Head Tax Apology Ceremony: My personal thoughts…
1) head tax descendant lines up
2) people pick up the translation listening devices
3) one of the oldest surviving head tax payers, with family
1) Faye Leung – the “hat lady” is a head tax descendent
2) head tax payer Charlie Quan with his favorite grandson Terry Quan
3) my mother Betty Wong, friend “Auntie” Marie Mah, my father Bill Wong
It was like being invited to a promised banquet and served some sumptious
delicious appetizers and dishes, but only half the promised courses, definitely not enough food for
everybody. People left the ceremony feeling still hungry…
literally and spiritually. There had been finger food provided,
served after the ceremonies… but it wasn't enough. All the
surviving head tax payers were too busy being interviewed, to get into
the food lineups. I never tasted a bite of food, as I was also
doing interviews and helping the reporters interview significant head
1) Prime Minister Harper makes his announcement
2) NDP leader Jack Layton makes his reply
Harper made the expected apology. Good!
Harper said there would be compensation for “living” head tax payers and spouses. Good!
This is what the CCNC, BC Coaltion and Ontario Coalition all proposed as part one of a two stage process.
But Harper stopped short of announcing redress package for descendants
of head tax payers and spouses. This means that if your head tax
paying grandparent or parent died yesterday… then there would be no
forthcoming payment because they were no longer “living.” Too bad – too
The BC Coalition graciously accepted and applauded the apology and
redress package for head tax payers and spouses, but states that it is
only fair that descendants be included too! One certificate – one
payment is fair. Do not start another exclusion process.
Here is how the day unfolded.
10:30 arrive at Fairmont Hotel Vancouver to help direct people to Floor C, BC Ballroom for the Head Tax Apology ceremony
12:05pm I head upstairs to watch the ceremony
PM Stephen Harper makes apology statement, followed by each party
leader. Harper is to the point, very dignified. Bill Graham
seemed much more funeral like, and somber. Gilles Duceppe spoke
entirely in french, whereas all other leaders spoke French, English,
and some Chinese. Jack Layton had the best statement, full of
historical truths and passion.
intermission: musical entertainment in Ottawa and Vancouver
Vancouver, Zhimin Yu performed on Chinese Roan with Oliver on classical
guitar- photo Todd Wong (Zhimin also performs with Silk Road Music and
was featured in the CBC Gung Haggis Fat Choy television performance
Ottawa simulcast returns. Singing of O Canada in English and French
Jason Kenney emcees the ceremony part in the Railway Room of the House
of Commons, where the planning of the transCanada railway took place.
Mary Mah speaks
James Pon speaks
Susan Eng speaks
PM Harper is presented with the ceremonial “last spike” given to the CCNC by Pierre Berton.
PM Harper shakes hands with the specially invited head tax payers and spouses.
Vancouver ceremony closes with presentation of food. Media
quickly starts interviewing surviving head tax payers, spouses and
descendants. But not enough food is available. Food tables
run out with line ups still waiting… people being interviewed get no
It is like being invited to a banquet – but not being served enough food to eat.
1) Harvey Lee sits disappointed talking with Cynthia Lam, with Ron in the background
The BC Coalition leaves the Hotel Vancouver ballroom feeling hungry and
unsatisfied – both literally and spiritually. We go to Congee
House restaurant to plan our next stage. We vow to continue the
campaign for a fair and honourable redress package that will include
all descendants. BC Coalition believes that one certificate – one
payment is only fair.
BC Coalition of Head Tax payers give a Thumbs up for Apology and
immediate redress payments for surviving head tax payers and spouses.
BC Coalition of Head Tax payers give a Thumbs Down for no redress payments for 1st generation and other descendents.