Government of Canada recognizes the national historic significance of the Exclusion of Chinese Immigrants
Building on prior legislation, the Chinese Exclusion Act was the result of a cumulative effort to halt the growth of Chinese Canadian communities in the 20th century
May 30, 2023 Ottawa, Ontario Parks Canada
National historic designations are a way to acknowledge and to learn about the full scope of our shared history, including the difficult periods that are part of our past. Understanding the events that have led to the Canada of today helps us reflect on how to build a more inclusive society now and for future generations.
Today, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced the designation of the Exclusion of Chinese Immigrants as an event of national historic significance under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration.
On July 1, 1923, the Canadian government introduced a new Chinese Immigration Act, commonly known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, to stop Chinese immigration. The Act was the culmination of widespread anti-Chinese racism and policies increasing in Canada since the 19th century. Chinese Canadian men and women and members of organizations, such as the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in Canada, tried to prevent the passage of the Act and afterwards continued to lobby for its repeal.
For almost a quarter of a century, the Chinese Exclusion Act imposed restrictions that negatively impacted families by prohibiting immigrant spouses and children from joining the predominantly male Chinese population in Canada. While the exact number is unknown, Canada allowed entry to fewer than 50 Chinese persons during the 24 years that the Act was in effect.
Significantly, this Act also required all Chinese persons living in Canada, even those born here, to register with the government and to carry certificates with photo identification, or risk fines, detainment, or deportation. This was the only time the federal government imposed such a requirement on a non-Indigenous community during peacetime. The Act was repealed on May 14, 1947.
The Government of Canada, through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, commemorates significant persons, places, and events that have shaped Canada. Sharing these stories helps foster understanding and reflection on the diverse histories, cultures, legacies, and realities of Canada’s past and present.
The designation process under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration is largely driven by public nominations. To date, more than 2,200 designations have been made nationwide. To nominate a person, place or historic event in your community, please visit the Parks Canada website for more information: https://parks.canada.ca/culture/designation/proposer-nominate.
“This land, now known as Canada, was and continues to be shaped by the contributions of immigrants and Indigenous peoples alike. The designation of the Exclusion of Chinese Immigrants as a national historic event, 100 years since its enactment, acknowledges the tragic injustice that Chinese Canadians suffered, while also offering an opportunity to reflect on the importance of combating anti-Asian racism. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that we have opportunities to learn about the full scope of our shared history, including the tragic and shameful periods that are part of our collective past.”
The Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada
“This designation means for us that there is now an official memorialization of the grave historical injustice of the Chinese Exclusion Act acknowledging its xenophobia, human rights violation, racial discrimination, and systemic racism. It hampered the development and engagement of the Chinese community and had an adverse impact on generations of Chinese families. Our hope is that this memorialization will serve as a call for all Canadians, and key institutions in Canada, to strengthen educational efforts which recognize the long-term impacts of this exclusionary legislation, and to be aware and to combat contemporary anti-Asian and anti-Chinese racism in Canada, while never forgetting the past.”
Dr. Lloyd Wong
Associate Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Calgary
Chair, Action, Chinese Canadians Together Foundation
Former Member of Legislative Assembly and Cabinet of Government of Alberta
The 1923 legislation replaced the first Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, which included the various head taxes (entry taxes), among other measures to deter immigration from China.
After the Act was repealed in 1947, Chinese immigration was placed under the jurisdiction of the Immigration Act in the category of Asian immigration, more broadly. Asian immigration was limited to spouses and unmarried children aged 18 or younger of men already living in Canada. In 1955, the age restriction for dependants was increased to 25. In 1967, overt racial restrictions were removed, and the Immigration Act has continued to evolve.
After two decades of lobbying, in 2006, Chinese Canadians received an official apology from the federal government for the head taxes and the exclusion of Chinese immigrants.
Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding the national significance of persons, places, and events that have marked Canada’s history. Together with Parks Canada, the Board ensures that subjects of national historic significance are recognized under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration and these important stories are shared with Canadians.
Parks Canada is committed to working with Canadians in our efforts to tell broader, more inclusive stories in the places that it manages. In support of this goal, the Framework for History and Commemoration outlines a comprehensive, and engaging approach to sharing Canada’s history through diverse perspectives, including shedding light on tragic and difficult periods of Canada’s past.
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
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