George Leslie Mackay and the Poll Tax 馬偕博士與加拿大人頭稅



By Michael Stainton* “International Journal of Asia Pacific Studies”(IJAPS), Vol. 6, No. 2 (July 2010) With author’s permission. 

George Leslie Mackay (1844 – 190)1 is a national hero in Taiwan, father of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, and the first Canadian missionary sent overseas by a Canadian Church, to Taiwan (Formosa) in 1871. He was the most famous Protestant missionary of his generation. He is almost unknown in Canada today. Even less known is the fact that he was the most prominent and outspoken opponent of the first poll tax (head tax) imposed on Chinese immigrants by the Canadian government in 1885. Beginning with his first return to Canada from Formosa in 1881, he began to speak against this "unequal and unjust law". On his second and final return to Canada, in 1893, his "uncompromising opposition to all restrictive legislation against the Chinese" was fired to a fury by the attempt of the Customs Officer in Vancouver to impose the head tax on his Taiwanese wife. Mackay crossed the country speaking out against the "anti-progressive, anti-commercial and anti-Christian" law, encouraging resolutions in public meetings. He gained much support in the church, but no prominent Canadian politician or newspaper publicly supported his campaign. In 1894 he was elected Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Through his urging, the General Assembly passed a resolution condemning the head tax, and proposing to send a delegation to visit Ottawa on this issue. Unfortunately, the whole plan was quietly dropped after Mackay returned to Taiwan. Had Canada listened to Mackay, there would have been no need to apologies to Chinese Canadians. Mackay is the prophetic pioneer of Canadian anti-racism.
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