Saturday, June 24, 2006

Chinese Head Tax

The Canadian Prime Minister has apologised to the few living Chinese immigrants to Canada still living who personally were subject to a head tax. More than 15,000 Chinese immigrants worked to build the Canadian Pacific Railway between 1881 and 1885, and more than 1,000 died during the construction. "But from the moment the railway was completed, Canada turned its back on these men," he said. In 1885, a $50 head tax was imposed on Chinese-Canadian immigrants to deter them from coming to Canada, a tax that eventually rose to the then-enormous sum of $500. In 1923, the Chinese Immigration Act effectively barred immigrants from China from coming to Canada, until it was repealed in 1947.

"We acknowledge the high cost of the head tax meant that many family members were left behind in China, never to be reunited, or that families lived apart and in some cases in extreme poverty for years. We also recognize that our failure to truly acknowledge these historical injustices has prevented many in the community from seeing themselves as fully Canadian," Mr. Harper said.
Source: Globe and Mail, 23rd June, 2006.