Bill C-333 (Historical)
Chinese Canadian Recognition and Redress Act
An Act to recognize the injustices done to Chinese immigrants by head taxes and exclusion legislation, to provide for recognition of the extraordinary contribution they made to Canada, to provide for redress and to promote education on Chinese Canadian history and racial harmony
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Bev Oda Conservative
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Committee Report Presented
(This bill did not become law.)
Committees of the House
November 4th, 2005 / 12:05 p.m.
Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 15th report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
In accordance with its order of reference on Monday, April 18, your committee has considered Bill C-333, the Chinese Canadian Recognition and Redress Act, and agreed on Tuesday, November 1, to report it with amendments.
It is not a common occurrence in the House to congratulate two private members on successfully having a bill reported back from committee with unanimous consent of the committee by and large. I do want to compliment the members and the government representatives who worked closely to make this a matter of collaboration and cooperation both here in the House and with the community at large.
Committees of the House
October 3rd, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.
Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Pursuant to Standing Order 97.1, your committee is requesting an extension of 30 sitting days to consider Bill C-333, the Chinese Canadian recognition and redress act, thereby providing the committee with a total of 90 sitting days during which to complete its study of the bill.
Given the fact that the committee finds it necessary to consult further stakeholders in order to give the bill the consideration it requires, it therefore requests an extension of 30 sitting days. I should point out that this is done in cooperation and with the agreement of the member who moved the private member's bill.
Department of Social Development Act
June 8th, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.
Christian Simard Beauport, QC
The former Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, even if she lost her department, should allow me to continue. We listen when she speaks, so I would appreciate it if she would do the same for me. I will be happy to answer her questions in due time.
What matters is not to seek visibility through one small-scale initiative after another. I have worked in the community sector. I have also worked with community organizations, particularly cooperative housing corporations. Applying for every program under the sun and trying to please everyone, one can lose sight of what matters and, in community organizations, what matters is to provide services to the public. An inordinate amount of time could be wasted wondering whether this little federal program with this little goal requirement or that little provincial program with that little goal requirement should be applied for, when the agreement is only for one, two or three years, after which there will be a new fad.
My experience of these applications is that what the federal government requires makes you feel like saying never mind. They are very complicated, take a very long time to fill out and, more often than not, are rejected. That is a huge waste of time. And the public is not well served by that. This is true for community organizations as well as for those working with persons with disabilities and even child care centres and agencies dealing with parental leave. This kind of duplication wastes a great deal of energy. It may give government employees work, but that is not the objective. The objective is to use the allocated money properly.
Initially, this megadepartment with 12,000 employees will basically be responsible for managing seniors programs; 97% of its budget is earmarked for that. Unfortunately, straightforwardness and clarity are not this government's strong suit, and neither is administrative efficiency.
There is something on file about that. According to the Auditor General, the department's data did not provide an accurate picture because certain programs are netted, which makes it difficult to know what exactly the expenditures and the tax revenues were. Netting diminishes actual program expenditures. The Auditor General offered many comments and suggestions to remedy the situation. So, we do not have an accurate picture.
According to the available picture, however, the budget is essentially allocated to seniors. On the other hand, there is always this will to re-create, through this structure, little visibility programs, which I call future social sponsorship scandals. These scandals will not necessarily flow from kickbacks to the Liberal Party, this time around, at least I hope so, nor from small gifts given to the ad companies. The source of those scandals will rather be that money is being spent uselessly, without an integrated policy, through small one-year, two-year or three-year programs which, generally speaking, are set up based on the front pages of newspapers and on the flavour of the month, rather than being based on an integrated approach to fight child poverty.
We know that the federal government is far from the objectives in that area. It will not fight in an integrated fashion against poverty, or social inequities. It will design small, high-visibility programs, which is very costly for society. We cannot afford such duplication.
I am saddened by the creation of these megadepartments of national encroachment, these social propaganda machines. They have no social purpose. The responsibility for social development and related issues related has been handed over, and rightly so, to governments which are closer to the people. These governments have acquitted themselves quite well. I feel that the Quebec government is really an outstanding example. Over the last 20 or 30 years, it has been a trailblazer.
Every time Quebec does something, it is penalized in a way because it has funded its excellence on its own. Then the Canadian government comes along far later and tries to copy the program nationally. The Government of Quebec says it already has this program and asks for money, for full compensation. This is our money, from our tax dollars. This is nothing laughable. We want nothing more than our own tax dollars. We are not looking for charity.
We are hearing things here that are disdainful and shameful. We hear laughter when we say we want money. What we do not want is intrusion and imposed standards. We do not want just any old money. This is our money. We would not like to have to go begging for it, nor to have to negotiate for 10 years to obtain something so very obvious.
We have a program that does what it is intended for perfectly. For example, Quebec's child care services are a source of pride, and we are known for it elsewhere to some extent. Even within a capitalist framework, our society has been able to help its children, to help women get into the work force, to do things for society, without letting families suffer. Our accomplishments have earned a proud reputation both nationally and internationally.
But how is that, every time we do something like this, we have to do it totally in Quebec and at the expense of the Government of Quebec, without all the needed funding because it has gone to the federal level? When the federal government tries to do something that is not under its jurisdiction, it tries to impose standards on us, when we are the ones who have been innovative and creative, and have set the standard of excellence.
Then we get short-changed. I idolized the Minister of Social Development when I was a boy. He was an excellent goalie. One might say he is not so good at offence, where Quebec is concerned. He ought to be able to defend the federal jurisdictions without going over the blue line. That is out of bounds for him. When he crosses the blue line, when he is ragging the puck, he pulls some plays a hockey referee would not allow. He tells us that we will be compensated with no strings attached and then he says the negotiations are still going on.
