Government of Canada commemorates the Exclusion of Chinese Immigrants from 1923 to 1947
For 24 years, Canada enforced heavy restrictions on immigration from China through legislation commonly known as the Chinese Exclusion Act.
June 23, 2023 Ottawa, Ontario Parks Canada
Today, the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development commemorated the national historic significance of the Exclusion of Chinese Immigrants by unveiling a plaque at the Senate Chamber in Ottawa, Ontario. The announcement was made on behalf of the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada at the National Remembrance to Commemorate the Centenary of the Chinese Exclusion Act, coordinated by the Senate of Canada, in partnership with Action! Chinese Canadians Together.
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 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 separated 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 The Act was repealed on May 14, 1947.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 supported by Parks 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 final location for the plaque will be in the new Chinese Canadian Museum in Vancouver’s Historic Chinatown.
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.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am honoured to commemorate the national historic significance of the Exclusion of Chinese Immigrants. This plaque acknowledges the tragic injustice that Chinese Canadians suffered, while also offering an opportunity to reflect on the importance of combating anti-Asian racism today. I encourage all Canadians to learn more about the impacts of the Chinese Exclusion Act and this defining era of Canadian history as we work to continue building a Canada that is as welcoming as it is diverse.”
The Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada
“The Exclusion of Chinese Immigrants from 1923-1947 was a tragic era in Canadian history marked by institutionalized racism. This plaque recognises the hardships that Chinese Canadians endured under the restrictions of the Chinese Exclusion Act while also acknowledging their bravery and resilience while challenging the legislation.”
The Honourable Mary Ng,
Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development
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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