Apology, but no compensation, for Chinese-Canadians

Vancouver, BC, Canada / News Talk 980 CKNW | Vancouver's News. Vancouver's Talk

The provincial government has approved an historic motion to apologize for more than 100 racist laws that targeted Chinese-Canadians.

Premier Christy Clark says the apology for racist laws ranging from a ban on voting by Chinese-Canadians until 1947 to the high death toll of Chinese workers is long overdue.

She says, “It’s not about politics…it’s about doing the right thing.”

NDP Leader John Horgan says, “Denying your ability to vote, taking away your property, denigrating the work that you do, putting you at risk every day and then denying your right to citizenship.”

And MLA Jenny Kwan says governments of the day enthusiastically passed racist laws.

She says, “It is tragic that governments of the day tapped into racist sentiments, and even campaigned on them.”

Today’s apology does not include compensation for the Chinese head tax.

Photo Courtesy Royal BC Museum


    • William asked:

      Was I aware that a Japanese sub was shelling a lighthouse on Vancouver Island in 1943? I think I learned about that when I became a late teenager-long after the war ended.

      My suggestion is to take such grievances, including Japan’s wartime atrocities to the Foreign Affairs Department, the UN, etc. not compare an intra-country issue with matters covered by international law-not use such to justify racism and argue against apologies.

      Despite military and RCMP assurance that Canadian Japanese were not a security threat, they were forcibly removed from the BC coast in 1942-before the shelling occurred. So the eye for an eye argument is moot. Besides how could 21,000 men, women and children consitute a threat?

      If there was so much fear amongst the white British Columbians, perhaps they should have been removed from coastal BC and out of harm’s way-instead-not the Japanese!

      Implicit in Premier Clark’s condemnation of past discriminatory racists laws was the notion that these laws only applied to the Chinese. Those discriminatory racists laws applied to orientals-which includes Japanese. Unfortunately, her omission was a lost opportunity lost to inform and educate British Columbians who are unaware of our racist past.

      In this sense, the Canadian Japanese, not only were subjected to the same discriminatory laws, but got caught up in an war which provided a further excuse to ethnic – cleanse BC of an undesirable race-sans the ovens.

      Note there was no mass round up of Germans and Italians, including internment and loss of property and livelihood for obvious reasons (they look alike).

      By the way, as a 11 year old, I toiled from dawn to dusk harvesting Manitoba sugar beets in the same field as German POWs who only worked from 8:00 to 4:00. The Geneva Convention did not apply to my father or me because we did not shoot at or kill Canadian soldiers. Shortly after the war, the German POWs were sent home and released but Japanese were not freed from internment and allowed to return to BC until 1949-4 years after the war ended! And, the right to vote in BC was not extended to Japanese until 1949-2 years after the Chinese were granted the franchise.

      I’ve moved on a long time ago but am always most willing to provide a personal perpective to support the notion that an apology is the right thing to do, It is our history.

  1. Premier Clark did not get her facts correct as usual. Chinese were not the only ones who worked and died on the railway.

    It was very interesting that Premier Clark could not ensure that she was present when the legislature issued an apology to the Japanese Canadian community on May 7 2012.

    • Seriously? I don’t get why you pick this one bit out of context (it wasn’t said that the Chinese were the ONLY ones that suffered loss), but you should know this arguably unnecessary apology was written and supported by ALL parties – not just Christy Clark.

    • David: You haven’t been paying attention or weren’t even around. You may want to research your premises upon which you draw your conclusions..

      Fact: Japan issued apologies for its atrocities commited on Canadian POWs. Also, it issued an apology in respect to the Bataan Death march. Canada deserved to receive an apology-which it did-for Japan’s inhumane treatment of Canadians taken prisoners at Hong Kong.

      This morining’s apology follows on the heels of a British Columbia apology issued in 2012 to the Japanese-Canadian community for the province’s role in the unjust internment of Canadian Japanese (landed immigrants, Canadians by naturalization and Canadians by birth) during and after ww2.

      While there may no longer be survivors still alive who were subjected to the discriminatory head tax, there certainly are many survivors of the ww2 internment still alive to this day.

      Why are apologies appropriate even though many decades have passed? Because it is the right thing to do. Let’s not confuse racism in Canada with what happened between enemy countries during war. Japanese in Canada had nothing to do with what Japan did during ww2. German Canadians and Italian Canadians were not forcibly removed from their homes during ww2, because they all looked alike.

      And today, we tolerate mass protests in our cities by immigrants who are unable to leave their political struggles at home. Thankfully, the Japanese in Canada have fully assimmilated and prefer to deal with our domestic issues.

      But it is unfathomable that a seven year old Canadaian-born child should be held responsible for Japan’s atrocities-who had nothing to do with that. I would encourage anyone who has a grievance with Japan’s ww2 conduct to direct those concerns to our foreign Affairs Department and onto Japan itself.

      The “eye for an eye” mentality in respect of the ww2 internment of Japanese Canadioans vis-a-vis Japan’s ww2 conduct reinforces why I have never visited Pearl Harbor-because they will all think I did it.

      My apologies for the cut and paste submission.

