Apol­ogy for past dis­crim­i­na­tion against Chi­nese

China Daily - - WORLD -

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.

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