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B.C. parties unveil plans for apologizing to discriminated groups

At a press conference in Richmond on Friday morning, representatives from B.C.'s four main political parties presented their plans to apologize to minority groups who have been historically discriminated against by the provincial government.

The parties largely agreed that historical wrongs against minorities, like the Chinese head tax, need to be better researched before an official apology is issued.

The Liberal government faced heavy criticism in March after trying to push through an official apology for the Chinese head tax three days before the spring legislature session closed.

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Jenny Kwan, MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, said she is concerned that the bill didn't properly research issues like Chinese segregation that should be included in the apology.

"B.C. has a long history of discriminatory practices and laws, and to be respectful to all those who suffered from these acts, British Columbians need to fully understand what we're apologizing for," said Ms. Kwan. "Since a formal apology only happens once, we must do this completely and not have any omissions."

If the NDP is elected, it has a twelve-month plan to research and issue the apology, she said.

Bill Chu, a spokesman for Canadians for Reconciliation, said the attempt by Liberals to apologize for the Chinese head tax in March was "phony" because it didn't properly consult non-Chinese citizens. "Any reconciliation is about fixing a problem between two groups of people, not just trying to appease one group of people," he said.

British Columbians need to be better educated about the problems minority communities have faced in the past, he said.

However, Richard Lee, MLA for Burnaby-North, said consultations for an apology to the Chinese community started last May, and finished with a meeting in February that was open to all members of the public.

"The NDP were in power for several years before us, but they didn't do anything with regards to an official apology either," he noted.

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If re-elected, Liberals will continue to pursue an official apology, he said.

However, there were concerns that apologies are an issue that largely gets ignored after the election.

"The major parties in power only use these issues for elections and then they don't push these dialogues into the future," said Regan-Heng Zhang, the Green Party candidate for Vancouver-Langara. "After the election, these files are forgotten."

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