Vancouver Mayor Apologizes to Chinese Community for City’s Racist Past

The city of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, formally apologized to Chinese Canadians for discriminating against them in the past.

In a council meeting on Sunday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson acknowledged that it was time to recognize “historical wrongdoings” committed against the city’s residents of Chinese descent.

Mayor George Robertson delivers an apology to the Chinese community. Image via Twitter / Van Mayor’s Office

“I rise today to recognize and repudiate such acts that stigmatized and dehumanized the Chinese-Canadian community of Vancouver,” he read from the apology prepared in English, Cantonese and Sze Yup dialect.

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“I rise today to formally apologize to the Chinese community of Vancouver and to all Canadians of Chinese ancestry for … discriminatory legislation.”

Robertson was referring to policies established in the city between 1886 and 1949, which, for one, denied Chinese residents the right to own property and choose where they wanted to live.

Group portrait of men, some sitting on railroad ties A group of Asian men (possibly railroad workers) next to a building, undated. Image via Flickr / Vancouver Public Library Historical Photographs

They were also forced to pay a head tax worth up to two years of wages just so they could enter Canada.

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Three Chinese men sitting on a bench at the wharf at Rivers inlet, BC waiting for the steamer, 1905. Image via Flickr / Vancouver Public Library Historical Photographs

“We must recognize, remember and condemn the historic discrimination which so many members of the Chinese community endured,” the CBC quoted B.C. Premier John Horgan as saying. “Families were broken apart by the head tax.”

Chinese residents were also denied the right to vote, hold public office, work desirable jobs and pursue education as they wanted.

‘A Touch of the Orient’ Chinese quarter, 127 East Pender Street, Vancouver, 1928. Image via Flickr / Vancouver Public Library Historical Photographs

More than 500 people attended the meeting at the Chinese Cultural Centre. It was also streamed on a screen in the city’s Chinatown.

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George Ing, a war veteran, accepted the apology, saying it was “rightful” and “long overdue.”

George Ing. Image via YouTube / StarPictures

“These were Chinese Canadians who were born in Canada,” the Vancouver Sun quoted him as saying. “They could not become professionals. They could not become a lawyer, a doctor, a dentist or a teacher. They could not go to a local swimming pool In the theatre, they had to sit in the back rows.”

“They decided to fight for Canada and prove they were Canadians, but were rejected because they were Chinese. Can you imagine walking into a recruiting office, willing to fight for Canada … to fight for the country you live in and being rejected?”

Image via Twitter / Van Mayor’s Office

The province of British Columbia issued an apology of its own in 2014, where it cited 160 anti-Chinese policies.

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