Canadian Heritage

Canadian Heritage

December 01, 2006 16:38 ET

Canadian Heritage: Application Process in Place for Persons in a Conjugal Relationship with a Now-Deceased Chinese Head Tax Payer

GATINEAU, QUEBEC--(CCNMatthews - Dec. 1, 2006) - The Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women, today announced that individuals who were in a conjugal relationship with a Chinese Head-Tax payer who is now deceased may apply for ex-gratia symbolic payments of $20,000.

"Canada's new Government is following through on its promise to act as quickly as possible to put this next phase of the application process in place," said Minister Oda. "I presented the first ex-gratia payments to Head Tax payers in Vancouver, in late October. For this second phase of the process, we could see the first payments made as early as February."

On June 22, 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered an official apology on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians for the Head Tax paid by Chinese immigrants.

The Head Tax was imposed on Chinese immigrants entering Canada from 1885 to 1923. The Dominion of Newfoundland also imposed a Head Tax on Chinese immigrants from 1906 to 1949, the year it joined Confederation.

The Guide and Application Form (in a single document) is available in English and French on the Department of Canadian Heritage website at www.canadianheritage.gc.ca. Print copies may be obtained by phoning the Canadian Heritage Help Line (888 776-8584) or Service Canada (800 622-6232). Forms are also available at Service Canada Centres, a list of which can be found at www1.servicecanada.gc.ca/en/gateways/where_you_live/menu.shtml

The Guide and Application Form are also available in Chinese (traditional and simplified) from the Department of Canadian Heritage for use as a reference tool only. Application forms must be completed in English or French.

(This news release is available on the Internet at www.canadianheritage.gc.ca under Media Room.)

Backgrounder

The Issue

On June 22, 2006, the Prime Minister of Canada outlined a package of measures. It includes the following:

- an official apology on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians for the Head Tax paid by Chinese immigrants from 1885 to 1923 to Canada, and from 1906 to 1949 to the Dominion of Newfoundland

- ex-gratia payments (payments made voluntarily) of $20,000 to living Head-Tax payers and living persons who have been in a conjugal relationship with a Head-Tax payer who is now deceased

- a $24-million Community Historical Recognition Program to provide grant and contribution funding for community projects linked to wartime measures and immigration restrictions

- a $10-million National Historical Recognition Program to fund federal initiatives, developed in partnership with other stakeholders
On October 20, 2006, the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women, participated in a cheque-presentation ceremony in Vancouver, British Columbia, for the first ex-gratia payments to Chinese immigrants who paid the Head Tax. The Honourable David Emerson, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics, accompanied Minister Oda at the announcement.

History

Over 15 000 Chinese labourers came to Canada in the mid-19th century to assist in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Once the railway was complete, a number of measures were enacted to stem the flow of immigrants from China to Canada.

Beginning with the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, a Head Tax of $50 was imposed on Chinese newcomers. The Government subsequently raised this amount to $100, in 1900, and then to $500, in 1903. The tax remained in place until 1923, when the Chinese Immigration Act was amended and effectively excluded most Chinese immigrants to Canada until 1947. Newfoundland imposed a Head Tax on Chinese immigrants from 1906 to 1949, before joining Confederation.

At the time, this Head Tax was considered legal by Canadian Courts. However, it is inconsistent with the values that Canadians hold today. However, the Government of Canada accepts that the Head Tax was inconsistent with the values that Canadians hold today. The measures announced by the Prime Minister in June were a step forward recognizing this historic event.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage
    and Status of Women
    Chisholm Pothier
    Director of Communications
    819-997-7788
    or
    Canadian Heritage
    Donald Boulanger
    A/Chief, Media Relations
    819-994-9101