By Teresa Wat
We have now completed our seven scheduled consultation forums and it was gratifying to see so many passionate people stepping up and making presentations about how we can best address historical wrongs by past British Columbia governments against the Chinese community.
During the forums held in Victoria, Kamloops, Vancouver and Kelowna, Burnaby and Richmond speakers provided us with valuable input as we sought to identify the wording, delivery and legacy of the apology.
While views may differ about what a meaningful apology should entail, it is clear that there are many people with passionate views and each adds something valuable as we move forward.
Having heard more than 100 submissions and stories throughout the consultation process, it is clear to me how important this apology process is, as is the need to get the apology right.
One thing that was crystal clear during the forums was a desire by many that the apology signify closure, and that we continue moving forward as a welcoming and inclusive society.
I think it is fair to say that while many people had heard about the federally-imposed head tax, many British Columbians were not aware of the historic wrongs that took place in B.C. between 1872 and 1948.
That is why it is so important that we shine a light on this dark part of British Columbia’s history, and acknowledge the past wrongs against the Chinese community.
I want to emphasize that from day 1, we have asked all British Columbians to participate by attending the forums, or by submitting their views online or by correspondence and many have.
I was encouraged by the extensive media coverage and the conversation it started in the broader community.
I do believe there is more awareness now amongst British Columbians about the historic wrongs committed against the Chinese people by past governments.
Today, B.C. is the most ethnically diverse province in Canada.
Our province was built on the backs of our hard-working ancestors and the Chinese community is part of this legacy.
We committed to working with the opposition, and we have honoured that commitment.
The Opposition suggested that we hold two more consultations outside of the Lower Mainland, and we acted on that recommendation by adding forums in Prince George and Kelowna.
While some people might say this is not the right time for an apology, it does not change the fact that it is the right thing to do – and the best time is the present.
So now is the time for all of us to work together to deliver meaningful apology to the Chinese community for historic wrongs.
Teresa Wat is the British Columbia Minister of International Trade and Minister Responsible for the Asia Pacific Strategy and Multiculturalism.