Descendants suffered too, Halifax woman says
Local group will lobby for payments to first-generation Chinese Canadians
Halifax Chronicle Herald
By PAUL EVEREST
Many members of Nova Scotias Chinese community are not happy in the aftermath of Prime Minister Stephen Harpers apology for the head tax imposed on Chinese people who immigrated to Canada between 1885 and 1923.
Mr. Harper apologized Thursday in the House of Commons for the tax, which in some cases cost immigrants up to $500, and the subsequent Chinese Immigration Act. He also said the federal government would give financial compensation to those who paid the tax and their widows.
“He also has a moral responsibility to help first-generation descendants,” said May Lui, chairwoman for the Halifax Chinese Redress Committee.
“How can you not say that these people are affected?”
She estimates that in Nova Scotia, there are 20 to 30 children of people who paid the tax. There are no surviving head-tax payers in the province and fewer than 20 in Canada, she said.
Ms. Lui said she would like compensation to be set up for the descendants because the tax directly affected them. She suggests the government pay $10,000 for each head-tax certificate a family has, with the money to be divided among the children. For example, if both parents paid the tax, their surviving children would split $20,000.
Ms. Lui is also upset that Nova Scotia was not represented at the apology ceremony in Ottawa. She said the local committee selected Margaret and Stanley Hum of Dartmouth to attend because both of their fathers had paid the tax. But Canadian Heritage in Ottawa, the government body organizing the ceremony, did not invite them, she said.
“Im really disappointed for them,” she said. “This is a big day for any family who suffered from the Chinese head tax and exclusion act.
“Didnt they have room for two persons to represent this province?”
Because of the Chinese Immigration Act, Ms. Hum did not see her father until she moved to Canada at age 22 in 1961.
She said Canadian Heritage told her that Thursdays ceremony was only for those who paid the head tax and their widows. A train, dubbed the Redress Express, brought survivors and widows from Vancouver to Ottawa.
Ms. Hum understood why an invitation was not extended to her and her husband, but she still thinks the government should give more than an apology to the families who were separated by the tax.
“Wed like to have compensation, too,” she said. “We suffered as children.”
The next step, Ms. Lui said, is for the committee to seek support from other Chinese communities and organizations across Canada to press for compensation for first-generation descendants. She plans to write to Mr. Harper immediately.
“The injustice is still there,” she said.