History of Chinese immigration to Canada

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This is the history of Chinese immigration to Canada.


[edit] Early history

The first recorded visits by Chinese to North America can be dated to 1788, with the employment of 30-50 Chinese shipwrights at Nootka Sound in what is now British Columbia, who built the first European-type vessel in the Pacific Northwest, fittingly named the North West America. Chinese first appeared in large numbers in the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1858 as part of the huge migration to that colony from California during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush in the newly-declared Mainland Colony. Although the first wave arrived from California, news of the rush eventually attracted many Chinese from China itself.

Unlike the California goldfields, were Chinese were driven off workings and otherwise persecuted, the Chinese in British Columbia were protected by edict from Governor James Douglas, who lectured the American miners especially that the Chinese had the same rights as all others, including First Nations peoples, to work the goldfields and reside in the colony.[citation needed] Though protected by British law and authority, Chinese miners were accused of tearing up claim stakes while other miners were in town getting supplies. One such conflict erupted into the Rock Creek War in the Kettle River valley, which as in other cases such as at Yale was quelled by the personal intervention of Governor Douglas. Conflicts also erupted between First Nations people and Chinese miners, who turned over streambeds in the course of their mining activities, which the First Nations people knew would be destructive towards salmon spawning.

Chinese successes in the goldfield era are largely forgotten or obscured by the emphasis on their suffering in the railway workings. In Victoria, Chinese businessmen were among the richest in the city, with their tax assessments second only to the Hudson's Bay Company itself, and the printing operations of future Premier Amor de Cosmos. Chinese freighting companies were among the first businesses established at Port Douglas, and were among the mainland colony's first chartered businesses.

In the goldfields themselves Chinese mining techniques and knowledge turned out to be superior in many ways to those of others, including hydraulic techniques, the use of "rockers", and a technique whereby blankets were used as filter for alluvial sand and then burned, with the gold melting into lumps in the fire. In the Fraser Canyon, Chinese miners stayed on long after all others had left for the Cariboo Gold Rush or other goldfields elsewhere in BC or the United States and continued both hydraulic mining and farming, and as noted by historian Cole Harris, owned the majority of land in the Fraser and Thompson Canyons for many years afterwards. At Barkerville, in the Cariboo, over half the town's population of up to 20,000 was estimated to be Chinese, and several other towns including Richfield, Antler, Quesnelle Forks and Lillooet had signficant Chinatowns (Lillooet's lasting until the 1930s) and there no shortage of successful Chinese miners. In 1884, Chinese miners secretly staked the whole six miles of Cayoosh Creek below its Falls within a few days, shutting out all others and, as estimated by the local Gold Commissioner in 1887, were estimated to have taken out $7 million in those three years, vs. the $1.5 million official gold revenues for the colony in that entire decade. In 1886, however, Chinese who had deserted the CPR railway workings were driven off the new Tulameen goldfields near what is now Princeton because of resentment over the exclusion of non-Chinese from the Cayoosh find, and because of the revival of the Chinese practice of ignoring claim stakes.

During the gold rush period, the largest Chinese settlements in the two colonies were at Barkerville, Lillooet, Yale, New Westminster and Victoria. Because of the riches earned in the goldfields, and also because homesteading by Chinese was permitted, over 60% of the Lillooet Land District was Chinese-owned by the 1880s.

[edit] Immigration in the mid-19th century

Chinese railway workers made the main labour force to the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia. When British Columbia agreed to join Confederation in 1871, one of the conditions was that the Dominion government build a railway linking B.C. with eastern Canada within 10 years. Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, wanted to cut costs by employing Chinese to build the railway, and summarized the situation this way to Parliament in 1882: "It is simply a question of alternatives: either you must have this labour or you can't have the railway."<ref>Pierre Berton, The Last Spike, Penguin, ISBN 0140117636, pp249-250</ref>.

In 1880, Andrew Onderdonk, an American who was the Canadian Pacific Railway construction contractor in British Columbia, originally enlisted 5000 Chinese labourers from California. By the end of 1881, there were less than 1500 remaining as a large number had deserted the railwawy workings for goldfields around the province.[citation needed] Onderdonk needed more workers, so he directly contracted Chinese businessmen in Victoria, California and China to send many more workers to Canada. While some of them fell ill during construction or died while planting explosives or in other construction accidents, the rate of attrition caused by desertion to work the goldfields remained high.

