The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
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Good evening ladies and gentlemen:
Thank you for your warm welcome.
It’s a great pleasure to be with you this evening at the 10th annual Chinese Entrepreneur Awards.
Before I begin this evening, I would like to take a moment to thank and congratulate the Association of Chinese Canadian Entrepreneurs for organizing tonight’s tremendous gala dinner.
In just over a decade, the ACCE has developed into a prominent and leading organization in Toronto’s business community.
Through organizing seminars for businesspeople and entrepreneurs, the ACCE has made great strides in accomplishing its stated mission.
This organization has done a tremendous job over the years, and should be proud of all that it has accomplished.
And although there many prominent people in attendance this evening, I particularly want to thank the co-chairs of this evening’s event:
Tonight, we celebrate the entrepreneurial achievements of the Chinese Canadian community – one well known for its entrepreneurial spirit.
It’s no secret that the Chinese are famous the world over for their work ethic.
For each and every community in which Chinese people have settled has benefited greatly as a result of their hard work.
Canada is no exception.
As you know, the Chinese presence in Canada predates Confederation.
For Chinese gold-miners - attracted by the rumours of gold in the Fraser River area - left San Francisco for British Columbia as early as the 1850s.
These entrepreneurial Chinese were soon joined by others who would leave their families in order to pursue economic opportunities in a country half way across the world.
Almost exclusively male, these individuals worked hard so they could provide a better quality of life for their families back home.
Many thousands of them soon participated in the most important construction project in Canadian history – the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
The importance of this project cannot be overstated.
For, as Canada’s first transcontinental railway, it bound our fledgling country together.
This was a feat that could not have been accomplished without the contribution of the Chinese labourers who sacrificed everything – including even their lives at times – to make it a reality.
As you know, working conditions at the time were harsh.
But these individuals persevered – and they eventually built what would become Canada’s backbone.
In the years that followed, these and other Chinese immigrants spread throughout the country and opened small commercial enterprises like laundries, restaurants, and corner shops.
These small businesses soon became integral institutions in the communities they served.
In accordance with the Chinese commitment to family, these men and women worked hard to provide better lives for their children.
And through a combination of hard work and educational achievement, their children and grandchildren went on to achieve a level of success that could not even have been dreamt of when their ancestors first arrived in the 19th century.
Simply put, Canada would not be the country it is today without these contributions.
But let us not forget the contributions made by more recent Chinese immigrants.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Canada was the beneficiary of waves of immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China who quickly made their own special contribution to the communities in which they settled.
This contribution was particularly noteworthy both in Toronto and in Vancouver.
For example, in Toronto, men and women like you have helped to make Canada’s largest city an important economic centre whose impact is felt throughout the world.
And Vancouver has now become, not just Canada’s, but North America’s gateway for Asia-Pacific trade – largely because of the presence of Chinese Canadians.
In other words, you - in your capacities as presidents, CEOs, and owners of small and medium-sized business – are the men and women who are helping to fuel Canada’s economic engine.
And who are helping to propel our country forward on the international stage.
On behalf of Canada’s New Government, I would thank you for the important contributions you make to this country on a daily basis.
Canada is not just economically stronger because of your efforts, but culturally stronger too.
And our country is becoming increasingly cosmopolitan and confident about its place on the world stage – in no small measure due to your efforts.
This brings me to an issue of particular interest to my Government – redressing the historical wrongs of the Chinese head tax and the Exclusion Act.
My party has long recognized the grave injustice of these past discriminatory measures.
Now, as Government, we’re going to act on that belief.
As promised in the recent Speech from the Throne, Canada’s New Government will act in Parliament to offer a formal apology for the Chinese head tax. And we are consulting with the Chinese Canadian community to establish a consensus for reconciliation and redress of this sad period in our history.
Chinese-Canadians have made an invaluable contribution to Canada, and therefore, your community deserves nothing less than a full apology for this past wrong.
Our Government will always be mindful of the integral role played by Chinese Canadians in Canadian society, and in turn, will always afford your community the respect to which it is entitled.
In closing, I would like to once again thank you for your invitation to this evening’s event and extend my congratulations to tonight’s award recipients.
I have no doubt that the strength of the contribution of Chinese Canadians will only increase in the years that lie ahead.
Thank you very much.