Asian Canadian History

A Brief History of Asian Canadians

1858 The gold rush in the Fraser Valley draws Chinese miners from San Francisco who had immigrated from China to California gold fields in 1849.
1877 Manzo Nagano of Yokohama abandons ship in New Westminster and takes up permanent residence in Canada, as the first immigrant of Japanese ancestry.
1881 Over 17,000 Chinese workers are brought to Canada to spend the next four years working on the western section of the Canadian Pacific Railroad.  At least 600 Chinese die in the process of laying track through the Rocky Mountains.

With the Canadian Pacific Railway completed, the federal government imposes a head tax of $50 upon every Chinese entering Canada.  In 1901 it was raised to $100.  By 1903 it was raised to $500, making it impossible for the average Chinese to bring wives and children to Canada.

In the Shadow of Gold MountainView Free Documentary
“Filmmaker Karen Cho travels from Montreal to Vancouver to uncover stories from the last survivors of the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act, a set of laws imposed to single out the Chinese as unwanted immigrants to Canada from 1885 to 1947. Through a combination of history, poetry and raw emotion, this documentary sheds light on an era that shaped the identity of generations.”

1886 Chinese labourers are stranded in Canada following the completion of the railway.  Many migrate across Canada in search of jobs and less discrimination.
1887 Kuno Gihei recruit fellow villagers to settle in the village of Steveston at the mouth of the Fraser River in British Columbia and was the second-largest Japanese Canadian settlement in Canada before the War.
1904 Five thousand Indian men, almost all Sikhs, begin to arrive in B.C.  Most find work in lumber mills.
1905 The Khalsa Diwan Society, established in Vancouver, becomes the voice for the Indian population and a focus for religious, social and political activity.  In 1908 the first temple is built by the society.
1907 On September 9, an anti-Asian mob turns a protest rally staged by the Vancouver Asiatic Exclusion League into a riot through Chinatown and Japantown, destroying and vandalizing shops. A general strike of Vancouver’s Asian workers follow.
1908 The government imposes a “continous journey” legislation directed against Indian immigration as there is no direct travel from India to Canada. This regulation remained in force until 1947, thus effectively banning Indian immigration.
Japan agrees to voluntary restrict the number of passports issued to Japanese male workers and domestic servants to an annual maximum of 400.
1914 The Canadian Government refuses the three hundred and seventy-six Indian immigrants on Komagata Maru them to disembark in Vancouver.  After a two-month standoff, the boat is escorted out of Canadian waters by the navy.
Indo-Canadians are allowed to bring their wives and children to Canada.
1923 The Chinese Exclusion Act prevents Chinese from immigrating to Canada.  Only diplomats, merchants, students and those who were born in Canada were allowed to enter.  During the 24 years that the Act was enforced, only 44 Chinese arrived in Canada.  Furthermore, the Japanese immigration is limited to 150 a year.
1939 The government refuses Chinese Canadians volunteer for military service in the Second World War. Chinese Canadians are classified as ‘allied aliens’.
1941 Despite being born in Canada, Japanese Canadians are excluded from military service.  All Japanese Canadians are required to report and register with the Register of Enemy Aliens.
1942 The Canadian government passed legislation using the War Measure’s Act to forcibly remove 21,000 Japanese Canadians from within the 100 mile restricted zone.  The government uprooted families from their homes, confiscated properties and relocated to internment camps or sugar beet fields in Alberta and Manitoba.  All real and personal property was sold without the owner’s consent.
1944 The first Filipinos arrived in Canada, mainly from the United States.  Between 1944 and 1964 only 770 Filipinos were admitted to Canada.
1945 One hundred fifty Japanese Canadians volunteer for service with the Canadian Armed Forces in the Far East.  At the end of the war Japanese Canadians were given a choice to move east of the Rocky Mountains or be exiled to Japan under the government’s “repatriation program”.  Although the policy was later withdrawn because of an outcry from the Canadian public, some 4000 Japanese Canadians were sent to Japan.
1949 The last of the restrictions originally imposed on Japanese Canadians during the Second World War was lifted. Asian Canadians are finally able to vote and Japanese Canadians are free to move anywhere in Canada.
1951 Special arrangements were made between Canada and the governments’ of India and Pakistan to allow a quota of 150 Indians and 100 Pakistanis to enter Canada each year.  Six years later the number was increased to 300.  Until the 1950’s over 90 per cent of Indian immigrants entering Canada were Sikhs.  By 1971 the population increased to 70,000.  During the period up to 1973 only 9,700 Pakistanis immigrated to Canada.
1966 Entry requirements to Canada were eased for Filipinos and by 1974 ranked sixth among all immigrants entering Canada.  The arrival of Indonesian immigrants mostly of Chinese origin began.  Between 1966 and 1975 1366 Indonesians entered Canada, the majority were university educated or had technical training.
1967 The arrival of Koreans to Canada began and by 1972 with the arrival of 1280 immigrants the population of Koreans in Canada was about 7000.  Most were highly skilled workers or professionals.  Many established small businesses.
1975 Before 1975 the Vietnamese community was small, but with the fall of Saigon 6500 Vietnamese arrived in Canada as refugees.  The majority came from Buddhist backgrounds.
1977 Japanese Canadians commemorate the centennial of the first Japanese immigrant to Canada.  The centennial celebrations are closely followed by the organization of informal groups to discuss seeking redress.
1979 CTV airs a W5 report called “Campus Giveaway”, portraying Chinese Canadian citizens and immigrants as foreigners who take university seats away from white Canadians.  The ensuing national protest leads to the creation of Chinese Canadian National Council.
1988 Prime Minister Brian Mulroney announces the Canadian government’s formal apology for the wrongful incarceration, seizure of property and disenfranchisement of thousands of Japanese Canadians.
2006 The Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to Chinese Canadians for the Head Tax.
2009 On August 24, Mr. Philip L. Lee, a Chinese Canadian, was installed as the 24th Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba.