”
Eng estimates about 300 families should each get compensation of
about $20,000 for the head tax and the Exclusion Act.
“It was blatant, unmitigated racism that drove the government of
the day to pass the head tax and later the Exclusion Act.”
She said the apology is a breakthrough, given the reluctance of the
federal Liberals to offer a similar response when they were in
“It's really an important message that the government will send
that this is not just some type of throwaway gesture,” she said. “It's
going to have a great deal of meaning and resonate across the country in
the Chinese Canadian community, and [with] other Canadians who care
about human rights and social justice issues.”
The coalition has also asked the government to set aside between $5
million and $8 million on programs to promote awareness about
Details about the train and its departure were not available.
© The Vancouver Sun