Chinese Head Tax - Why is this an issue?


Electoral Member
Dec 6, 2004
Whitby, Ontario
Apparently the Chinese Head Tax which was in place for Chinese immigrants from 1885-1923 has become a hot topic within the Chinese community, especially in Vancouver.

My question is why? Why should a government of 2006 apologize for wrongs committed in the past? As for compensation, how is money going to really make these people feel better?

It is fine for the current government to say that the policy was wrong and a mistake, but an apology is a bit much. I mean, Paul Martin had nothing to do with the tax, he did not implement the Chinese Head Tax of 1885, nor the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923. Go blame Sir John A and Mackenzie King.

Besides, name a minority group that hasn't been discriminated against? I mean the world wasn't a nice place back in the day.

As for compensation, will that money really help? I could possibley seeing the Head Tax returned to those who had to pay it, but for surviving relatives, forget it. If government had to pay for every past wrong committed, we'd be bankrupt.


House Member
Dec 1, 2005
Independent Palestine
An apology goes a long way to healing what happened in the past. Then why should a Conservative government apologize for what Canadians did to the Japanese in WWII.

Because it is just wrong and it brings healing because it acknowledges the mistakes of the past and it tries to make sure it doesn't happen in the future.


Electoral Member
May 5, 2005
DasFX said:
Apparently the Chinese Head Tax which was in place for Chinese immigrants from 1885-1923 has become a hot topic within the Chinese community, especially in Vancouver.

My question is why?

here's why. Just imagine yourself as a 20 year old Chinese person in China. You see a nice advertisement that says something to the effect of "come to Canada and make a new future and make lots of money". Wow, you say, sounds nice! So you sign up and you are shipped to Canada.

When you arrive you are put into labour camps to work on the railway doing jobs no other person would dare - such as handling explosives. They pay you what they promised, however, the necessities cost so much that by the time you buy all you need to survive, you have very little to save. Since you have a wife and family back in China to support, you send your savings back home. Little do you know that the postmaster is opening all the letters and taking the money.

Some years later, after you finished the railway, you notice that nearly all the Chinese here are male and they live in close quarters in what the westerners call "Chinatown". You tried living elsewhere but you are treated very poorly and called names that make you feel like a second class citizen. You find that living in "Chinatown" gives you more security around people sharing the same language and customs.

You continually think of going back to China, but the corruption and internal political strife makes you think twice. So you decide to bring your family here and start a new life since your friends are doing the same. Little do you know that by the time you apply, you have to pay $500 per person instead of $50 ($500 in 2005 dollars is approx. $10,651.73). You couldn't possibly afford to even bring your wife over. You will have to work 2 years in order to pay for the head tax for one person.

Your future looks grim. You can't afford to bring your wife over and the ratio of Chinese male to female is outrageous. You have no chance of getting married again if the situation continues.

Now do you understand why?

History of Chinese Immigration




Electoral Member
Jan 6, 2006
A contemporary government appologizing for historical wrongs is something that has taken place numerous times. It is a way to recognize that there was in fact systemic discrimination, violation of human rights etc... against a person, or group of people that affected either that person or those group of people long after the fact.

The pope appologizing for the witch trials, and for the burning of Joan of Arc are some of the most famous examples.

Other governments have recognized what they have done to first nations people.

As part of peace processes in both South Africa and Central America "truth and reconciliation" commissions were founded so that the government role was recognized in the systemic discrimination and violation of particular minorities.

The Chinese community has been in Canada almost as long as the English and French, yet are consistently viewed as outsiders, new immigrants and a minority class. Their contributions to Canada are frequently overlooked and seldom taught as part of the Canadian history.

Recognizing that the marginalization and minority status of the Chinese community began with the way in which the chinese were treated when the originally immigrated is affirmation of a grevious historical error.

As for financial remuneration, money is the way that we make retribution in this society and Canada is recognizing that it owes a debt to the Chinese community that helped found Canada, but was systematically excluded from the Canadian culture and history.