How can it take months to negotiate financial compensation with no conditions? That is really something. Perhaps in the new position he is playing, he has decided, or imagines, that slower is better. I do not know. It seems to me that, if this were hockey, we would be in never-ending overtime.
What is very important is to be efficient in operations and to avoid encroaching on provincial jurisdiction and creating programs that nobody needs but are deliberately enticing to make a big impression on people who do not closely follow politics.
Yesterday, motions for the creation of a national cancer strategy and a national handicapped persons strategy were introduced. There already is one in Quebec. Provinces do have those strategies. They have jurisdiction over health. If we corrected the fiscal imbalance and gave resources proportionate to their responsibilities to those in charge of education, health and social services, do you not think that we would serve people better than by federalist chest thumping?
They come up with bite-sized programs that last only a few years, that are ill adapted, poorly conceived and whose only objective is to confuse people and waste energy.
The worst thing is that we are talking about social development. While we are talking, child poverty does not diminish and the services we would like to provide for our population in Quebec remain in the planning stage. All issues of social solidarity, women's rights promotion and the integrated fight against diseases stall. Tobacco control measures do not move ahead either. Why? Because the central government has a pathological need to prove its usefulness when responsibilities rest at the local level, at the provincial, community and day care levels. The federal government has a pathological need to interfere and it does so at the expense of the most disadvantaged.
That is all I have to say about that topic.
What is just as outrageous is that, in establishing this Department of Social Development as a new flagship or tool for intrusion, the government can use money it has taken away from the most disadvantaged for that purpose.
It is safe to say that the money is in Ottawa, while the needs are in the provinces and in Quebec. Sadly, this money was taken out of the EI fund.
My colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain mentioned that this money was taken away by denying full retroactivity to those seniors who were entitled to the guaranteed income supplement, which is directly under the purview of this department. More than $45 billion was taken out of the EI fund, tens of billions at a time. This money taken away from the most disadvantaged is used to finance programs supposedly designed to help them, help them by duplicating provincial programs with programs that are a bit of a fad, implementing national strategies for the sake of it, and expanding Health Canada, which controls hardly any hospitals except in Aboriginal communities. So, what does the government do? It generates revenues on the backs of the most disadvantaged.
In my field, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has generated a $3.5 billion surplus, while 1.7 million households in Canada and Quebec are continuing to pay too much for bad housing. This means that this surplus has been created by not meeting needs. In this instance, the government had every opportunity to meet these needs, but did not. The Bloc Québécois even had to introduce a private member's bill to try to remedy the situation. I hope that Bill C-333 will have the support of the House. The government has been generating surpluses on the backs of the most disadvantaged. It dreams up very expensive departments and inefficient programs, and then comes out with its little announcements.
There is something immoral here. Discipline and morality seem to be lacking. There is a lack of discipline in management because of all the duplication, and there is a lack of morality when you knowingly take social measures that are inefficient, redundant and outside your jurisdiction. All of that raises the level of cynicism towards politics: What are these guys doing in Ottawa? Are they supposed to help people? Are they supposed to manage the public finances efficiently? Are they supposed to support local communities and provinces in their main roles? Or is it just bluffing, political one-upmanship, and flag waving? Are they just looking for personal political capital or grand ministerial tours, a bit like the recent one, when they spent $22 billion in ten days not for good reasons based on principles, but because they feared an election?
The Prime Minister said as much to the business community. This was not a matter of principle but of cold calculation. They decided to invest this money or promise to invest it. There were some cases of recycling. Just about the only thing that is green with this government is its constant recycling of programs. That is the kind of thing they do.
Out of cold calculations, this increasingly centralist government creates structures, departments, programs and envelopes to the point where we cannot understand anything anymore.
I was listening to a journalist who said Parliament Hill felt like Alice in Wonderland. I might change the word “Wonderland”, but we are truly living in the surreal. Just look at the government's social programs or the CMHC. Although on the Internet the programs might look wonderful, often, in reality, they are no longer being funded. All the money has been allocated. The government creates programs with catchy titles using a piecemeal approach, but they never last long and are never integrated with the responsibilities of Quebec and the provinces, never in support of those working in the field. There are people in our ridings who tell us that when it comes to problems with social assistance or employment insurance, the government is the government.
They do not come asking for a pan-Canadian program, but they come asking for help for their children, for jobs to be created or the EI program to be fixed. We tell them our hands are tied because the Canadian government is withholding the money. The government announces artificial programs and creates departments instead of supporting the work of the provinces. That is what we are forced to tell our constituents, who are not asking for a pan-Canadian child care system, but for services from their government.
Chinese Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act
Private Members' Business
April 18th, 2005 / noon
Bev Oda Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my colleague, the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, for his work over many years on this bill. Without his commitment to this issue and to the Chinese community, we would not have reached this important step in the legislative process. I am honoured to carry this bill forward.
I would also like to thank the many members of all parties who have spoken so eloquently in support of Bill C-333.
Canada has grown and prospered by welcoming the rich diversity of the globe. We have much to be proud of; however, we have at times in our history, faced with our human frailties, succumbed, and taken action that has tarnished our history.
During this debate we have been told of the hardships brought upon the Chinese through the head tax and the exclusionary legislation adopted by previous governments.
There are those who might say that we cannot go back in history and address every wrong done to every group who at one time or another faced challenges in Canada. To them I say Bill C-333 does not advocate going back. I believe it will enable us to go forward as a country. Before we go forward, we must acknowledge that the Chinese were targeted and recognize the racially motivated acts undertaken by our country.
The head tax and the exclusionary legislation were directly intended to limit the Chinese from entering Canada. We cannot go back and undo these acts. We cannot go back and reunite families that were separated over decades. We cannot go back and change the racist attitudes of the times. We cannot go back, but we can go forward and look to the future of our country.
