Education planned on B.C.’s racist history

NDP to hold event to educate students as B.C. government prepares apology to Chinese Canadians for discriminatory laws

Teresa Wat

The NDP has compiled its own history of B.C.’s official efforts at racial discrimination, from denying the vote to Chinese and Indian immigrants in 1872 to efforts to restrict Asian immigration in the 1930s.

NDP leader Adrian Dix said the dossier of racist actions by B.C. legislators is intended to accompany an apology to people of Chinese descent that the provincial government plans to deliver in the legislature this spring.

“I think it’s important that we take this work seriously, and that it not be just a one-day apology, but that it leads to reconciliation,” Dix said at a news conference in Vancouver Wednesday.

The NDP package mostly duplicates material previously posted by the B.C. government on a dedicated website. Richmond Centre MLA Teresa Wat, minister responsible for trade and multiculturalism, has organized a series of public consultations to prepare for the formal apology, expected during the spring legislature session.

The NDP records are posted on the official opposition website.

The first public forum was held in Kamloops in December. Others are set for Vancouver Jan. 12, Kelowna Jan. 14, Burnaby Jan. 20, Prince George Jan. 22 and Richmond Jan. 28.

Wat said the consultations will help determine the wording of the apology to the Chinese community, but no further financial compensation is being considered.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a formal apology to Chinese Canadians in 2006, and the federal government paid $20,000 each to families of immigrants who paid the “head tax” that was designed to deter Chinese immigration to Canada.

Records gleaned from the legislative library include 89 laws, some of which were passed in B.C. but struck down by Ottawa because they strayed into federal jurisdiction over immigration. Motions and debates up to the 1920s dealt with immigrant numbers and such issues as the number of “Orientals and Hindus” working in B.C. sawmills.

A B.C. apology to residents of Chinese descent was postponed last year after a document from Premier Christy Clark’s staff was leaked, describing a plan to use that and other ethnic appeals to build support for the B.C. Liberal Party.

The B.C. government issued a formal apology for the World War II-era internment of Japanese residents in May 2012.

Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA Jenny Kwan, who served as B.C.’s first Chinese Canadian cabinet minister during the NDP government of the 1990s, said artifacts from the racist era should be assembled for public display.

Dix said the documents will be used for an educational event with B.C. students in February, to get their suggestions on how the modern provincial government should respond.



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