Head Tax Redress Train leaves Vancouver this afternoon

Head Tax Redress Train leaves Vancouver this afternoon

Here's a report on the Redress Train ceremony in Vancouver, which took place in Thornton Park across from the VIA Rail Station.  It's written by Victor Wong, with my edits.

It was a wonderful send-off from Vancouver this afternoon.  there was a huge turnout of supporters and  media including: Margaret Mitchell, former MP, Vancouver East,  Libby Davies, MP, Vancouver East and  Charlie Quan, one of the last surviving head tax payers.

ACCESS and BC Coalition (a big Thanks to Mary-Woo for coordinating, Sid
for site coordination)

Victor Wong, executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council was the MC. 

Highlights included:

*  Introductions for Margaret Mitchell, who first brought up the Head Tax redress issue in Parliament back in 1984, and Libby Davies who brought it up again recently.

*  Sean Gunn performed his song “Ballad of Gim Wong”

*  Introduce Charlie Quan, head tax payer

*  Introduce delegates on the train,

*  Introduced Susan Eng of Toronto, Co-Chair of the Ontario Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Payers and Families.  Susan is one of the architects of the CCNC redress campaign.

*  Introduce members of BC Coalition to step forward and Mary-Woo spoke for the group

*  Todd Wong performed “This Train is Bound for (Redress) Glory)”  (back up singers inluced Victor Wong, Cynthia Lam, Harvey Lee and many others)

*  We took a picture with “the Last Spike…” – a commemorative replica presented to the Redress campaign by Pierre Berton.
 
Then media followed the train contingent into the train station

A number of media will be accompanying them: Fairchild TV, Ming Pao,
Sing Tao, Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun

When the train stops in Edmonton, Mary Mah will hand off the Last Spike
To another HT payer who will take it to Toronto who will hand it off to
James Pon who will hand it off to PM Stephen Harper in Ottawa.

see the press release below….

June 15, 2006

For Immediate Release

Head Tax Payer, Spouse and Descendants Leave for Ottawa on the Redress
Train

A head tax payer, a spouse of a head tax payer, and descendants of head tax payers all set off from Vancouver today on a cross Canada journey  by rail.  Many Chinese workers died helping to build the Trans Canada Railway.  When Chinese labour was no longer needed, governments in  Canada enacted racist legislation to keep the Chinese from immigrating to  Canada (that made their lives even harder).  The Government of Canada imposed  the Chinese Head Tax and then the Chinese Exclusion Act which separated families for decades.

“This is an emotional journey for me.  I am the great-grandson of a Canadian Pacific Railway construction worker and a descendant of two head tax payers and a fourth generation immigrant.  Because of the  Exclusion Act, our family was not allowed into Canada to join my father and I did not see him for 13 years” said Howe Chan one of the passengers on the Redress Train.

“I’m glad that we will soon see closure on this dark chapter of Canadian history” said Ray Chang, son of a head tax payer.  “Many families suffered because of the head tax and the Exclusion Act including mine.”

“Last year, I rode my motorcycle to Ottawa to try to meet with then Prime Minister Paul Martin to get him to resolve this issue once and for all and he wouldn’t meet with me,” said Gim Wong, son of a head tax payer and Air Force Veteran.  “This year, I get to take the train to Ottawa with my wife with me and meet the Prime Minister who will finally apologize for the head tax and Exclusion Act.  I can’t wait to hear it.”

“This train journey will remind Canadians of the contributions of early Chinese Canadian pioneers, thousands of whom gave their lives in blasting through the Rockies to build the national railroad” said Susan Eng, Co-Chair of the Ontario Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Payers and Families who will ride the Redress Train with her mother Chuey Eng, the spouse of a head tax payer.

“Descendants of the railway workers will bring the ceremonial Last Spike with us back to the Railway Committee Room of the House of Commons in Ottawa where the decision to build the railroad was made”.

Those departing on the Redress Train from Vancouver are:

Mary Mah (Head Tax Payer) & support person
Chuey Eng and Susan Eng, Spouse and Descendant of a Head Tax Payer
Gim and Jan Wong (Son of 2 Head Tax Payers and his spouse)
Ray and Foon Chang (Son of a Head Tax Payer and his spouse)
Howe Chan (Great grandson of a CPR worker and son of two head tax
payers)

-30-

For further information:

BC Coalition of Head Tax Payers, Spouses & Descendants
    Karin Lee        778-773-1088
    Gabriel Yiu        604-889-0696

ACCESS (Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity
Society)
Sid Chow Tan        604-783-1853

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