Jigsaw- Chinese Canadians

The story begins with a little bit of history on British Columbia. In B.C. only British Immigrants are allowed, and there is a ton of racism. When gold was discovered in Thompson River the first Chinese immigrants came in from America; they were trying to escape the American racism and mines. Shortly after, Chinese immigrants began to come to British Columbia from their homeland. They began working the gold mines and were known for being hard workers. Business men wanted to hire white people, but the Chinese men were much more efficient and dependent. However, they were paid significantly less than a white worker. It is said that British Columbia would not have established if it weren’t for the Chinese.

Anti-Chinese stereotypes were put into place, and they were being called “moon eyes”, “slants”, and “Mongolians”. Many businesses and people joined these racist views against the Chinese, and businesses began to be shut down for hiring Chinese workers. The churches were anti-racist, but still would not do anything about the racism. Quickly, the B.C. legislature took away the right to vote, and a head tax was imposed on all Chinese people over the age of twelve. Then, in 1877 the railway contracts were announced. They wanted to avoid hiring Chinese men at all cost however, Sir John said if Canada wanted to have a railway they needed Chinese labour. In 1882 two ships arrived from Hong Kong with two thousand workers on board. By June there were sixty five hundred Chinese workers brought to Canada. Racism continued and the Chinese camps were attacked and the workers would be harassed and beaten. The reports sent to the government about the workers stated that there were no deaths at work, but they never included any deaths of Chinese men. Once the railway was built, the men wanted to move back to their country, but because of their small wages most were unable to.

The people of British Columbia wanted expulsion of all Chinese workers, and a $10 head tax was imposed on them. The Vancouver Vigilance Committee was formed to force the Oriental workers out of Vancouver. White X’s were painted in front of any business that was Chinese, hired Chinese people, or did business with Chinese people. Soon, the anti-Chinese movement became violent. A camp of Chinese workers was attacked. They were dragged out of bed and beaten while their cabin and all belongings were set fire. This group of racists then went to China town and burned homes, stole from businesses and beat any Chinese person, including the women and children. City council did not do anything other than suggest that all Chinese people leave the area. Head taxes continued to raise, and all immigration was cut off from Japan and China. In order for the future Prime Ministers to obtain votes they encourages an “all white Canada”. The Chinese Immigration Act which disallowed all Chinese Immigration was in effect until 1947. Even though the laws against the Chinese subsided, the racism somewhat quietly continued.

While reading this narrative I realized that I do not know as much about Canadian history as I anticipated. It makes me question why these aspects of history are not referred to in high school. The only racism that my classes briefly touched on was against the First Nations, but I never heard of anything similar to this. This made me question how much I truly do not know, and I wonder what other races were forced to overcome such difficult circumstances. Or, if any one from my family’s race had to go through these things. I think that this should be taught in school because if there is one thing we need from the past is to learn from other peoples mistakes in order to never doo them again. Racism is still alive today, and if we are not being taught the problems of racism from the past how are children supposed to know the problems they could cause from being racist in the future?

The events the Chinese workers made me connect it to the hardships the African Americans were forced to go through. They do have their differences, but also their similarities. I never knew that Chinese people worked as slaves in people’s homes. I found that point to be very shocking. If the Chinese people were being treated so poorly in Canada I cannot imagine the conditions under which they were placed in their country in order to move over here. It amazes me that not only the Chinese culture but every culture left their family in a different country to move to and build Canada. It is extremely upsetting to know that this specific race of Chinese people were punished for it.

The thing that shocked me the most reading this was that the government did not do anything to stop it, and neither did anyone else. The government if anything encouraged it by enforcing an “all white Canada”. In my eyes, British Columbia is not the only province in this country. Therefore, they should not be able to control what happens in the country. It is very upsetting that the Canadian government did not stand up against this one province in order to help a huge portion of Canadian citizens. I know that the events of history cannot be changed, but I still never want history to repeat itself.


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