to original source: Japanese American Citizens
League - San Francisco
MAINTAINS NO REPARATIONS STANCE
FOR CHINESE CANADIANS
But UN Report Recommends It Pay Reparations
Since 1929-National Publication of the Japanese American
Monterey Park, CA - For William Dere, justice comes in a shade
In 1909, Dere's grandfather arrived in Canada only to hand over $500 to
the government for simply being Chinese. Now, a special United Nations
rapporteur is urging the Canadian government to pay back the money owed
to Dere and thousands of other Chinese immigrants and their families who
were forced to pay the so-called Chinese head tax.
Doudou Diene, the UN special rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination,
xenophobia and related intolerance, recently spent 10 days in Canada and
submitted a UN draft report recommending Canada consider paying reparations
for the head tax once levied against Chinese immigrants. The government's
response to the UN recommendations was the same as it has been for the
last ten years: No.
"The government accepted the recommendations. We're coming up with an
action plan against racism that works with the recommendations," said
Minister of Multiculturalism Jean Augustine to the Pacific Citizen. "In
terms of the section dealing with the redress, I can only repeat that
Canada decided to put closure to the issue and that being no financial
compensation for historical acts."
This recent response has re-ignited the long-standing battle between members
of the Chinese Canadian community affected by the taxes and the Canadian
government, which took the position against reparations in 1994.
"Jean Augustine's parrot of the 'official government' policy is completely
unacceptable," said Kenda Gee, chair of the Edmonton Head Tax and Exclusion
Act Redress Committee (HTEA). "The remarks … merely underline the ignorance
or willful blindness of this issue that is prevalent among our Ottawa
bureaucrats and officials."
But even within the Chinese Canadian community there is disagreement on
I've been in Canada for 54 years now. With the issue of head tax, I wonder
why they treat human beings like commodities," said Monty Jang, chairman
of the Chinese Cultural Center of Greater Vancouver. "If the policy of
the head tax was set up and the Chinese immigrants were fully aware of
the details before they applied and were willing to pay, then there's
nothing to complain about."
But for Dere, who calls Montreal his home, and Chinese Canadians affected
like him, there is much to protest when there's still an uneasy feeling
about being at home after all these years.
"True integration and true recognition of belonging is the redressing
of past wrongs. I will not feel accepted 100 percent until the history
is recognized," he said.
Finding Deep Racial Problems
Diene chose to visit and report on Canada this year because of "the country's
interesting policies and programs to promote multiculturalism."
Canada was, in fact, the first country to introduce a multiculturalism
act to promote, protect and recognize cultural and racial diversity. But
after spending days meeting with members of the government and the community,
Diene noticed a number of disparities.
He heard personal narratives of racial profiling by the Canadian police,
seen countless tears shed by Canada's Aboriginal people and learned of
African Canadians ousted from their homes then known as Africville in
1970, another incident for which Diene suggests reparations should be
Despite Canada's strong legal record in combating racial discrimination,
the government has failed to adapt to changing interethnic relations and
to provide adequate resources to human rights organizations, said Diene.
"The pictures that the government is giving of racial harmony is different
from the community's," he said. "They (the community) have expressed experiences
In fact, in a recent ethnic diversity survey it was revealed that 49 percent
of Canadians have experienced racism.
"We know we have some work to do," acknowledged Augustine.
$500 Per Head
From 1885 to 1923, the Canadian government charged Chinese immigrants
$50 to $500 to enter the country. According to the UN report, the accumulated
profit is estimated to be $23 million Canadian dollars.
In 1988, the government signed the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement
which provided reparations and an apology for the wrongful internment
policies during World War II. The bill also created the Canadian Race
Relations Foundation (CRRF) with the one-time endowment of 24 million
to monitor and service the country's racial climate.
In 1994, the Canadian government shut the door on financial payouts.
However, National President of the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC)
says that reparations are needed in order to send a clear message that
racism will not be tolerated, especially after last year's SARS epidemic
brought out some of the same racist sentiment that existed during the
time of the head tax.
"An apology without some sort of monetary commitment is hollow," said
For now, Augustine is standing with the 1994 resolution and favoring a
more "forward-looking" agenda, but said that perhaps as the government
takes more time to review the report, they may reverse the decision.
"My mere recommendation to Canada is to recognize the reality of racism,"
said Diene. "The very basic principle of law says that any wrongdoing
must be corrected. Once Canada does this assessment, they will realize
that a very terrible wrong has been done."