As with railway workers in other parts of the line in the Prairies and northern Ontario, most of the Chinese workers lived in tents. These canvas tents were often unsafe, and rocks fell during the night in some areas. The Chinese contractors engaged by Onderdonk paid Chinese workers only $1 a day while white workers were paid five or six times that amount.

[edit] Chinese in Canada after the completion of the CPR

Once the Canadian Pacific Railway had been completed in 1885, Canada no longer needed Chinese labourers. As a result, the government of Canada passed The Chinese Immigration Act, 1885 levying a "Head Tax" of $50 on any Chinese coming to Canada. After the 1885 legislation failed to deter Chinese immigration to Canada, the government of Canada passed The Chinese Immigration Act, 1900 to increase the tax to $100, and The Chinese Immigration Act, 1904 furthered increased the landing fees to $500 (equivalent to $8000 in 2003<ref> Inflation data (Consumer Price Index) since 1914 provided by Statistics Canada can be found e.g. at the Bank of Canada inflation calculator </ref> - as compared to the Right of Landing Fee, or Right of Permanent Residence Fee, of merely $975 per person paid by new immigrants in 1995-2005, and further reduced to $490 in 2006.<ref>CIC Fee Schedule, accessed 2006-12-02</ref>).

The Chinese Immigration Act, 1923, better known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, replaced prohibitive fees with an outright ban on Chinese immigration to Canada with the exceptions of merchants, diplomats, students, and "special circumstances" cases. The Chinese that entered Canada before 1923 had to register with the local authorities and could leave Canada only for two years or less. Since the Exclusion Act went into effect on July 1, 1923, the Chinese at the time referred to Dominion Day as "Humiliation Day" and refused to celebrate Dominion Day until after the act was repealed in 1947.

Image:Head Tax Recipt.jpg
A head tax receipt

From the completion of the CPR to the end of the Exclusion Era (1923-1947), Chinese in Canada lived in mainly a "bachelor's of the backpack society" since most Chinese families could not pay the expensive head tax to send their daughters to Canada. As with many other groups of immigrants, Chinese immigrants initially found it hard to adjust and assimilate into life in Canada. As a result, they formed ethnic ghettos known as "Chinatowns" where they could live alongside fellow Chinese immigrants. [citation needed] . With resentment of Chinese growing in British Columbia, Chinese settlers began moving eastward after the completion of the CPR [citations needed] .

After legislation in 1896 that stripped Chinese of voting rights in municipal elections in B.C., the Chinese in B.C. became completely disenfranchised. The electors list in federal elections came from the provincial electors list, and the provincial ones came from the municipal one. As a way to counter the racist environment, Chinese merchants began forming the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, with the first branch in Victoria in 1885 and the second one in Vancouver in 1895. The Association was mandatory for all Chinese in the area to join, and it did everything from representing members in legal disputes to sending the remains of a members who died back to their ancestral homelands in China.

After Canada entered World War II on September 10, 1939, Chinese communities greatly contributed to Canada's war effort, mainly in an attempt to persuade Canada to intervene against Japan in the Second Sino-Japanese War, which had started in 1937 (although Canada did not declare war on Japan until the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941). The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association requested its members to purchase Canadian and Chinese war bonds and to boycott Japanese goods. Also, many Chinese enlisted in the Canadian forces. But Ottawa and the B.C. government were unwilling to send Chinese-Canadian recruits into action, since they did not want Chinese to ask for enfranchisement after the war. However, with 100,000 British troops captured in British Malaya in February 1942, Ottawa decided to send Chinese-Canadian forces in as spies to train the local guerrillas to resist the Japanese Imperial Forces in 1944. However, these spies were little more than a token gesture, as the outcome of World War II had been more or less decided by that time.

[edit] Strife during the post-war period

The experiences of the Holocaust made racial discrimination unacceptable in Canada, at least from the government policy standpoint. Also, with the war aim of defeating Nazism in terms of discrimination, Canada's racial legislation made it look hypocritical. Moreover, with Chinese-Canadian contributions in World War II, and also because some of the anti-Chinese legislation violated the UN Charter, the government of Canada repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act and gave Chinese Canadians full citizenship rights in 1947. However, Chinese immigration was limited only to the spouse of a Chinese who had Canadian citizenship and his dependents. However, after the founding of the People's Republic of China in October 1949 and its support for the communist North in the Korean War, Chinese in Canada faced another wave of resentment, as Chinese were viewed as communist agents from the PRC (although most Chinese-Canadians at the time were strongly pro-Nationalist).

