Saturday, November 11, 2006

Head Tax payment - Canada

Arms raised in triumph! Head Tax redress campaigners Victor Wong, Gim Wong, Sid Tan stand behind the second and first head tax ex-gratia payments to Thomas Soon and Charlie Quan - photo Todd Wong
Ninety-nine year old Charlie Quan recieved the very first ex-gratia cheque for Chinese head tax redress, presented by Bev Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women. Oda and David Emerson, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacifc Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics, were in town to present the cheques to Quan, Thomas Soon (aged 95) and Ah Foon Chin (aged 96) who could not attend and was represented by his daughter-in-law.
In 1923, Quan had to pay $500 to enter Canada, estimated to be the cost of a house or two years wages back then. Only ethnic Chinese were charged the head tax. It was a concerted effort to keep Canada white, and discourage Chinese from coming to Canada. Beginning in 1885, the Canadian government imposed a $50 fee on Chinese immigrants, which was raised to $100 in 1900 and to $500 in 1903. But by 1923, Chinese were still coming, so the Canadian government passed the "Chinese Exclusion Act" which effectively banned all Chinese immigration, and was not rescinded untl 1947, after WW2,
During the head tax redress campaign, Charlie Quan repeatedly stated that he wanted his money back. Quan was interviewed for the NFB documentary " In the Shadow of Gold Mountain," written and directed by head tax descendant Karen Cho. Earlier in 2006, Quan stated that he thought a head tax redress settlement would be worth $35,000. After Quan received his cheque and posed for pictures with Minister Bev Oda, he sat down beside his friend Gim Wong, also a veteran of Chinese head tax who completed a "Ride for Redress" on his motorcycle across Canada to Ottawa in 2005 to draw attention to the head tax/exclusion act redress campaign. Wong was also featured in the movie "In the Shadow of Gold Mountain." Quan and Gim immediately looked at the cheque and began to count to check the number of "zeroes"on it. After so many years of seemingly hopeless campagining, they still found it hard to believe that redress payments were actually happening. Payments for surviving spouses will begin in November, 2006.

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