Chinese Canadians

Chinese Canadians are Canadians of full or partial Chinese ancestry which includes Canadian-born Chinese.[3][4][5][6] They comprise a subgroup of East Asian Canadians which is a further subgroup of Asian Canadians. Demographic research tends to include immigrants from Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau as well as overseas Chinese who have immigrated from South East Asia and South America into the broadly defined Chinese Canadian category. StatsCan refers to Taiwanese Canadians as a separate group apart from Chinese Canadians.[7]

Canadians of Chinese descent make up about five percent of the Canadian population, or about 1.76 million people as of 2016.[8] The Chinese Canadian community is the largest ethnic group of Asian Canadians, consisting approximately 40% of the Asian Canadian population. Most Canadians of Chinese descent are concentrated within the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia.

Chinese Canadians
Canadiens chinois (French)
Total population
5.1% of the Canadian population (2016)[1][2]
Regions with significant populations
Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Winnipeg
English, French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Min Chinese, Hakka
various other Chinese languages
Irreligious, Chinese folk religions, Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism
Related ethnic groups
Hong Kong Canadians, Taiwanese Canadians
Overseas Chinese, Chinese Americans
Chinese Canadians


Chinese at work on C.P.R. (Canadian Pacific Railway) in Mountains, 1884
Chinese labourers working on the Canadian Pacific Railway
Chinese Canadians in Toronto's High Park, 1919
High Park - Toronto, Ontario - 1920
A Chinese man picking watercress in Toronto's High Park, 1920
Chinese-Canadian Soldiers-WW2
Chinese-Canadian soldiers from Vancouver serving in the Second World War
Chinese Children playing basketball in Chinatown, Vancouver, B.C
Lila Gee, playground monitor, with Chinese children playing basketball at McLean Park in Vancouver, 1951
WWII Veteran George Chow
World War II veteran George Chow
Canada Day Celebrations in Toronto, organized by the National Congress of Chinese Canadians
Canada Day celebrations in Toronto, organized by the National Congress of Chinese Canadians

Pre-19th century

The first record of Chinese in what is known as Canada today can be dated back to 1788. The renegade British Captain John Meares hired a group of roughly 70 Chinese carpenters from Macau and employed them to build a ship, the North West America, at Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. This was then an increasingly important but disputed European outpost on the Pacific coast, which, after Spanish seizure, was abandoned by Mears, leaving the eventual whereabouts of the carpenters largely unknown.

19th century

Chinese railway workers made up the labour force for construction of two one-hundred mile sections of the Canadian Pacific Railway from the Pacific to Craigellachie in the Eagle Pass in British Columbia. The railway as a whole consisted of 28 such sections, 93% of which were constructed by workers of European origin. 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. British Columbia politicians and their electorate agitated for an immigration program from the British Isles to provide this railway labour, but Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, betraying the wishes of his constituency, Victoria, by insisting the project 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."[9] (British Columbia politicians had wanted a settlement-immigration plan for workers from the British Isles, but Canadian politicians and investors said it would be too expensive).

Chinese communities in Canada in the 19th and well into the 20th centuries were organized around the traditional kinship systems linking people belonging to the same clans together.[10] As not everyone in the Chinese communities necessarily belonged to the same clans, "voluntary" associations that functioned in many ways like guilds that provided social welfare, community events and a forum for politics became very important in Chinese-Canadian communities.[10] Linking together all of the voluntary associations were Benevolent Associations that in effect ran the various Chinatowns in Canada, mediating disputes within the communities and providing for leaders who negotiated with Canadian politicians.[10] As many Chinese immigrants knew little or no English, and most white Canadians did not welcome them, the Chinatowns tended to be cut off from the wider Canadian communities, functioning as "islands". The Canadian media in the late 19th and early 20th centuries depicted the Chinatowns in lucid and sensationalist terms as centers of "filth"; using the very poverty of the Chinese against them, Canadian newspapers frequently claimed that the Chinese immigrants were an innately dirty people who carried infectious diseases and were prone to criminality.[10] Reflecting the popularity of "Yellow Peril" stereotypes, the media blamed Chinese immigrants for all the crime in Canada, depicting the Chinese as luring innocent white Canadians into gambling, prostitution and drug addiction.[10]

Many workers from Guangdong Province(mainly Taishanese people and Pearl River Delta peoples) arrived to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 19th century as did Chinese veterans of the gold rushes. These workers accepted the terms offered by the Chinese labour contractors who were engaged by the railway construction company to hire them—low pay, long hours, lower wages than non-Chinese workers and dangerous working conditions, in order to support their families that stayed in China. Their willingness to endure hardship for low wages enraged fellow non-Chinese workers who thought they were unnecessarily complicating the labour market situations. From the passage of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1885, the Canadian government began to charge a substantial head tax for each Chinese person trying to immigrate to Canada.[11] The Chinese were the only ethnic group that had to pay such a tax. Owing to the fear of the "Yellow Peril", in 1895 the government of Mackenzie Bowell passed an act forbidding any Asian-Canadian from voting or holding office.[11]

20th century

In 1902, the Liberal Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier appointed a Royal Commission on Chinese and Japanese Immigration, whose report stated that the Asians were "unfit for full citizenship ... obnoxious to a free community and dangerous to the state."[10] Following the Royal Commission's report, Parliament voted to increase the Chinese head tax to $500 dollars, which temporarily caused Chinese immigration to Canada to stop.[10] However, those Chinese wishing to go to Canada began to save up money to pay the head tax, which led to agitation, especially in British Columbia for the Dominion government to ban Asian immigration.[10] Between 7–9 September 1907, an anti-Asian pogrom took place in Vancouver. The Asiatic Exclusion League organized attacks against homes and businesses owned by Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indian immigrants under the slogan "White Canada Forever!"; though no-one was killed, much property damage was done and numerous Asian-Canadians were beaten up.