In 1959, the Department of Immigration discovered an abuse of immigration papers by some Chinese immigrants; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were brought in to investigate. It turned out that some Chinese had been entering Canada by purchasing real or fake birth certificates of Chinese Canadian children bought and sold in Hong Kong. These children carrying false identity papers were referred to as "paper sons". In response, Douglas Jung (the first Chinese MP in Canadian history) introduced a private member's bill in 1962 called the "'Chinese Adjustment Program". The bill granted amnesty for paper sons or daughters if they confessed to the government. As a result about 12,000 paper sons came forward, until the amnesty period ended in October 1973.

Independent Chinese immigration in Canada came after Canada eliminated race and the "place of origin" section from its immigration policy in 1967. From 1947 to the early 1970s, Chinese immigrants to Canada came mostly from Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Southeast Asia. Chinese from the mainland who were eligible in the family reunification program had to visit the Canadian High Commission in Hong Kong, since Canada and the PRC did not have diplomatic relations until 1970. Institutional racism was completely eliminated in 1971 with the implementation of the multicultural policy. After the implementation of the policy, Chinese finally felt that they were no longer institutionally discriminated in the mainstream of Canadian society.

Despite the new multicultural policy, it would be naïve to say that social discrimination against ethnic Chinese ended. Like other groups of recent immigrants, Chinese are perceived as incapable of blending into mainstream Canadian society. They are accused of associating only with the local Chinese communities and make very little effort to blend into mainstream Canada. For example, in 1995 the deputy mayor of Markham, Ontario Carole Bell expressed that the overwhelming Chinese presence in the city was causing other residents to move out of Markham. Also, the local communities in Toronto and Vancouver have accused the Chinese immigrants for hyperinflating property prices during the 1980s.

The incident involving a W-FIVE feature report in 1979 was a turning point for Chinese in Canada in that it united the Chinese communities nationwide to fight anti-Chinese sentiments. The feature report stated that foreign Chinese were taking away Canadian citizens' opportunities for university educations. However, it was discovered that the data used in the report were inaccurate, and the pictures of Chinese people in the feature were Canadians of Chinese origin. Chinese communities nationwide staged protests against Canadian Television (CTV), the network that airs W5. The network was forced to issue an apology for the inaccuate report. The protesters met in Toronto in 1980 and agreed to form the Chinese Canadian National Council to better represent Chinese-Canadian on a national level.

During the mid-1980s and early 1990s, the Canadian economy was in the worst recession since the end of World War II, and the Greater China (a term used to mean the PRC itself, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and sometimes Singapore) area was experiencing economic growth. Many Chinese-Canadians chose to return to the Greater China area to work, leaving their family behind in Canada. The Chinese-Canadian family, then, could earn better income working in Asia while the rest of the family could enjoy the better welfare and education system of Canada. The impending return of Hong Kong to PRC control in 1997 created a desire for families to establish the right to live in Canada (and elsewhere) without giving up economic opportunities in (Greater) China.

This mindset created the phenomenon of astronaut families. In an astronaut family, the husband (the money-earner) would only visit Canada once or twice a year, usually during December or the summer months, but his family would live in Vancouver, Toronto, Sydney, or elsewhere.

In recent years, fatal auto accidents involving expensive (powerful) cars driven by Chinese-Canadian teenagers have received press coverage with racist overtones.

[edit] Heading into the new millennium

With the political uncertainties as Hong Kong headed towards 1997, many residents of Hong Kong chose to emigrate to Canada. It was easy for them to enter Canada due to their Commonwealth of Nations connections. According to statistics compiled by the Canadian Consulate in Hong Kong, from 1991 to 1996, "about 30,000 Hong Kongers emigrated annually to Canada, comprising over half of all Hong Kong emigration and about 20 percent of the total number of immigrants to Canada." The great majority of these people settled in the Toronto and Vancouver areas, as there are well-established Chinese communities in those cities. Interestingly, after the Handover there was a sharp decline in immigration numbers, possibly indicating a smooth transition towards political stability (also people who intended to leave would plan to do so before 1997). In the years to come, the unemployment and underemployment of many Hong Kong immigrants in Canada prompted a stream of returning migrants.

Today, mainland China has taken over from Hong Kong and Taiwan as the largest source of Chinese immigration. The PRC has also taken over from all countries and regions as the country sending the most immigrants to Canada. According to the 2002 statistics from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the PRC has supplied the biggest number of Canadian immigrants since 2000, averaging well over 30,000 immigrants per year, totaling an average of 15% of all immigrants to Canada. This wave, however, dropped to only 8,000 a year in 2004.

