OTTAWA – NDP MPs Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina, Libby Davies (Vancouver East), Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre), Wayne Marston (Hamilton East Stoney Creek) and Bill Siksay (Burnaby Douglas) called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper today, to keep his promise to the Chinese Canadian community.
Early in his mandate, Prime Minister Harper had publicly promised an official apology and redress to the Chinese community for the Head Tax. However, during the Throne Speech and in subsequent comments by both the Prime Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary Jason Kenney, the Conservatives have ignored the issue of redress.
“Chinese head tax payers and their families have been clear about the significance of redress, as well as an apology, to the reconciliation process,” explained Chow. “The wishes and concerns of the thousands of families affected by the racist head tax and exclusion act must be taken seriously,” she added.
In the last session of Parliament, both the Liberal and Conservative parties rejected NDP amendments to proposed legislation that called for an apology and redress for Chinese Head Tax payers and their families. These positions changed during the 2006 federal election.
“We welcomed the news that the Conservatives finally acknowledged the need for a public apology to head tax payers,” said Davies. “The right thing to do now is for the federal government to negotiate a fair compensation package for the discriminatory tax.”
NDP Immigration Critic Bill Siksay and Multiculturalism Critic, Wayne Marston expressed concern about the tension and division this long process has already caused in the Chinese Canadian community and called for a quick and fair resolution. “This is about restoring trust,” added Dewar. “Head tax payers and their families are counting on this government to be a part of that process.”
The Canadian government collected $23 million from Chinese immigrants to Canada between 1885 and 1923. Former NDP MP, Margaret Mitchell, first brought the issue to the House of Commons in 1984. In 2004, Libby Davies tabled a motion asking for an apology and redress for head tax payers, their families and representatives.