Presentation to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Conference
"United Nations and Human Rights"
Halifax, Saturday, Dec. 9, 1995

by William Ging Wee Dere (Montreal)

page 3

III. The Campaign for Redress

In 1984, an elderly Chinese gentleman read the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He thought to himself that since Canada has entered a new era of human rights, then it was time for the government to redress the human rights violations of the past. He approached his MP, Margaret Mitchell [sic] at the time, who in turn contacted the Chinese Canadian National Council. The CCNC began a national campaign for redress in 1984 by registering over 4000 Head Tax payers, spouses and descendants.

Over the past decade, there were many promises made and broken by the politicians. Former Prime Minster Brian Mulroney promised a resolution of the issue during the 1988 election campaign. The Liberals, while in opposition promised full support for redress.

While the government delayed, many of our elderly Head Tax payers passed away. The gentleman who started the campaign in Vancouver passed away about 5 years ago. Over half of the [first] 2000 head tax payers who registered with the CCNC in 1984 have passed away. With each passing day, we are losing more and more of our early pioneers. The government by delaying any resolution hopes that the issue will die away with the passing of the last Head Tax payer.

But the children and grandchildren of the Head Tax payers will not forget.

IV. Update ‑ Refusal of Canadian Government to acknowledge past wrongs, and the Submission to the United Nations

When the present government came to power last year, we had great hope that a resolution could be negotiated. We modified our demands to take into account the financial difficulties of the government. We held numerous meetings with the Secretary of State for Multi‑culturalism, Sheila Finestone. That is why we were shocked when Mrs. Finestone, without any prior warning announced that the government will not redress the Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act. The only reason she gave is that the past is the past and we cannot do anything about it.

The refusal of the government to redress the Head Tax and Exclusion Act was brought into context a few months later when the Paul Martin budget announced a new Head Tax of $975 on all new immigrants. If we had won our redress, it would have been impossible for the government to attack new immigrants with another Head Tax.

After a decade, the government refused to apologize, refused to compensate and refused to acknowledge any wrong doings. The government by refusing redress has in essence refuse to recognize our history in Canada, since 62 years of our history was determined by these two laws.

When I told the news to one elderly Head Tax payer, he shook his head slowly and said, "Let history be the judge."

Since the CCNC has faced a dead end in trying to obtain a made in Canada resolution to the issue, we had no choice but to take it to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. On March 21, 1995, the International Day Against Racism, the CCNC presented its submission to High Commissioner Jose Ayala Lasso.

V. The violations of the UN Human Rights Charter

The CCNC submits that Canada, as a member of the United Nations and a signatory to the following instruments, was and continues to be, in violation of the provisions of international covenants (extensive list of provisions omitted from this edited transcript).

The CCNC submits that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, through its appropriate body, bring this matter before the Government of Canada and in why Canada has not adequately and appropriately met its international human rights obligations to the Chinese Head Tax payers and their families.

The CCNC is still calling on the Canadian Government to enter into good faith negotiations to resolve this long‑standing grievance.


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