Re: Head tax redress consultation in Montreal

So I went to the Montreal consultation for the head tax issue this afternoon, at the new Chinese community centre in Chinatown. The room was packed with victims of the Head Tax and Exclusion Act. The head tax was a tax imposed on every immigrant of Chinese origin starting in 1885, and until 1947. In the meanwhile, the Chinese Immigration Act was adopted by the House of Commons in 1923 to limit Chinese immigration to 50 per year (link). I've never heard of the head tax or exclusion act until the last federal election campaign, nor did my direct family on both sides been affected by it.

The consultation was hosted by Heritage Canada, and the minister herself, The Honourable Bev Oda was present. It was said that the venue held about 300 people, most of whom were elderly citizens of Chinese origin, and at most 20 people of my age or younger.

I sat on the front row of the lateral section at the far end of the room. Ms May Chiu, who seems to be a well-known figure of the Montreal Chinese community (and who I heard of from the controversy she sparked during the election), directed two other important-looking people to the free seats right next to me. She went back to her things, carrying the little girl she had the week preceding the January election, while helping some of the older participants. She eventually made an appearance to the mic, sounding as a more timid person than I would've expected, and showing her colors immediately, reminding the audience that she ran with the BQ against Paul Martin and would run in one of the two Montreal's ridings with the largest Chinese population (or proportion?) and which, according to her, had the most chance to change hands in an upcoming election (I think the two ridings with the largest Chinese pop would be St-Laurent--Cartierville, solid Liberal, and Brossard--La Prairie, already BQ - so I'm not sure what she meant).

Going back to the two mystery persons sitting next to me, the 30-something Asian guy who seemed like the aide to the somewhat loud (because of the high volume of his translation device, perhaps - making one obnoxious remarks about the participants' supposed political affiliation, and then saying the word "Vancouver" out loud) French Canadian man, stroke up conversation with me. It eventually turned out that he was that Conservative candidate of Tibetan origin running in the Brossard riding (, and he determined that I might know Chanimal aka Jonathan Chan, with whom he was trying to form a Quebec Asians for Convervatives association (I always thought Chanimal was being only semi-serious when he went around saying that he found the Cons appealing - I voted for the PC when Joe Clark was the leader, b/c he's such a likable leader and the appeal of the Red Toryness).

And the French Canadian man turned out to be the actual BQ MP for Brossard, when he made an appearance to say that his party would support the redress, etc (at that time, I spaced out, so again, am not quite the quotable source). And why wouldn't the BQ support the redress if they are not bound to balance the budget... (Olivia Chow, who else, reiterated her party's support at the Toronto meeting)

(At this point, I don't think that the moral motivation for the redress is at stake, but much more the precedent it would create, and other financial responsabilities it would entail.)

Relatives of victims came one by one to the mic, and some who were not also came up (and many of the younger people in the audience having their say). I remember one young woman of mixed heritage who directed and wrote a film where she interviews victims across Canada, called In The Shadow of Gold Mountain. I remember the last participant, who said that beyond the money and apology, there needs to be rememberance and education.

The minister came back on remarks made by a male participant of my age who talked about being called an "immigrant" at a restaurant the night before (taking it as a racist insult), saying that racism wasn't the concern of only the Chinese-Canadian community or the Japanese-Canadian community (hers), but of all Canadians, blabla. And then I remembered the stuff I was reading in the editorial pages of the SCMP in HK, about the lack of representation of non-ethnic Chinese in public institutions, and basically how racism is perceived differently when the tables are turned...


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This page contains a single entry by Cedric published on April 30, 2006 12:30 AM.

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