Collection Description

Culture Name

Chinese Canadians

Culture Description

Chinese Canadians are an ethnic minority in Canada. The Chinese Canadians are the migrants and their descendants who migrated to Canada from China (mainly southern China) starting in 1858 with the discovery of gold in the Fraser valley in British Columbia. Today three-quarters of Chinese Canadians reside in the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. The primary language spoken is Cantonese, although the younger generations are literate in English.


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North America --Regional and Ethnic Cultures



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Collection Overview

The Chinese Canadian collection contains six documents, with emphasis on some of the major Chinatowns located in several Canadian cities (e.g., Vancouver, Toronto, Victoria, Calgary). Much of the collection deals with the migration of the Chinese to Canada and the restrictive immigration policies applied to them by the Canadian government. An additional theme that appears in nearly all the documents in this collection is that of the discriminatory and racist practices imposed on the Chinese immigrants by the Caucasian Canadian society.

Probably the best general coverage on the Chinese in Canada is presented in 1: Li, which deals with the period from their first arrival in Canada in 1858 to about 1985. This document places particular emphasis on the development of institutional racism against the Chinese by the host society. This work also provides information on the history of the Chinese immigration to Canada, the impact of racism on the Chinese community, and the occupational achievements of the Chinese Canadians during the period of industrial expansion (1960s to the mid 1980s). 2: Lai is a definitive history of Chinatowns in Canada from 1858-ca.1985, with particular reference to Victoria, British Columbia. Lai classifies Chinatowns into four groups -- old, new, replaced, and reconstructed historical (with Victoria being representative of the historical type). He then employs a "stage development" model consisting of four phases -- budding, blooming, withering, and dying (or revival) -- to study the progression of Chinatown development not only in Victoria alone but throughout North America.

Works describing specific Chinatowns in specific cities begins with 3: Thompson, which is an examination of the history and social organization of the Chinese population in Toronto, Canada. This study provides a descriptive analysis and interpretation of one ethnic minority, the Chinese immigrants, and their relations with the Canadian state. This document is essentially an in-depth community study, dealing with the history of Toronto's Chinatown through three major phases, the traditional (1880-1947), transitional (1947-1967), and contemporary (1967-1977) periods. There is also much information here on the Chinese associations, class structure and class conflict, enterprises and occupations, and the status of the Chinese student in Canadian society. 4: Anderson is a systematic analysis of the relationship between Vancouver's Chinese and Canadian communities from the late 1880s to about 1980. This material covers six major chronological periods: 1875-1903, 1886-1920, 1920-1935, 1935-1949, 1950-1969, and 1970-1980. Much of the material here focuses on immigration policies, racial discrimination, the development of the racial category "Chinese" by the Canadian government, the concept of Chinatown as viewed through the Canadian imagination, and programs of urban renewal and revitalization. 5: Hoe is a socio-historical study of the structural changes taking place in various Chinese communities in British Columbia and Alberta (Calgary & Edmonton), from the mid-nineteenth century to ca. 1972. The author's data on Chinese settlements in British Columbia cover four major chronological periods: 1858-1880, 1880-1885, 1885-1923, and 1924-1947; and Alberta into the four periods of: 1886-1900, 1901-1923, 1923-1947, and 1947-ca.1972. The data presented in this study relate to the internal transformation of the Chinese communities as the result of different perceptions of the quality of life between the older and younger generations, the dynamic interplay between the Chinese social organization and the wider society, the structure of the Chinese associations, family structure, economic activities, assimilation processes, and community life. 6: HRAF consists in its entirety of a bibliography on the Chinese in Canada.

The culture summary and synopsis were prepared by John Beierle in February 1994.

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