Apology for past discrimination against Chinese
VANCOUVER — The government of the Canadian city has approved a plan to officially apologize for historical discrimination against the city’s Chinese residents.
In a unanimous vote early this month, the city council agreed to arrange an official apology event next April, using the language of Toishanese — the dialect spoken by the majority of Chinese immigrants who first arrived in the late 18th century.
Chinese people first came to the province of British Columbia in 1788, eventually comprising 10 percent of the province’s population by 1901. Today, one-third of Vancouver’s population has an Chinese ethnic background.
Between 1886 and 1948, Chinese residents in Vancouver were forbidden to vote in civic elections.
The city also lobbied the federal government to increase the Head Tax levied on Chinese people from the original C$50 in 1885, to C$100 in 1900 and C$500 in 1903.
Civic laws were also used to restrict Chinese activity in certain industries, businesses, jobs and public amenities.
For instance, in 1928, Chinese children and their parents were barred from the only public swimming pool in Vancouver, except for one day of the week, and this segregation remained in place until 1945.
Vancouver’s apology is well past due, said Hilbert Yiu, president of the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver, which took part in educating and lobbying the current council on the topic as part of an advisory group.
“For the whole Chinese community, of course we love to hear this, and we are so happy to hear that finally we can get it,” Yiu said.
The apology follows other similar government apologies in Canada for discrimination against Chinese-Canadians. The city of New Westminster is the first and only city in the province to formally apologize for past discrimination.
In 2014, former British Columbia premier Christy Clark apologized. In 2016, former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper apologized for federal discrimination against Chinese.
Vancouver City Councilor Raymond Louie said the apology marks an important step forward for the city.
“It’s not just looking backward at the historical wrongs that were perpetrated against the Chinese people, but rather looking at it as a model based on the historical data about what we can do differently going forward as well,” he said.
He said the apology shows that discrimination of any kind has no place in Vancouver’s present and future.