Immigration: Chinese Exclusion Act

Sessional paper on the restriction of Chinese immigration, 1892.

Sessional paper on the restriction of Chinese Immigration, 1892.

Poverty-stricken bachelor-men were left alone in Gold Mountain , with only a few dollars left to send back to China every month, and never enough dollars to buy passage home. Dozens went mad; many killed themselves. The Chinatown Chinese called July 1st, the day celebrating the birth of Canada , the Day of Shame.

from The Jade Peony , p. 17, by Wayson Choy





The Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, often referred to as the Chinese Exclusion Act, effectively closed off Chinese immigration to Canada . Although immigration from most countries was controlled or restricted in some way, only the Chinese were so completely prohibited from immigrating.

Before 1923, Chinese immigration was already heavily controlled by the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, which head tax on all immigrants from China . Established on July 1, 1923, the Act had banned Chinese immigrants from entering Canada except merchants, diplomats, and foreign students.

However, not only were Chinese from China banned, ethnic Chinese with British nationality were also restricted from entering Canada. Since Dominion Day coincided with the enforcement of the Chinese Immigration Act, Chinese-Canadians at the time referred to the anniversary of Confederation as “Humiliation Day” and refused to take any part in the celebration. To protest The Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese-Canadians closed their businesses and boycotted Dominion Day celebrations every July 1.

It was not until 1947 that Canada finally repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act. Because Canada signed the United Nations' Charter of Human Rights at the conclusion of the Second World War, the Canadian government had to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act, which contravened the UN Charter. Chinese-Canadians were finally granted the right to vote in federal elections. However, it took another twenty years until the points system was adopted for selecting immigrants in 1967 that the Chinese could be admitted under the same criteria as any other applicants.

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