The 1907 pogrom was merely the most dramatic expression of the continuous agitation in Canada, especially in western Canada and among the working class, for the total exclusion of Asian immigration to Canada. In 1922, the feminist Emily Murphy published her best-selling book The Black Candle blaming Chinese and black immigrants for allegedly causing the problems of drug addiction among white Canadians. In 1923, the federal Liberal government of William Lyon Mackenzie King banned Chinese immigration with the passage of the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, although numerous exemptions for businessmen, clergy, students and others did not end immigration entirely.[12] With this act, the Chinese received similar legal treatment to blacks before them who Canada also had specifically excluded from immigration on the basis of race. (This was formalised in 1911 by Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier who in Sub-section (c) of Section 38 of the Immigration Act called blacks "unsuitable" for Canada.) During the next 25 years, more and more laws against the Chinese were passed. Most jobs were closed to Chinese men and women. Many Chinese opened their own restaurants and laundry businesses. In British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario, Chinese employers were not allowed to hire white females, so most Chinese businesses became Chinese-only.[13] Ernest Chewant Mark, an immigrant who arrived in Canada in 1908, emerged as one of the leading critics of the 1923 Exclusion Act, and worked closely with Senator William Proudfoot, a Presbyterian minister, into seeking to pressure the government to repeal the act.[14]

Some of those Chinese Canadian workers settled in Canada after the railway was constructed. Most could not bring the rest of their families, including immediate relatives, due to government restrictions and enormous processing fees. They established Chinatowns and societies in undesirable sections of the cities, such as Dupont Street (now East Pender) in Vancouver, which had been the focus of the early city's red-light district until Chinese merchants took over the area from the 1890s onwards. During the Great Depression, life was even tougher for the Chinese than it was for other Canadians.[15] In Alberta, for example, Chinese-Canadians received relief payments of less than half the amount paid to other Canadians. And because The Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited any additional immigration from China, the Chinese men who had arrived earlier had to face these hardships alone, without the companionship of their wives and children. Census data from 1931 shows that there were 1,240 men to every 100 women in Chinese-Canadian communities. To protest the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese-Canadians closed their businesses and boycotted Dominion Day celebrations every July 1, which became known as "Humiliation Day" by the Chinese-Canadians.[16] The film-maker Melinda Friedman stated about her interviews with Chinese-Canadian veterans of World War II: "The thing that was the most shocking to me was hearing from the veterans ... describe what life was like in Vancouver as late as 1940, with the Ku Klux Klan living in Vancouver who were targeting, quite often, the Chinese community."[17]

In 1937, when Japan attacked China, the government of Chiang Kai-shek asked for the overseas Chinese communities to support the homeland.[18] From 1937 onward, the Chinese-Canadian community regularly organized fund-raising events to raise money for China.[19] By 1945, the Chinese-Canadians had contributed $5 million Canadian dollars to China.[19] Following the Xi'an Incident of December 1936, an "United Front" bringing together the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang had been formed to resist Japanese aggression, which was soon put to the test when Japan invaded China in July 1937. Within the Chinese-Canadian communities, an "United Front" atmosphere prevailed from the summer of 1937 on as various community leaders put aside their differences to focus on supporting China.[20] Starting in 1937, a boycott was organized of Japanese goods, and Canadian businesses that sold war materials to Japan were subject of demonstrations.[21] One of the main slogans used at the demonstrations was "Don't Kill Babies", a reference to the Imperial Japanese Army's habit of using Chinese infants for "bayonet practice".

The Second World War became the turning point in history of Chinese-Canadians. To show support for the war, fund-raising events were held from September 1939 to raise money for the Canadian war effort, and by 1945, Chinese-Canadians had purchased some $10 million worth of Victory Bonds.[22] The Chinese community of Victoria was praised in a parliamentary resolution for being especially active in holding events to encourage people to buy Victory Bonds.[23] In December 1941, Canada declared war on Japan, and from time onward, China was an ally, which helped to change white Canadian views.[24] Despite not being allowed to vote or hold office, about 600 Chinese-Canadians enlisted as "active" members to fight overseas (until late 1944 all Canadians serving abroad were volunteers).[22] Unlike in the First World War, where about 300 Chinese-Canadians had served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, this time Chinese-Canadians serving in the Canadian military were given officers' commissions.[22] All three services were reluctant to have Chinese-Canadians given officers' commissions as having Asian men serving as officers giving orders to white men challenged the racial hierarchy.[22] However, all those serving as airmen in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) were officers, and once Chinese-Canadian airmen received officers' commissions, both the Army and the Navy were forced to follow suit. The RCAF was the service most open to Chinese-Canadians because of the heavy losses taken in the bombing offensive against Germany. For RCAF, a 5% loss ratio was considered crippling and between 5 March-24 June 1943, the 6th Group of the RCAF lost 100 bombers in air raids over Germany, suffering a 7% loss ratio; altogether, 9, 980 Canadians were killed in bombing raids against German cities between 1940–45, making the strategical bombing offensive one of the most costly operations for Canada in World War II.[25]

In 1943, William Lore was commissioned as a Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Canadian Navy, becoming the first person of Chinese descent to be given an officer's commission in any of the Commonwealth navies.[26] Lore was the first Allied officer to land in Hong Kong on 30 August 1945 and it he who announced to the surviving Canadian POWs, who had been held in barbaric conditions by the Japanese since surrendering on Christmas Day in 1941, being reduced down to "human skeletons", that they were now free men.[26] Kam Hem Douglas Sam of the Royal Canadian Air Force, who had been serving on a Halifax bomber was shot down over France on 28 June 1944, and joined the French resistance, being awarded the Croix de Guerre from France after the war for his work with the resistance.[26] Sam, who came from Victoria and could remember some French from high school, was able to pass himself off as a Vietnamese student in Reims.[27] Sam first served with as a liaison with the SOE to organize landings of arms to the resistance from Britain.[28] Sam later fought with the resistance, ambushing German troops on their way to Normandy.[29] Flying Officer Quan Jil Louie of the RCAF was killed in early 1945 when his bomber was shot down over Germany.[26] As Louie came from one of the more wealthier families of Vancouver's Chinatown, his death in action attracted much attention in Vancouver, and with it commentary he was not allowed to vote or hold office.

