Real story of Chinese treatment must be told: Victoria association president

Provincial apology shouldn't gloss over truth, Thomas Chan says

A Victoria-based Chinese association meets Sunday to discuss their hopes for the provincial government’s formal apology for past discriminatory practices.

Thomas Chan, president of the Victoria Consolidated Benevolent Association, has shared his own thoughts on the matter in advance of the meeting. Such an apology should include a formal acknowledgment of the poor treatment Chinese people endured in the late 1800s and early 1900s, he said, and broader education about their place in B.C. history.

“The education part is more meaningful to the Chinese community,” Chan said, adding this part of Canadian history should not be forgotten nor repeated. “There are a lot of second- and third-generation (Chinese in B.C.) whose family paid that (head) tax. I personally know a few of them.”

Between 1885 and 1923, various pieces of discriminatory legislation against Chinese people were enacted, including a federally imposed head tax on all immigrants from China. From 1923 to 1947, the Chinese Exclusion Act restricted Chinese people from entering Canada. In 2006, the federal government formally apologized for past discrimination and paid $20,000 in compensation related to the head tax, to survivors or their spouses.

The province announced last week it is beginning consultation with the Chinese community and associations to discuss the wording for a formal apology. Chan acknowledged the Liberals were criticized by the NDP for bringing up the issue during the 2013 election campaign.

What appeared then as a symbolic gesture appears more genuine now, he added.

“The timing is better than in April in May, because at least people don’t see it as an election promise.”

The province is not considering financial compensation. Chan said the Chinese community is not looking for that, since it was already addressed by the federal government.

reporter@vicnews.com