People may debate about present governments apologizing for historical wrongs, but there was no doubt in Doug Bing’s mind about what to do.
It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA said in the legislature Thursday.
He was commenting on Premier Christy Clark’s presentation of a formal apology for the B.C. government’s historic anti-Chinese policies.
“Today, we express our sorrow and regret for historical provincial government practices that were once considered appropriate,” Clark said.
“We believe this formal apology is required to ensure that closure can be reached on this dark 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.”
After the premier spoke, other MLAs lined up. Discussion went on all afternoon in the House, Bing said.
“I’m quite happy. It’s been an emotional day for everybody … just the unanimity from everyone in the house. It’s nice to see the House as one.”
Part of the apology included $1 million for legacy and education projects about Chinese history in B.C.
Apologies have been made to the Japanese community for the evacuations during the Second World War and for the Komagata Maru incident 100 years ago, he pointed out.
“This is something that’s long overdue.”
In his speech, Bing said the apology is a chance to recognize the achievements of Chinese-Canadians and said it has deep personal meaning.
His grandfathers and father arrived in Canada in the early 1900s, paid the head tax and became permanent residents. “Their lives were not easy.
They experienced first-hand the effects of racism, prejudice and discrimination from the over 138 laws and policies passed by this legislature.”
Research has identified more than 100 B.C. laws and policies that explicitly discriminated against Chinese people in the early years of B.C. They restricted employment, banned voting and property ownership and imposed provincial taxes and fees based on Chinese origin.
(Research is compiled at www.EmbraceBC.ca)
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.
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 individual compensation.
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 planned to maximize political benefit for the B.C. Liberals. A staff member 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.
– with Black Press files