Essay: Democratic Systems In Canada

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  • Subject area(s): History
  • Price: Free download
  • Published on: 10th June 2012
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  • Number of pages: 2

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Democratic Systems In Canada

Even the fairest democratic systems harbour deplorable records of discrimination. Canada is no exception; in its history, minority groups have often been mistreated by the government. For example, since the 19th century, Chinese immigrants have faced demeaning statutes and unjustifiable affronts within Canadian borders. Today, Canada has apologized for many of its past injustices, though resentment sweeps across provinces unabated. The question stands: How much redress is enough to atone for the misconduct of ancestors? One must acknowledge that emotional scars cannot be healed. However, both financial losses and dignity may be returned to survivors and their kin. Through analysing the plight of Chinese-Canadians over the years, it follows that money should be given to previously disadvantaged ethnic groups in order to support legacy projects promoting cultural identity and critical education.

First of all, because the Head Tax directly harmed the Chinese-Canadian community, it must be reimbursed and its significance must not be forgotten. Initially, the 1857 Fraser Valley gold rush incited Chinese miners to move to British Columbia. As more workers were recruited to toil in arduous conditions, churning through ditches and swamps, unemployed Whites became increasingly bitter at their presence. They believed that the diligent Chinese were stealing their jobs! Later, construction began on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Between 1881 and 1884, 17,000 Chinese men worked on the immense track. Despite their dangerous tasks and unsanitary living spaces, labourers were paid meager $1 daily wages that were much less than those rewarded to native citizens. The racist government of 1885 feared growing Oriental populations. In response to parliament's unbridled hostility, the infamous Head Tax was introduced, charging every Chinese person $50 upon their entry into Canada. In 1900, this amount was doubled, and then in 1903, the fee jumped to a staggering $500. As legislators hoped to curb Chinese immigration after the completion of the CPR ' effectively throwing away Chinese settlers after they had served their use ' Chinese families were devastated. Many wives in China could not join their husbands in Canada, barred by monetary restrictions. From those who could pay the small fortune, the Canadian government collected $23 million dollars in revenue. Never before had Canada placed such severe policies onto one racial group. Unfortunately, Canada's past government went a step further and introduced the Chinese Immigration Act on July 1, 1923, which banned immigration altogether. Dominion Day became Humiliation Day. An inordinate Head Tax, which has yet to be fully repaid, became an emphatic 'No, we will not let you in'. It is clear that these wrongs should be addressed so that the Chinese-Canadians' troubled history stays relevant, thereby warning the House of Commons to never repeat its mistake.

One must understand the value of ethnic minorities to a nation woven by their experiences. Exploited groups must be compensated because without their contributions, their country would be reduced to a shell of its former glory. The transcontinental CPR was a staple of Sir John A. Macdonald's National Policy, the centrepiece of the Conservative Party's platform. The railway connected British Columbia to Eastern Canada, uniting the dominion from coast to coast. Without the CPR, British Columbia, isolated out west, would not have joined Confederation in 1871. Chinese-Canadians built the CPR, thus expanding western settlement and business opportunities for Canada. Vancouver, the western terminus of the track, turned into Canada's most critical west coast port for imports and exports. Presently, Vancouver remains a hub of metropolitan activity. Chinese-Canadians also served in the Canadian armed forces during World War Two and eventually earned positions in government. For example, Vivienne Poy was appointed to the Senate in 1998. Since Chinese immigrants have impacted Canada demographically, geographically, politically, and economically, they should be acknowledged for their efforts and for their hardships. Perhaps it is surprising that Canada, famous for championing equality, once maliciously singled out and targeted people of Chinese descent. Canada must correct its image by admitting its flawed history and by offering reconciliation. Actions speak louder than words; financial reparations to Chinese-Canadians would prove the validity of their distress.

Luckily, the government of Canada is both responsible and representative. Efforts have been made to rectify the situation. The Chinese Immigration Act was repealed in 1947. Canadians' right to free speech and assembly meant that the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) could protest against racist depictions in the media and petition the legislative body for redress. On June 22, 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially apologized for Canada's discriminatory actions since the days of the CPR. $20,000 was granted to surviving Head Tax payers or their spouses. However, compensation has not been enough to achieve the ultimate goal of instilling public awareness of Canada's previous faults. Education is the key to preserving truth, but in 2013, $500,000 meant for projects memorializing the Head Tax were not spent, much to the horror of Chinese-Canadian advocacy groups. Moreover, classroom history lessons continue to skim over Canada's darker moments with various ethnic minorities. According to Bill Chu, chair of the Canadian Reconciliation Society, widespread ignorance of these historical wrongs has bred a 'dormant anti-Chinese sentiment' in British Columbia. The only way Chinese citizens can reclaim their history and 'move on together' from an epoch of discrimination is if the government stands behind them, arms open and promises fulfilled.
It is also important to analyze the mentality of those who reject reconciliation measures. Some detractors argue that guilt is not hereditary. Why should the present account for mistakes of the past when there is no direct involvement in ancestors' misdemeanors? Others maintain that times have changed so much that it would be impossible to judge the fairness of compensation. As a result of these reservations, progress toward justice has been slow. However, one must remember the point of taking responsibility: If Canada can learn from the past, it can better prepare for the future. Dishonouring one racial community dishonours the entire country, since Canada accepts multiculturalism as its social fabric. Therefore, the government must confront deeply rooted problems like inequality and discrimination so that not only Chinese-Canadian citizens, but the entire world, can be proud of Canada.

All in all, victims of intolerance must not be ignored, no matter when they had to suffer. Consequently, government funds should be used to endorse educational proposals celebrating diversity and immigrant contributions. For instance, Canada can greatly improve its relationship with Chinese-Canadians through generosity and an open mind. Still, benevolence is not merely a number with a dollar sign. It is the firm belief in acceptance of legacy regardless of race or ethnic background. Canada should forever strive to be colourful, but colour blind.

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