Today, June 22 is is the one year anniversary of the Chinese Head Tax Parliamentary Apology
It's been 60 long years since Canadians born of Chinese ancestry were given full franchise voting privileges in the country they were born in. Prior to that they were called “resident aliens.” It took their willingness to fight for their country during WW2 and to continue campaigning to recall the “Chinese Exclusion Act” which had followed the Chinese Head Tax. And still they campaigned for an apology.
My grand-Uncle Daniel Lee would send a letter to Ottawa each year asking Parliament for a simple no-cost apology. Finally, the veterans who saw their numbers dwindling each year settled for “an acknowledgement” and no financial settlement. This was met by a rising grass roots opposition led partially by the Chinese Canadian National Council, who maintained their call for equal and fair redress, similar to the settlement that New Zealand had made. The United Nations even said that Canada should make fair and equal settlement. The Canadian courts said it was a political matter and should be dealt with in Parliament, not forced by the courts. And still the Government would not apologize. Until last year.
While many Canadians, and Chinese-Canadians continue to remain on opposite sides of the continued redress issue, I think that many people agree that the apology and ex-gratia payments has helped Canada move forward in its development as a fair and inclusive country. Over 220 head tax payers and souses have recieved ex-gratia payments of $20,000. The price of $500 head tax from to 1903 to 1923, after initially starting at $50 in 1895, could buy one or two small houses back then, and families spent years paying off their debts. No other ethnic group was charged an immigration head tax, then completely banned from coming to Canada. The exclusion from 1923 to 1947 caused separation to families, which also did not happen in any other immigrating ethnic group.
But 220 payments represent less than 0.05% of the total 3000 head tax certificates paid for. While some spouses such as Mrs. Der died waiting for her payment after being promised personally by Prime Minister Harper and Secretary of State for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney, there were thousands of head tax payers and spouses who had already died, leaving their sons and daughters to carry on the fight for the redress of a racist and unjust tax.
The government says they will not issue a cheque to any family, where the head tax payer or spouse died before February 2006, when the Conservatives came to power. This is wrong. Each head tax certificate should be treated equally and fairly. One certificate – one payment.
The following press release is from the Chinese Canadian National Council's national office in Toronto.
As far as I know, Vancouver redress campaigners have not organized any activities to mark the one-year head tax apology, except for a March on July 1st, because the BC Coalition of Head Tax Families does not believe the redress process is finished… yet.
June 22, 2007
Chinese Canadians Mark One-Year Anniversary of Chinese Head Tax Parliamentary Apology
220 Redress Payments Issued In One Year
TORONTO – The Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) and the Ontario Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Families (Ontario Coalition) today mark the one-year anniversary of the Chinese Head Tax Parliamentary Apology. On June 22, 2006, more than 200 Chinese Canadian seniors and their families were present to witness Prime Minister Stephen Harper deliver the Parliamentary Apology in the House of Commons. The other three Party leaders: Hon. Bill Graham, Mr. Gilles Duceppe and Hon. Jack Layton also made statements. The federal Government also announced direct redress of $20,000 to living head tax payers or surviving spouses one year ago today. “We want to recognize the achievements over the past year: already 42 head tax payers and 178 spouses have received their redress payments (see report below),” Colleen Hua, CCNC National President said today. “But, at the same time, we continue to seek a just and honourable resolution that includes the 3000 head tax families where both the head tax payer and spouse have passed away – they were excluded in last year’s announcement.”
“These families were also directly affected by the Chinese Head Tax, Newfoundland Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act.”
Today, Chinese Canadian seniors and their families gather to mark the one-year anniversary of the Parliamentary Apology. There is a reception at Queen’s Park hosted by Hon. Mike Colle, Ontario Minister for Citizenship and Immigration, and then a community forum at 5:00pm and dinner at 7:00pm at the Bright Pearl Restaurant.
June 22 event #1: Ontario Legislature Reception at Queen’s Park, Room 247 at 1:30 pm (Today)
June 22 event #2: CCNC/Ontario Coalition Head Tax Redress Day Events at the Bright Pearl Restaurant in Toronto, 5pm Forum, 7pm Dinner (Today)
Other community events include the Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Monument of the Chinese Railroad Workers in Canada, West of Roger’s Centre (Skydome) on July 1st at 10:30am organized by the
Foundation to Commemorate the Chinese Railway Workers in Canada .
The Chinese Exclusion Act (1923 – 1947) replaced the Chinese Head Tax (1885 – 1923) and prohibited Chinese immigration for more than a generation, separating families and stunting the development of the community. Only a handful of Chinese were allowed to enter Canada during this period which included the Great Depression and Second World War. The sons and daughters of the head tax payers were also directly affected by this legislation and experienced poverty, racism, family separation and lost educational opportunity first hand. Their families also paid the head tax and the Canadian Government should offer a meaningful apology in the form of direct redress to all head tax families.
CCNC continues to work with other redress groups including the Ontario Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Families, Head Tax Families Society of Canada (formerly the B.C. Coalition of Head Tax Payers, Spouses and Descendants), Newfoundland and Labrador Head Tax Redress Committee, and Montreal Head Tax Redress Committee in the campaign to fully redress the Chinese Head Tax, Newfoundland Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act.
For media interviews, please contact:
Victor Wong (CCNC) at (416) 977-9871 or (647) 285-2262