Raymond Chan

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Hon. Raymond Chan

Raymond Chan, PC, MP (Traditional Chinese: 陳卓愉; pinyin: Chén Zhuōyú; Jyutping: Can4 Ceok3 Jyu4), (b. 1951) is the first Chinese Canadian to be appointed to the Cabinet of Canada. A member of the Liberal Party of Canada, Chan was elected to Parliament in the 1993 federal election, defeating then Defence Minister Tom Siddon in the riding of Richmond, British Columbia. Chan is the second Chinese Canadian to be elected to Parliament, after Douglas Jung, who secured a seat in 1957.


[edit] Early life

Raymond Chan was born in Hong Kong on October 25, 1951. He emigrated to Canada in 1969, two years after Canada liberalized its immigration policy. He received a Bachelor's Degree in Applied Science (Engineering Physics) from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1977. From 1977 to 1993, he worked as an engineer for TRIUMF, a particle accelerator laboratory at the University of British Columbia. Though he grew up an atheist, he converted to evangelical Christianity after debates with Christian friends and prayer. [1] He attends services with the Chinese Mennonite Brethren church.

[edit] Political career

Chan joined the Liberal Party of Canada in 1991, and was elected to Parliament in the 1993 election, defeating Defence Minister Tom Siddon in the riding of Richmond, British Columbia. Chan secured the nomination win over future cabinet colleague Herb Dhaliwal, who subsequently chose to run in the adjacent Vancouver South riding. He was then appointed by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien as the Secretary of State for the Asia-Pacific Region for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. He served in this position from 1993 to 2000.

He was defeated in the 2000 election by Joe Peschisolido of the Canadian Alliance. After Peschisolido crossed the floor to the Liberal Party, Chan battled Peschisolido for the Liberal Party's nomination, and won it after a fiercely-contested race.

Chan was returned to Parliament in the 2004 election. He was subsequently appointed to the cabinet by Prime Minister Paul Martin as the Minister of State (Multiculturalism) for the Deparment of Heritage.

[edit] The Head Tax redress controversy

As an ethnic Chinese, and being a cabinet minister of the multiculturalism portfolio, he was assigned by the government to negotiate with the Chinese community on redressing the Head Tax, a fee imposed to Chinese entering Canada from 1885 to 1923. Chan, along with the ruling Liberals, did not initially support apologizing because it, on the advise of their legal experts, felt that the government would expose itself to unlimited liability. The Liberal government has adopted the position of "no apology, no compensation" as the basis of negotiation with the Chinese community.

A private member's bill was introduced in November 2004, and after amendments by a standing committee and negotiation with Chinese Canadian groups, led by the National Congress of Chinese Canadians, the government announced that it had reached a settlement. This settlement became an instant source for controversy. The settlement was a simple acknowledgement that did not include an apology. The fund offered by the government only went to a trust fund, and did not reach the head tax payers (or their descendants). Moreover, the settlement was reached without consulting the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC), who led the campaign for fully redressing the issue since the 1980s. But this amended bill died when the government fell on November 28, 2005 due to a vote of no confidence.

During the 2006 federal election campaign, redressing the head tax became an emotional issue in the Chinese community. The three other major Canadian federal parties (Bloc Québécois, Conservative Party of Canada, New Democratic Party) all pledged to issue an official apology for the Head Tax in the Parliament of Canada and work with the Chinese community to find common ground. Fear of losing the Chinese vote, the Liberals switched positions and supports apologizing for the head tax during the campaign. Chan, on the advice from a "second" legal opinion, stated that an apology would not expose the government to unlimited liability. In addition, it was revealed that he told the government that the Chinese groups would agree to the policy of "no apology, no compensation" even though the groups did not support it. Chan, along with the Liberals have largely shifted blame on their legal advisors for being too conservative on the issue. Chan later stated that had he known that apology would not lead to unlimited liablility, he would have supported apologizing. He also pledged to re-evaluate the legal advisors employed at the Heritage Department should he be re-elected and re-appointed to the cabinet.

However, parts of the Chinese community have accused the Liberals for being insincere, given that they changed positions during the middle of an election campaign after being against apologizing during their 12 years of power. Chan is being blamed for issuing a compromised deal that did not represent the prevailing views of the Chinese community. However, others have suggested that Chan has been betrayed by the party and is a scapegoat for the entire controversy.

[edit] The Christian fundamentalist controversy

The Richmond riding was also noteworthy for its abundance of registered third party campaigns. According to Elections Canada, the Richmond riding was tops in the country in this and any other federal election to date. (see reference below) While some were in opposition to Raymond Chan, most were against his primary rival, the Conservative Party candidate, Darrel Reid. Reid, a noted social conservative and Christian fundamentalist, was attacked for his stated position on stem cell research and treatment, gay rights issues, creationism and the “hidden agenda” issues which plague the Conservative Party. These third party campaigns may have contributed to Reid losing the election to Chan.

Despite the controversy, or perhaps because of it, Chan was re-elected in the 2006 federal election.

[edit] External links

27th Ministry - Government of Paul Martin
Cabinet Post
Predecessor Office Successor
Minister of State (Multiculturalism)
26th Ministry - Government of Jean Chrétien
Sub-Cabinet Post
Predecessor Title Successor
Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific)
Rey Pagtakhan
Preceded by:
Tom Siddon
Member of Parliament for Richmond
1993-2000, 2004-
Succeeded by:
Joe Peschisolido
Preceded by:
Joe Peschisolido
Succeeded by:
fr:Raymond Chan zh:陳卓愉

Raymond Chan

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