Calgary Sun: “Apology a start”

Calgary Sun: “Apology
a start”

Here is an article from the Calgary Sun

Chinese
Canadians say head tax issue long overdue

By PABLO FERNANDEZ, CALGARY SUN



Prime
Minister Stephen Harper's apology for the Chinese head tax is a small step in
the start of the healing process for those who suffered from the injustice,
said Calgarian Mary Mah today.

Mah, 85,
was one of dozen Chinese head tax payers, spouses and relatives who boarded a
train in Vancouver,
dubbed the Redress Express, last Friday.

As it
crosses Canada,
the train will collect as many as 100 people who are Ottawa-bound to hear
Harper's official apology on Thursday for the institution of the head tax.

The
apology is important because it means the government will finally acknowledge
the tax was a law based on bigotry and racism, said Mah while waiting to
continue on to Ontario.

“The
government has to admit that law was racist, that what they did was wrong and
immoral,” she said.

“It's
about bringing all this out into the open so that the rest of the people will
know what happened.

“The
apology is the first step but closure is not going to happen overnight.”

The
Chinese head tax, which was implemented in 1885 and revoked in 1923, forced
every Chinese immigrant to pay, at its highest level, a $500 fee to enter the
country.

The tax
likely destroyed thousands of families, said Mah.

“The
tax meant that families were broken apart because fathers were forced to be
alone in Canada and their
wives and children were left in China,”
she said.

“It
was a very difficult solitary life … they were never allowed to bond with
their families and that was a very big injustice.

“The
apology is symbolic … for the tragedy that it was.”

Approximately
81,000 people had to pay the tax and of those, only 20 are still alive today,
said Ontario Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Payers, Spouses and Descendants
spokeswoman Avvy Go.

“This
comes 20 years too late,” said Go of the apology.

“Even
if the government didn't offer a formal apology, they should've done something
by now.”

Mah was 3
years old when she arrived in Victoria on May
16, 1923, making her one of the youngest persons ever to pay the tax and one of
the last Chinese immigrants to pay to enter Canada.

It cost
her father $1,000 to get her and her mother into the country, said Mah, whose
father was second generation Canadian but who was forced to pay to reunite with
his wife, whom he met when he returned to China as a young man.

 

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