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 financial redress.

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 times.

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 development.

Rally on Parliament Hill Ottawa Ontario (Oct 02)
Rally on Parliament Hill Ottawa Ontario (Oct 02)
Yew Lee at the rally on Parliament Hill Ottawa Ontario (Oct 02)