Chinese Exclusion Act .
Coming to Canada...
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Head Tax Certificate (1923)

Ever since the early settlers of the Chinese during the 18th century, racism has been an issue which has caused many conflicts between the different races. Early arrivals of the Chinese from California found jobs in the mining industry. Given that, the Chinese still did not enjoy high pays. In 1881, CPR contractor, Andrew Onderdonk hired thousands of Chinese from southern China, including Hong Kong. It is estimated that 4 Chinese workers died for every mile of the railway construction. Upon the completion of the CPR, many Chinese workers remained in Canada to look for job opportunities. However, they were discriminated from public jobs. Racism and discrimination from the Canadian government was presented with the Head Tax. It increased from $50 to $500 by 1903. Despite contributing to Canada during World War 1 in 1914-1918, additional discrimination showed as the Canadian government established the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1923.



24 years of Exclusion...

On July 1, 1923, the Canadian government officially declared the Chinese Exclusion Act. The law states no Chinese men or women are allowed into Canada, with the exception of merchants, university students, Canadian-borns returning from several years of education in China, and representatives of China. The reason given for the Chinese Exclusion Act, was the fear and concern that the Chinese population were going to take jobs from White Canadians. In effect of the Exclusion act, the head tax was eliminated. Despite the fact that it was established on Dominion Day, many of the Chinese recognize it as "Humiliation Day". Since the act was passed, the Chinese population decreased slowly. Strong demographic changes were visible in Chinese populated provinces such as British Columbia and Alberta. Although there were still babies being born to Chinese couples, the ratio between Chinese men and women were becoming more and more unequal. Since there were still a lot of Chinese men never got the chance to bring their families to Canada. In result of that, the population of the Chinese naturally decreased. In fact, it decreased the entire Chinese population by 25%. Moreover, Chinese immigrants were also banned from specific public services such as boards of trade, war veterans' groups, farme
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Chinese men reading the Chinese newspaper in Chinatown, 1936
rs' association, labour unions, ratepayer groups, elected officials and newspapers. As an immigrant during the years of exclusion, they would often be found in areas of employment such as laundries or restuarants. Labour hours were long and language barriers still continued to discriminate the Chinese from society. Therefore, it was for the best that the Chinese would have to arrange themselves into organization, in which they can support one another economically, socially and even mentally. During the 1920s to 1930s, organizations within the Chinese communities increased by 50%. They supported each other during the economic depression during the 1930s. The Chinese Immigration Act repealed in May 1947.



Significance in Canadian History...
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Chinese man recieves citzenship certificate as the Chinese Exclusion Act finally repealed in 1947


During the 24 years of Chinese Exclusion Act, many of the Chinese communities supported each other. In result, it strengthened the cultural significance of Chinese Canadians. Many of the Chinese at the time retained much of their Chinese heritage and did not get absorbed in to the Canadian culture. Even today, we can see that many Canadians are proud of the multiculturalism in Canada and the level of acceptance has increased steadily ever since 1947. The repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act allowed the Chinese to finally get to come to Canada.




Further Reading

Chang, Daisy, Helen Cheung, and Randy Wong. Our Chosen Land: A History of Chinese Canadians. Toronto, 1984. Print.