Also, many Chinese-Canadians are becoming more involved in politics, both provincially and federally. Those Chinese candidates, however, are running in districts where significant Chinese populations exist. However, it marked a sharp contrast from the past where Chinese was a group traditionally uninterested, if not discouraged, in getting involved in politics. In federal politics, Raymond Chan became the first ethnic Chinese to be appointed into the cabinet in 1993, after winning the riding of Richmond in the 1993 federal election. Many Chinese-Canadians have ran for office in subsequent federal elections. After 2 failed attempts, New Democratic Party candidate Olivia Chow (wife of NDP leader Jack Layton), was elected in the 2006 federal election, representing the riding of Trinity—Spadina. Even the Bloc Québécois had an ethnic Chinese candidate, May Chiu, running in the riding of LaSalle—Émard against Liberal Party leader Paul Martin during the 2006 election.

In addition, the historical Chinese community also sought to redress past injustice done against them. Since the early 1980s, there has been a campaign to redress the Head Tax paid by Chinese entering Canada from 1885 to 1923, led by the CCNC. However, the movement did not gather enough support to be noticed by the government until the 1990s. However, the government has largely been resistant to the calls of apologizing and refunding the head tax to the payers or their descendants. Canadian courts also ruled that the government had no legal obligation to redress the head tax, but it had a moral obligation to do so.

But as the nature of parliament headed towards a minority situation, all political parties needed votes from all sectors of the Canadian electorates. During the 2004 federal election campaign, NDP leader Jack Layton pledge to issue an apology and compensation for the head tax.

After the 2006 election, the newly elected Conservative Party indicated in its Throne Speech that it would provide a formal apology and appropriate redress to families affected by policies of the past. It concluded a series of National Consultations across Canada, April 21-30, 2006, in Halifax, Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton, Montreal and Winnipeg.

Members of Canada's Liberal Party, who lost the 2006 Election (as the outgoing government) have attempted to change their positions, and have been accused of "flip-flopping" on the issue during the election campaign as well as being questioned about their sincerity. Many Chinese, particularly the surviving head tax payers and their descendants have criticized Raymond Chan, the Chinese-Canadian cabinet minister who was left in charge of settling the matter, for compromising the Chinese community in favour of the government. Recent published articles, in fact, indicate that he deliberately misled the public regarding a number of facts and issues.

On June 22 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a message of redress in the House of Commons, offering an apology in Cantonese and compensation for the head tax once paid by Chinese immigrants. Survivors or their spouses will be paid approximately $20,000 CAD in compensation. Although their children will not be offered this payment, some Chinese Canadian leaders like Dr. Joseph Wong regarded it as an important and significant move in Chinese Canadian history. There are about 20 people who paid the tax still alive in 2006. [1] [2] [3] (19 to 34 seconds)

[edit] Further reading

  • Anthony B. Chan. The Chinese in the New World Vancouver, BC: New Star, 1983.
  • Stephanie D. Bangrath. "'We are not asking you to open the gates for Chinese immigration': The Committee for the Repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act and Early Human Rights Activism in Canada." Canadian Historical Review 84, 3 (September 2003): 395-442.
  • Peter S. Li. Chinese in Canada (Second Edition). Toronto, ON: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  • Janet Lum. "Recognition and the Toronto Chinese Community" in Reluctant Adversaries: Canada and the People's Republic of China, 1949-1970. Edited by Paul M. Evans and B. Michael Frolic, 217-239. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 1991. (It is a discussion on the Toronto Chinese's view on Canada recognizing the PRC in 1969-1970).
  • James Morton. "In the Sea of Sterile Mountains: The Chinese in British Columbia". Vancouver, BC: J.J. Douglas, 1974. (A thorough discussion of Chinese immigration and life in BC, railway politics and a detailed profile of the political agendas and personalities of the time)
  • Patricia Roy. "A white man's province : British Columbia politicians and Chinese and Japanese immigrants, 1858-1914" Vancouver : UBC Press, 1989.
  • Patricia Roy. "The Oriental question : Consolidating a white man's province, 1914-41" Vancouver : UBC Press, 2003.
  • Wing Chung Ng. "The Chinese in Vancouver, 1945-80: The Pursuit of Identity and Power." Vancouver: UBC Press, 1999.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

<references/>zh: 加拿大華人歷史

History of Chinese immigration to Canada

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