Premier Christy Clark thanks Chinese-Canadian veterans at ceremony at the B.C. legislature Thursday.

B.C. apologizes for historic anti-Chinese laws, ‘head tax’

Premier Christy Clark presents a formal apology for B.C.'s historic anti-Chinese policies restricting voting, property and business

VICTORIA – The B.C. government has presented a formal apology for its historic anti-Chinese policies that accompanied a federal “head tax” to discourage immigrants.

“Today we express our sorrow and regret for historical provincial government practices that were once considered appropriate,” says the apology, presented in the B.C. legislature Thursday by Premier Christy Clark.

“We believe this formal apology is required to ensure that closure can be reached on this dark period period in our province’s history.

“The entire legislative assembly acknowledges the perseverance of Chinese Canadians that was demonstrated with grace and dignity throughout our history while being oppressed by unfair and discriminatory historical laws.”

The apology ends with the vow: “We will ensure that this never happens again.”

Research has identified more than 100 B.C. laws and policies that explicitly discriminated against Chinese people in the early years of B.C. history. They restricted employment, banned voting and property ownership and imposed provincial taxes and fees based on Chinese origin.

The federal government apologized in 2006 and offered compensation of $20,000 to survivors or spouses of those who paid the federal “head tax” that was in place from 1885 to 1923. After raising the tax to $500, Ottawa blocked most Chinese immigrants from entering Canada from 1923 to 1947.

Premier Christy Clark said consultations with B.C.’s Chinese community led by International Trade Minister Teresa Wat confirmed the desire for a formal apology, but not additional compensation.

“The community feedback that Minister Wat got didn’t generally favour compensation,” Clark told reporters. “There is a group that do, but I think overall there wasn’t as big an appetite for that as there was for a genuine apology addressing the long list of wrongs that governments over the last century have done to the Chinese community.”

The government is allocating $1 million for legacy initiatives from the existing multiculturalism budget. Monuments or plaques commemorating the contribution of Chinese Canadians to B.C. are being considered for locations that may include Greater Vancouver, Barkerville, Nanaimo and Kamloops.

The government had planned to present the apology before the May 2013 provincial election, but that was derailed when a leaked document revealed it was being timed to maximize political benefit for the B.C. Liberals. Two staff members resigned and the apology was postponed.

Clark said the government has worked with the NDP and independent MLAs to make sure the apology is sincere and non-partisan.

Just Posted

Two bodies found near Spences Bridge confirmed as those of missing Surrey men

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Firefighters battling two blazes on Highway 1 south of Ashcroft

Highway has reopened to single-lane, alternating traffic led by a pilot car so expect delays

Fires on Highway 1, CN mainline keep Ashcroft firefighters busy

Two vehicle fires and a rail fire sparked within an 11-day span

Reports on seniors’ needs, downtown show way forward for Cache Creek

‘I hope they won’t gather dust’ says Cache Creek mayor

Counselling support available for those impacted by wildfires

New, confidential, free service in region designed for families or individuals

Groovy wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

Clean the house, prep for your next trip: Tips to nix the post-vacation blues

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

Couple could go to jail for taking 88 lbs. of Italian sand

Pair said they didn’t know it was illegal to take the sand, which is protected as a public good

More women may need breast cancer gene test, U.S. guidelines say

Recommendations aimed at women who’ve been treated for BRCA-related cancers and are now cancer-free

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

VIDEO: RCMP unveil new, state-of-the-art forensics lab

The laboratory is expected to handle thousands of forensic services from across Canada annually

Scheer promises EI tax credit for new parents if Conservatives form government

The government currently taxes employment insurance benefits for new parents

Most Read