A number of Chinese-Canadians were recruited by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) to serve in Japanese-occupied regions of China and south-east Asia.[26] About 150 Chinese-Canadians served with the SOE Force 136 behind Japanese lines in Burma.[17] Douglas Jung, who later become the first Chinese-Canadian MP, served as a SOE agent in Japanese-occupied Malaya in 1944-45, which was highly dangerous work as the Kenpeitai, the much feared Japanese military police, would give no mercy to any Allied agent whom they captured.[26] Those serving with the Force 136 were given cyanide pills to take if faced with capture by the Japanese as it was known that any SOE agent captured by the Japanese would be tortured and killed.[17] Another Chinese-Canadian, Bill Chong, served with the British Army Aid Group in Hong Kong and southern China, smuggling out POWs to "Free China" (i.e not occupied by the Japanese) and delivering aid to resistance groups.[26] The willingness of Chinese-Canadians to fight and if necessary die for Canada in the war changed public perceptions, and for the first time newspapers began to call for the repeal of the 1895 law which forbade all Asian-Canadians from voting or holding offices.[22] The Canadian historian Brereton Greenhous wrote of the efforts of the men of Force 136: "Several of them were decorated for their actions, and their service was a major factor in influencing the Canadian government to grant Chinese and Japanese-Canadians full rights as Canadian citizens several years later".[30]

Frank Wong of Vancouver who served with the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in north-west Europe in 1944-45 recalled that his service with the Army was the first time he had been treated as an equal, stating: "They treated me just like an equal. You have your uniform, you're in it together; you eat together and you sleep together.".[26] Like other Chinese-Canadian veterans, Wong argued for equality of treatment, asking why he should be treated as a second-class citizen despite his war services. Wong stated his reasons for enlisting were: "I decided maybe if I joined the armed forces, after the war they would give me the right to vote".[26] Peggy Lee of Toronto by contrast stated her reasons for enlisting in 1942 with the Women's Ambulance Corps was "do my bit" for Canada.[26] Roy Mah who served with the SOE behind Japanese lines in Burma stated: "We thought that serving in the armed forces would be an opportunity for us to prove to the general public that we are loyal Canadians, that in time of need, they would see that we have no hesitation to don the King's uniform and go overseas to fight for our country, fight to preserve democracy."[31] The Canadian historian Henry Yu stated about the efforts of Chinese-Canadian veterans: "They had to accept that they had fought this war—a good war in everyone's estimation—and they were still coming back to places built around white supremacy. So for some of them, they began vocally to argue: Why can't we vote still?"[17]

Moreover, the völkisch ideology of Nazi Germany, which was the most extreme form of racism widely held throughout the West, was used by Chinese-Canadian groups to argue that if the Third Reich was evil, and if that was Canada was at war with Germany for that reason, then why did so many white Canadians hold to notions of white supremacy.[32] Racism did not end in Canada with the Second World War, but starting during the war and afterwards, the ideas about white supremacy became gradually discredited as the Third Reich had made racism unfashionable,[32] A sign of changing racial attitudes was that George Chow of Vancouver who served with the 16th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery of the Canadian Army in north-west Europe married an Englishwoman named Mabel Rose while he was stationed in Britain.[26] Before the war, interracial marriage was considered to be abomination as various "experts" held that miscegenation was dangerous. Catherine Clement, the curator of Chinese Canadian Military Museum in Vancouver stated: "It's called a double victory because they not only helped Canada win the war, but they also helped propel the civil rights movement for the Chinese-Canadians."[17]

Canada was slow to lift the restrictions against the Chinese-Canadians and grant them full rights as Canadian citizens. Because Canada signed the United Nations Charter of Human Rights at the conclusion of the Second World War, the Canadian government had to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act, which contravened the UN Charter. The same year, 1947, Chinese-Canadians were finally granted the right to vote in federal elections. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was opposed to granting the franchise to Chinese-Canadians, but Chinese-Canadian veterans led a coalition of churches, unions, civic groups and veterans' associations into pressuring the King government to end the exclusion of Chinese-Canadians from the franchise.[33] Friedman stated about Chinese-Canadian enfranchisement: ""Canada has this great spot on the world stage—as just, fair and level-headed country—but the reason it is that way is because Chinese residents forced that issue and made it more just."[17] One Second World War veteran, Ronald Lee, remembered when he learned that Chinese-Canadians now vote together with repeal of the Exclusion Act: "Down in Chinatown, we celebrated because we were Canadians! We were able to bring our families from China. It was quite the jubilation."[17] Arguing that it was unjust to discriminate against veterans, professions such as the law, medicine and engineering were opened for Chinese-Canadians for the first time after 1945.[17]

However, it took another 20 years, until the points system was adopted for selecting immigrants, for the Chinese to begin to be admitted under the same criteria as any other applicants. In the 1957 election, the Second World War veteran Douglas Jung was elected as a Progressive Conservative for the riding of Vancouver Centre, becoming the first Chinese-Canadian elected to the House of Commons. Jung's election, which proved that white voters would vote for a Chinese-Canadian, marked the beginning of a trend where Chinese-Canadians cease to depend upon the Benevolent Associations to negotiate with the politicians and instead Chinese-Canadians became politically active themselves.[10] After many years of organized calls for an official Canadian government public apology and redress to the historic Head tax, the minority Conservative government of Stephen Harper announced, as part of their pre-election campaign, an official apology. On June 22, 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a message of redress in the House of Commons, calling it a "grave injustice".

Some educated Chinese arrived in Canada during the war as refugees. Since the mid-20th century, most new Chinese Canadians come from university-educated families, who of still consider quality education an essential value. These newcomers are a major part of the "brain gain", the inverse of the infamous "brain drain", i.e., the occurrence of many Canadians leaving to the United States, of which Chinese have also been a part.

