The Dartmouth Observer
Saturday, September 14, 2002
From Canada: We in American shoud borrow this jurisprudence or appoint more Scalia's and Thomas's to the Supreme Court.
By OLIVER MOORE
Globe and Mail Update
The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that the federal government should not be forced to pay reparations for a discriminatory tax that once sought to keep Chinese migrants from entering the country.
Established in 1885, the head-tax initially levied $50 from each Chinese person entering Canada. By 1903 it had increased to $500, which the court conceded was "prohibitive" and stopped almost all Chinese immigration.
The judges did not hesitate to call the head-tax "one of the more notable stains on our minority rights tapestry," but they also ruled that the laws were "constitutional in domestic law terms and [that] they did not violate any principles of customary international law."
Lobby groups, led by the Chinese Canadian National Council, have long sought redress for the tax, demanding more than $1-billion in reparations.
The court sympathized with the appellants, and conceded that some Japanese citizens had already been compensated for internment during the Second World War, but said also that the cases must be assessed independently.
"Even the broad purview of equity does not provide courts with the jurisdiction to use current Canadian constitutional law and international law to reach back almost a century and remedy the consequences of laws enacted by a democratic government that were valid at the time," they wrote in their decision.
A trickle of Chinese migrants continued to enter the country, even under the higher tax, causing the government of the day to repeal the tax in 1923 and pass laws specifically designed to keep Chinese people out of Canada. That legislation was repealed in 1947.