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The first Chinese arrived in Canada in 1788; British fur trader Captain John Meares came to Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island with 50 Chinese artisans who helped build a trading post. The following year, an additional 70 Chinese workers arrived to help build a fort and a schooner. With the discovery of gold in British Columbia in 1858, Chinese immigrants from San Francisco began arriving in the Fraser River Valley and the first Chinese community was established in Canada. Between 1881 and 1884, over 17,000 Chinese came to Canada to build the Canadian Pacific Railway (1881-85), and later to maintain it. The province of British Columbia already had a sizeable Chinese population and racism towards the Chinese was widespread.

Through the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, which followed the completion of the CP Railway, a $50 head tax was imposed on every Chinese person entering Canada, marking a period of legislative anti-Chinese racism. These workers were needed as a labour force but not deemed desirable as citizens. The head tax was raised to $100 in 1900 and $500 in 1903, making immigration still difficult, and the Electoral Franchise Act of 1885 made all Chinese ineligible to vote in federal elections. Despite this, Chinese immigrants continued to come to Canada, while enduring numerous racist attacks against their homes and businesses and calls for the government to ban Asian immigration.

In 1923, the Canadian Parliament passed the Chinese Immigration Act on July 1. Commonly referred to as the "Chinese Exclusion Act," it restricted all Chinese immigration to Canada, and prevented many from reuniting with their families. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Canadians of Chinese origin have mainly settled in urban areas and large cities. Unfortunately, well into the 1930s, restrictive legislation in some cities inhibited Chinese Canadians  from investing in properties outside of their Chinatown areas. The Chinese Immigration Act, 1923, was repealed in 1947. During the years the Act was in force, fewer than 50 Chinese were allowed to come to Canada.

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. Today, mainland China has taken over from Hong Kong and Taiwan as the largest source of Chinese immigration. The Second World War became the turning point in the history of Chinese Canadians because of all their involvement in the war efforts, and the Chinese population in Canada thrived and grew.

On June 22, 2006, the Government of Canada apologized in the House of Commons to head-tax payers, their families and the Chinese Canadian community.  

Today, Canadians who identify themselves as being of Chinese ethnic origin make up about 4.6% of the population. 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.  

East Asian Canadians have become a community of business professionals, scientists, teachers and other careers, in some cases live in multi-generational households where the elders are still respected, and have greatly encouraged their children to excel academically. The next generations have assimilated very well. In others words Canada is fortunate to have such citizens.  Unfortunately they and other East Asians have experienced incidents of racism over the years. And, especially during this time of COVID, the hate crimes have been ramped up as East Asians are attacked verbally and physically with the false claim that they had something to do with the Corona Virus.

This type of racism may not be very evident to us here in Caledon, but nevertheless, we need to be aware of these hate acts and be ready to support our East Asian friends by making sure these incidents are reported and acted on by our legal system.