I believe that there is no price that can be paid to make amends. The scars of racism cannot be healed monetarily. We can however acknowledge our actions and provide the Chinese community with the recognition it deserves. Then we can make every effort to invest in our future and future generations. By learning from the past we can make the future of Canada even better and with greater pride.
Currently, we cannot take pride in the fact that the contribution of the Chinese community to Canada and our history, their work and the lives given to build this country, beginning with the railway in the west and serving in our armed forces in both world wars was missing from the history books that I grew up with. That is why Bill C-333 proposes to focus on education and racial harmony.
We can do much to ensure that government and individual acts based on race alone, acts that disadvantage one group over another in our country, will never happen again.
Bill C-333 will not eliminate racism, but for the Chinese community it will acknowledge that Canada and Canadians today do not condone acts taken by a Canadian government, even a past government, based on racism.
Bill C-333 will demonstrate that we, currently in this House, are willing to take that step and further steps to ensure that Canada, today and in the future, welcomes its diversity and the contribution of every community regardless of one's race.
Chinese Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act
Private Members' Business
April 18th, 2005 / 11:55 a.m.
Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON
Mr. Speaker, it would be an understatement to say that the Government of Canada understands the strong feelings underlying requests for redress from the Chinese community. The circumstances surrounding the Chinese Canadian claim are not proud moments in our past, nor are they the actions that Canadians today would consider acceptable. That is because Canada today is a far different kind of Canada than that which it was when those events took place.
Canada today values fairness, inclusion, equality, and respect for diversity. Canada today actively shuns racism and discrimination of any kind. Canada today embraces multiculturalism as a source of its strength. For Canada, multiculturalism is a conscious policy of accepting, respecting and yes, celebrating differences. This is what defines us as Canadians. Our multicultural policy encourages us to maintain our ancestral, ethnic and cultural ties, while simultaneously being a part of Canada is one of the reasons why Canadians have been able to live in peace and successfully address their internal tensions.
A quick look back over the past decades reveals just how we have achieved this, and how we have together built a Canada that embraces cultural diversity as a source of strength to be celebrated and not merely tolerated.
From as early as 1950 our cultural diversity has come to be understood as an essential ingredient of Canadian identity. In 1960 the Canadian Bill of Rights recognized and declared that certain human rights and fundamental freedoms existed without discrimination on the grounds of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex.
In 1970 Canada ratified the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. In 1977 the Canadian Human Rights Act proclaimed that all individuals have equal opportunity before the law and with others. In 1982 the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms recognized every individual as equal before the law. The multicultural character of Canada also gained constitutional recognition in the charter. In 1988 the Canadian Multiculturalism Act affirmed multiculturalism as a fundamental characteristic of our society.
To suggest that we have not already learned from our past is to discount the importance of these changes and the present debate must be seen in this broader context. I would suggest that it is because of the Chinese experience that modern day Canada has a myriad of safeguards in place to prevent history from repeating itself.
However, we all know that more can be done to ensure everyone has a voice in society and a chance to shape the future direction of this country. We have the responsibility to help individuals and groups to speak out and be heard, and in order to participate in national debates we need programs that equip communities and organizations to tell their stories, commemorate their experience, and then advance their interests, so that all Canadians in perpetuity understand the total context of their experience.
For this and all generations, we must focus our efforts in areas where abuse and discrimination can be prevented. As my colleague from Parkdale has eloquently pointed out, the government is taking concrete measures to strengthen the fabric of Canadian life by combating racism, prejudice and discrimination. These are forward looking measures. They are positive and they build on the success Canada has achieved in managing the tensions that can undermine our values and goals of society, and they are important in the unique model of Canadian citizenship. While they provide us with an understanding of our past, they will take us further along the path that will take us into our future.
Chinese Canadians have helped build this country in the same tradition that wave after wave of immigrants have and we know how much Chinese Canadians have given despite the treatment they have received.
As with many issues, while there are no simple solutions, Bill C-333 provides us the spirit to take a step toward moving forward on this issue and deserves the collective wisdom that a committee can provide. I believe it is critical to keep the doors open for a more comprehensive and forward looking bill.
For that reason, while we cannot change the past, we can as a government commit to changing the future. I would urge my fellow members of this House to support sending Bill C-333 to committee where we could work toward a more comprehensive, forward looking approach, while recognizing the injustice inflicted on Chinese Canadians, and produce a positive report, conducive to a cohesive Canadian society.
Chinese Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act
Private Members' Business
April 18th, 2005 / 11:45 a.m.
Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today in support of Bill C-333, the Chinese Canadian recognition and redress act, brought forth by the member for Durham, a riding neighbouring mine.
I am honoured to offer my support for a bill that acknowledges the astounding contribution of the Chinese to the creation of our nation and the strength that our country derives from our multicultural heritage.
Between 1885 and 1947, Chinese immigrants to Canada experienced a period of extreme racial discrimination which had an irreversible impact on a community of ethnic minorities that contributed significantly to the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway and, consequently, the development of our nation.
Despite the discrimination they faced, they came to Canada for economic survival, many leaving their families behind. A total of 17,000 Chinese labourers helped build the CPR, utilized by the government because they were reliable, hard-working and willing to work at half the wages of white Canadians.
They were also willing to take on dangerous jobs, which resulted in an estimated four Chinese deaths for every mile of track laid. Many Chinese workers died from exhaustion, while others perished in rock explosions or under collapsed tunnels. Some drowned due to the collapse of unfinished bridges, while many others died of scurvy.
