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Political Apologies and Reparations Document List Details

Canada apology to China migrants

Author: Ian Gunn
Source: BBC (Link)
Date: 23 June 2006
View Related Articles
Document Type: Press
Donor: Canada Event Date: ca. 1885 - 1923
Recipient: Chinese Canadians Reparation Date: 23 June 2006

Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, the Canadian government allowed Chinese workers to immigrate to Canada in order to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway project; these workers were expected to work longer hours for lower wages than their non-Chinese counterparts. Some Canadian workers began to believe that the Chinese immigrant workers thus had an unfair advantage, and began to lobby the Canadian government to restrict Chinese immigration.

In response, beginning in 1885 and lasting until 1923, the Canadian government imposed a head tax on Chinese immigrants that ranged between $50 to $500 (CAD); in 1923, the government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which fully prevented Chinese immigration to Canada. The act was repealed in 1947, but Chinese immigrants continued to face discriminatory immigration policies until the 1960s.

According to a United Nations report, between 1885 and 1923, the Canadian government amassed approximately $23 million (CAD), which amounts to an estimated $1.2 billion (CAD) in modern figures. In response to a similar head tax in New Zealand, New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark issued a formal apology to Chinese New Zealanders on 12 February 2002; this increased the demand in the Chinese-Canadian community for a similar apology in Canada.


The government of Canada, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has officially apologised to the descendents of Chinese-Canadian immigrants who were forced to pay the Chinese Head Tax during the early 20th century.


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