Redress: One Voice and More Strength Now…

Redress: One Voice and More Strength Now…

Sid Tan (in green) stands with leading head tax redress campaigners Victor Wong (CCNC executive director) and Gim Wong (WW2 veteran who rode his motorcycle from Victoria to Ottawa to raise awareness).  Sitting are Thomas Soon and Charlie Quan holding the 1st and 2nd cheques presented by Ottawa to surviving head tax payers – photo Todd Wong

Here's a letter from my friend Sid Tan, that summarizes the present state of the head tax redress campaign – after the successful presentation of the first payment cheque to Charlie Quan on Friday October, 20th.  Sid has been active on the head tax redress campaign since the 1980's.

Yo All.

Our struggle has just weathered the first of federal government's public relations and media opportunities well. There will be the spouses' payment and then the community fund government blitz and photo-ops. Already the boys at Quan Lung Sai Tong are reporting talk of compliant individuals floating positions asking for the return of symbolic $500. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I find such sentiments self-serving and seeking to curry favour with the government. It hurts our cause. The federal government has already set the financial bar at $20,000 and our basic principle is that all head tax families be treated equally. One certificate, one claim.

In our call for a just and honourable redress, there must be the respect and dignity of good faith negotiations with representatives of head tax families. Redress seeking groups must have non-competing positions. All must call for a full measure of justice and honour. Anything less for head tax families would forever reduce our community to one of undeserving or unable, forever discriminated, forever with less than equal rights. Our children and their children, our future generations will suffer our failure in political participation.

The Government of Canada is providing about 0.6% of head tax families those with surviving payers and spouses – with direct redress. Not all the remaining 99.4% of the families will be seeking direct redress. Indeed, some of these families may even oppose the call for direct redress. This is to be expected. We must be bold and clear about our demands. For me personally, they are quite straightforward:

1) the Government of Canada must recognize and acknowledge redress is incomplete;
2) the Government of Canada must commit to good faith negotiationswith representatives of head tax families seeking direct redress; and
3) the Government of Canada must act in the spirit as articulated in the Quan Manifesto of March 22, 2006.

The Head Tax Families Society of Canada, successor to the BC Coalition of Head Tax Payers, Spouses and Descendants, has now been incorporated under the BC Societies Act. Our small merry band has carried the struggle well the past year. Our numbers increase and we grow stronger by the day. We ask people across the country to sign onto our petition and help get signatures as well. The November 25 (starts 11:00am) Outside Inside event at the Chinese Cultural Centre to observe a year of struggle will be a membership drive kick-off.

ACCESS Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society continues to support and will move forward the Quan Manifesto,  reducing the $35,000 refund to $20,000 as the government gave to surviving head tax payers and spouses in ex gratia payments. ACCESS will soon be asking the BC Ombudsman to investigate whether the BC government is intransigent and dismissive of requests to be
forthcoming in regards to its unjust enrichment of an estimated $9-million in head taxes received from 1903 to 1923.

Given how far we have come and how hard we are working, we can look forward to raising the incomplete redress in the upcoming federal and provincial election. The struggle still continues.

Take care.    Anon    Sid

PS  Following is an email sent to Minister Oda and Secretary Kenney with Quan Manifesto and the ACCESS position then.

May 8, 2006

Hon. Bev Oda
Minister of Canadian Heritage & Status of Women

Mr. Jason Kenney, MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Dear Minister Oda and Mr. Kenney,

Thank you for your continuing efforts to reach a just and honourable settlement for the Chinese head-tax and exclusion redress. On behalf of ACCESS Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society, I have the pleasure to support the proposal of Charlie Quan Song Now, a 98-year old head-tax payer and inspiring champion for a significant and meaningful redress. You may recall I passed you his handwritten proposal during the morning session of the March 24, 2006 consultation at George Brown House in Toronto.