On May 12, 1882, Sir John A. Macdonald stood in the House of Commons and argued against bowing to the pressure of labour groups. He credited the successful and timely completion of the Canadian Pacific railroad to the work of Chinese labourers, stating:
--if you wish to have the railway finished within any reasonable time, there must be no such step against Chinese labour. At present it is simply a question of alternatives--either you must have this labour or you cannot have the railway.
The head tax was imposed by the Canadian government in 1885 immediately following the completion of the CPR, when the demand for Chinese labour ceased. It was originally set at $50, an amount determined by the maximum amount that a Chinese labourer was able to save per year after living expenses were paid.
By 1904 it had jumped to $500, an amount equivalent to two years of labour. The head tax was accompanied by other discriminatory policies such as a rice tax, special taxes on laundries, segregation of schools, and the refusal to give Chinese immigrants adequate social welfare during the Depression. These were the first of many policies put in place by the Canadian government with the sole purpose of deterring Chinese immigration, eventually destroying the Chinese community here in Canada.
In 1923, the Chinese exclusion act was passed, the final chapter in a period of state-sanctioned racism that was aimed at preventing an oriental invasion while allowing the government to profit from Chinese immigration.
Bill C-333 calls for a formal acknowledgement of the harm done to Chinese labourers and recognition of the commitment and contribution of the Chinese to the development of Canada. Unlike the 1996 redress agreement between the government and the Chinese Canadian National Council, Bill C-333 does not seek restitution on an individual basis, as it will do little to rectify the racial intolerance that characterized the turn of the century. It instead seeks to address harm done generations ago by developing a framework to ensure a future free of racism and intolerance.
Chinese Canadians deserve formal recognition by the government that the immigration policies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were unjust and violated human rights as they are understood today. They deserve recognition of their commitment to Canada and their contribution to the development of Canada.
In response to the 2001 UN world conference against racism and related intolerance, Canada made a commitment to engage in a healing process as part of a strategy to combat racial discrimination in Canada. The failure to recognize the inhumane treatment of Chinese Canadians by the Canadian government is to fail in that healing process.
Canada's strategy following the conference also included a commitment to admit past wrongs in order to move forward in the pursuit of inclusive goals. The failure of this government to act in accordance with its own vow to admit past wrongs would weaken its commitment to social justice and cohesion. For the Canadian government to effectively celebrate our diversity today, it must properly address mistakes of the past.
Bill C-333 calls for restitution devoted to educational materials on Chinese Canadian history and the promotion of racial harmony through various projects. A formal acknowledgement of government policies of the past and restitution in the form of educational and promotional material will significantly advance and assist ongoing efforts to eliminate racism and racial intolerance in Canada.
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is a great example of what can be accomplished when an organization has been given a mandate to build a national framework committed to creating a harmonious future based on equality, fairness and social justice. This organization has accomplished great things, and has done a tremendous job advancing the cause of racial harmony.
However, Chinese Canadians have received little in the way of grants from the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. The establishment of a foundation in honour of the Chinese victims of Canada's immigration policies would bring this country one step closer to achieving racial tolerance and one step closer to securing a better future. In the process, younger generations would have the opportunity to learn about the contribution of the Chinese to Canada, past and present.
I ask that all members support Bill C-333 at second reading and that the government affirm its commitment to a healing process whereby past wrongs are addressed in order for us to move forward as a country, proud of its diversity, and the strength that results from our multiculturalism.
Chinese Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act
Private Members' Business
April 18th, 2005 / 11:35 a.m.
Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to have an opportunity to speak to the private member's bill before us, Bill C-333, and to indicate that it is absolutely my position as the member of Parliament for Halifax and the position of the New Democratic Party caucus to support this bill going to committee. We will definitely be supporting the bill at second reading and absolutely supporting the objectives of it.
I want to congratulate the member for Durham for bringing forward this bill. As I am sure she would acknowledge, it is picking up where others have left off, others having done a great deal of groundwork over the years to try to get this government to move on taking the kinds of initiatives that are necessary to deal with the reconciliation and restitution owed to Chinese Canadians as a result of a very ugly chapter in Canadian history.
In congratulating the opposition member who has brought forward the bill, I think it is disappointing that the government has not already moved on this. I was listening closely to the comments of the member for Parkdale—High Park. I was hoping to hear that there is an intention on the part of the government to move on the restitution and reconciliation that have to be addressed if in fact we are going to accept collectively that an injury to one, in a society that claims to be committed to equality, justice, inclusion and compassion, is an injury to all. The way in which we can express that formally is to strengthen Bill C-333, which is before us now, and I hope that is what will happen at second reading, because it is needed and deserved.
I want to take a moment to pay tribute to others who have worked very hard over the years on this issue. They are Margaret Mitchell, who was a colleague of mine, and the former leader of the New Democratic Party, the member for Ottawa Centre. Margaret Mitchell was the member for Vancouver East. She was very much in tune with her own community, which included a large number of Chinese Canadians. She began fighting to have this issue addressed to realize the deep injury and out-and-out racist practices that we do not like to think are part of our history but in fact were, and they will remain part of a history that has yet to be corrected until we deal in a more effective way than this bill does with restitution and reconciliation.
I want to also pay tribute to my colleague, the current member for Vancouver East, who, in two previous motions that she tabled in the House, put forward a more stringent program, a more concrete and effective set of measures to outline what we need to do as a nation so that we can heal those wounds, and that means heal ourselves.
I have heard others stand and say, “I have a large number of Chinese Canadians in my riding. I know they are concerned and affected by this, so I am going to be supporting it”. Let me say that I have a small number of Chinese Canadians in my riding, but this issue matters to all Canadians and of course has particular impact and import for Chinese Canadians.