      • Insight: You – blamed for Pearl Harbour? From your comments, you seem to be a lot younger than that. No need to worry; the Fundamentalist Muslims have already blamed that on the Jews.
        As a cynical skeptic, or vice versa. since when have governments really been worried about the right thing to do? Why do I think this is just another “pile” to distract the voting public and taxpayer from some of the real issues. After all, all parties are involved on this one.
        To name a few issues – like our debts (federal and provincial), our tax load, the wonders of our crown corporations, the size, scope and cost of government (fed and BC), small and medium size businesses struggling and going “belly up”, posting MLA expenses (hopefully solved – thank you CTF), MLA pensions, Equalization, job losses – there really is a lot more on that list – and not to mention Trevor and the Canucks or Justin Trudeau. I think I need an antacid! But look; a distraction!
        Of course, on rethinking this one, it might just be that they don’t have an answer for the real problems (or don’t have the ‘er fortitude or the philosophical makeup to handle them) and want to look ‘busy’ so they can justify their salaries and pensions. What is it? Like moving the deck chairs on the Titanic?

        • BC Skulker:

          You are absolutely right that governments do not necessarily act in an altruistic manner. There may be in fact bitterness within the communities receiving “an apology to correct historic wrongs” in the face of clear evidence indicating a covert “ethnic outreach strategy” was in play and intended to curry votes by issing aplogies. Often such strategies are employed to detract from the real failures of government.

          As you suggest, no wonder voters are cynical and in this sense the apologies to both the Japanese Canadian and Chinese Canadian communities may be considered somewhat suspect by many.

          Having said that, I welcome the two official apologies which were passed unanimously by the BC Legislature. You have provided very good reasons to be cynical but those apologies are now a matter of historic record and should provide some comfort and closure to the affected communities.

          If you put yourself in my shoes, you may appreciate that by not visiting the Arizona Monument, I avoid a feeling of discomfort. Pearl Harbor is also a painful reminder that I, as a seven-year old Canadian-born youngster, was in fact blamed for bombing Pearl Harbor. Otherwise, what was the rationale for ripping me out of my childhood home along with 21,000 others?

          Both RCMP and Canadian military at the time reported to the Federal government that the Japanese in British Columbia were considered loyal to Canada and not regarded as a threat. That seems to be at odds with the fact that Japanese Canadians continued to be subject to internment policies and were not allowed to return to coastal BC until 1949-4 years after the war ended!

          Hopefully, the provincial government will endeavour to ensure that the story is told how two ethnic communities proved themselves as good Canadians and British Columbians despite of having to collectively endure years of racism.

          In my opinion, if we were more knowledgeable about past racism in BC, it will be easier to accept why an apology is necessary and a good thing.

          Finally, no one is asking for sympathy.

          • Are you aware that the Japanese were actually bombing B.C. during WW2 ?? These things have to be put in the context of the times. Looking back now many things seem wrong but at the time ………

  2. Crispy says it’s about ” doing the right thing “. If she wanted to do the right thing she should call another election. If she wins, then the people of BC deserve what she is dishing out…

  3. Also why don’t you have a choice in your opinion poll
    -or no apology
    I’m afraid you think this answer will win your poll but your to chicken to put it in cknw

  4. Apologize for LETTING those Chinese laborer who were nto forced but eagerly WANTED to come here and were treated under the LAWS and RULES set and controlled by the British Parliament for Dominion of Canada? Something that happened even before there was a ountry of Canada?

    Nothing but pandering for VOTES from a certain segment of the voters.

  5. This apology was pushed onto Christie by the Chinese lobby. ….Or do you think that Christie woke up one morning and thinking about the Chinese immigrants a century ago?
    The Chinese immigrated here on their own decision, no slavery or force. Racism and discrimination is was the standard, so we DO NOT have to apologize for actions our great-grandparents did.
    After we admitted with this official apology to wrongdoing, the Chinese will and probably can demand reparation from the BC taxpayer. Maybe even through the courts.

  6. My grandfather was brought from Ireland to the east coast of Canada by British/Canadian governments as an indentured child servant where he was forced to work the fields in Nova Scotia as a child until he left as an adult. He received abuse, and board but NO money. He had no choice as a child. There are tens of thousands of our Irish, English and Scottish grand parents and great grand parents who suffered this way with no apology or reparation made to families for parents and grandparents deeply scarred and no payment for their slave labor. I am not quite 50 years old.

    Additionally-everyone complains about Aboriginal receiving benefits in Canada without having a clue about what was taken from them by British and Canadian governments; Churches and colonists-it was a true genocide. The media keeps itself purposely bias and stupid about it-its so much more than the residential schools in BC. My great grandmother was a survivor. The schools are “now” to learn about the Chinese and the ‘head tax’ but still most school cirriculums to not teach the truth about Aboriginal people and how their land and resources were taken in a variety of ways, while systematically killing them and their family systems on multiple levels. Partially through the residential schools as ” step 3″. This government is making peace with its Pacific partners while keeping taxpayers in the dark about Canada’s history. Many systematic atrocities out side of the residential school happened-the current treaty laws are only an attempt to acknowledge the laws that were disobeyed and stolen for so long. The residential school survivors did not get the money as reparation ‘on average’ that the federal government has all ready given Chinese decendants of the ‘head tax’. So until the truth, the real truth, comes out about Canada’s genocide-then this is just a side show and does not address why Canadians feel they way they do about “apologies”.