Minister Kenney issues statement marking the anniversary of the Repeal of The Chinese Immigration Act

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate an important anniversary in the history of our Parliament and of the pioneer Chinese-Canadian community.

Sixty five years ago today, Parliament repealed the Chinese Immigration Act, also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act. In doing so, it brought an end to generations of discrimination against people of Chinese origin.

The Chinese Immigration Act was introduced in 1923 to prevent anyone from China from immigrating to Canada. The Act was passed despite the fact the Government had collected $23-million in head tax revenues from Chinese immigrants over 38 years.

This unjust law prevented anyone from China from immigrating to Canada. Chinese men who had already faced two decades of stigma remained separated from their families and were denied the rights of subjects of the Crown. This was unworthy of our country, considering that many of these men had helped unite the Dominion in building one of the most dangerous sections of the CPR through the Rockies.

Despite these injustices, Chinese immigrants remained steadfastly loyal. During the Second World War, a patriotic generation of Chinese-Canadians volunteered for the Canadian military. Serving bravely, they were generally not put into action until, late in the war, the British recruited them into the Special Operations Executive. They served with honour overseas in defending freedom and defeating fascism and Japanese imperialism.

One of those outstanding volunteers was Douglas Jung. Thanks in part to the service of men like Jung, the Dominion Government could no longer maintain its unjust policies. On May 14, 1947, the Chinese Immigration Act was repealed.

Today is the 65th anniversary of that historic achievement. On June 22, 2006, our Government helped bring a final end to that sad period, with the Prime Minister’s formal apology for the head tax and his expression of deep regret.

Since then, the Government has issued ex gratia symbolic payments to living head taxpayers, and widows of head taxpayers. Through the Community Historical Recognition Program, our Government has also approved over $4.5-million of projects in recognition of the injustice that Chinese-Canadians faced through the Head Tax and the Chinese Immigration Act.

In June of 1957, Douglas Jung became the first Canadian Member of Parliament of Asian and Chinese origin. He subsequently represented Canada at the United Nations.

We pay tribute to his spirit, and to the spirits of all those who rose up with dignity and overcame decades of discrimination against people of Chinese and Asian origin. A federal building in Vancouver was named the Douglas Jung Building in 2007.

In his maiden speech in the House of Commons, Douglas Jung said:

‘I am sure that honourable members on both sides will rejoice that we in this country have a system of government that does not extol its virtues by fanfare, but by expressing our belief in our principles by deeds and not words.’

On this 65th anniversary of the repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act, let us all call to mind those who overcame adversity to help build a Canada that is a nation of freedom, democracy and equality of opportunity for all.

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