What I call the Quan Manifesto is a simple, respectful and dignified approach to an appropriate redress. It will cost close to the approximate $425-million of the 1988 Japanese Canadian redress. With a financial cap of $450-million, it is actually less given the inflation factor. The Quan Manifesto assumes all claimant head-tax payer families have legal successors and eligible estates. It assumes all members of the family, the basic unit of Chinese and most civilisations, suffered hardship due to the head-tax and endured the separation of exclusion.

The Quan Manifesto
1) One certificate, one payment.
2) Payment to:
     a) Head-tax payer
     b) Spouse if deceased head-tax payer.
     c) Equally to children or in-laws. If no children
         to in-laws in place of sons or daughters.
     d) $35,000 tax free
      e) Apology to above in order
Charlie Quan Song Now, Foon Chang, Sidney Tan
March 22, 2006  Saltwater City (Vancouver, BC)

In our estimation, there are approximately 4,000 claimant head-tax payer families. The $450-million cap will allow for a $35,000 payment to 12,000 claimant head-tax payer families. In the Japanese Canadian redress, individual payments of $21,000 to claimants were approximately 3.5 times the initial number of claimants. Should the number of claimants be less than 12,000, the remainder would be added to the community fund. If the number of claimants exceeds 12,000, there would be a proportional decrease of the $35,000 payment to include all. Note there is a $30-million cushion as 12,000 times $35,000 is only $420-million.

As added value to the Quan Manifesto, we ask that 82,369 Canadian legal tender $1,000 Gold Mountain dollars, in gold alloy of course, be added to Canada's numismatic history. The initial $1000 payment to each head-tax payer claimant family would be a Gold Mountain dollar. Over $82-million from the $450-million cap would be required but if need be, some claimant head-tax payer families maybe required to accept more than one Gold Mountain dollar. Indeed, these Gold Mountain dollars may even fetch a premium which could be added to the $450-million cap.

The Quan Manifesto simply asks the government to pay back what we believe to be a fair, acceptable and symbolic amount to claimant head-tax families which is significant and meaningful. Clearly head-tax/exclusion money should go to those directly affected. The acknowledgment, commemoration and education community projects should be funded from existing programs within Canadian Heritage and other government departments and not funds directed to redress claimant head-tax families.

You should know Charlie Quan has thought long and hard about his proposal. It has the legitimacy of being made by a head-tax payer.  Note he wants all claimants to be treated equally with his “one certificate, one payment” principle. In doing so, he removes himself from the front of the line to stand with the others to receive what they receive. Mr. Quan asked me to deliver his proposal, after Foon Chang and I signed it, to you for consideration when I told him about my invitation to the March 24 consultation. You now have his handwritten proposal, which may very well turn out to be a historical document.

ACCESS, successor to Vancouver Association of Chinese Canadians (VACC), is a not-for-profit anti-racism, human rights and social justice society as well as a community television corporation. It is an affiliate of the Chinese Canadian National Council and a member of the National Anti-Racism Council of Canada and STATUS Coalition. ACCESS works with other equality seeking organizations to fight racism and discrimination, to advance the rights of citizens and migrants living in Canada and to press the federal government to redress the Chinese head-tax/exclusion.

We are willing to work with you and your government to resolve this injustice. Good faith negotiations within an open and transparent process for resolution will determine the success or failure in reaching a just and honourable settlement. We propose the $450-million financial cap because neither you nor your government has proposed one. We do understand consensus is not everyone in our community will agree with us, but that they may disagree with us but will not block or hinder us.

We would be pleased to receive comments from you regarding our proposal. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours truly,
Sid Chow Tan, President
ACCESS Association of Chinese Canadians
For Equality and Solidarity Society

4040 Inverness Street
Vancouver, BC   V5V 4W5

Cc.: Victor Wong, CCNC
        Karin Lee, BC Coalition
        Harvey Lee, BC Coalition
        George Jung, BC Coalition
        Libby Davies MP, Vancouver East
        David Emerson MP, Vancouver Kingsway
        Ujjal Dosanjh MP, Vancouver South

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