Christy Clark: Confronting our past head-on


On Tuesday, I stood in the legislature to acknowledge the great work during the past few months to determine the best path forward as we address historical wrongs by past B.C. governments against the Chinese community.

Teresa Wat, Minister of International Trade and Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism, attended seven forums throughout B.C. with members of the Chinese community. The idea was to reach out and confront a painful time in our collective history. It was an opportunity to educate ourselves, and all British Columbians, about a time that we cannot and should not forget. About some bad ideas, and bad government policies.

Unsurprisingly, the hearings generated a lot of interest. Minster Wat heard more than 160 submissions from presenters - powerful stories from those who were impacted by historical wrongs imposed on Chinese Canadians. More than 100 others submitted their views online or by correspondence.

I commend the minister and her staff, and all members of the legislature who participated in this process. This issue isn't about partisan politics, and that's why our government is working with the opposition on a formal motion to be introduced in the legislature as an apology for historical wrongs.

Apologies express regret for actions in the past, but they shouldn't end there - they should also make a difference moving forward.

As the forums made clear, we need to educate all British Columbians about this unfortunate time in our history. That's why I've asked Minister of Education Peter Fassbender and Minister Wat to ensure that our school curriculum reflects our true history.

British Columbia has a long history, filled with men, women, and events we can be proud of - but our history also has to be accurate. We won't achieve anything if we choose to ignore the events of our past that make us uncomfortable. The curriculum changes will ensure that every child in British Columbia grows up knowing our history - including the mistakes.

Introducing changes to the curriculum will take time, and we want to make sure we get it right. As they always do, teachers will guide the process. And we will make sure the new curriculum includes voices from the communities that were affected.

British Columbia is a great province, one that has benefitted greatly by all those who have come here over the years to contribute. We have a lot to be proud of. And by confronting the mistakes of the past, we'll have something else to take pride in.

Comments (8) Add New Comment
Sid Tan
It is disappointing there is no mention by the Premier Christy Clark about justice and honour for the affected surviving seniors of Chinese exclusion. The best education arising from this apology would be redress for Chinese British Columbian families with members who endured the exclusion and family separation. The closure of this file for British Columbians is the best legacy.

The power of an apology is with the receiver. It is Chinese head tax and exclusion families who will be called on to forgive. They must be the priority of this apology. Education about past historical wrongs is good but what is it worth without justice and honour for the affected families, especially surviving members.

Premier Christy Clark should take leadership of this apology. The "quick wins" ethos must end. Minister Teresa Wat has bungled the file by not consulting with the people who have waged a 30-year struggle against governments (federal and provincial) who have always been arrogant and dismissive to Chinese head tax and exclusion families.

The BC Government stated there will be no "financial considerations" in the apology. The apology is all about the financial considerations of trade - currying favour with the People's Republic of China. The current message of this apology is that the BC Government can profit from a racist tax and keep the proceeds.

Head Tax Families Society of Canada has proposed the $9-million in "unjust enrichment" to the BC treasury be returned to the families who paid it. This would be a meaningful and symbolic. Such action would begin a made in BC solution for redress of 62-years of made-in-BC head tax and exclusion.

An apology acknowledges wrongdoing, is redemptive to the giver and healing to the receiver. An apology should also make best efforts for an ample measure of restorative justice. If the government unjustly takes a dollar from my family and me and apologizes, does that mean it doesn't have to give the dollar back?

It's good the power of an apology rests with the receiver. Would anyone want a BC government apology of meaningless words and even less action?
Rating: -16
K. Moher
So now apparently our history needs to be revised as well in order to accommodate another growing vocal minority/majority group. Such is the logical outcome as the governments use liberal democracy to elect a new people.

this of course is nothing but more shameless groveling from a politician specializing in suck-up weasel words.

Christy Clark, please take your words and sentiments, and go straight to hell.
Rating: +24
Correctly recording of events is not revising history. Revising history is twisting the truth to fit the agenda of the government or special interest group.
Rating: +6
Sid, you and your whining are getting really boring! Was the law back then racist? Most definitely. Wrong? Ditto. But so what? That was then, this is now. No more head tax. Really. I'm not kidding.
And if you want to get technical, not one Chinese was forced to pay a head tax. Those that did, did so voluntarily. Not one Chinese person was "Shanghai'd", loaded into the hold of a tramp steamer, brought across the ocean and forced to pay the tax. They came on their own volition.
If they wanted to leave China and not pay a tax, they could have gone to numerous other countries that didn't have a tax. But the CHOSE to come to Canada.
Your argument sounds more like a money grab. Which is ironic, considering the benefits you have reaped by being born in this country thanks to a family member who CHOSE to migrate here in the first place!
Rating: +8
K. Moher
Sammy, good point.

It should better read " So now our educational curriculum needs to be revised...".

For now anyways.

History revisions will come soon enough.
Rating: +1
Oh the Irony
The Head Tax was instituted by the young, European-based country out of fear that there would be massive and irreversible immigration from China (Asia) that would alter the basic fabric of our society. Was that fear unfounded?
Rating: +5
Quick Wins.
Didn't Harper just kill the "rich" tax for mainlanders purchasing in Vancouver and Toronto?
Well, the shame we should all feel! We must apologize.
For at least 100 years, over and over again.
Dear Landlord. I am sorry.
Rating: +4
boris moris
The Minister of International Trade and Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism must have had her tongue (or something else) in her cheek when she had her campaign signs read.... T. Wat...instead of Teresa Wat. Was she signalling her willingness to be twatish? She sure seems to embrace the general miasma that defines this corrupt government.
Rating: 0
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