Georgia Straight: Head-tax redress fails to account for total toll

Here's a Georgia Straight story
about how the Harper Conservative government falls short on their
promise to provide a redress that is fair to everybody. 

Harvey Lee and I both became active in the Head Tax redress campaign
at the November 25th rally against then Prime Minister Paul Martin's
feeble attempt to provide redress – by no apology, and no individual
compensation or head tax refund.  It was a day that will go down
in Chinese Canadian history, when head tax descendants told the
government that they wanted a fair redress with negotiation, similar to
the Japanese-Canadian 1988 redress.  We did it with placards,
chants and media interviews.  We told our truth.  see
Chinese Head Tax: Protest in Vancouver Chinatown

Conservative's redress package will give $20,000 to surviving head tax
payers and spouses.  But if your father, mother, grandparents, or
great-grandparents died before the Conservatives came to power, then
you are out of luck.  An estimated 81,000 paid the the head tax,
including my grand-father, my great-grandfather and many other family
members. They have all passed on now.  Under the Conservative
program, only and estimated 430 people will recieve a redress
compensation package.  This is 0.6% of the people who paid. 
The Mulroney Conservative government gave $21,000 to each
Japanese-Canadian person born before 1947.

My friend Sid Tan reports that today's
(Oct. 12/06) Sing Tao has Mary Yang's exclusive interview with PM
Harper. In the interview, Harper says “that's it”for head tax/exclusion
redress from his government.   Sid Tan says”

has shown political acumen for buying votes but no sense of justice and
honour. Shame on him and his government for taking an issue of justice
and honour and trying to pander for votes. As far as I'm concerned, the
gloves off. Was never good at the touchie-feelie-smilie-schmoozie stuff
and will work to ensure Harper and his government loses or at least
does not acrue any political capital from this incomplete redress.

just an honourable redress requires good faith negotiations between the
government and  representatives of head tax families seeking
individual redress and direct refund of head tax.  Our movement is
strong and lasting. We have outlasted the Trudeau, Mulroney, Chretien
and Martin governments. We are growing stronger by the day and will
outlast Harpers's government if a just and honourable redress is not

Head-tax redress fails to account for total toll

By charlie smith

Publish Date: 12-Oct-2006

Harvey Lee, whose family was forced apart by racist immigration laws, says Stephen Harper’s reparations have come to appear largely political.

Harvey Lee, whose family was forced apart by racist immigration laws,
says Stephen Harper’s reparations have come to appear largely

Vancouver man has attributed the death of his mother to the Chinese
head tax. But he won’t be among those receiving federal compensation
because his parents died before Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced
that $20,000 payments will go to surviving head-tax payers and their

Harvey Lee, a retiree, told his tale to the Georgia
Straight shortly before attending an October 10 dinner at Floata
restaurant in Chinatown. “There are a lot of descendants who suffered
just as much as their parents did due to the head tax and the exclusion
act,” Lee said. “Myself, I was separated from my family for years. I
was a teenager before I got to see my father.”

At the dinner,
Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke of his pride about issuing an
apology for the head tax, which he described as “a moral blemish on our
country’s soul”. Harper also emphasized how “especially important and
satisfying” it was to him that his government will make payments to

Beginning in 1885, the Canadian government imposed a
$50 fee on Chinese immigrants, which was raised to $100 in 1900 and to
$500 in 1903. Vancouver East NDP MP Libby Davies told Parliament that
this would be the equivalent of about $30,000 in 2005 dollars. In 1923,
the government passed a law, which wasn’t lifted until 1947, banning
almost all Chinese immigration.

Lee said that his father paid
the $500 head tax when he came to Canada in 1910. His mother paid the
$500 fee when she arrived nine years later. He said his mother
eventually took the family back to China because of all the racism in
Canada, and Lee was born in Hong Kong in 1939. His father stayed in
Canada, eventually operating a restaurant in Souris, Manitoba.

war broke out in the Far East, the family was separated. Lee said that
his mother could have avoided the hostilities and legally returned to
Canada because she had already paid the head tax. However, Lee said,
she remained in China because she didn’t want to leave him as a little
baby with relatives. Canadian law at the time banned the children of
head-tax payers from entering the country, so Lee wouldn’t have been
permitted into Canada with his mother.

In 1943, Lee said, his
mother was killed by Japanese invaders while she was trying to flee
with her family. He was only four years old at the time. “She
sacrificed her life,” Lee said, wiping a tear from his eye. “She died
because she couldn’t bring me over.”

He then apologized, saying
that he gets emotional every time he tells this story. “My grandmother
brought me up until after the war. Then my dad sent for us, and then my
brother and I came over.”

Lee said he arrived in Canada in 1951
when he was 12 years old. He eventually went on to a career in
management, but expressed regret that he never got to know his father
very well. “We never really bonded,” he said. “That was another problem
with the separation.”

When asked how he feels about Harper’s
handling of the head-tax issue, Lee replied, “Initially, he started
well. He kept his promise of the apology. But the redress has fallen a
little bit short. It’s a little bit more politics there than it is

At a demonstration outside the event, Sid Tan,
president of the Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and
Solidarity, said that only 0.6 percent of head-tax families will be
redressed because the vast majority of head-tax payers and their
spouses died before Harper issued a federal apology last June. “We want
the other 99.4 percent of head-tax families to be redressed,” Tan

Moments later, the crowd joined him in a chant, “Head tax, redress, head tax, redress…”

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