The Militant (logo) 
    Vol. 70/No. 26           July 17, 2006 
‘Canada Day Is Humiliation Day’
say Chinese-Canadian
protesters and supporters
Militant/Steve Penner

VANCOUVER, British Columbia—The BC Coalition of Head Tax Payers, Spouses, and Descendants organized a march of more than 200 in Chinatown here July 1—Canada Day—demanding the federal government pay compensation to all the families of those who paid the head tax (see photo). Similar marches took place in Calgary, Edmonton, and Montreal.

Ottawa imposed the racist head tax on all Chinese immigrants between 1885 and 1923.

On June 23, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the tax but refused to give more than “symbolic payments” of $20,000 to the 35 surviving head tax payers and 360 surviving widows.

The head tax was initially set at $50 for each family member. The government then increased it to $100 per head and in 1903 to $500. At that time the amount was equivalent to two years’ wages. Many were forced to leave family members behind, hoping to raise the money in the future.

On July 1, 1923, the federal government replaced the head tax with the Chinese Exclusion Act, which effectively banned all Chinese immigration until it was repealed in 1947.

Chinese-Canadians have fought for more than 20 years for an official apology and the repayment of the $23 million (the equivalent of $1.2 billion today) to all those who paid the head tax, their spouses, or surviving family members.

Sid Chan, one of the organizers of the march here, said the token payment was a “slap in the face to the people who have passed away” over the years while the government turned a deaf ear to their demands. Harvey Lee, a spokesman for the BC Coalition, said many Chinese-Canadian families “lived in poverty for years,” while paying off crushing debts to meet the head tax requirement.

Marchers carried signs demanding “Justice in Our Time,” and proclaiming “It’s Still Humiliation Day.” Until the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed, Chinese-Canadians called Canada Day “Humiliation Day.” Protesters also carried a banner proclaiming, “No one is illegal,” one of the slogans of marchers for immigrant rights in the United States.


Related articles:
Protesters in Boston area condemn cop attack on youth of Asian descent
How Chinese, Japanese immigrants resisted discrimination in U.S.
Mayor in Pennsylvania city promotes anti-immigrant measures  
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