Asian History in Canada Essays and Papers

This essay has a total of 3524 words and 14 pages.

Asian History in Canada

A round the mid-19th to early 20th centuries, British Columbia was in a period of economic
explosion. Those who were willing to work hard could find many opportunities. At this
time, gold was found in British Columbia and Canada became dependent on workers to finish
making the transcontinental railway. Many lumbering, coal mining and fishing business
were not experiencing enough growth to match the needs of the society. This portrayed
Canada as a place of opportunity and settlement for Asians whose homelands were becoming
overcrowded. Sadly, the early pioneer years were extremely difficult for Asian immigrants
due to the extensive racism and barriers keeping them from full participation of the
Canadian life. It is through these hardships and sacrifices that the birth of many
vibrant communities became possible. The Asian-Canadian pioneers are unforgettable and
their legacies sculpt an important time in Canadian history.

The first Chinese people came in the mid-1800s to take advantage of the opportunities
brought on by the discovery of gold. The majority of the early Chinese settlers were
uneducated, unskilled and unmarried men who were farmers or laborers looking for a better
life. Many early Chinese settlers of the 19th century originated from Guangdong and
Fujian, two coastal provinces of China. Still, most of the Chinese who came to British
Columbia in the 1850s and 1860s came straight from California because the gold rush in
California was coming close to an end as the rush was just beginning in Canada.

There were two major gold rushes in British Columbia in the mid-1800s that attracted the
Chinese. News of the Fraser River gold discovery spread and the first group of Chinese
arrived in Canada on July 28, 1858, in Victoria, British Columbia. Most of these first
arrivals were temporary workers, called sojourners, rather than settlers. Their
historical arrival marked the establishment of a continuous Chinese community in Canada.
While the Fraser Gold Rush is the one that drew Chinese north, it was during the Cariboo
Gold Rush that the first Chinese community, called The Hong Shun Tang, was established in
Canada in the gold mining town of Barkerville.

In the 1860s, Barkerville was a booming town. Thousands of prospectors came to the town,
many of them from the U.S. At the peak of the gold rush, there were as many as 5,000
Chinese living in Barkerville. Unfortunately, the Chinese were not allowed to prospect in
areas other than abandoned sites. This was due to discrimination towards Asians at that
time. On account of this fact, the Chinese did not make the same fortunes as the whites
did. Nonetheless, the Chinese still managed to find a way to thrive as a community. They
provided many services to as many as 20,000 prospectors that came into the Barkerville
region in the 1860s.

Between 1860 and 1870, besides mining, Chinese pioneers also worked on many other projects
in British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Some of the jobs included the erection of
telegraph poles, the construction of the 607-kilometers Caribou Wagon Road and the digging
of canals and reclaiming of wastelands. The Chinese were major contributors to the
development of Canadian society, but were never recognized as such.

Even while facing many daily hardships, they did not forget their families in China and
continued to send money back faithfully. On the other side of the ocean, the families at
home also shared the same dreams as those in Canada. Like most new immigrants, many
Chinese dreamed of some day returning to their native land and reuniting with their
families. Others dreamed that one-day they would call Canada their home.

Hoping to make Canada their new home, many Chinese stayed once the Gold Rush was over.
For a while, life was good. The Chinese started import businesses and worked as merchants
and built a strong community in the city. Victoria became the first permanent Chinese
settlement in Canada. By the end of the 1860s, there was approximately 7000 Chinese
living in British Columbia.

While the gold rush was going on in British Columbia, thousands of Chinese were also
working on a transcontinental railway in the U.S. Eventually, the U.S. started closing
its doors to the Chinese. As this was happening, Canada encouraged thousands of Chinese
to make their way north and work on the Canadian Pacific Railway.

In 1871, British Columbia agreed to join Canada on the completion of the Canadian Pacific
Railway, which would link British Columbia to the rest of Canada. Even before
construction of the Railway started, the citizens of British Columbia were afraid that
jobs would all be taken over by the Chinese. Because of this, a motion was passed by the
BC Legislative Assembly to prevent the Chinese from working on Government projects. As
anti-Chinese feelings grew, Andrew Onderdonk, the contractor of the CPR, promised that he
would give whites preference over the Chinese. In the end, white workers were unreliable
and he was forced to hire Chinese laborers. The building company quickly realized that a
lot of money could be saved if they employed Chinese immigrants at less than half the
wages normally paid to whites. Many Chinese where lured by promises of nice wages and
return passages to China. In the end, well over half the railway workers where Chinese.
In total, around 15,700 Chinese were recruited. Unfortunately, when the railway was
finished, the promises were not kept and about 5000 Chinese who had hoped to return to
China were unable to.

