ANG 160 Fall 2005
by Claire Paradis
Canada a dreamland for Chinese people?
As a “typical”
Canadian who is born in Canada, a member of the invisible center, I know very
little about the history of any ethnic group that immigrated to Canada. Although
I consider myself ignorant on that matter, I knew before I worked on this paper,
that the Chinese immigrants had been very important in the development of our
country. I was aware that Canada had “used” the Chinese people to build the
Canadian railroad in the nineteenth century. I also knew that there was a fairly
large Chinese community in Western Canada and that the Vancouver Chinatown is
one of the most important in North America.
That was it! I knew nothing else. It is only after the reading of Evelyn
Kallen’s text “The Vertical Ethnic Mosaic” that I came to realize there
was much more to say about Chinese immigrants in our country. Let me introduce
some of my findings in this paper.
Chinese in Canada, a history of discrimination
Canadian experienced a long list of discriminating immigration policies, making
this community one of the most discriminated against in the country.
The Chinese first came here in the nineteenth century for the
exploitation of gold mines and later for the construction of the Canadian
Pacific Railroad (CPR). As major projects were completed, Chinese people
struggled to stay in the country, but there was no room for them. The first
discriminating policy was adopted in 1875. It was “The Chinese Head Tax”
which required Chinese to pay a tax to come to Canada. Such a tax was not
imposed on any other group. The
“Chinese Head Tax” did not have the result the Canadian government had
wished, therefore more discriminating policies were adopted to limit the number
of Chinese people allowed to enter the country. Through the years the Canadian
government developed more policies to dissuade the Chinese from coming to Canada
or even to stay, for those who were already here. Among these laws and policies,
some were provincial. One of them
was adopted as early as in 1878, in British Columbia, making the employment of
Chinese people illegal on governmental construction projects. Another provincial
policy was adopted in 1917-1918 in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British
Columbia, making it illegal for the Chinese-owned restaurants and laundries to
hire white women. Some policies had a broader extension as they were national
policies, therefore they applied in the whole country.
“The Chinese Head tax” as mentioned earlier, is the first example of
a national policy adopted against the Chinese. “The Chinese Iimmigration Act”
also called “The Exclusion Act” is another illustration of a national
discriminating policy. This policy adopted in 1923 went as far as prohibiting
Chinese immigrants from entering Canada. It seems that the list of
discriminating policies against the Chinese ended in 1947. Indeed, the Chinese
were finally given the right to vote in 1947, after they had fought for Canada
during WWII, eventhough the Chinese people had been established in this country
since the nineteenth century.
immigration in Canada is a history of discrimination. In the beginning Canada
wanted Chinese workers for tougher jobs that nobody wanted. They wanted them to
work as cheap labor, but as soon as a project was completed, Canada wanted them
out and the country did everything in its power to discourage Chinese
immigration. Nevertheless, this community is very alive in our country today and
has left a rich heritage. The lively Chinatownes that exist in many of the major
cities throughout Canada are certainly a very good example of their heritage.
Evelyn,“The Vertical Ethnic Mosaic” Ethnicity and Human Rights in Canada.
Second Edition.Toronto:Oxford UP, 1995. 121-51.