TOP STORIES - Edmonton Journal
Friday, June 23, 2006, A3

[Photo] - Dorothy Tai  
Caption: Dorothy Tai holds her father George Mun Yee's head-tax certificate in Edmonton on Thursday while watching the government's apology on TV.
Photograph by: John Lucas, The Journal

Descendants should get payments too, local group says

Keith Gerein, The Edmonton Journal;
with files from CanWest News Service

Published: Friday, June 23, 2006

EDMONTON - Dan Park grew up without his father because of a punitive "head tax" imposed on Chinese people who immigrated to Canada.

Park's father paid the $500 fee when he moved here in 1919, then spent years toiling at odd jobs in his new country to pay back friends and relatives who loaned him the money.

With little income left over, he couldn't send much to his young, poverty-stricken family in China. The effect was tragic, as Park watched his sister die from malnutrition and general poor health. His mother soon followed.

Due to a 1923 Canadian policy that banned further Chinese immigration, Park wasn't allowed to join his father in Canada until 1950.

Now 70, Park was among a dozen local Chinese-Canadians who gathered Thursday in a Chinatown community centre to watch on TV as Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the head tax and announced compensation payments for its victims.

As the politicians stood and cheered the announcement in the House of Commons, the Edmonton group sat in silence. They were disappointed that the government will provide payments only to those who paid the tax and their spouses, but not to descendants.

Park said his story shows it wasn't just those who paid the tax who suffered. Children were victims, too, and deserve equal compensation, he said.

"What the prime minister did was a step in the right direction, but it doesn't go far enough," he said. "Although the (immigrants) agreed to pay the tax, you can't say it was a fair deal. How come the government did not ask immigrants from other parts of the world to pay the same thing? It was discrimination."

Grant Toy also spent much of his life without a father due to the head tax and the immigration ban.

"I didn't see him until was 14. It was very devastating for me to grow up without a father," he said. "The compensation should be for everyone. We've already been punished once, we don't want to be punished a second time."

Lorna Yee, 82, watched Harper's speech from her wheelchair. Unlike the others who attended on Thursday, she can expect money from the government because her late husband George paid the head tax when he came to Canada in 1923.

Yee's son John said his mother has no idea what she will do with the money. The payment, he said, is far less important than getting the issue out in the open.

"This (apology) brings us a little closure," he said. "My sister and I didn't know anything about the head tax growing up, and I'm not sure my mother did either. My father never talked about it. This was a part of history that nobody wanted brought up."

Kenda Gee, the head of the Edmonton Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act Redress Committee, said his group may try to further push the federal government to extend compensation to descendants of those who paid the tax.

"The federal government still hasn't got it right," Gee said. "They are essentially redressing 20 surviving tax payers and maybe 200 spouses. That leaves almost 4,000 families who were directly affected as victims but won't be acknowledged by today's settlement."


© The Edmonton Journal 2006


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