Thursday January 26, 2006
||Chinese Canadians groups are applauding Prime Minister Designate Stephen Harper’s restatement of his commitment to Chinese head tax redress in time for the Chinese Lunar New Year. In his first news conference today as Prime Minister Designate, Mr. Harper stated: “The Chinese Canadian community deserves an apology for the Head Tax and appropriate acknowledgement and redress of that wrong.”
VANCOUVER/TORONTO/MONTREAL, January 26, 2006: Chinese Canadiansgroupsare applauding Prime Minister Designate Stephen Harper’srestatement ofhis commitment to Chinese head tax redress in time forthe ChineseLunar New Year. In his first news conference today as PrimeMinisterDesignate, Mr. Harper stated: “The Chinese Canadian communitydeservesan apology for the Head Tax and appropriate acknowledgement andredressof that wrong.”
“This is a wonderful beginning –Mr. Harper shows that he can keep anelection promise.” said Susan Eng,co-chair of the Ontario Coalition ofChinese Head Tax Payers andFamilies, (Ontario Coalition), which alongwith the B.C. Coalition ofHead Tax Payers, Spouses and Descendents(B.C. Coalition), ChineseCanadian Redress Alliance and the ChineseCanadian National Council(CCNC), called on the newly elected PrimeMinister and other partyleaders to recommit to their election pledgeto fully support head taxredress. “Once again, Mr. Harper is the firstparty leader to respond toour appeal. This bodes very well for finallygetting justice for headtax families and to closing a dark chapter inCanadian history. We cannow stop having to explain our grievances forpast injustice and lookforward to working with the new government forfull and proper redress. ”
Mr.Harper was also the first party leader to issue formal support forheadtax redress during the election campaign as early as a December8th newsrelease issued to foreclose any further support by his caucusmember,Inky Mark, [Dauphin--Swan River—Marquette] for the Liberal’smuchmaligned position of “no apology, no compensation”.
Inresponse to the demands made by Chinese Canadian groups duringtheelection, the Conservative Party, the NDP and the BlocQuebecoiscommitted in writing to support a Parliamentary Resolutiontoapologize, direct redress for the 250 surviving head tax payersandspouses, rescinding of the $2.5 million deal under the ACE programandopen, transparent and inclusive consultations and negotiationswithhead tax families and the broader Chinese Canadian community as tothenature and extent of redress.
“Mr. Harper’s strong andimmediate commitment, especially coming as itdoes on the eve of theChinese Lunar New Year, will be treated assolemn promise to ChineseCanadians, young and old.” said Dr. JosephWong, founder of CCNC.
“Thisis a statement of Canadian values. We are now very optimisticthatimmediate action will be taken before it is too late for thesurvivinghead tax payers and spouses.” said Avvy Go, counsel for theOntarioCoalition.
“It was clear that the head tax redress issuegalvanized ChineseCanadians right across the country,” Bill Chu,spokesperson for the BCCoalition added.
“Even the Liberalseventually agreed to an apology during the electioncampaign,” WilliamDere, spokesperson for the Chinese Canadian RedressAlliance added. “Nowit’s up to the Harper government
Canada's “National Dream”was realized when the Last Spike was drivento complete thetranscontinental railway in 1885. Instead of gratitudefor the Chineserailway workers – thousands of whom gave their lives tothe building ofthis country – the government imposed a head tax on allnew Chineseimmigrants, collecting more than $23 million by 1923. Thatyear, thegovernment passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to stop allChineseimmigration to Canada. The racist legislation was not repealeduntil1947.
For more information, please contact:
Ontario Coalition of Head Tax Payers and Families
Susan Eng, co-chair,
Avvy Go, legal counsel, (647) 271-9357
B.C. Coalition of Chinese Head Tax Payers, Their Spouses and Descendants
Bill Chu, spokesperson (604) 261-6526
Chinese Canadians Redress Alliance [Montreal]
William Dere (514) 488-0804
Walter Tom (514) 341-3929
Chinese Canadian National Council
Founder Dr. Joseph Wong (416) 591-6837
Colleen Hua, President (647) 299-1775
Text of Prime Minister-designate Stephen Harper's statement at a news conference January 26, 2006:
OnJan. 23, Canadians voted for change and they asked our party toleadthat change in the House of Commons. Today, I'd like to provideyouwith an update on how our plans to deliver that change to Canadiansareunfolding.
As you can imagine, much of my time in the lasttwo days has been spentaddressing a number of issues related to thechange of government. I'veboth spoken and met with her Excellency theGovernor General andaccepted her offer to form the next government ofCanada.
I've also spoken a number of times with the premiers andreiterated mysincere commitment to working with them to strengthen ourfederation.I've spoken with a number of leaders, including PresidentFox andPresident Bush, Prime Minister Blair and Prime Minister Howard.AndI've received a number of briefings from senior publicservantsincluding the clerk of the Privy Council and the governor ofthe Bankof Canada, whom I met today. These briefings will continue thisweekand next, including the chief of the defence staff and thecommissionerof the RCMP.
Over the days and weeks, the process ofchange will accelerate. OnMonday, Feb. 6, her Excellency the GovernorGeneral will swear inCanada's new government. The new government willreflect the unity anddiversity of our country. Our new government willact quickly to getdown to work on delivering the change that Canadiansvoted for on Jan.23. As you all know, we campaigned on a very clear setof priorities —priorities that will benefit working people and theirfamilies,priorities that will strengthen our country. And we'll use ourtime inthe new Parliament to pursue those priorities.
Our firstpriority will be to clean up government, make it more openand moreaccountable to taxpayers. We will do this by way of thefederalaccountability act. Given that we expect the release of JudgeGomery'ssecond report and since every party ran on platforms thatincludedaccountability measures, I'm confident that we will findbroad-basedconsensus to move forward on these changes and on thislegislation.
Beyondthe federal accountability act, we intend to move to implementour GSTand other tax reductions, to toughen up our criminal justicesystem andto implement our child-care program. We'll also commencenegotiationswith the provinces on the fiscal imbalance and on theintroduction of apatient wait-times guarantee so that Canadians getthe health carethey've paid for.
During the campaign I found that there was aremarkable amount ofmultiparty consensus on many of the key prioritiesI just mentioned.We'll look for shared goals and for common ideas. And,workingtogether, we'll seek to implement ideas that will help ordinaryworkingpeople and that will strengthen our federation.
Therewill be difficult situations; minority governments are nevereasy. Butall parties recognize that Canadians have chosen the secondminorityParliament in less than two years. They want us to get to workondelivering change and we will be ready to lead that change.
Beforeconcluding, I'd also like to just acknowledge briefly thatChinese NewYear begins this Sunday, Jan. 29. Chinese Canadians aremaking anextraordinary impact on the building of our country. They'vealso made asignificant historical contribution despite many obstacles.That's why,as I said during the election campaign, the ChineseCanadian communitydeserves an apology for the head tax and appropriateacknowledgement andredress. On this occasion, I'd just like to takethe opportunity to wishall Canadians of Chinese descent a healthy andprosperous new year. Gunghay fat choy. And thank you. I'll take anyquestions you have.