Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. monument for Chinese who paid head tax

St. John's will soon have a monument to remember 334 Chinese immigrants who were forced to pay a head tax to live and work in the Dominion of Newfoundland.

St. John's will soon have a monument to remember 334 Chinese immigrants who were forced to pay a head tax to live and work in the Dominion of Newfoundland.

Like Canada, pre-confederation Newfoundland forced Chinese men to pay a $300 head tax, often just for the privilege of doing sweat labour in laundries to support their families back home. For men like Frank Jin, that $300 was equivalent to two years' salary.

"It was a dark period in his life," son Gordon Jin told CBC News.

"It wasn't something that he really liked to speak about."

Federal and provincial governments have made official apologies for how Chinese immigrants were treated for 43 years, between 1906 and 1949. For Jin, the monument will be a reminder of what happened.

He hopes to set up an exhibit to commemorate those who paid the tax, and a website that will list all of the old Chinese laundries in St. John's. He's also hoping to create an educational package that can be added to the history curriculum in the province, which Jin said doesn't even mention the head tax.

"I think we need to relay to people, neighbours, our families, our colleagues, our kids and other relatives, you know, it took a long struggle to get where we are today," Jin said.

The monument will be built at city hall's annex, and is expected to be finished in September.