One of the flaws that I think exists in the private member's bill before us is that it singles out one particular organization that represents the interests of some Chinese Canadians and says this is the organization with which the government should negotiate. It is clear that we have more than one organization that represents Chinese Canadians. There are several. It is our view that this bill should be amended to provide for a more inclusive process involving duly constituted organizations that represent a variety of perspectives of Chinese Canadians in order to take those into account, engage in a good faith process and move on.
I think we know who we want to be as Canadians and I think we know how we want the world to think of who we are as Canadians, that is, an inclusive society, one that is free of racism and free of the ugly forms of hatred that can exist. The reality is that the chapter during which Chinese Canadians were actively and aggressively discriminated against is one that is very ugly. It speaks to who we do not want to be.
To put that behind us, to learn the lessons of the past and to keep reminding ourselves of how important it is that we not repeat the mistakes of the past, we cannot confidently and honestly say we are a society that does not tolerate the kind of hatred and injustice that was embedded in the treatment for 62 years of legislated racism in this country, from 1885 to 1947, when Chinese Canadians had to pay the head tax. It does not sound like a lot of money, but a $50 head tax at that time was a hugely onerous penalty and an ugly symbol of racism. Then, of course, between the period of 1923 to 1947, when Chinese Canadians were actually prohibited from immigrating to Canada, we are talking about a very ugly past.
We do not have a lot to be proud about in terms of not yet having redressed some of the other ugly chapters. We do not have it right yet in terms of the treatment of aboriginal Canadians. This government is still dragging its heels on dealing with the reconciliation around the hateful chapter of residential schools, which damaged a whole population, the founding nations of this country.
We have the ugliest of histories to live down in terms of what happened to European Jews who could not find their way into a supposedly compassionate Canada when they were fleeing as refugees from Nazi Germany, from extermination, from the Holocaust. One of the truly shocking chronicles about Canadian history is found in the book that was so brilliantly written by Irving Abella in order to share this chapter of our history. The title, None is Too Many , is taken from the statement made by the Prime Minister of the day, meaning that we would not be welcoming to our shores Jews who were facing extermination. In fact, we turned people back.
Today we have racial profiling going on in this country. It injures all of us. It tears at the fabric of our society when we have the kind of racial profiling that is going on, affecting particularly members of the Islamic faith and those with Arab and Middle East backgrounds.
We need to heal ourselves. It would be very much in keeping with the rhetoric we hear from the government about how concerned it is that we eliminate racism and religious bigotry from our midst if in fact the government would see fit not just to support Bill C-333 but to support a strengthening of the bill. We must do it, because until it is done we cannot hold up our heads and say that we have taken this seriously and taken our responsibilities seriously.
It was my privilege to introduce a motion in the House in 2003. I want to finish my speech by briefly quoting from it because it does give an indication of why the bill needs to be stronger. It stated that the Government of Canada should:
--(a) formally apologize to the Chinese community for the injustice imposed on Chinese immigrants by the government's Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923; (b) negotiate with members of the Chinese community, financial compensation to surviving [Chinese] who paid the tax....
That does not mean just one organization but the legitimate bona fide organizations representing the diversity of Chinese Canadians, because they are not of one mind and they do not exist in just one organization. The motion continued:
--and (c) financially support educational and cultural initiatives developed in concert with the Canadian-Chinese communities to prevent such injustices from happening again.
I note that the member for Parkdale—High Park talked about these kinds of initiatives in general, but I think we are dealing with a very specific ugly chapter in our own history which needs to be redressed. The victims need to be acknowledged and compensated appropriately as well as our ensuring that today's and tomorrow's generations are fully aware of this history and that we move toward the anti-racism kinds of measures which will indeed ensure that it does not happen again.
I want to finish by saying that we have in this country not just those we have already mentioned. We have Acadians, who were the victims of ethnic cleansing. We have Afro Canadians, who still in my own province, I can tell members, are the victims of racism, which is very embedded in our system and needs to be addressed. I hope that with this bill being strengthened we can move on to deal with some of those other issues as well. Prevention is the order of the day.
Chinese Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act
Private Members' Business
April 18th, 2005 / 11:25 a.m.
Sarmite Bulte Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage
Mr. Speaker, Canada is known around the world as a nation that embraces fairness, equality and respect for diversity as the very basic building blocks of our society. Those versed in Canadian history understand that this national strength is not an accident. It is a product of the deliberate collaborative work of the many Canadians who came before us. Our aboriginal, English and French ancestors laid the foundation of a diverse society. These roots have deepened with the arrival of generations of immigrants from around the world.
Our small population and vast geography dictated deliberate nation-building activities such as our pan-Canadian rail link. Our linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity necessitated a value system based on tolerance and understanding, ultimately giving birth to our first Citizenship Act, the Multiculturalism Act, the Official Languages Act and our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Just yesterday, April 17, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As members know, section 15 guarantees equality before and under the law and equal protection in the benefits of the law without freedom from discrimination because of race, ethnic or national origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. In the 20 years since its enactment, the very notion of equality before the law has become entrenched in our Canadian psyche.
The 20th anniversary of its entry into force is the perfect opportunity for all Canadians to stop and reflect on how far we have come as a nation, how far we have come since the dark days in our history when racism and discrimination dominated our society and how much we have achieved in building the legal framework that safeguards the values we hold so dear today.
The Government of Canada understands the strong feelings underlying requests for redress for Chinese Canadians. They risked their lives to help build Canada's railroad in the 1880s. More than 15,000 Chinese came to build the most dangerous and difficult section of the Canadian Pacific Railway. As soon as their work was done, however, Canadians wanted them gone. It was the beginning of a difficult chapter in history for Chinese immigrants to Canada.
