TORONTO, May 9, 2003 - The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is pleased to support the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC), the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic and other participating organizations in their ongoing mission to seek redress for members of the Chinese Canadian community who were gravely affected by racist laws.
"We have the benefit of hindsight"- said Dr. Karen Mock, Executive Director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, at a press conference convened by the CCNC today. "The Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act were imposed for nothing more than racist reasons. They were wrong. As Canadians, it is necessary to say, especially to those who were affected directly and are still alive, that we are sorry the Canadian Government acted this way. It is important for the victims and the descendants of victims of government imposed discrimination to know that while we cannot change the past, we have a responsibility to try to make amends and to ensure that they know that they are fully recognized as Canadians."
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) owes its existence to the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement signed in 1988. Having been deprived of the franchise until 1948, labelled "enemy aliens" during the war, and enduring pain and humiliation through seizure of property and forced relocation and internment, Japanese Canadians finally received an apology and acknowledgement from the Canadian Government, absolving them of any wrong-doing. In the words of Art Miki, then President of the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) and founding Vice-Chair of the CRRF, "The redress settlement allowed for the healing process to begin."
In addition to the formal apology and some modest compensation for living survivors and a community fund to rebuild their cultural institutions, the Japanese Canadian community negotiated the establishment of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation to document the history of racism, expose its current manifestations, assist communities in their struggle against all forms of racial discrimination., and act as a resource and facilitator in the pursuit of equity, fairness and social justice. We are committed to fulfilling that role in advocating the continued dialogue and negotiations with government that will lead to an appropriate form of a mutually agreed on redress to aggrieved Canadian communities whose rights were violated because of racism and other now illegal discriminatory practices.
It is important for Canadians to realize that several other communities have been affected by racist or exclusionary laws as well, certainly not the least of which are the First Nations.
Other examples include (but are not limited to):
When the redress agreement was finally negotiated, as a gift to all Canadians, the NAJC contributed towards the creation of the CRRF as an arms length national foundation for the elimination of racism in commemoration of those Japanese Canadians who suffered injustices during and after World War II. The Government of Canada matched their contribution, and when the Canadian Race Relations Foundation Act of 1990 was proclaimed in 1996, closure was brought to many Japanese Canadians for the long standing injustices against them.
"It is clear that there are many forms of redress, but also that there is a need for some form of closure in order for healing to occur. We urge Canadians to demonstrate their commitment to justice and human rights by supporting the call for an apology at the very least and for continued negotiations towards appropriate redress for racist wrongs committed against their fellow Canadians," concluded Dr. Mock.