Home > Uncategorized > Cheap Labor, Humiliation And Good Old Canadian Racism / The History Of Chinese Immigration To Canada

Cheap Labor, Humiliation And Good Old Canadian Racism / The History Of Chinese Immigration To Canada


Ah_Hoo_Omineca_Miner_at_GermansenHaving written posts on Canada’s forced relocations of the First Nations Peoples, the forced relocation of the Inuit people and the forced relocation of the people of the only independent community of Africville and its total destruction, I decided it was time to take a good look at this country Canada and get a better understanding of the history and the culture that Prime Minister Harper is afraid to lose if certain immigration quotas are not adhere to.  I wanted to get a sense of where this idea comes from and just how far back in time we have to retreat to before we find the government of Canada making racist laws to keep one type of people to an immigration minimum, because they found them to be of no more use to them as cheap labor. I had no idea of the depth  humiliation, the amount of unjust laws that were created and then enforced or the extent and lengths that the Canadian government went to first discourage the immigration of Chinese to this country and the heartlessness and the out right racist policies and laws they forced the Chinese people and only the Chinese people to live under from the gold rush days, through to the building of the Canadian Pacific Railroad connecting east to west was completed and even after the 2nd World War.  This is the story of the government of Canada intentionally using our immigration policies first to get cheap labor to do the work that others would charge more for and then trying to rid itself of the people once the need for them was no more.  This is a story of usury and racism and a people’s struggle to do what they had always done work hard, obey the law no matter how unjust and hard their way was made by the Canadian government and prove themselves worthy in a country whose government and people hated them for many reasons since they first came to Canada, after the railroad was completed in like they were thought to have  no useful purpose and after the 2nd World War they were seen as communists, but at all times the Canadian government and real Canadians as harper calls them, put the Chinese people the a living hell of degrading practices designed to alienate them and degrade them and keep these people from becoming real Canadians.

Please make note that 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.  No voting rights means not able to effect change and so it would remain for the Chinese immigrant to Canada until after the 2nd World War.

ex01s13-TOStar-22Nov1946In 1871 Canada struck a deal with British Columbia to build a railroad connecting them to the east in return for British Columbia joining confederation.  the only problem the government of Canada had to overcome was how to not use more expensive European and negro labor that cost approximately $3.00 a day.  Enter the great Chinese immigration after  Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, insisted the project cut costs by employing Chinese to build the railway.  Addressing Parliament in 1882 he stated,  “It is simply a question of alternatives: either you must have this labour or you can’t have the railway.” this was contrary to what the British Columbian politicians wanted, because they wanted an a settlement-immigration plan for workers from the British Isles, but Canadian politicians and investors said it would be too expensive and so the first wave of unwanted Chinese immigrants from the USA and China arrived on our shores and began their rich contribution to the building and prospering of Canada while being paid $1.00 a day for working on some of the most dangerous track being laid that being through the  Fraser Canyon.  This was a time when the government had need of the Chinese people, but this was not to last because after the railroad was completed many Chinese could not find work and the Canadian government took brutal, definitely racist steps to rid themselves of a people they no longer needed and never cared about.

Restrict-Entry1885 saw the Chinese Immigration Act come into law which imposed a $50.oo a head on any Chinese person wishing to immigrate to Canada hoping to discourage these people from immigrating to Canada. The Chinese kept on coming so in the government instituted The Chinese Immigration Act of 1900, which upped the tax per head to $100.00 followed by the Chinese Immigration Act of 1903 which up the tax per head of a Chinese person wishing to immigrate to Canada to $500.00 a head, the equivalent of $8,000 in 2003-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.  It is this kind of behavior that Canada as a country should be ashamed of and not repeat. It is tis kind of behavior that if we are not careful we are in danger of as people be guilty of allowing our government again to commit racist acts, with their new acts dealing with  immigration and the rights of refugees and the said restrictions on people the government of Canada sees as having no place in its Economic Plan.  Do we really want to start another era like put the Chinese people through in Canada? Have we learned nothing through our past?  I fear the callous around our minds and hearts has grown so thick that we are becoming desensitized to the pain we as a country cause others through the actions of our leaders and that we just stand by and let them happen.  If we are not careful the African Slave Trade, the Trail of Tears and even the Holocaust, will seem like just another walk in the park and the world will ask us to explain, “How is it possible that you did not know”?

ex01s15-GandM06DEC1946There can be no excuse for the behavior of the Canadian government in dealing with the Chinese people up to this point and one would have to be saying when does this unprecedented treatment of immigrants we encouraged, no sought out to come here going to end and the answer is not for a long time, because The Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, better known as the Chinese Exclusion Act which 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 1924 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, 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.  These are the little facts that are not taught in school; these are the little facts so often hidden under the rug.  these are the things that we forget when we allow governments to pass such obviously prejudicial, racist immigration laws.

images (1)I was appalled to learn that even up to the 2nd world War Canada with Canada entering the war to stop the Nazi’s that we were denying the Chinese the right to vote and did not want them to fight for Canada, because Ottawa and the government of British Columbia did not want the Chinese people to ask for enfranchisement after the war. ( The rights of citizenship, especially the right to vote.)  After heavy loss of life by British soldiers we did use the Chinese as spies, but the war was all but over and so their contribution was minimal, by no fault of their own.  It was only the events of the Holocaust that change things for the Chinese people of Canada.  Canada could no longer justify to itself or anyone else the mistreatment of the Chinese in its country and justify its position of entering the war to stop the Nazi’s discrimination of the Jews and Canada’s treatment of its Chinese people violated the united Nations Charter. 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 dependants.


Saying sorry only means something if we have learned something and do not continue the practices of the past. Actions speak louder than words.

When I got to this part I said to myself that things were finally going to work out for these poor people and that their lives were about to take a turn for the better, but this was not going to be entirely true, because in 1949 China became the People’s republic of China and supported the communist North in the Korean War. Chinese Canadians were now faced with being viewed by other Canadians as communist spies and so began an era of unfounded mistrust and resentment our Canadian Chinese people. Independent immigration for the Chinese people only  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 Peoples Republic of China did not have diplomatic relations until 1970. Institutional racism was allegedly completely eliminated in 1971 with the implementation of the policy of multiculturalism.

Look at where the Prime Minister of Canada is taking us now with the immigration Acts he and his Conservative Party of Canada are enacting and tell me you do not see a similarity.  This is not a new tactic, but it is still a shameful one that I as a Canadian do not want to be a party to inflicting on anyone.  When I see this kind of thing in this day and age and see no protest and no public out cry from Canadians especially the Chinese who should know how it feels I have to wonder,What is up Canada?”

Origin Of the Phrase, ” Chinaman’s Chance”:

Chinese workers were sent into tunnels and construction sites to ignite dynamite, potentially with disastrous consequences.  They were also lowered over cliffs by rope and boatswain’s chairs to set dynamite to clear mountain and other obstructions to make way for the railroad construction. In this work, if they were not lifted back up before the blast, serious injury or death would result.  Therefore the phrase “A Chinaman’s Chance” was coined in this context.

“You haven’t got a Chinaman’s chance,” also refers to the practice of white railway workers preparing a dynamite bundle, cutting the fuse short and giving it to a Chinese worker to take into a tunnel.  When he lit the fuse, he had only seconds to run out ahead of the blast. Wagers were placed on his chance of making it. Most did not.

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