Chinese immigrants to Canada came seeking an escape from the poverty and war at home. What they encountered here was prejudice, personal attacks and discrimination, but the Chinese in Canada persevered. Many chose to pay the head tax for the opportunity to have a better life in Canada. Many took on the most dangerous jobs in sawmills and fish canneries. Many bravely endured separation from family members they could not bring to Canada.
When some 600 men and women served in the military during World War II, Chinese Canadians contributed more manpower to the war effort than any other ethnic group. However, the community's contributions went well beyond providing manpower. In addition to Red Cross and other service work, the community is said to have contributed $10 million to the victory loan drive, more per capita than any other group in Canada.
Over the years, an incredible number of Chinese Canadian individuals have made extraordinary contributions to Canada: community leaders like Dr. Joseph Wong, who chaired the United Way and was bestowed the Order of Canada; artists like Chan Hon Goh or Xiao Nan Yu, who have distinguished themselves as ballerinas at the National Ballet of Canada; and champions like Jean Lumb, the first Chinese Canadian woman to receive the Order of Canada for her work on Chinese family reunification in Canada and her fight to save and revitalize Chinatown in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.
There are also internationally recognized Chinese Canadian scientists like molecular geneticist Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui, who helped discover the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis. Dr. Tak Wah Mak discovered the gene for the t-cell receptor, a major key to the working of the human body's immune system. Dr. Victor Ling is world-renowned for his discovery of the existence and mechanisms of drug-resistant chemotherapy. Sports stars like Norman Kwong, also known as the China Clipper, is a three times Sports Hall of Famer and Order of Canada recipient who helped the Edmonton Eskimos win six Grey Cups.
Clearly, Chinese Canadians are making important contributions to every aspect of Canadian life, in arts and culture, in science and medicine, in business and education and the professions, and I might also add, in politics. Our own hon. member and Minister of State for Multiculturalism, Raymond Chan, is a Chinese Canadian.
The Governor General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson, came to Canada as a Hong Kong refugee during the second world war, rose to international recognition as a Canadian journalist and then became the first Chinese Canadian Governor General of Canada in 1999.
One thing is very clear, Chinese Canadians have more than earned their place in Canadian history and society.
Canada's treatment of Chinese Canadians is one of those chapters in Canadian history that does not make us proud. However, we can be proud of the progress we have made since those days. We can and we must learn from our history.
The Government of Canada is committed to strengthening the fabric of Canada's multicultural society. We are committed to acknowledging and commemorating the significant contributions made by various ethnoracial and ethnocultural groups, including the Chinese.
Already the Department of Canadian Heritage and cultural agencies in the Canadian Heritage portfolio have made considerable efforts to ensure that the story of the Chinese in Canada is known to all Canadians.
Canada's public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada, for example, offers a comprehensive look at the history and experience of Chinese Canadians in their online archives at cbc.ca.
The Royal Canadian Mint has struck a two coin set to commemorate the completion of the transcontinental track and to honour the significant contribution of Chinese workers.
Canada Post produced new stamps, commemorative coins and even a chequebook designed with Feng Shui elements in honour of the more than one million Chinese Canadians who were celebrating the 2004 year of the monkey.
The Minister of Canadian Heritage, on the advice of Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, has designated two national historic sites and one national historic event to commemorate achievements directly related to the Chinese Canadian community. One of the sites is at Yale, British Columbia and commemorates the role of the Chinese construction workers on the Canadian Pacific Railway.
For more than 30 years, the Canadian Museum of Civilization has supported a full curatorial program on East Asian Canadians, including research, collecting and program development.
One of the opening exhibits at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 1989 was “Beyond the Golden Mountain: the Chinese in Canada”, at the time the most comprehensive museum exhibit on the Chinese Canadian experience ever mounted.
The multiculturalism program also has funded numerous research programs on the Chinese Canadian experience. In television and film, the National Film Board of Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Department of Canadian Heritage have funded various films and television series which celebrate the history, heritage and contribution of the Chinese Canadian community. This is just the beginning.
In the October 2004 Speech from the Throne, the government pledged its objectives “in a manner that recognizes Canada's diversity as a source of strength and innovation”. We also pledged “to be a steadfast advocate of inclusion” and “to demand equality of opportunity so that prosperity can be shared by all Canadians”.
In line with these commitments, the government is now advancing a number of multicultural and anti-racism initiatives designed to cultivate an even more equitable and inclusive society.
In our 2005 budget we have provided $5 billion per year to the multiculturalism program to enhance its contributions to equality for all. In want to point out one thing as my time is running out. Budget 2005 also provides $25 million over the next three years for commemorative and educational initiatives that will highlight the contributions that the Chinese and other ethnocultural groups have made to Canadian society and it will help build a better understanding among all Canadians of the strength of Canadian diversity.
With this funding, the government is responding to demands from the community in a new way that respects both the concerns of the communities and the government's 1994 policy on this issue. We as a government are looking to the future of all Canadians.
Bill C-333 in its current form asks Parliament to apologize for actions taken by a previous government and to provide redress, but we have to move forward and control the future to ensure that the past never happens again.
To conclude, while the bill may not be perfect in its present form, and no bill is, I would ask all members to support second reading of this bill.
Chinese Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act
Private Members' Business
April 18th, 2005 / 11:15 a.m.
Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Calgary Centre-North and speak in favour of Bill C-333. In so doing, I would note that Calgary has a very large Asian and Chinese population. In fact, my riding has a very large community of Chinese Canadians. It is my honour to rise today and speak on their behalf, and I am very proud to do so.
I would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of two members of this House. First, the hon. member for Durham and, second, the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette.
I would note that the member for Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette first introduced this bill in the House on December 10, 2003. It was then called the Chinese Canadian recognition and restitution act. Since that time, the hon. member for Durham has brought this legislation forward in the House.
