moved that BillC-333, 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak to Bill C-333 today, the Chinese Canadian Recognition and Redress Act. I thank the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette for his work on this important bill.
As early as 1788, the first Chinese to Canada were 50 carpenters and craftsmen who built a fort on Canada's west coast. Seventy years later the first Chinese gold miners arrived in British Columbia to join thousands of gold miners travelling up the Fraser River. Their arrival marks the establishment of a continuous Chinese community in Canada. In 1861 a Chinese baby was born in Victoria, the first to be born in Canada.
In 1872 the British Columbia Qualifications of Voters Act denied both the Chinese and first nations people the right to vote. This discrimination based on one's race continued to plague the Chinese in Canada for the next 75 years.
Between 1880 and 1885 thousands of Chinese were employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway to construct the iron bridge that brought this country together. In total, 15,700 Chinese were recruited to work on this endeavour, one that played a large part in bringing British Columbia into Canadian Confederation.
Once that feat was completed in 1885, the federal government introduced an act to collect a head tax of $50 per person to restrict the entry of Chinese immigrants to Canada. After 1902 the head tax was raised to $100 and then in 1903 raised again to $500. Despite this burden, more and more Chinese made Canada their home.
By 1919, 6,000 Chinese, over 210 families, were living in Vancouver. In Toronto, 2,100 Chinese were making a way of life in Canada. Across Canada almost 37,000 Chinese were part of our communities and towns.
Even after a dozen Chinese served in the Canadian army in the first world war, in 1923 the Chinese Immigration Act was introduced. This exclusion act prohibited Chinese immigrants from entering Canada with few exceptions. This meant that wives and children were not able to join their husbands and families and all Chinese, even those born in Canada, had to register with the government.
Despite this blatant racial discrimination, they continued to make a life here in our country. Their efforts included some 500 Chinese Canadians fighting in our armed forces during World War II. The Chinese Canadian community was also diligent in raising money for our war effort.
Finally, in 1947 the exclusion act was repealed and Chinese Canadians were given the right to vote in federal elections. Ten years later, in 1957, Douglas Jung was the first Chinese Canadian elected to the House of Commons. However not until 1967 were the Chinese given the same immigration rights as any other group seeking to make their life in this country.
The Chinese Head Tax and the Exclusion Act are the two most known acts of discrimination in the history of this community. They are acts of a government that says it is rooted in democracy and of a country that is proud of its multicultural heritage.
The Chinese Canadian community was one of the first diverse cultural communities to come to Canada. After over a century of its presence we have left this mark of racism in our legacy.
Today, despite a history of racism, struggle and alienation, the Chinese Canadian is a thriving, contributing community across Canada. They are great contributors to all segments of our society. I am asking the House to support Bill C-333 as recognition of these acts of government that were based solely on race and to signify that despite their hardships the Chinese Canadian community has historically played a key role in the making of this country.
I am proud to be a member of the House and, almost 50 years after Mr. Jung, the first Chinese Canadian to serve here, to have an opportunity to redress a wrong that for over a century has never been recognized by our governments.
No one person or groups of persons should be lessened by their race or heritage. Racism is not and should not be a part of my community or my country, Canada. Racism and prejudice are not acts in which anyone or any country can take pride. They are embedded in attitudes, comments, slurs and acts of ignorance. We must always be vigilant to ensure that racism is not allowed to overtake our own acts and attitudes.
We can be vigilant, but every generation must be made alert and aware of its insidious presence, and so, in Bill C-333, I propose both recognition of the racism under which the Chinese community has become a part of Canada and redress for this country's part in its racist acts to this community.
Bill C-333 will provide for the recognition of the historical injustices that were brought to the Chinese community as well as its extraordinary contribution to our country. Bill C-333 will also provide for education on the Chinese community and its history in our country and the promotion of racial harmony.
We must all take responsibility in making Canada the truly multicultural country we are so proud of. Yes, today we are responsible for what happens tomorrow, but I believe that we must remember our history and learn from it. By recognizing our past, we can move on with increased vigour and a sharper eye if we recognize our wrongs and enable increased vigilance in the future.