Building the Transcontinental Railroad: How 20,000 Chinese Immigrants Made It Happen
For over a century and a half: Chinese workers abused and superexploited in U.S.
TIMELINE OF CHINESE IN CANADA
Early 1880s – Around 15,000 Chinese workers are recruited from China to complete the last leg of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in British Columbia.
1885 -The Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 requires that virtually all Chinese entering Canada pay a Head Tax of $50 per person.
Mid-1880s – With the completion of the CPR, some Chinese people move east to Alberta and beyond in search of job opportunities.
1900 – The federal government raises the Head Tax to $100.
1903 – The federal government raises the Head Tax to $500.
1923 – The Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 (also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act) nearly bans Chinese immigration to Canada.
1939-1945 – China and Canada are allies during the
Second World War. Chinese Canadians fight with the Canadian armed forces
and Chinese Canadian communities raise funds for the war effort.
Five Chinese-Canadian soldiers who served with the South East Asia Command, England, 22 Nov. 1945. Credit: Sgt. Karen M. Hermiston / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-211879
1947 – The Chinese Exclusion Act is repealed after the Second World War. However, some restrictions on Chinese immigration to Canada remained. Chinese Canadians are not allowed to bring their children over 18 to Canada.
1957 – Douglas Jung becomes the first Chinese Canadian Member of Parliament.
1967 – The federal government revises the Immigration Act issuing one set of rules for all applicants from all countries. Immigration to Canada starts to increase.
1979 – Chinese Canadians organize nationally to protest the racist depiction of Chinese Canadians in a story called “Campus Giveaway”. The protest results in the creation of the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC).
1984 – The CCNC launches a campaign to obtain redress for Head Tax payers and their families. More than 4000 payers, widows and their families sign up with the CCNC.
1988 – David Lam becomes the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia; he is the first Asian Canadian Lieutenant Governor of Canada.
1994 -The federal government refuses to grant compensation to Head Tax survivors and their families.
1997 – Following 150 years of British rule, Hong Kong is handed back to Chinese control. Immigration from Hong Kong to Canada intensifies. Meanwhile, the immigrants from Mainland China increased quickly. The construction of Chinese-Canadian has changed.
1998 – Vivienne Poy becomes the first Chinese Canadian appointed to the Senate of Canada.
1999 – Chinese Canadian Adrienne Clarkson is appointed Governor General of Canada.
2000 – CCNC backs a class-action suit against the federal government arguing that the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act contravened the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
2004 – A United Nations representative recommends that Canada strongly consider paying reparations for the Chinese Head Tax.
2005 – Chinese Canadian Normie Kwong is appointed Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.
2006 – Prime Minister Stephen Harper formally apologizes
to Chinese Canadians for the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act. The government
offers $20,000 to living Head Tax payers and living spouses of deceased
payers and pledges to establish funds to help finance community projects
and education programs that acknowledge the impact of past war-time measures
and immigration restrictions on ethno-cultural communities. They risked
their lives to help build Canada’s railroad in the 1880s. But as soon as
the work was done, Canada just wanted them gone. It was the beginning of
a difficult history for Chinese immigrants to Canada. They struggled through
the head tax, personal attacks and job discrimination. But the Chinese
in Canada persevered. And today, Chinese-Canadians are an integral part
of Canada’s multicultural society, forging their own cultural identities.
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Bill and Sue-On Hillman