The history of the Chinese in Canada parallels in essential ways the history of other Asian ethnic groups in the western provinces and states of Canada and the United States. Like Japanese, Sikhs and Pacific Island immigrants, Chinese immigrants have come to the New World to earn money in heavy labor (including building the railroads); also as with these other groups Chinese immigrants met with discrimination and cries of “Yellow Peril” – the belief that some nativist Canadians have that the country’s resources should be reserved for whites, with other peoples being asked (or forced) to “go home”. This paper examines the experiences of Chinese immigrants to Canada during the 19th and early 20th century.
This period of history saw both formal, institutionalized barriers to Chinese immigrants as well as informal ones – the everyday racism that many Chinese immigrants faced from Canadians who either believed that they were taking away jobs from white workers, were frightened of the Chinese laborers because their language and culture were so different from that of Anglophone and Francophone Canadians.
Illegal and often even legal immigrants were (and indeed still) all too often looked upon as parasites with dark skin, too many children and no desire to learn English, as people who will come and take away jobs from “real” Canadians. Such stereotypes about immigrants were responsible for a number of anti-Chinese laws.
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