• By: OLM Staff

Demonstration to Mark 100th Anniversary of Chinese Exclusion Act 

Chinese Canadians have played a significant role in Canada since confederation, from building the Canadian Pacific Railway to their significant contributions during the war effort in the First and Second World Wars both on the home front and on the battlefields of Europe and the high seas.

Today, there are nearly two million Canadians of Chinese origin, making them one of the largest visible minorities in the country. Yet Canada’s treatment of Chinese and other Asian Canadians has, at times in our history, been less than exemplary.

The Canadian Pacific Railway, a project that connected Canada from coast to coast, was built using the labour of Chinese workers. From 1881 to 1885, as many as 4,000 Chinese Canadians died during its construction. Not one Chinese worker appeared in the now-famous photo of the last spike.

ABOVE: Chinese immigrants built the coast-to-coast railroad in Canada. (PHOTO: Toronto Railway Museum)
Just 38 years after the completion of the railway and despite the massive sacrifice of Chinese immigrants, the government of Canada passed one of the most racist pieces of legislation in the country’s history, the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Passed under the government of William Lyon-Mackenzie King during his first administration, it was hardly the first attempt by the government of Canada to restrict Chinese immigration. Due to unfounded fears by the Canadian European population that Chinese immigrants could not integrate and would menace Canadian society, the legislation banned Chinese people from entering Canada for nearly 25 years in almost all capacities.

Not only did the act ban immigrants from mainland China, but British subjects from Hong Kong were also barred from entering the country. In 1947 the Canadian government accepted the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. However, notable immigration from Asia only began when Canada adopted a points system in 1967, a hundred years after Confederation.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act. To remember the day, Chinese Canadians from across the country will meet on Parliament Hill to speak out against the past humiliation and racism and to call for fairness and justice for the Chinese Canadian community.

With rising anti-Chinese sentiment in the West since the Covid-19 pandemic and the rising political tensions between Western governments and the People’s Republic of China, the demonstration will call for better treatment and protections for Canada’s largest minority so that no discriminatory legislation like the exclusion act happens again.

Following the demonstration, there will be displays of Chinese culture and a parade downtown. The rally begins at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday, June 24.

Header photo: Canadians with Taishanese (Toi Shanese, Toishanese, Hoisanese) Roots