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Chinese-Canadians Win Reparations for Past Racism

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    Surviving Chinese immigrants to receive compensation PM offers full apology for head tax Ian Mulgrew The Vancouver Sun Friday, June 23, 2006
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2006
      Surviving Chinese immigrants to receive compensation

      PM offers 'full apology' for head tax
      Ian Mulgrew
      The Vancouver Sun
      Friday, June 23, 2006

      Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized unreservedly yesterday for
      the country's treatment of Chinese immigrants and offered them a
      redress package that included millions for anti-racism education.

      In a short, but emotional, speech in the House of Commons, in which he
      moved between English, French and Chinese, Mr. Harper told Parliament
      the government acted shamefully in imposing a head tax on immigrants
      and then banning the Chinese from coming to the country, separating
      many families for decades.

      "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," he said.

      It is estimated 82,000 Chinese paid the fee, first set at $50 when it
      was imposed in 1885 and rose to $500, about two years' wages at the time.

      It was imposed on no other ethnic group and Newfoundland maintained
      the head tax until 1949 when it joined Canada. All MPs gave Harper a
      standing ovation and many of the hundreds watching in the public
      galleries also stood and applauded the statement of atonement.

      Aside from the formal written apology, the government said the 20 or
      so Chinese-Canadians who paid the tax or their surviving spouses will
      get a symbolic $20,000 ex gratia payment.

      It will also establish two funds worth $34 million for community
      projects and education programs that acknowledge the impact of past
      discriminatory policies on minority communities, especially during wars.

      "We have the collective responsibility to build a country based firmly
      on the notion of equality of opportunity, regardless of one's race or
      ethnic origin," Mr. Harper said.

      The specifics of the two initiatives -- one a $24-million community
      historical recognition program linked to wartime measures and
      immigration restrictions and the other a $10-million national version
      to fund federal projects -- will be announced in the fall.

      "My department will work hard in the coming months and years to
      strengthen the sense of inclusion of Chinese-Canadians and, indeed,
      all communities in Canada," said federal Heritage Minister Bev Oda.

      "I will never forget the stories told by survivors, their children and

      But while those who paid the tax, their spouses and their descendants,
      celebrated the apology, for some it is not enough.

      "The fight for redress for the first generation who lost their parents
      and who suffered from these racist policies begins tomorrow," said
      Joseph Wong, founding president of the Chinese-Canadian National
      Council, one of the groups behind the 24-year struggle for redress.

      Hundreds travelled from across the country to attend the Ottawa
      ceremony , while others gathered at simultaneous events in Vancouver
      and Toronto.



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