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. From the late 1980s, an influx of Taiwanese people immigrated to Canada forming a group of Taiwanese Canadians. The settled in areas such as Vancouver, British Columbia and to the adjacent cities of Burnaby, Richmond and Coquitlam. There was a significant influx of wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs from Hong Kong in the early and mid-1990s before the handover of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China (PRC). Canada was a preferred location, in part because investment visas were significantly easier to obtain than visas to the United States. Vancouver, Richmond and Toronto were the major destinations of these Chinese. During those years, immigrants from Hong Kong alone made up to 46% of all Chinese immigrants to Canada. After 1997, a significant portion of Chinese immigrants chose to move back to Hong Kong, some of a more permanent nature, after the dust of the handover was settled and fears of a "Communist takeover" turned out to be unnecessary.

Starting in the late 20th century, Chinese-Canadians have become active in the cultural scene in Canada, with the writers such Larissa Lai, Evelyn Lau,  Denise Chong, Wayson Choy, Paul Yee, Jim Wong-Chu, and Vincent Lam all winning acclaim.[10] In the world of film-making, Christina Wong, William Dere, Colleen Leung, Richard Fung, Dora Nipp, Tony Chan, Yung Chang Julia Kwan, Karin Lee, Mina Shum, Michelle Wong, Paul Wong, and Keith Lock have worked as directors and/or as script writers.[10] The Confucian tradition emphasizing hard work, scholarship, self-discipline and learning has meant the Chinese-Canadians families have strongly aspired for higher education and the 2001 census reported that over a quarter of Chinese-Canadians had a university degree.[10] As it was the Liberal government of Lester Pearson that liberalized the immigration system in 1967, Chinese-Canadians tended to vote for the Liberals in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.[10] In 1993, Raymond Chan become the first Chinese-Canadian cabinet minister, and in 1999 Adrienne Clarkson became the first Chinese-Canadian governor-general.[10]

21st century

In the 21st century, Chinese immigration from Hong Kong has dropped sharply and the largest source of Chinese immigration is from the mainland China. A smaller number have arrived from Taiwan and very small numbers from Fiji, French Polynesia, and New Zealand.[34] 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, totalling an average of 15% of all immigrants to Canada. This trend shows no sign of slowing down, with an all-time high of more than 40,000 reached in 2005.[35] According to 2006 census, 70% of Chinese-Canadians live either in the greater Vancouver area or the greater Toronto area.[10]

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.[36][37][38][39]

In December 2008, the Philippines passed China as Canada's leading source of immigrants.[40] In 2010, when Mainland China became the second largest economy in the world after the United States, its economic growth sparked even greater immigration opportunities to mainland Chinese. A 2011 survey shown that 60% of Chinese millionaires plan to immigrate, where 37% of the respondents wanted to immigrate to Canada. Many foreign countries such as Canada hold very large attraction for rich Chinese, because of their better social welfare system, higher quality of education and a greater opportunity for investment. The main reasons Chinese businesspeople want to move abroad was for some educational opportunities for their children, advanced medical treatment, worsening pollution back home (especially urban air quality) and food safety concerns.[41][42] The Canadian Federal Investor Immigrant Program (FIIP) as a cash-for-visa scheme allows many powerful Chinese to seek for a Canadian citizenship, and recent reports show that 697 of the 700 (99.6%) of the applicants to this visa in 2011 were mainland Chinese.[43] However, Canada—along with other English-speaking countries such as the United States and Australia—has increased its immigration requirements, forcing Chinese millionaires to seek permanent residency elsewhere.[44][45][46]


Historical population

At the turn of the 20th century, the Chinese population in Canada was 17,312.[47] From the years 1988 to 1993, 166,487 Hong Kong immigrants had settled in canada.[47]

Chinese population by year[48][49]
Year % of Canadian
1871 0.0
1881 0.0
1891 0.2
1901 0.3
1911 0.4
1921 0.4
1931 0.4
1941 0.3
1951 0.2
1961 0.3
1971 0.6
1981 1.2
1991 2.3
2001 3.5
2006 4.3
2011 4.5

Population statistics

In 2001, 25% of Chinese in Canada were Canadian-born.[50] During the same year, the Chinese population stood at 1,094,700 accounted for 3.5% of Canada's total population. By 2006 the population stood at 1,346,510 comprising 4.3% of the Canadian population.[7] StatsCan projects by 2031, the Chinese Canadian population is projected to reach between 2.4 and 3.0 million, constituting approximately 6 percent of the Canadian population. Much of the growth will be bolstered by sustained immigration as well as creating a younger age structure.[51][52][53]

During the 2011 census in Canada, it was estimated that 1,324,700 individuals of pure Chinese origin resided in Canada. This number increased to 1,487,000 individuals, when including those of both pure Chinese origin and people of partial Chinese ancestry (meaning, individuals with both Chinese and some other racial and ethnic origin) during the 2011 census in Canada.[2]

Most of the Chinese Canadian community is concentrated within the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. The five metropolitan areas with the largest Chinese Canadian populations are the Greater Toronto Area (>700,000), Metro Vancouver (>500,000), Greater Montreal (120,000),[54] Calgary Region (75,410), and the Edmonton Capital Region (53,670). The Chinese are the largest visible minority group in Alberta and British Columbia, and are the second largest in Ontario.[50] The highest concentration of Chinese Canadians is in Vancouver, where one in five residents are Chinese.[55][56]

The province of Saskatchewan has a growing Chinese community, at over one percent as of 2006, mainly in the city of Saskatoon (2.1%), the province's largest city, and to a lesser extent, Regina (1.9%), the capital of the province. The Riversdale neighborhood of Saskatoon has a historical Chinese settlement dating back to the early 1900s, where Chinese immigrants were employed by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, and established businesses within this district. Riversdale is currently home to many Chinese restaurants and stores.[57] Chinese are the largest visible minority group in Saskatchewan.[58]

