Since 1984, the Chinese Canadian National Council
(CCNC) has been seeking redress on behalf of the surviving Head
Tax payers and their families who have suffered from decades of
discrimination as a result of these racist laws passed by the Federal
Government. Over 4,000 Head Tax payers, widows or descendants have
entrusted CCNC with representing them in seeking an apology and
The CCNC has held community meetings, gathered support from other
groups and prominent people, increased the media profile, conducted
research and published materials, made presentations at schools,
etc. The CCNC met frequently with various Multiculturalism Ministers
from both the Mulroney and Chrétien governments.
In 1988, an agreement was reached between the Federal Government
and the NAJC to redress for state treatment of Japanese Canadians
during the World War II. The Japanese Canadian redress is seen as
an important milestone for that community and for Canada. For members
of the Japanese Canadian community, redress confirms their rightful
place in this country and their status as Canadians with a long
history of contribution to this nation. For Canada, it reinforces
our international reputation as a truly humanitarian country that
embraces diversity and multiculturalism.
As of this date, the Canadian Government has yet to apologize to
the Chinese Canadian community for the over 63 years of legislated
racism towards Chinese Canadians. Former Prime Minister Mulroney
tried to settle several ethnocultural communities’ redress
claims just before he left in 1993, by offering individual medallions,
a museum wing and other collective measures. This was rejected outright
by the Chinese, Italian and Ukrainian Canadian national groups.
The class action against the Canadian government was started in
December 2000 by three persons - a Head Tax payer, a widow and a
son of a Head Tax payer. In brief, the court action was based upon
the government having been unjustly enriched by the Chinese Head
Tax that was in violation of international human rights that existed
at the time, as well as a violation of the s. 15 equality provision
in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms due to the government’s
discriminatory response to the redress claim.
In July 2001, the Ontario Superior Court granted an application
from the government for an early dismissal of the action without
a trial. However, in the judgment, Justice Cumming stated, "it
is vital that Canadians acknowledge this regrettable legacy as we
strive towards building a society that both celebrates diversity
and protects every individual's right to equality". To that
end, "Parliament should consider providing redress for Chinese
Canadians who paid the Head Tax or were adversely affected by the
various Chinese Immigration Acts."
The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal to the Ontario Court of Appeal,
but this appeal was dismissed in September 2002. Finally, in April
2003, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal. The CCNC
is considering legal options, including using international avenues
such as the United Nations.
Tragically, Mr. Mak, the Head Tax payer plaintiff, had passed away
in March 2003. As the last surviving Head Tax payers enter the final
stage of their lives, can our government in good conscience say
to these pioneers that they do not deserve an apology or redress?
Redress Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act now!
It is only fair.
Our government must not profit from its racism.
Our surviving Head Tax payers are the true pioneers of our community.
The government must not treat them as ancient history.
We are asking for a return of only a very small portion of the
current value of the $23 million that was collected in the racist
Chinese Head Taxes.
Prime Minister Chrétien has an opportunity to show his
leadership in this issue, and to show Canada’s strong commitment
to tolerance and anti-racism during these post-September 11th
Redress will help to redefine our Chinese Canadian community as
one that is rooted in 150 years of contribution to this nation.
The fact that its image may be more of recent immigrants is due
to the impact that the Head Tax and Exclusion Act had on our community’s