The oldest surviving head tax payer received his ex-gratia payment on Saturday March 10th. Ralph
Lung Kee Lee is 107 years old. Amazing that he was able to live
this long despite the hardships faced by Chinese pioneers in Canada, as
well as the systemic racism which included denial of citizenship,
naturalization and voting rights.
Victor Wong, executive director of the Chinese Canadian National
Council gives an account of the event attended by CCNC president
Colleen Hua. The event was covered by Citynews in Toronto.
It was an emotional moment for all of
us who were present at the cheque presentation
yesterday for Ralph Lung Kee Lee. Those of you who
went to Ottawa
on June 22, 2006 will remember Mr. Lee wheeling around Parliament and at our
banquet that evening. He was one of 6 HT payers to receive an apology personally
from PM Stephen Harper that day. Mr. Lee turned 107 yesterday and he is one of
the oldest HT payers, if not the oldest surviving HT payer. And there he was surrounded by a huge
extended family. MP Colin Carrie presented the cheque
(and received the 30-second lobby on inclusive redress from each of us).
Colleen, George and Doug spoke. Landy, Mr. Lee’s granddaughter, was the MC. We
had a huge feast c/o Bright Pearl and the story was covered by City TV and
various local and Chinese papers.
There’s another cheque presentation tomorrow in
Calgary …good luck to
Teresa and crew. There is an event on the book about the Three Chinese
Cuban-Generals in Vancouver today and tomorrow,
and in Montreal on March 17th and
Toronto on March
25th where we will be talking about HT redress (check below for more
Oldest Surviving Chinese Head Tax Subject Gets Compensation
Saturday March 10, 2007
Saturday was Ralph Lee's 107th birthday, but for the Canadian, who just
happens to also be the oldest surviving subject of Canada 's infamous
Chinese head tax, it was also the day he finally got the compensation
and apology he'd waited so many years for.
“Apart from the fact that I'm happy that grandpa's alive to receive the
apology, it's a mixture of emotions,” said grand-daughter Landy
Fron 1885 to 1923 Chinese immigrants in Canada were charged a head tax.
Lee himself paid $500, which at the time was two years pay for the
“When he came over here he worked pretty hard to make a living,” said daughter Faye Lee.
“He was only 12 years old and he had to work in a restaurant and wash dishes while going to school at the same time.”
Lee was one of many in attendance last June in Ottawa when the Canadian
government announced both the compensation and released an apology for
the tax and the ensuing 24-year ban on Chinese immigration.
“On behalf of the people and government of Canada we offer a full
apology to Chinese Canadians for the head tax and express our deepest
sorrow for the subsequent exclusion of Chinese immigrants,” Prime
Minister Stephen Harper said that day.
That apology came with a $20,000 settlement offered to surviving head
tax subjects or their spouses, though for some of their descendents
that's nowhere near enough.
“It's a wonderful thing that there was an apology, and that redress has
been given to surviving head tax payers and spouses, but this really
only represents 0.6 per cent of the people who really suffered,” said
attendee Colleen Hua.
Currently only about 500 Chinese Canadians are eligible for the
compensation. If the offer were extended to the families of those who
paid the head tax – 3,000 people would be eligible.
The Chinese Head Tax