Today, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered an apology to Canadians of Chinese descent in general, and, specifically, to those few survivors who were directly affected by the “Head Tax” policy of a hundred years ago. (In brief, Chinese, but not other potential immigrants were obliged to pay a relatively huge sum - equivalent to about two years wages - in order to gain entry to Canada. The link in the next paragraph provides much greater detail). He also announced that the 800 or so survivors (or their widows) would receive compensation in the amount of $20,000.00 CDN (~$18,000 US).
Here is a link to an article describing his speech, its contents, and the historical background.
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, as Harper said, “it is the decent thing to do”. On the other hand, it diverts funds from other projects, opens the door for other ostensibly aggrieved populations to have expectations of receiving similar treatment, and, in my opinion most significantly, suggests that the present government of Canada and its citizens somehow bear responsibility for what happened a century ago. Indeed, how else can we apologize with sincerity unless we are culpable, the need for retroactivity nothwithstanding.
Obviously, 10 million bucks is nothing in the grand scheme of things. And I’m not too concerned about Ukranian-Canadians or German-Canadians demanding their own apologies (and reparations). What bothers me is the implication that I am somehow responsible for the actions of a government that existed the better part of a century before I was born.
I’d welcome your comments and opinions.