The Chinese Canadian Population according to Statistics Canada in the 2011 census in the 10 Canadian provinces and 3 territories:[59][60]

Chinese population in the Canadian regions[59]
Province Chinese population Percentage
of Chinese
 Ontario 713,245 5.6%
 British Columbia 464,800 10.7%
 Alberta 155,965 4.4%
 Quebec 101,880 1.3%
 Manitoba 22,600 1.9%
 Saskatchewan 13,990 1.4%
 Nova Scotia 7,065 0.8%
 New Brunswick 2,945 0.4%
 Newfoundland and Labrador 1,970 0.4%
 Prince Edward Island 1,915 1.4%
 Yukon 600 1.8%
 Northwest Territories 515 1.3%
 Nunavut 95 0.3%
 Canada 1,487,585 4.5%

Canadian metropolitan areas with large Chinese populations:[61]

City Province Chinese Percentage
Toronto Ontario 531,635 9.6%
Vancouver British Columbia 411,470 18.0%
Montreal Quebec 91,785 2.4%
Calgary Alberta 75,470 6.3%
Edmonton Alberta 60,715 5.3%
Ottawa Ontario 42,740 3.5%
Winnipeg Manitoba 20,410 2.9%
Hamilton Ontario 14,785 2.1%
Victoria British Columbia 14,460 4.3%
Kitchener Ontario 14,125 3.0%


In 2001, 87% of Chinese reported having a conversational knowledge of at least one official language, while 15% reported that they could speak neither English nor French. Of those who could not speak an official language, 50% immigrated to Canada in the 1990s, while 22% immigrated in the 1980s. These immigrants tended to be in the older age groups. Of prime working-age Chinese immigrants, 89% reported knowing at least one official language.[50]

In 2001, collectively, the varieties of Chinese are the third-most common reported mother tongue, after English and French. 3% of the Canadian population, or 872,000 people, reported the Chinese language as their mother tongue—the language that they learned as a child and still understand. The most common Chinese mother tongue is Cantonese. Of these people, 44% were born in Hong Kong, 27% were born in Guangdong Province in China, and 18% were Canadian-born. The second-most common reported Chinese mother tongue was Mandarin. Of these people, 85% were born in either Mainland China or Taiwan, 7% were Canadian-born, and 2% were born in Malaysia. There is some evidence that fewer young Chinese-Canadians are speaking their parents' and grandparents' first language.

However, only about 790,500 people reported speaking Chinese at home on a regular basis, 81,900 fewer than those who reported having a Chinese mother tongue. This suggests some language loss has occurred, mainly among the Canadian-born who learned Chinese as a child, but who may not speak it regularly or do not use it as their main language at home.[50]

Census data

Some varieties may be underreported due to respondents simply responding "Chinese" rather than specifying:

First language Population (2011) % of total population (2011) Population (2006) % of total population (2006) Notes
Chinese (not otherwise specified) 425,210 1.3% 456,705 1.5%
Cantonese 372,460 1.1% 361,450 1.2%
Mandarin 248,705 0.8% 170,950 0.5%
Hokkien 9,635 0.03% 9,620 0.03%
"Foochow" (Fuzhou dialect) 5,925 0.02% N/A N/A
Hakka 5,115 0.02% N/A N/A
Shanghainese 2,920 0.009% N/A N/A


Embassy of the People's Republic of China Ottawa 02
Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Ottawa

As of 2001, almost 75% of the Chinese population in Canada lived in either Vancouver or Toronto. The Chinese population was 17% in Vancouver and 9% in Toronto.[50] More than 50% of the Chinese immigrants who just arrived in 2000/2001 reported that their reason for settling in a given region was because their family and friends already lived there.

The economic growth of mainland China since the turn of the 21st century has sparked even greater emigration opportunities for mainland Chinese. A 2011 survey showed that 60% of Chinese millionaires planned to emigrate, where 37% of the respondents wanted to emigrate to Canada.[62] The main reasons Chinese businesspeople wanted to move abroad was for greater educational opportunities for their children, advanced medical treatment, worsening pollution back home (especially urban air quality), concerns of political instability and food safety concerns.[41][42][63] The Canadian Immigrant Investor Program (CANIIP) allows many powerful Chinese to qualify for Canadian citizenship: among the 700 applicants to this program in 2011, 697 (99.6%) were mainland Chinese.[43] In addition, many Chinese immigrants to Canada apply through the provincial nominee program, which requires immigrants to invest in a business in the province in which they settle.[64]


In 2001, 31% of Chinese in Canada, both foreign-born and Canadian-born, had a university education, compared with the national average of 18%.[50]

Of prime working-age Chinese in Canada, about 20% were in sales and services; 20% in business, finance, and administration; 16% in natural and applied sciences; 13% in management; and 11% in processing, manufacturing, and utilities.[50] However, there is a trend that Chinese move toward small towns and rural areas for agricultural and agri-food operations in recent years.[65]

Chinese who immigrated to Canada in the 1990s and were of prime working-age in 2001 had an employment rate of 61%, which was lower than the national average of 80%. Many reported that the recognition of foreign qualifications was a major issue. However, the employment rate for Canadian-born Chinese men of prime working-age was 86%, the same as the national average. The employment rate for Canadian-born Chinese women of prime working-age was 83%, which was higher than the national average of 76%.[50]


Cham Shan Temple - A Chinese Temple in Toronto - Canada - 2014
Cham Shan Temple is a Chinese temple located in Markham, north of Toronto.
Ten Thousand Buddhas World Peace Sarira Stupa 4303 River Rd., Niagara Falls, Canada var4
Cham Shan Temple in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Generational differences are also evident regarding religious practice and affiliation within this population group.

Among Toronto's early Chinese immigrants especially, the church body was an important structure serving as a meeting place, hall and leisure club. Even today, over 30 churches in Toronto continue to hold Chinese congregations.

