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New Westminster city council plans to repeal historic anti-Chinese bylaws Monday

New Westminster city council was expected to begin repealing seven racially discriminatory policy resolutions at Monday's council meeting.

As a follow-up to the city's official apology to the Chinese community, New Westminster city council has asked staff bring forward discriminatory bylaws for appeal.

"We're trying to wipe the slate clean," said Coun. Bill Harper on Friday.

A review by city staff produced "relatively few bylaws that explicitly authorize racial discrimination," but in casting a wider net came up with some policy resolutions up to 131 years old for council to repeal.

They are:

• Jan. 26, 1880 – "That all contractors for public works be strictly bound not to employ Chinese labour."

• April 14, 1884 – "That all contracts let by this Council for street making within the City and all specifications for such work have inserted in them a clause prohibiting the employment of Chinese labour of any kind whatsoever."

• Dec. 21, 1885 – "That Mr. Orr be informed with respect to his communication in reference to the exclusion of Chinese from work on the branch railway that every precaution will be taken to accomplish this objective. That Mr. McDonough and eighty-nine other petitioners be informed that every precaution will be taken for the exclusion of Chinese from the railway's work on the branch line."

• March 3, 1890 – "From public meeting conveying copy of resolution passed respecting anti-Chinese clause in Street Railway Charter and asking Council's endorsement – Request granted."

• April 21, 1913 – "That in future no contracts be given to parties employing Oriental labour."

• Nov. 17, 1913 – "That white labour clauses be inserted in all leases."

• May 3, 1926 – "That this Council use its best efforts to eliminate Oriental stores in business and residential sections of this City."

Also to be repealed is a paragraph in a 1919 contract with Canada West Cordage Company specifying it not employ in its plant and factory "Chinese, Japanese and other members of the Mongolian race or Hindus or other Asiatics."

Harper said many of the earlier railway resolutions were written in response to lobbies of municipalities by the Anti-Chinese League, unions and business. They weren't effective, however, because the owners were happy with the cheap labour and the federal government stood up to them and said the policies were illegal.

"When I read in detail of the treatment of the Chinese people it reminded me of the Deep South and the treatment of the blacks," said Harper. "I never thought in this province it was as bad as it was.

"This was a difficult time. It's hard for us to get our heads around this. It was much worse than we would ever believe today."

Harper said scope of the apology and repeal process has received global attention with people from all over the world thanking the city for what it is doing.

ggranger@newwestnewsleader.com

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