City of Vancouver could apologize to Chinese community for historical discrimination

A motion is set to go before Vancouver city council next week calling for the consideration of an apology for historical municipal policies that discriminated against people of Chinese descent.

The motion to be moved by Vision Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie urges council to direct staff to conduct research into discriminatory laws, regulations, and policies in place in the city between 1886 and 1947, and to consult with historians, Vancouver Chinese community members, and organizations on the findings.

Louie also wants to see staff come back with recommendations for reconciliation efforts, including a public acknowledgement and formal apology.

“Given the apology in 2006 from the federal government, the province completing theirs most recently, the city of New West having done their apology back in 2010, it’s time for Vancouver to undertake this work,” Louie told the Straight by phone.

“I’ve been in discussions on and off for many years now, in fact I’d hoped to start this much earlier, but given the fact that the province had initiated theirs, I felt it was important that they have their clear space to talk about what they had done in the past and not have it confused with what might have happened here in the city of Vancouver,” he added.

A bipartisan motion was tabled in the B.C. legislature on May 15 apologizing for the B.C. government’s historical role in discriminating against people of Chinese descent. The apology was rejected by some community groups, including the Chinese Canadian National Council and the Head Tax Families Society of Canada.

“Most of these apologies, I take with a grain of salt,” Sid Chow Tan, the president of the Head Tax Families Society of Canada, said in a phone interview.

“I consider them starts. A start of a dialogue towards reconciliation, but in reality, how do you get reconciliation without redress?”

He noted that his group approached the city prior to the apology from the federal government in 2006, calling for city council to support the call for redress.

“All of a sudden now there’s this raft of apologies coming up, and I smell election,” said Tan.

Louie said there’s no timeline associated with the motion, but wants the process to extend “as long as it takes” for a complete review of the issue.

“I expect that it’ll take some time,” he stated. “For our staff to complete this, I want them to take the appropriate time to do it right.”

Louie said if the findings on historical discriminatory policies in New Westminster are any indication, he expects that Vancouver staff will also come across many in their research.

“The research by our staff will yield, I think, many surprises for many of our people today on just how egregious some of these initiatives were, and do its part, I think, on what I hope is to educate people on what had happened in the past and learn from the past,” he said.

Bill Chu, the founder of the Canadians for Reconciliation Society, suggested B.C. should have done more to educate the broader public about historical discriminatory policies. He said the potential Vancouver apology presents a similar challenge.

“If people don’t know what you’re apologizing for, they probably will reject it outright,” he said in a phone interview.

Chu noted racism was once “endemic”.

“There’s no city that really escaped it,” he stated, adding that many of the discriminatory laws implemented by the provincial government also had implications for cities.

“For example, the no-Chinese clause, meaning Chinese would not be employed by the cities,” he stated. “That was a provincial thing, but it trickles down to municipal levels.”

Chu noted he wants to see any consultation efforts include the broader public to encourage understanding of the history.

“We should seek reconciliation, but seeking reconciliation is far different than just making a quick apology,” he said.

The motion is scheduled to be introduced on May 27.

Comments (11) Add New Comment
blah
What would be the point? Except to waste taxpayer money and resources.
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Chris A
The city's not going to do it, because all politicians just don't want to take responsibility, in other words, just passing the buck.
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Save Vancouver
Maybe we should just issue a blanket apology to everybody who thinks they've been wronged by our civilization at some point. How far back shopuld we go?
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Hertzog
"Bill Chu, the founder of the Canadians for Reconciliation Society, suggested B.C. should have done more to educate the broader public about historical discriminatory policies"

Translation: school kids should be getting indoctrinated with more "white guilt".

It just never ends for these whinorities! They will NEVER be satisfied.
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Ethnic Chinese, Canadian Blood
Lets not. Doing so would mean going down a slippery slope of endless apologies and condoning a sense of self-righteousness on the side of those who actually have very little to do with the issues of the past. Yes, we can acknowledge the fact that racism existed, but these symbolic gestures now only serve to reignite a sense of difference between Canadians of varying backgrounds. Can't we just move forward and build new inclusive relationships?
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greg
Give it a break already and stop wasting more resources you thieves!
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Liz
Every culture/nation has done some wrong in its past where an apology is in place: Every modern society to its indigenous people - Canada to first Nations; Australia to Maoris (you l know what I mean). These people endured not only loss of land but being killed. Europe: Please familiarize yourself with the Treaty of Versailles and the Munich Agreement where thousands of people were forced from their homeland, forced to leave everything behind in spite of having lived there for hundreds of years – they too are still waiting for an apology. And what about the Tibetans forced by China into surrendering their life and land? Seems to me that the apology and getting money goes hand in hand. It is time to stop whining about the past, some people had much harder pasts but they carry that pain with dignity. Time of get of the hamster wheel and move forward. A true leader shows strength and pride. Proverb of a housewife: The past is the teacher of the future.
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Trank
Please, lets stop this. My guess is that most of the people who did all these racist things are now dead or drooling in old folks homes. We need to clean the slate and more forward.
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What about me
Than with that (flawed) logic you have to apologize first to the Aboriginals for the Genocide by the Europeans, than ALL Ethnic groups.

It would be a never ending stream of useless apologies.

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Bo Xilai
I'll support the City of Vancouver apologizing for any perceived slights to the Chinese community when the Chinese government apologizes for its brutal oppression of the Tibetan and Uyghur peoples, allowing the depopulation of the world's oceans of sharks for tasteless soups and the slaughter of rhinoceros for "magic" potions.
In the greater scheme of things, any "racist injustices" Vancouver, BC and the Canadian government have inflicted on anyone else is a pittance on what every other government has done to other minority populations. I'm sick of our politicians apologizing for anything bad done 100 years ago.
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Melissa Fong aka @internationalMF
Don't tell me that historical racist policies are not your problem. We benefit off the backs of our exploited ancestors- Mostly racialized and Indigenous people....

Shame on some of the commenters that don't realize that our entire education and political system is built on celebrating colonial violence to build a Canadian nation. This is not about a meaningless, in kind, apology. This is about addressing the very core of how inequality is reproduced.
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