On May 15, 2000, the Asian Library at the University of British Columbia, in collaboration with the Institute of Asian Research, hosted this photograph exhibition to celebrate Asian Heritage Month.  This collection, composed of 96 photographs, included images from three immigration periods; Chinese refugees from Mainland China to Hong Kong, Chinese Refugees from Vietnam to Hong Kong, and the “boat people” who arrived in British Columbia from China in 1999.

A collection of photographs about these migrants began to take shape in the Asian Library in 1999, with two generous donations.  This collection has been developed to support research on Chinese migration, as well as to document the recent arrival of these migrants to British Columbia’s shores.

By exhibiting these otherwise dispersed images of individuals whose stories were often presented to the public in different manners, the Asian Library hopes to give them a “voice” and add a human face to these issues.  This collection provides snapshots of their experiences and aids in revealing the circumstances behind these immigration periods.

Updates on the status of the migrants arriving British Columbia on the four boats in 1999-2000 and the 36 new arrivals in containers in April 2001 are included below. We have also appended the fact sheets provided by the Alberni Reef Association which brought the four boats from the B.C. Provincial Government in 2000 and sunk two of them at China Creek on June 10, 2001. 

Marine Arrivals: Status Update
Updated June 11, 2001

  First Boat Second Boat Third Boat Fourth Boat Totals
Date Landed July 20 August 09 August 30 September 09  
Location Nootka Sound Gilbert Bay Esperanza Inlet Nootka Sound  
Est. Length of Journey 39 days 58-60 days 30-35 days 35 days  
Total Migrants 123 140 190 146 599
Minors 9 38 16 11 74
Adult Males 96 54 (not including 9 crew) 145 123 418 (not including 9 crew)
Adult Females 18 39 29 12 98
Refugee Claimants 123 130 157 139 549
Exclusion Orders None 1 33 7 41

A.  Warrants issued (released and failed to comply with terms and conditions issued) - Totals: 159
B.  Removed from Canada and repatriated to China - Totals: 320
C.  Criminally charged by the RCMP and in provincial detention facility - Totals: 9
D.  Refugee status awarded - Totals: 24
E.  Minors living in custodial housing provided by the Ministry for Children and Families - Totals: 9

Update - Finalized IRB Decisions

IRB Decision Released on Terms and Conditions Detained Immigration Warrant Issued Total
Negative CRDD 49 232 3 284
Positive CRDD 4 2 0 6
Abandoned 0 5 62 67
Withdrawn 0 16 0 16
Total claims finalized: 373

The following information was taken from a brochure issued by the Alberni Reef Society.

In the summer of 1999, the Canadian coast guard stopped four vessels that had entered Canadian waters. Aboard these vessels, they discovered approximately 600 illegal immigrants being smuggled into Canada.

Each of these people paid approximately $30,000 for the promise of amnesty and a better life.  Many did not have the entire amount; they were told that they would get good jobs in New York and would be able to pay off these debts.  They did not realize that “good jobs” were actually work in prostitution and gangs, and that the journey across the waters would be so arduous.

About the Boats

#1 - The “Blue” boat carried 123 people
     - Took 39 days to cross the ocean.
     - Arrived July 20th at Gold River.
     - Length 128’ Width 22’
#2 - The “Rusty” boat carried 130 people.
     - Arrived at Winter Bay.
     - Length 120’ Width 23.6’
#3 - The freighter carried 200 people.
     - Length 210’ Width 30’
#4 - The Korean Freezer ship carried 147 people.
     - Arrived in the Queen Charlottes.
     - Length 128’ Width 30’

About the Journey

  • “Snakeheads”, people who traffic in the illegal smuggling of refugees, are responsible for these actions: to date, the Snakeheads and crew have not been charged under the Immigration Act because of lack of evidence.
  • The people kept in the holds of the vessels were never allowed on the deck.
  • Small holes were made to pass down rice and vegetables, often smelling of gasoline.
  • Pots, used for toilets, were dropped down into the holds, and were not cleaned regularly.
  • The smell of body odor, gasoline, feces and rotting vegetables filled the small hold where people where held.
  • The Federal Government spent over $100,000 cleaning the four vessels.  They removed about 50 tons of garbage and steam cleaned the interior for biological contaminates.  More than 30 million has been spent on these vessels.
  • Fuzhou Committee of Policy and Law announced that it was cracking down on alien smuggling, and has begun imposing “The heaviest punishment allowable by applicable law on illegal migrants.”

Alberni Reef Society
The Alberni Reef Society has purchased all four vessels from the government; this is a public awareness project, designed to illustrate how the migrants were treated during their voyage.  To date, the society has spent approximately $150,000 to clean the four ships of hydrocarbons (such as fuels, lubricating oils, grime, soot, loose wood and glass), so that they can be sunk.  This act will ensure that the boats will never again be used for human smuggling, and will help to create and expand reefs in several areas.  The “Blue” and “Rusty” boats were sunk off China Creek on June 10th, 2001.  There has been no date scheduled to sink the remaining boats, targeted for Canoe and Weld Islands.  These new reefs will help the local ecosystem and create diver-friendly areas for eco-tourism. This is an expensive project; with the help of community volunteers, donations, and many long hours by the Alberni Reef Society, they will accomplish their goal. 

For further information about the Alberni Reef Society or to make a donation, please contact Brook George at (250) 723-8313.

Related Links
The Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies (AMSSA) of British Columbia 
"a coalition of over 80 organizations providing multicultural programs and immigrant settlement services throughout the Province of British Columbia."

Canadian Council for Refugees

"The Metropolis Project : An international forum for research and policy on migration, diversity and changing cities."

Vancouver Association of Chinese Canadians - Chinese Refugee Claimants

Yahoo! News Canada - Chinese Migrants Case

The cataloging of these photographs and the design and creation of this website was accomplished by Corey Schultz, in fulfillment of course credit towards the Masters in Library and Information Studies (MLIS) degree at the School of Library and Information Studies (SLAIS), University of British Columbia.