Both members have exemplified leadership in drawing the attention of the House and Canadians to this important issue and to this difficult part of our history. Both members are tireless workers on behalf of their constituents and a credit to this House. I am very proud to serve as their colleague.
Bill C-333 is described as:
An Act to recognize the injustices done to Chinese immigrants by head taxes and exclusion legislation, to provide for recognition of the extraordinary contribution they made to Canada, to provide for redress and to promote education on Chinese Canadian history and racial harmony.
The purpose of the bill is to recognize the extraordinary contribution that Chinese Canadians have made to the building of this remarkable country that we call Canada. It is to acknowledge that they, more than any other group of Canadians, have done so in the face of many years of discrimination and adversity.
The contribution of Chinese Canadians to the building of the railways in this country is an important point of commencement in this discussion. Canada is a country that came to exist along a railway line, a thin ribbon of steel constructed against impossible odds. It was in fact at that time the largest construction project in history.
We know that this railway line could not have been built without the hard work and the determination, and the sacrifice of the Chinese labourers who came to build it. This was just the first of a rich legacy that Chinese immigrants have brought to our nation.
One would have thought that in the era of the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway there would have been some measure of gratitude toward the migrants who were coming to Canada from China to work so tirelessly under primitive working conditions to build the CPR.
It is not so. One must return today to that part of Canadian history to fully understand the racism with which our Chinese ancestors struggled. Here is a quote from the daily British Columbia Colonist and the Victoria Chronicle of 1878, which at that time made a plea for restricted Chinese immigration. It said:
The Chinese ulcer is eating into the prosperity of the country and sooner or later it must be cut out.
Here is another quote that the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette may have referred to in his remarks from the Victoria newspaper of 1861:
We have plenty of room for many thousands of Chinamen...There can be no shadow of a doubt but their industry enables them to add very largely to our own revenues.
In the time following the completion of the railway, Chinese Canadians were made even less welcome by a series of legislative measures which were designed to deter immigration. The Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 imposed a head tax, a capitation tax, of $50 per head as a fee to enter Canada, which was payable upon disembarkation.
In 1900, in response to political pressure at the time, the quantum of that head tax was increased to $100. In 1904 it was increased to $500. This was an astronomical sum which at that time equated to two years of labour. Of our ancestors, 82,000 paid the head tax as a fee to enter Canada. Most were men since the legislation and the price severely restricted the ability of women to enter Canada.
Ultimately in 1923, the Government of Canada went even further. It passed the Chinese Immigration Act which essentially prohibited the immigration of Chinese to our nation, with the exception of certain narrow classifications. The act remained in place until 1947. It is remarkable to reflect that only 50 Chinese immigrants were allowed to migrate to Canada during those years. The law was passed on Dominion Day in 1923, a day which Chinese-Canadians marked in some circles for many years as the ultimate humiliation, and in fact many called it humiliation day. Chinese-Canadians were only given the right to vote in the 1950s.
In doing my research for Bill C-333, I chanced upon this remarkable excerpt from the Parliament of Canada. As late as 1958, subsequent to my own birth, a senator rose in the Senate chamber of Canada and said the following about a Chinese member of Parliament, a Conservative member of Parliament at that time. The senator stated:
I know that he is a Member of Parliament, and I know that he is the President of the Young Conservative Association, but he is over in Paris as, I presume, the head of this organization that is mentioned. Is he paid? Are there expenses paid by the Dominion Government? And just whom does he represent, and what right has this Chinaman to make these statements in Paris on behalf of the Canadian people?
This was a senator in this building talking about a duly elected Chinese-Canadian who was at that time a member of Parliament. The quote can be found in the Senate debates of July 10, 1958, at page 306.
Thankfully we have come a long way in the country since that time. I am proud to say that in my own riding of Calgary Centre-North, as an example, Chinese-Canadians are a proud part of our multicultural identity. The descendants of those who paid the Chinese head tax and fought racism for generations are today the community leaders, politicians and business leaders of our society. The commercial spine of my riding is Centre Street and it is so richly populated today by Asian and Chinese businesses that it is referred to affectionately as China Town North. I live only blocks from that street so for me it is very much my home.
The character and compassion of the Chinese community in my riding is exemplified by the work of Mr. Don Jeung and the Wing Kei senior citizens committee. The Chinese Christian Wing Kei nursing home, which is being constructed in my riding, is the largest senior citizen care facility under construction in our city. It is a private facility. It has been the dream of a dedicated group of Calgarians of Chinese ancestry. It is built of bricks and mortar, but it is constructed upon the bedrock of the values that they brought to this country: compassion, respect for the elderly, care and responsibility for one's own family members and individual initiative. On behalf of the House, I congratulate them and we await completion of construction this spring.
In researching for Bill C-333, I also reviewed a book written by a respected Canadian by the name of Denise Chong, entitled The Concubines Children of 1994. In it she talks about what it is like for her as a Canadian to reflect on the hardships that her ancestors undertook to come to Canada. She says:
--Canadian citizenship recognizes differences. It praises diversity. It is what we as Canadians choose to have in common with each other. It is a bridge between those who left something to make a new home here and those born here. What keeps the bridge strong is tolerance, fairness and compassion.
Citizenship has rights and responsibilities. I believe one responsibility of citizenship is to use that tolerance, fairness, understanding and compassion to leaf through the Canadian family album together.
I am proud to speak today in support of Bill C-333 as a bill that will foster community restitution. Chinese-Canadians have contributed so much to the construction of the country. I hope the legislation will allow to explore our history together and to move beyond a difficult chapter in our history.
Chinese Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act
Private Members' Business
April 18th, 2005 / 11 a.m.
Roger Clavet Louis-Hébert, QC
Mr. Speaker, I had a busy weekend, working for the development of Quebec in my riding, in the interest of this future country.