Christianity reached its peak of popularity in the early 1960s, with the 1961 census still reporting that 60% of the Chinese declared themselves Christians.[10] Over the following 40 years Christianity has been steadily declining both among Canadian-born Chinese and new immigrants.[66] Religiousy, the Chinese Canadian community is different from the broader Canadian population in that about half of Chinese Canadians reportedly practice Chinese folk religion.[67]

In 2001, 56% of Chinese Canadians aged 15 and over said that they did not have any religious affiliation, compared with the national average of 17%. As a result, Chinese Canadians make up 13% of all Canadians who did not report a religious affiliation despite making up 4% of the population. Among Chinese Canadians, 14% were Buddhist, 14% were Catholic and 9% belonged to a Protestant denomination.[66]

% 1921[10]
% 1961[10]
% 1971[66]
% 1981[66]
% 1991[66]
% 2001[66][68]
% 2018[67]
Not religious / other - - 43.7% 57.4% 55.3% 55.6% 49.3%
Christianity 10% 60% 46.4% 36.3% 32.4% 29.2% 20.9%
Catholicism - - 12.9% 14.2% 16.0% 13.8% -
Protestantism - - 33.5% 22.1% 16.4% 15.4% -
Buddhism - - - - 11.4% 14.6% 24.8%
Other religion - - 9.9% 6.4% - - -
Chinese folk religion - - - - - - 47.4%
Population - - 124,600 285,800 633,931 1,094,638 1,376,137


Canadians of Chinese origin have established a presence in the Canadian media scene spearheading several Chinese language media outlets in Canada.

A number of daily and weekly Chinese newspapers are printed and distributed throughout Canada. Ming Pao Daily News owned by the Ming Pao Group has a pro-China view, other newspapers in the Chinese news media market in Canada include the Canadian edition of The Epoch Times, Sing Tao Daily and the World Journal.

Cultural adjustment and assimilation

According to the Canadian Ethnic Diversity Survey conducted in 2002 show that 76 percent of Canadians of Chinese origin said they had a strong sense of belonging to Canada. At the same time, 58% said that they had a strong sense of belonging to their ethnic or cultural group. Canadians of Chinese origin are also active in Canadian society. During the same year, 64 percent of Chinese Canadians who were eligible to vote reported doing so in the 2000 federal election, while 60 percent said they voted in the 1996 provincial election. At the same time, about 35 percent reported that they had participated in an organization such as a sports team or community association in the 12 months preceding the survey. Concurrently, though, over one in three over (34%) Canadians of Chinese origin reported that they had experienced discrimination, prejudice, or unfair treatment based on their ethnicity, race, religion, language or accent in the past five years, or since they came to Canada. A majority of those who had experienced discrimination said that they felt it was based on their race or skin colour, while 42 percent said that the discrimination took place at work or when applying for a job or promotion.[69]

The majority of Canadian-born Chinese during the 1970s and 1980s were descended from immigrants of Hong Kong and Southern China, and more recently from mainland Chinese immigrants since the 1990s. Canadians of Chinese origin born in Canada who have mostly assimilated into Canadian culture mainly self-identify as solely Canadian while others (particularly Chinese born overseas who immigrated to Canada during their late stages of their lives) primarily self-identify as a mixture of the being both Chinese and Canadian. In Canada, strong feelings of ethnic heritage is bolstered by the clustering of immigrant communities in large urban centres as many Canadians of Chinese extraction, especially new immigrants have a proclivity to associate nearly exclusively with their ethnic compatriots due to unfamiliarity with a new culture. Nonetheless, many Canadians of Chinese origin who have assimilated into Canadian society are more open and have chosen to seek associates outside the Chinese community, toward more multicultural groups of friends and associates from a mosaic of different ethnic and ancestral backgrounds due to Canada's strong emphasis on diversity and multiculturalism. Much of the community take on both old and new social and cultural traditions and values passed on from generation to generation. Culturally, many Canadians of Chinese background who were born in China and immigrated to Canada in their late childhood years are brought up with a more Confucianist-style upbringing with families emphasizing respect for elders, academic achievement, kinship, and taking care of the parents when they're old.[70][71] Canadians of Chinese origin particularly the second generation and beyond have more liberal parenting beliefs, are raised with a more Western style upbringing and embrace more modern Western and Canadian values and traditions such as environmental sustainability and stewardship of the earth, individualism, humanitarianism, equality, fairness, freedom, rule of law, commitment to social justice and respecting cultural differences as well as respect for all individuals in society.[72][73][74][75][76]

See also


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  • Pon, Gordon. "Antiracism in the Cosmopolis: Race, Class, and Gender in the Lives of Elite Chinese Canadian Women", Social Justice, vol. 32 (4): pp. 161–179 (2005)
  • Lindsay, Colin. The Chinese Community in Canada, Profiles of Ethnic Communities in Canada, 2001, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada, Catalog #89-621-XIE (ISBN 0-662-43444-7)
  • Li, Peter S. "Chinese". Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples (Toronto: Multicultural History Society of Ontario, 1999).

Library resources

Further reading

External links

Asian Canadians

Asian Canadians are Canadians who can trace their ancestry back to the continent of Asia or Asian people. Canadians with Asian ancestry comprise the largest and fastest growing visible minority group in Canada, with roughly 17.7% of the Canadian population. Most Asian Canadians are concentrated in the urban areas of Southern Ontario, the Greater Vancouver area, Calgary, and other large Canadian cities.

Asian Canadians considered visible minorities may be classified as East Asian Canadian (e.g. Chinese Canadians, Korean Canadians, Japanese Canadians); South Asian Canadians (e.g. Bangladeshi Canadians, Indian Canadians, Pakistani Canadians, Sri Lankan Canadians); Southeast Asian Canadian (e.g. Filipino Canadians, Vietnamese Canadians); or West Asian Canadians (e.g. Iranian Canadians, Iraqi Canadians, Lebanese Canadians).

