Vancouver’s civic government announced its plan to host an event in April 2018 where it will deliver a formal apology to victims of racial discrimination in the Chinese community, which was legislated by previous city leaders between 1886 and 1947.
The 2017 city council made the decision on Wednesday after hearing the tales of some of its Chinese community members about the horrible racial discrimination their deceased family members encountered.
According to Vancouver Courier, the apology is going to be delivered in Chinese as well as in English, and will be displayed via a large screen that will be set up in a yet-to-be determined location in Vancouver, Canada.
It is still unclear who will read the apology letter in Chinese, but Mayor Greg Robertson will most likely deliver the English version.
“You can never become a better society — a better place, a better city — unless you acknowledge what have been your errors, and what have been the wrongs,” said Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr, who is currently sitting on a council along with Chinese councilors Raymond Louie and Kerry Jang.
George Ing, one of the Chinese-Canadian community members who attended the city council meeting on Wednesday, talked about his childhood experience. While speaking at the forum, he recalled his job picking up his parents’ welfare cheque when he was still 10.
“When I went to pick up the cheque, people would look at me and make comments about vermin on the society — they didn’t do that to anyone else. It didn’t do wonders for my self-esteem,” he said.
Ing also shared the story of how some of his family, as well as members of the Chinese community, explicitly told him to keep his head down and to avoid disputes at all cost. The former jock was also told the same thing by his coach, in addition to not arguing with the referees during their games.
The 85-year-old father of two sons remarked how times have progressed for the better compared to what he experienced in his childhood.
“My two boys are well-adjusted, they’re educated, they’re articulate. they’re good citizens, they contribute back to society — they do a lot — and I didn’t have to tell them to keep their heads down,” he continued.
Past city council members were reportedly directly responsible for the racial discrimination against Chinese people in Vancouver.
At the time of heightened racial tension in the city, Chinese people were not allowed to run for public office or even own a property. They were also denied the rights to study in the medical field as a doctor or a nurse, and were prohibited from becoming a lawyer or a banker, among other professions.
Chinese voting rights weren’t granted in Vancouver until 1949, four years after Chinese Canadian Forces member returned home from fighting in the World War II.
The city lobbied the federal government to adopt adopt formal legislation to prevent the Chinese from coming to Canada.
Vancouver and anti-Asian groups also lobbied to increase head tax on the Chinese from 50 in 1885 to $100 in 1900 and $500 in 1903.
“Anti-Asian political agitation and racial violence culminated in a big riot at Brighouse Estate near Coal Harbour in 1887 and again in Chinatown in 1907,” a staff report said. “These riots occurred with the knowledge and sometimes presence of the city mayor and aldermen. Other groups such as the Japanese were also targeted during these riots.”
This isn’t the first time a city in Canada has offered a public and formal apology to its Chinese-Canadian citizens over historical discrimination. In 2014, the province of British Columbia delivered a formal apology for historical wrongdoings and racism, Vancouver Sun reported.