Head tax news: “Ottawa drops “no apology, no compensation” hard line”

Ottawa drops "no apology, no compensation" hard line

Here's some news about the Conservative Government's approach to redress.
This sounds exactly what the United Nations asked Canada to do a few
years ago, when they addressed Canada's refusal to apologize and provide
fair redress to the Chinese head tax issue, especially following
New Zealand's redress.


By Jack Aubry, (From Google Alert)
Vancouver Sun, Sunday, June 03, 2007
OTTAWA - The Harper government has quietly dropped the previous
Liberal regime's "no apology, no compensation" hard-line in
negotiations with ethnic groups seeking redress for past wrongs
despite warnings that it would open the door to a possible flurry of
claims.

In government documents obtained by CanWest News Service through the
Access to Information Act, the federal government was recently advised
that the new approach "may advance calls for apologies/redress" and
that there was the "potential for other presently unknown communities
to seek recognition."

The briefing notes state that there were already three agreements in
principle with representatives of the Chinese-Canadian,
Ukrainian-Canadian and Italian-Canadian communities under the
now-defunct Liberal program.

"A number of other communities are known to have been impacted by
wartime measures and/or immigration restrictions including:
Austro-Hungarians, Bulgarians, Croatians, Doukhobors, Germans,
Hutterites, Indo-Canadians, Jews, Mennonites, Turks, etc..." says the
briefing under the heading Other Impacted Communities.

In an interview with CanWest News Service, Jason Kenney, secretary of
state for multicultural and Canadian identity, said the terms and
conditions of the Community Historical Recognition Program (CHRP) are
still being finalized and will be made public "fairly soon" once the
details are worked out completely.

He acknowledged that the "no apology, no compensation" policy of the
previous government has been dropped by the Harper government as it
picks up where former prime minister Brian Mulroney left off in 1988
with the Japanese-Canadian redress case that involved a full apology
and a $422-million compensation package.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized about a year ago to Chinese
Canadians for the country's racist immigration policies of the past,
including the head tax once charged by the federal government to newly
arriving immigrants from China. Survivors or their surviving conjugal
partners have been offered each $20,000 "symbolic payments."

The documents indicate that of the 43 applicants received since by the
federal government, 36 "head-tax" survivors have been paid.
The payments come out of the Harper government's $24-million CHRP,
which drops the Martin government's "no apology, no compensation"
policy that was part of its "never implemented" Acknowledgment,
Commemoration and Education (ACE) program.

Under the Conservative government, talks are progressing towards
redress announcements with Italian-Canadians for the internment of
about 700 men during the Second World War and Ukrainian-Canadians for
government actions during the First World War, when about 5,000 were
interned while land and other assets were expropriated.

As well, consultations and a report by Conservative MP Jim Abbott, who
is parliamentary secretary to Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda, have
been completed for the government on the Komagata Maru ship incident
in 1914 which saw 376 Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus forced back to sea by
a Canadian warship at Vancouver harbour.

The Indo-Canadian community has long advocated for a formal apology
and commemoration of what happened to the passengers aboard the ship.
However, Abbott reportedly advised the government "there was no
consensus or agreement" on the issue of a formal public apology.
While some of its critics have called it electioneering, the
Conservatives have taken many steps over their past 18 months in power
to strengthen ties with Canada's ethno-cultural communities.
Harper has publicly recognized the Armenian genocide, launched an
inquiry into the Air India tragedy, reduced the immigrant landing fee,
and oversaw the transportation of Lebanese-Canadians back to Canada.
This included the prime minister using his airplane to safely bring
back a plane load of those escaping the region.

The documents say the Conservatives have also created a new four-year
$10-million National Historical Recognition Program to "provide a
federal government narrative that presents an objective point of view
on the history linked to wartime measures and/or immigration
restrictions."

It will include the creation of educational material, including
"Historica Minutes" ads on past wrongs, an interactive website as well
as commemoration and exhibits informing the public about the
injustices.

Kenney said major features of the Chinese-Canadian redress settlement
were the apology issued by Harper and the $20,000 symbolic payments.
"In a legal sense, we wouldn't call it compensation but in a symbolic
sense it is a form of tangible (financial) redress," said Kenney.
"But at the end of the day, this is symbolic because you can't go back
in time and take away people's pain and suffering. All you can do as a
government is demonstrate through meaningful symbolic actions serious
regret for what happened in the past."

He added that Canadians should not be made to feel "culpable" for
"occasional racist policies" committed by their ancestors and which
the country's modern democratic system would no longer tolerate.
"I shouldn't be made to feel culpable for what my great-grandparents
may have thought, say about Asian immigration. But the Canadian state
has a responsibility to face up to those moments in our history when
we allowed unjust policies to focus on particular ethnic communities,"
said Kenney.

Kenney said the previous government's policy of refusing to apologize
or compensate was holding up redress negotiations. He said one of the
effects of the slow talks under the Liberals was the gradual dying off
of survivors.

"That was exactly our sense of urgency when it came to the
Chinese-Canadian redress package. There were very few, only a few
dozen actual taxpayers left. If you are going to do redress, it has to
actually be experienced by the victims of previous injustices," Kenney
said.

(c) CanWest News Service 2007

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