Chinatown, Victoria

The Chinatown in Victoria, British Columbia is the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second oldest in North America after San Francisco's. Victoria's Chinatown had its beginnings in the mid-nineteenth century in the mass influx of miners from California to what is now British Columbia in 1858. It remains an active place and continues to be popular with residents and visitors, many of whom are Chinese-Canadians. Victoria's Chinatown is now surrounded by cultural, entertainment venues as well as being a venue itself. Chinatown is now conveniently just minutes away from other sites of interests such as the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, Bay Centre, Empress Hotel, Market Square, and others.

The Royal BC Museum stated that it "was known for its maze of alleyways and courtyards, containing everything from theatres and restaurants to gambling dens."

Chinese Canadian National Council

The Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC), known in the Chinese-Canadian community as Equal Rights Council (平權會), is an organization whose purpose is to monitor racial discrimination against Chinese in Canada and to help young Chinese Canadians learn about their cultural history.

The organization was created in 1980, after an incident in September 1979 when the CTV Television Network incorrectly represented Chinese Canadians in an investigative show called W5. In a feature called "Campus Giveaways", CTV used allegedly incorrect statistics to conclude that foreign students were eroding other Canadians' opportunities for a secondary education and benefitting from public universities funded by Canadian taxpayers. All Chinese university students were treated as foreign students, regardless of their real nationality. The show also made numerous racial remarks about the Chinese students. The incident and the resulting campaign were reported in the Canadian media.

In response, Chinese communities across Canada staged protests against CTV and forced the President of CTV to publicly apologize for the W5 feature. After the incident, Chinese who protested against CTV across Canada staged a meeting in Toronto. The meeting called for a stronger voice representing Chinese Canadians nationwide, thus the CCNC was formed.

Since the formation of the CCNC, it has spoken out against racial discrimination against Chinese in Canada. The CCNC is also involved in controversial issues concerning Chinese in Canada, like forcing the Government of Canada to apologize and redress the head tax that Chinese had to paid from 1885 to 1923.

On November 28, 2005, the Toronto chapter of the CCNC was granted the William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations by the Toronto city government, in recognition of the CCNC's advocacy for Head Tax redress.

Chinese Canadians in British Columbia

The history of Chinese Canadians in British Columbia began with the first recorded visit by Chinese people to North America in 1788. Some 30–40 men were employed as shipwrights at Nootka Sound in what is now British Columbia, to build the first European-type vessel in the Pacific Northwest, named the North West America. Large-scale immigration of Chinese began seventy years later with the advent of the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush of 1858. During the gold rush, settlements of Chinese grew in Victoria and New Westminster and the "capital of the Cariboo" Barkerville and numerous other towns, as well as throughout the colony's interior, where many communities were dominantly Chinese. In the 1880s, Chinese labour was contracted to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. Following this, many Chinese began to move eastward, establishing Chinatowns in several of the larger Canadian cities.

Chinese Canadians in Greater Vancouver

Chinese Canadians are a sizable part of the population in Greater Vancouver, especially in the Chinese communities in the city of Vancouver and the adjoining suburban city of Richmond. The legacy of Chinese immigration is prevalent throughout the Vancouver area.Chinese Canadians have been a presence in Vancouver since its 1886 incorporation. Shifts in the economy of smaller towns in British Columbia and immigration caused the size of Vancouver's ethnic Chinese community to increase. Like those of other areas of North America, Vancouver's initial Chinese population was mainly from Guangdong province.

A new wave of immigration started in the middle of the 20th century, continuing to the present. The first wave originated from Hong Kong, and subsequent waves of immigration from Taiwan and Mainland China changed the composition of the Chinese community.

Chinese Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area

The Chinese Canadian community in the Greater Toronto Area was first established around 1877, with an initial population of two laundry owners. While the Chinese population was initially small in size, it dramatically grew beginning in the 1960s due to changes in immigration law and political issues in Hong Kong. Additional immigration from Southeast Asia in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and related conflicts and a late 20th century wave of Hong Kong immigration further established the Chinese in Toronto. The Chinese established many large shopping centres in suburban areas catering to their ethnic group.

Chinese Immigration Act, 1923

The Chinese Immigration Act, 1923, known today as the Chinese Exclusion Act, (the Act) was an act passed by the Parliament of Canada, banning most forms of Chinese immigration to Canada. Immigration from most countries was controlled or restricted in some way, but only the Chinese were so completely prohibited from immigrating.

Chinese Immigration Act of 1885

Following the recommendations published in the Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration in 1885, the Chinese Immigration Act (the Act) was a Canadian Act of Parliament that placed a head tax of $50 on all Chinese immigrants coming to Canada. Assented on 20 July 1885, the intention of the Chinese Immigration Act was stated explicitly in its heading, reading "An Act to restrict and regulate Chinese immigration into Canada."

Chinese head tax in Canada

The Chinese head tax was a fixed fee charged to each Chinese person entering Canada. The head tax was first levied after the Canadian parliament passed the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 and was meant to discourage Chinese people from entering Canada after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). The tax was abolished by the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, which stopped all Chinese immigration except for that of business people, clergy, educators, students, and other categories.

History of Chinese immigration to Canada

In the late 1770s, some 120 Chinese contract labourers arrived at Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island. The British fur trader John Meares recruited an initial group of about 50 sailors and artisans from Canton (Guangzhou) and Macao. At Nootka Sound, the Chinese workers built a dockyard, a fort and a sailing ship, the North-West America. Regarding this journey and the future prospects of Chinese people settlement in colonial North America, Meares wrote:

The Chinese were, on this occasion, shipped as an experiment: they have generally been esteemed as hardy, and industrious, as well as ingenious race of people; they live on fish and rice, and requiring low wages, it was actually not a matter also of economical consideration to employ them; and during the whole of the voyage there was every reason to be satisfied with their services. If trading posts should be established on the American coast, a colony of these men would be a very valuable acquisition.

