They called it the Day of Shame.
That's how the residents of Chinatown once referred to Dominion Day and later on, Canada Day, because they blamed the government of Canada for a shameful legacy of legislated racism.
Tomorrow night, the province stages a public consultation in Kamloops, the first of five held across the province, on a formal apology to Chinese-Canadians.
While helping to unite the country through railway construction and various other roles integral to a developing economy, Chinese-Canadians suffered in untold ways due to federal policies, which is why the B.C. government's approach to drafting a formal apology seems oddly out of sync.
The Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923 heaped cruelty upon hardship. The federal government finally repealed the hate legislation in 1947, only after it was compelled to do so by signing the UN Declaration of Human Rights after the Second World War.
In 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered a full apology to Chinese-Canadians for the notorious head tax once demanded of their forbearers. The tax was collected by Ottawa for almost 40 years and didn't end until Chinese immigration was banned.
As a province, B.C. can't plead ignorance to the systematic persecution of certain immigrants based on country of origin. The government in Victoria was a willing participant in those policies, even received payments from them, but was not the author.
Wanting to make political hay with ethnic voters during the election, the Clark government was embarrassed when its outreach plan involving Chinese redress was leaked.
Now it's trying to save face with a long, earnest gaze, while excluding the possibility of financial compensation to descendants of the victims.
Can the province consult its way out of this one? The ethnic vote scam adds another
shameful footnote to a 130-year-old outrage.
In both cases, politics trumped principle. This is a patch job, compromised from the start.
© Kamloops Daily News