By Teresa Wat
Minister of International Trade and Minister Responsible for the
Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism
VICTORIA - The Province of British Columbia recently began a process of consultation to discuss the wording, delivery and legacy efforts for a formal apology to the Chinese community for historical wrongs.
As part of this process, seven forums are being held throughout B.C. to identify wording, delivery and legacy of the apology. We have completed the first two sessions and feedback so far indicates that public education is a possible legacy initiative to consider.
While government will engage with B.C.'s Chinese community associations and individuals who were directly and indirectly impacted by prejudicial legislation, I want to make it clear everyone is welcome to attend these sessions. All British Columbians need to be a part of this important process if it is to have the currency it needs to be truly meaningful.
The B.C. Legislature passed more than 100 pieces of discriminatory legislation and regulations against the Chinese community in the 1800s and 1900s. The general purpose of the legislation was to: restrict employment, restrict voting or holding public office, impose taxes or fees based on place of origin or ethnicity, impose restrictive or punitive licensing or regulatory requirements and restrict ownership of property. Chinese Canadians did not receive full citizenship rights until 1947.
Today, B.C. is the most ethnically diverse province in Canada. Our province was built by immigrants and the Chinese community is part of this legacy.
Consultations have already been held in Victoria and Kamloops, with the remaining forums being held in Vancouver, Kelowna, Burnaby, Prince George and Richmond.
Our government wants to engage in meaningful dialogue and I encourage all British Columbians to come to the forums to listen and participate or to provide comments through: www.EmbraceBC.ca
The input received will guide the wording and delivery of a formal apology. Also on this website is a comprehensive chronology of historic wrongs and discriminatory legislation against the Chinese community in B.C. between 1872-1948. To see this for themselves, I encourage people to visit: http://bit.ly/1lB6oIS
I am working with the Official Opposition and other MLAs because above all else, the apology must include all parties in the Legislature and be completely non-partisan with the full support of the House.
We can't undo the past but we can move forward and leave a legacy for future generations by educating them about the past.