The next year, Meares had another 70 Chinese shipped from Canton. However, shortly upon arrival of this second group, the settlement was seized by the Spanish in what became known as the Nootka Crisis. The Chinese men were imprisoned by the Spanish. It is unclear what became of them but likely some returned to China, while others were put to work in a nearby mine and later taken to Mexico. No other Chinese are known to have arrived in western North America until the gold rush of the 1850s.

In the Sea of Sterile Mountains

In the Sea of Sterile Mountains: The Chinese in British Columbia is a 1974 book by James Morton, published by J. J. Douglas. It discusses the politics and provides historical details on the Chinese Canadians in British Columbia, Canada from 1858 until the early 1970s. In particular it addresses the non-Chinese British Columbia community's belief that the Chinese were a "problem" that needed to be dealt with. William Willmott of the University of Canterbury wrote that "it is evident from the nature of his source material that Dr. Morton did not set out to write a book about the Chinese in British Columbia, but only about white reactions to them."

List of Chinese Canadians

This is a list of Chinese Canadians including both original immigrants who obtained Canadian citizenship and their Canadian-born descendants who are notable, have made significant contributions to the Canadian or international culture or society politically, artistically or scientifically, or have prominently appeared in the news.

MV Ushuaia

MV Ushuaia is a cruise ship operated by Argentina's Antarpply Expeditions, based in the city of Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego (Argentina) on the Beagle Channel near the southern tip of South America.

She was built for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

She served the NOAA for twenty years under the names Researcher and "Malcolm Baldrige".MV Ushuaia is registered under the flag of the Comoros.

She was built in 1970.

She can carry 84 passengers.On December 4, 2008 she hit a rock in Wilhelmina Bay in Antarctica, and had to be evacuated on December 5 with the Chilean Navy ship AP-41 Aquiles to the Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva, from where they were flown to Ushuaia on December 6 with the Argentinian Air Force Hercules TC-69. Those taken off included 14 Dutch, 12 Americans, 11 Australians, 8 Germans, 6 Chinese, Canadians, New Zealanders, Britons, Italians, French, Spaniards, Swiss, a Belgian and a Cypriot passenger as well as 5 Argentinian crew.

Moving the Mountain (1993 film)

Moving the Mountain is a 1993 Canadian documentary film on the effects of the head tax and Chinese Exclusion Act in Canada. The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1993 was co-directed by William Ging Wee Dere and Malcolm Guy, written by William G.W. Dere and produced by Productions Multi-Monde of Montreal.


The United Chinese Community Enrichment Services Society (traditional Chinese: 中僑互助會; simplified Chinese: 中侨互助会; pinyin: Zhōng Qiáo Hùzhù Huì or 中僑/中侨 Zhōng Qiáo) or S.U.C.C.E.S.S., is a Canadian social services organization headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. As of 2014 Queenie Choo is the CEO of the organization. The organization aims to "bridge" and connect Canadian and Chinese societies.

Union Colliery Co of British Columbia v Bryden

Union Colliery Co of British Columbia v Bryden is a famous Canadian constitutional decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council where the exclusivity principle in Canadian federalism and pith and substance analysis was first articulated.

Bryden was a shareholder in Union Colliery, a coal mining company in British Columbia, and was troubled by the company's practice of employing "Chinamen" and putting them into positions of authority. He sought an injunction against the company for violating section 4 of the provincial Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1890, which prohibited hiring "Chinamen" to work in coal mines. Union Colliery challenged the constitutionality of Act, arguing that the prohibition related to matters of naturalization and was under the jurisdiction of the federal government under section 91(25) of the British North America Act, 1867. Bryden, however, argued that since the federal government had no laws covering the matter the province was allowed to step in and legislate on it.

The issue before the Council was whether the provinces could legislate in matters under federal jurisdiction where the federal government has remained silent.

The Council held that the pith and substance of the provision was in relation to "aliens and naturalized subjects" and did fall within the federal jurisdiction. They also held that the federal government did not need to pass laws in all areas within their jurisdiction, and under the exclusivity principle the province can never intrude upon the federal jurisdiction. It is only where the two governments make an explicit agreement can the province legislate in federal matters.

W5 (TV program)

W5 is a Canadian news magazine television program produced by CTV News. The program is broadcast Saturday nights at 7 p.m. on CTV, with repeat broadcasts at later times on CTV as well as co-owned channels CTV Two, and Investigation Discovery. The program also airs in a radio simulcast on CFRB (1010) in Toronto.

The title refers to the Five Ws of journalism: Who, What, Where, When and Why? It is the longest-running newsmagazine/documentary program in North America and the most-watched program of its type in Canada.

Wealth One Bank of Canada

Wealth One Bank of Canada (WOBC) is a Canadian Schedule I bank opened in 2016 with a focus on providing services to Chinese-Canadians. It provides banking services online and through retail offices in Toronto and Markham, Ontario, and in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Wong Foon Sien

Wong Foon Sien (Chinese: 黃寬先; 7 July 1899 – 31 July 1971), also simply known as Foon Sien, was a Canadian journalist and labour activist. He devoted time to a number of civil and human rights organizations, was one of the early leaders of the Chinese Benevolent Association in Vancouver, and was "perhaps the most influential person" in the city's Chinatown. He was sometimes referred to as the "spokesman for Chinatown", or as "mayor of Chinatown" by Vancouverites, to the resentment of some Chinese Canadians in the community.Foon Sien sought to end discrimination against Chinese Canadians and other minority groups, and was an ardent activist to grant or recognize their rights, particularly regarding immigration and family reunification.

Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinJiānádà Huárén
Yue: Cantonese
Yale RomanizationGānàdaaih Wàyàn
Canadian people
and society
List of
Canadians of Asian descent by area of origin
Central Asia
East Asia
Southeast Asia
South Asia
West Asia
Chinese Canadian topics
Chinatowns and
Chinese communities

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