Immigration: Naturalization

Petition for certificate of Canadian citizenship

Petition for a certificate of Canadian citizenship by a natural-born Canadian citizen.

And if these persons where also tied to us by false papers to obtain immigration visas, they became “paper sons” or “paper uncles,” heirs to a web of illegal subterfuge brought on by laws that stipulated only relatives of official “merchant-residents” or “scholars” could immigrate from China to Canada. Paper money could buy paper relatives. But whose papers were connected to whose relatives?

from The Jade Peony, p. 149, by Wayson Choy

 

 

 

Prior to 1947, anyone born in the United Kingdom or another Commonwealth country, which included Canada, was designated as British subjects. A person received the rights and privileges as a British citizen even if he or she had migrated to Canada.

However, not only were Chinese immigrants considered not considered British citizens, even Canadian-born Chinese were categorized as aliens. Such Chinese could become British subjects only through naturalization. Only on rare occasions could naturalization laws be appealed by a judge if he or she decided that the petitioner would make a good citizen. Although some well-established, successful Chinese businessmen did become naturalized British subjects, the majority of Chinese could not.

Things changed when peoples of Chinese and Indian descent won the franchise in British Columbia and the Japanese Canadian community established the pan-Canadian National Association of Japanese Canadian Citizens Associations. The Canadian Citizenship Act, which came into force on January 1, 1947 was the first naturalization statute to introduce Canadian citizenship as an entity independent from British subject status. As the Canadian citizenship act also came into effect in 1947, anti-Asian measures such as the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act, the 1885 Chinese Head Tax, and the Continuous Journey Act were overturned.


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