85th Anniversary of the Chinese Immigration Act

“No person of Chinese origin or descent other than the classes mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (b) of section five and sections twenty-three and twenty-four of this Act shall be permitted to enter or land in Canada elsewhere than at the ports of Vancouver and Victoria.”

Although there was an increasingly prohibitive head tax for more than 35 years, the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 marked a period of legislative racism. Chinese workers were no longer needed, as the Canadian Pacific Railway was now complete and, at this time, only merchants, diplomats, students and those granted “special circumstance” by the Minister of Immigration were allowed entry.

Despite the Head Tax, Chinese immigrants continued to come to Canada. In 1923, the Canadian Parliament passed the Chinese Immigration Act excluding all but a few Chinese immigrants from entering Canada. Between 1923 and 1947 when the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed, fewer than 50 Chinese were allowed to come to Canada. Passed on July 1, 1923, Dominion Day, this law was perceived by the Chinese Canadian community as the ultimate form of humiliation. The Chinese Canadian community called this “Humiliation Day” and refused to celebrate Dominion Day for years to come. This humiliating act was referred to by the Chinese community as the “Exclusion Act” as it prevented many residents from being united with their families.


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