Burnaby councillors want genuine apology from province

Burnaby councillors Anne Kang, Sav Dhaliwal and Richard Chang have co-signed a statement calling for only genuine apologies from the province in response to the recent ethnic vote scandal.

A joint statement from March 10 signed by Vancouver councillors Kerry Jang, Tony Pang, and school trustee Allan Wong, along with the three Burnaby councillors, was released in an effort to address the government's role in ending racism and offering a genuine apology - not just a "quick win" attempt to secure votes.

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"(The ethnic vote scandal) prompted many of us to have a discussion on what the government's role in this is," Dhaliwal told the NOW in a phone interview. "We wanted to do something, to make a statement on behalf of the local areas. I was very pleased to be part of that."

The statement is titled, "Genuine apologies crucial to building trust and hope for the future." It touches on the history of racism documented in B.C. through legislation, and highlights motions made to close the gap of inequality in the last decade.

"Governments of the day tapped into racist sentiments and even campaigned on it," the statement reads, and sources headlines from a 1935 Vancouver Sun article. "Newspaper reports reveal comments such as, 'A vote for any C.C.F. candidate is a vote to give the Chinaman and Japanese the same voting right you have! A vote for a Liberal candidate is a vote against oriental enfranchisement!'"

Dhaliwal said a reason for him to sign the statement was to ensure history does not repeat itself.

"The government has a duty to make sure the mistakes of the past are not repeated," he said. "What we want to hear from the government is that it will not happen again, whether they win or lose."

The Burnaby councillor said he was concerned when he heard the news that the Liberals were allegedly going to use apologies as a way of getting ethnic votes.

"It was appalling to use it as a tool to win votes," he said. "Do it sincerely."

The statement highlights three past apologies or motions made at all three levels of government, such as when the B.C. legislature passed a motion calling on the federal government to consult with the Chinese Canadian community to redress those impacted by the Chinese Head Tax in 1992; and in 2006, the federal government made a formal apology for the head tax; and in 2010 when the City of New Westminster "issued a formal apology to Chinese Canadians for the discriminatory practices of its government and elected officials in the past."

"In light of these sincere attempts by all three orders of government, last week's revelation from leaked documents that the present B.C. Liberal government's plan to issue an apology to the Chinese-Canadian community for historical wrongs was politically motivated simply to win votes is repugnant and detestable," the statement reads.

Burnaby Coun. Anne Kang said it's now time to move on from apologizing for things that happened in the past.

"The government needs to look ahead and make the best, progressive choices," she said. "We have had enough apologies."

She said apologies should derive from a process of consulting with the affected groups, and that the Liberals did not approach the apology appropriately.

"They should not just dig up the past," she added. "We all know what happened. We have textbooks telling us that."

Kang says an apology is not needed, and that there are many different cultural and religious groups also wronged in the past that could feel left out.

"The governments in the past didn't have that wisdom to be accepting," she said. "People make the choice to come to Canada still. We're all past that right now."

The Head Tax Families Society of Canada and the Chinese Canadian National Council said it appreciated the joint statement from the councillors and trustees.

But the two organizations are still calling on the province to apologize for the mistakes made by the government in the past.

"B.C. politicians, including former B.C. premiers, were the most rabid anti-Chinese legislators in Canada," said Sid Show Tan, president of the Head Tax Families Society of Canada. "It is only right and just that the B.C. legislature offer a genuine apology to the families who were affected."

The national council wants a sincere apology and a "meaningful amount" of head tax monies given back to head tax families, according to a press release.

"B.C. must not be seen to be profiting from racism - it damages our image at home and overseas," said Victor Wong, executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council.

A leaked email dated from Jan. 10, 2012 outlined the Liberals' plan to target the ethnic vote. The 17-page "multicultural strategic outreach plan" outlined a "quick win" component that the Liberals' "identify and advance government initiatives and projects that would be resonant in ethnic communities" and "identify and correct 'historical wrongs,' i.e.: the Komagata Maru apology in the House."

The NDP received the plan in an email and then presented it in the legislature on Feb. 28.

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