I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-333, to right a great injustice. I would like to start by thanking my hon. colleague from Durham for introducing this bill, as well as the other parliamentarians who have taken part in this debate so far.
For more than 60 years, the Chinese Canadian community has been the victim of racism, but not just any type of racism: legislative racism. This is a dark page in Canada's history. It is like a less than glorious heritage minute that went on for 60 years. Imagine the damage. Between 1885 and 1923, the Government of Canada imposed a head tax on Chinese immigrants. This was serious discrimination, which put the members of our treasured Chinese community at a terrible disadvantage.
Chinese workers wishing to emigrate to Canada had to pay a $500 tax, starting in 1903. At that time, it equaled two years' salary. It may seem paltry now but, back then, this was a considerable amount of money. This very House adopted the Chinese Immigration Act in 1923, thereby denying thousands of Chinese Canadians the right to vote and, above all, the possibility of being reunited with their families.
The Chinese community called it the Chinese Exclusion Act. As the title implies, their exclusion was total. The day the bill passed was even known as Humiliation Day. This is evidence of how the Chinese community must have felt that day. It was not until 1967, the centennial of Canada's Confederation, that this hateful humiliation was acknowledged. In 1967, Chinese immigrants obtained the same rights as immigrants from other countries. It took all those years for Chinese Canadians to be recognized as full-fledged citizens.
It goes without saying that these discriminatory measures were tied to strong anti-Asian sentiment in existence at that time. Despite everything, tens of thousands of Chinese people immigrated to Canada during that period and took part in its development, in particular helping to build the famous trans-Canada railway.
In supporting Bill C-333, the Bloc Québécois condemns the discrimination visited on the Chinese community by the Canadian government for 60 years. The Bloc Québécois salutes the contribution of the Chinese community to our economy and to Quebec and Canadian society, and it reiterates the importance of immigration and cultural communities to Quebec's future sovereignty.
A recent Ontario court ruling found that the Canadian government owes the Sino-Canadian community an apology. It must acknowledge this legacy and demonstrate good will. This ruling was corroborated and upheld in a recent resolution by the Montreal city council, which determined that the Canadian government must adopt reasonable measures to correct the injustices visited on Chinese Canadians.
Under Brian Mulroney, the Canadian government already offered an apology to Japanese Canadians for the unfair treatment they received during the second world war.
I wonder if this government could not build on that example and apologize to the Chinese community. That would be the least it could do for having exploited members of this community for 60 years while denying them the right to be full-fledged citizens. How insulting.
The last victims of this atrocity and of these discriminatory measures are still alive, but time is of the essence because, one by one, they are dying off. It is high time for the Canadian government to present them with a decent apology, to prove beyond a doubt that they are full fledged citizens and to promise that, although wrongs were committed in the past, nothing like this will ever happen again.
In 2003, a UN Special Rapporteur conducting a study of contemporary forms of racism in Canada also condemned the fact that the Chinese community in Canada still had not received an apology for being discriminated against during all those years.
In fact, some members of the Chinese community are considering turning to the UN in order to obtain justice. I have the following question. Is this the image Canada wants to project internationally—a lack of compassion toward these people, the Chinese community,who are still central to the larger society? Does it want this image of injustice to be spread throughout the world? In any event, that may suit Canada, but it does not suit Quebec.
The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-333 in principle, for the reasons described by my colleague, the hon. member for Durham.
Two years ago, during a visit to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, I toured one of these tunnels or underground entries that had been recreated, bearing in mind that when the Chinese community was building the railway back then, they were literally hidden in a tunnel or an underground room. They were forbidden to step out into broad daylight. It was acceptable to use the Chinese for their labour in order to build the railway, but they had to be hidden away. It is outrageous when you consider the contribution this community has made to Canada and Quebec.
What is more, the worst part of this 60 year-long heritage minute is that there is a charge of $15 or $20 to visit the underground gallery where we are shown how the Chinese had to hide underground like rats. That is how they were treated. And if a person asked for a pamphlet on this shameful period in the history of Canada, there are none to give. The exploitation continues. I do not know whether this is a private or public operation, but I do know that there is still an opportunity to visit this underground gallery where the horrible memories of the mistreated Chinese community can be revisited.
This bill will remedy that situation. Let us go back to that time, 1923. If the Chinese were good enough to build a railway, they ought to have been good enough to deserve respect. The situation continued for years, and now the victims and the children of those victims are demanding compensation and justice.
As Bloc Québécois spokesperson for Asia-Pacific matters, I take these things very much to heart. There have been attempts made in the past to remedy this injustice toward the Chinese community in private members' bills by colleagues in the Conservative and other parties.
I am seeking the support of the members of this House for Bill C-333. We are in favour of it, although of course there is always room for improvement. We can look into ways of accommodating certain requests from Chinese community associations throughout the country. Time is of the essence, however, and this injustice must be remedied.
I will put myself in the shoes of Canadians for a few moments, even though I am proud to proclaim myself a Quebecker. I do not want people to read the history of Canada and conclude that the Chinese were mistreated and nothing was done to remedy this injustice. I feel strongly that such a thing must not be associated in people's minds with Canada.
The Chinese community has proven without any doubt whatsoever that it is capable of being a full-fledged member of this society. This black mark on its past must, however, be erased, because the Chinese community is worthy of contributing to the economy, and indeed does make a significant contribution.
Bill C-333 is about the humiliation of the Chinese community. I know this community very well, having lived in China for two years. This humiliation must be dealt with now. This is a unique opportunity as all members are aware. The injustice to Japanese Canadians has been dealt with and now it is the turn of the Chinese. Common sense and pure and simple justice demand this. Hon. members, this error must be corrected by supporting Bill C-333.