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City of Vancouver issues apology for historical discrimination against Chinese residents

Vancouver mayor offers a formal apology on behalf of the city for past discriminations against Chinese people. Grace Ke has more.

The City of Vancouver delivered a formal apology on Sunday for historical discrimination against Chinese people.

The apology acknowledged that past legislation, regulations, and policies of previous councils showed a legacy of racism, as found in a report last October.

Mayor Gregor Robertson says it’s an important turning point for the city and residents of Chinese descent, adding that it’s long overdue.

READ MORE: City of Vancouver weighs apology for historical discrimination against Chinese Canadians

“The city’s actions now are very focused on making sure we’re more inclusive and that we’re honouring the history of Chinese-Canadians in Vancouver, that we’re seeking that status of world heritage site for Chinatown,” he said.

“That we’re making changes on the ground in the community that really strengthen the community, and that we continue to tell these stories about what happened so that people don’t forget.”

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Chinese residents in Vancouver were barred from voting in municipal elections between 1886, when the city was incorporated, and 1948. They were also prevented from holding municipal office.

READ MORE: Apology made to Vancouver’s Chinese community

Vancouver also advocated for discriminatory immigration policies, including the Chinese Head Tax, and implemented city policies that attempted to segregate Chinese residents.

Segregation policies targeted schools, public spaces like pools, hospitals and even cemeteries — a fact that meant some Chinese immigrants had to be returned to China for burial.

The city also restricted the jobs Chinese-Canadians could work, barring them from working for the city from between 1890 and 1952, and also often including anti-Chinese clauses in contracts with contractors.

More than 500 people packed the Chinese Cultural Centre to witness the city’s apology, which was also part of a Chinatown Cultural Day celebration.

–With files from Simon Little and The Canadian Press