This time in Chinese-Canadian history was a tragic one. Hundreds of Chinese died while
working on the CPR. It is estimated that at least four Chinese died for every mile of
track laid. Many Chinese workers died from exhaustion that came from hard work and long
walks between sites. Some perished in rock explosions or were buried in collapsed
tunnels. Many others were drowned in the river due to the collapse of unfinished bridges.
Then the Canadian winter brought another dimension of hardships to the workers. Arriving
from a warm climate, none of the Chinese workers were ready for the severe winter of
British Columbia. There were few medical facilities and many died from scurvy. The dead
were not buried either, instead, they were simply left beside the tracks and covered with
rocks and dirt. There is a famous photo of the driving of the Last Spike of the Canadian
Pacific Railway. Ironically, there is not a single Chinese face in the photo even though
the contribution of the Chinese was tremendous and the railway would not have been
completed without their hard work and dedication.

Immedi ately after the CPR was completed in 1885, the Chinese were unwelcome in the
province. From that time on, the government made it increasingly hard for Chinese to
immigrant. Those who decided to stay in Canada faced growing racism. Asian children were
discouraged from attending school, professional jobs were closed to all Asians, the right
to vote was denied to them, and economic problems were blamed on their willingness to work
harder for less money. Because of the discrimination and the barring of opportunities,
both the Chinese and Japanese formed there own ethnic enclaves where they could support
one another financially and emotionally and where their language and cultures could safely
be expressed.

In 1877, the first Japanese immigrants, called Issei, began to come to Canada. Most that
came were young men who were products of poor and overcrowded fishing and farming villages
from the islands of Kyushu and Honshu. With skills best adapted to the rural village
economy of a society, they had little to offer. The one exception was in the fishing
industry, to which some brought skills and knowledge. As a result, the Japanese came to
be concentrated in that industry at the end of the 19th century. On the whole, the
Japanese immigrants took any work they could find, mostly in the saw and pulp mills of BC.

While the Japanese had little difficulty finding work, the Japanese were only marginally
connected to the local society. In most cases, they clung together in communities that
stood apart from the rest of the society. They tended to live in their own small
enclaves. Cultural ties, housing costs, restrictive agreements, and racial prejudice all
reinforced these residential boundaries. The immigrants also established their own
community institutions in order to survive as a small minority isolated within an
unsympathetic society. Newspapers, trade unions, educational societies, and religious
associations exclusive to the Japanese were established within the immigrant community by
the early 20th century. Essentially, the Japanese immigrant community remained a
self-contained entity within the West Coast society.

Although the Japanese were assimilated only to a small extent, they absorbed the language,
customs, and values of western Canadian society far more quickly than other Asians.
Still, whatever the extent of Japanese acculturation, the barriers of racism kept them
from becoming an equal part of a white-dominated society.

White society in BC was anti-Oriental. When the Japanese arrived in the province, they
encountered a community already soaked in racism. Chinese immigrants had come two decades
before them and in the years that followed, white society had already developed a strong
dislike towards Asians in general. Thus the Japanese met hostility from the moment of
their arrival. To the whites of the community, Asians appeared to be a threat to the
cultural and economic prosperity of the whites. Due to this, the society was bursting
with discriminate feelings.

Around the late 1880s, there were many racist events in Vancouver. This was a difficult
time for all Asians. They were no longer needed to provide cheap labor and services so
they were heavily discouraged from settling in Canada. Politicians also were forced to
follow the anti-Asian ideas. In 1885, newspapers, various labor groups and the people of
British Columbia pressured the government of Canada to exclude the Chinese. In response,
the federal government enacted the Chinese Immigration Act.

The main restriction was the “Head Tax’. It imposed a $50 tax on all Chinese immigrants
entering the country. After the act was introduced, the number of immigrants dropped
considerably. However, the regulation proved to be effective for only five years, because
eventually, the number of immigrants increased again. Fearing an Asian invasion, the
government was pressured again by groups to pass legislation to control the entry of the

In 1900, the Chinese head tax was raised to 100 dollars per person. In 1904, it was
raised again to $500. At this time, $500 was equal to 2 years of work. This had a huge
effect on immigration. Before the tax was raised, almost 5000 immigrants entered Canada.
Continues for 7 more pages >>

  • Canadian Immigration Policy
    Canadian Immigration Policy The Canadian Immigration Policy and the Racial Discrimination it Induced The laissez faire approach to immigration that Canada had inherited over its lifetime began to fade away in 1884. British Columbia had become very concerned with the number of single male Chinese that had emigrated to the province since the 1860\'s when the American gold fields dried up. Thus, the provincial government took political action over the next year to finally impose a head tax of ,
  • Asian History in Canada
    Asian History in Canada Around the mid-19th to early 20th centuries, British Columbia was in a period of economic explosion. Those who were willing to work hard could find many opportunities. At this time, gold was found in British Columbia and Canada became dependent on workers to finish making the transcontinental railway. Many lumbering, coal mining and fishing business were not experiencing enough growth to match the needs of the society. This portrayed Canada as a place of opportunity and
  • Gold
    gold History and Uses: An attractive and highly valued metal, gold has been known for at least 5500 years. Gold is sometimes found free in nature but it is usually found in conjunction with silver , quartz (SiO2), calcite (CaCO3), lead , tellurium , zinc or copper . There is roughly 1 milligram of gold dissolved in every ton of seawater, although extracting it currently costs more than the gold is worth. It has been estimated that all of the gold that has currently been refined could be placed i