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#1.)   WHAT SHOULD THE APOLOGY SAY?

 

My name is Joe Leong and I am the president of the Kamloops Chinese Cultural Association (KCCA) and the vice-president of the Kamloops Chinese Freemasons Association.  I will be representing the two Associations as The Chinese Community.

 

We would like to thank the Provincial Government and the Honourable Teresa Wat to come to Kamloops to consult with the Kamloops Chinese Canadian community on the acknowledgement for historical wrongs against Chinese British Columbians. 

 

KCCA is a non-profit organization formed in 1977 and is proud that we were founder of the organization in 1980 known today as the Kamloops Immigrant Services.  Kamloops Chinese Freemasons Association is one of the oldest Chinese organizations dated back to 1895 and many of its members were buried at the only Chinese cemetery in the city known today as the Kamloops Chinese Heritage Cemetery.  The two Chinese organizations and the City of Kamloops maintain the cemetery.  Over the years we have enhanced the cemetery and currently we are upgrading the cemetery to keep it in presentable condition.

 

Let us not forget the achievements of the Chinese British Columbians of over 17,000 pioneer Chinese railway workers that were officially recognized in 1982 by the Canadian government for their sacrifices, contributions, and determination in constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia in 1880 to 1885. Let us also remember that discriminatory polices such as the Chinese Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act were implemented when Chinese laborers were no longer needed in the country.  Many of the Chinese laborers ether died on the railway or died as lonely men following the completion of the railway. Most of them were buried without names.  They are the unsung heroes and deserve to be honored in our world today. 

 

The Chinese Community accepts the Government of British Columbia’s acknowledgement of the  historical context where “the Chinese community in British Columbia suffered legislated inequality and discrimination in the 1800s and 1900s when multiple forms of discriminatory legislation were imposed, which restricted labour participation, property ownership and Chinese individuals from entering Canada”.  We accept the acknowledgement that the Government of BC initiated the discrimination against early Chinese immigrants and persuaded the Federal Government to enact discriminatory policies.

 

Both the Chinese culture and the Euro-Canadian culture have shifted their views over time. Both held prejudices against “foreigners” due to their foreign ways and customs, and they may continue to do so today. However, we must not forget that it is always the dominant group that has the power to implement policies that may heavily influence the real lives of people. We appreciate that it takes courage and open-mindedness for the provincial government to acknowledge the past wrongs committed against the early Chinese immigrants. We understand that such courage and open-mindedness has tremendous power in shaping public attitudes toward cultural differences. It sends a strong message to the public that racism of any kind,  although explainable in the context of the cultural times, can never be justified.  An apology from the government promises even more cultural changes in our future, toward a more tolerant and harmonious multicultural society.

 

We hope that the world is changing for the better and believe that education is one of the best ways to ensure that we do not repeat past errors.  To ensure that the young people today are able to learn about the historical events, we need a museum that is able to collect and archive the necessary materials to educate the youth. A museum would also be respectful to all the Chinese British Columbians that were affected by the discriminatory legislation.  There have been too many belated plaques and small monuments that don’t tell a complete story about the history of Chinese Canadian.

 

The Chinese Community truly believes that a museum is the best way to pay respect to the Chinese British Columbians and culturally educate the young people to better understand where we have been as a nation. Only with the knowledge of our past can we determine the path of our future. We need to preserve history for the future generations. After all, an apology would not be meaningful without some substantive legacy for our future generations so that history does not repeat itself. Let me finish with a quote from Henry Glassie, 

 

“History is not the past.  It is a story about the past, told in the present, and designed to be useful in constructing the future”

 

 

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