Friday, June 23, 2006

Tax Ahead and you'll gain when you're dead

So, Stephen Harper apologizes for what he didn't do and provides money that isn't his in compensation.

Chinese-Canadians who expressed satisfaction yesterday over Prime Minister Stephen Harper's apology for a racist head tax once imposed on Chinese immigrants.

Harper also offered financial compensation for the head tax -- which ranged from $50 to $500 -- imposed on Chinese immigrants from 1885 until 1923.

[..] About 81,000 people are believed to have paid the tax, although only a handful are still alive.


Brent Gilliard said...

This "sorry" will probably turn out to be the most under-discussed issue of 2006.

The government imposed the head-tax as a compromise between corporations that wanted cheap immigrant labour and Canadians who understandably did not.

The head-tax was not imposed by a few elite xenophobes in government. It was a political move to buy votes. The people wanted it.

There are no easy answers. Most people from 1885-1923 are not alive today. But does that free us, the descendants of those Canadian labourors, from feeling collective guilt? Or if not guilt, the responsibility to right our parents' wrongs?

It is handy to dismiss the whole apology for abstract politics, but the moral issue deserves wrestling with.

Honey Pot said...

It is good thing to try and right a wrong. Canada built the railways using Asian slave labour. Canada prospered greatly and unthankfully, on the backs of the immigrant Asians. Canada has impeccable timing. Only a handful of them left to compensate. Now if Canada can just hold off until they wipe out the First Nations people, they can apologize again for a paltry sum.

Pietr said...

Yeah,terrible,that slave labour.
The poor Chinks saved up, got on boats, crossed the Pacific, asked for work and when they got here?
They got money and citizenship!
Of course the 500 bucks was way out of line.
Now Red China:suppression of all dissent, government 'unions',that's what I call enslavement of Chinese people.

Brent Gilliard said...

Just because China is really bad doesn't mean we can be a little bad.

MapMaster said...

The government expiating itself with our money is the same as saying that we're the ones to blame for the head tax in the first place. Harper is bearing false witness against us.

To continue the biblical rhetoric, I agree that there are certain circumstances in which the sins of the government father are visited on the citizens. For example, when the government contracts a debt obligation, it is encumbent on the only people who can possibly cover the obligation, the taxpayers, to do so. On this occasion, that is the correct thing, although the contracting of the debt in the first place was not correct. But in the case of the Chinese head tax, objectionable as it was, the government had not contracted to itself or its citizens any obligations that someone would have to fulfill. It simply imposed an unfair tax. Guess what? The government imposes an unfair tax that discriminates against me because of my income! Can I look forward to an apology or a refund? Of course not, and I wouldn't expect either, no one is obligated to do so, I would just want the taxation to stop. At least the Chinese head tax did stop. You could say that the Chinese head tax discriminated on the base of race or nationality, and that makes it somehow deserving of special rules of treatment. Offensive as racism is to our modern sensibilities, apologies and restitutions for certain groups at the expense of others merely moves the burden of discrimination from one group to another. Either way, the government continues to discriminate on all kinds of other bases.

Brent Gilliard said...

The credit card people don't mind when I pay off one debt with another.

Anonymous said...

As opposed to all of the other people who were non-racially ripped off and whose tax money was stolen in various government boondoggles from 1867 right down to the present day.

Oh wait, I know what the problem is - all those other victims aren't concentrated in any particular swing ridings, and they don't have a community centre (preferably with a seniors' residence attached) where you can send a bus to pick them up at leadership delegate selection time, or where you can install a polling station at election time. Never mind. Your cheque is not in the mail.

Brent Gilliard said...

You make a good point. Quebec gets all the attention these days, but BC could be the difference between majority and minority for the Tories.