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Some bitter Canadian history

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« on: November 18, 2006, 12:36:30 am »

At last, on June 2006, the Government of Canada has apologized to its Chinese- Canadian community for imposing the head tax.
Inflicting injustice seems inherent of human nature in all eras of history for hardly anyone appears to be above it, no matter how 'civilized' they claim to be.
It all began in the early 1880s when 15,000 Chinese workers came to Canada and began assisting the construction of the country's first national railways in the province of British Colombia.  That number soon grew to over 80,000 Chinese labourers.  They came from far away China to Canada under treacherous conditions.  They worked very hard, clearing huge areas of land for construction under still more dangerous conditions.  Hundreds died due to accidents and explosions at work.  The goal of creating Canada's trans-continental railways would have been extremely difficult to accomplish without the manual labour of the Chinese workers.  It was one of the biggest contributions to the country's economy. 
However, after the Canadian national railways was completed, the Canadian government turned away from these thousands of Chinese immigrants.  The government wanted them to return to China.  To discourage the Chinese from living in Canada and bringing their families, in 1885 the Canadian government imposed a head tax of $50 for every working Chinese immigrant.  The head tax gradually kept rising, and by 1903 it was raised to $500, which in those days was equivalent to the salary of 2 years!  This led to immense misery within the Chinese community.  Being steeped in poverty, they were compelled to  live in ghettos.  They couldn't sponser their parents, spouses, children or siblings.  Families got torn apart, never to be reunited.   But it still did not stop the Chinese from arriving in Canada to make a living.  So, in 1923 all immigration from China was totally blocked.
While the Canadian government took such huge amounts of money from its Chinese immigrants, it paid money to assist immigrants from Europe and the U.S. 
The immigration ban was finally scrapped in 1947, but the Canadian government remained silent about this discriminatory practice until June 22, 2006.  After all these years, the much awaited apology finally came from the conservative government of Canada calling it the "shameful" policies of Canada's history.  Indeed it was racist.  Some might call this move 'too little, too late.' 
Today, most of those Chinese immigrants who were victims of the head tax have passed away.  Those still surviving are into their late 80s or 90s.  There is some talk of a compensation for them and their immediate families.  But the Chinese say  they don't care for compensations.  What's most important to them is a public apology from the Prime Minister of Canada for this glaring injustice.  They had been waiting for it for decades and finally got it last week. 
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