The founder of Canadians for Reconciliation has told the Georgia Straight that the B.C. government will apologize in the legislature on Thursday (May 15) for historical wrongs committed against the Chinese community.
In a phone interview, Bill Chu expressed serious concerns because he doesn't think the government has done nearly enough to educate the general public about the nature of those wrongs.
And that, he suggested, could lead to an anti-Chinese backlash.
"Before one can apologize for something else or for some other group of people, you need to really educate the bigger public as to what happened in the first place," Chu said.
He pointed out that approximately 90 percent of B.C.'s population is not of Chinese descent. According to him, most of them have little or no knowledge of what happened in the past.
"I haven't been asking for an apology," Chu said. "We always ask for reconciliation, which is something totally different. The government, out of their political convenience and ethnicgate affair, they dream up this idea of making apologies to ethnic groups to get votes, right?"
Chu added that B.C. government's website concerning historical wrongs is too low-profile to reach the masses.
He said that originally, the government said it was going to apologize for the Chinese head tax, which confused people because the federal government had already said it was sorry for this.
"Many people asked them, 'What historical wrongs?' " Chu said. "It took them forever to come up with a list."
The government has posted a lengthy list of discriminatory legislation in B.C. from 1872 to 1948.
In addition to the head tax—which began in 1895 at $50 before reaching $500 in 1903—there were dozens of bills prohibiting employment in many areas, the right to vote, and being able to buy Crown land, among other restrictions.
In an editorial in the Sing Tao newspaper, editor-in-chief Victor Ho claimed that the government's apology will not lead to public repentance.