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Chinese Canadians are Canadiansmarker of Chinese descent and constitute the largest visible minority group in Canada, standing at 1,346,510 which comprises 3.9% of the population in 2006. Out of those 1,346,510 people, 211,145 people were of Chinese and one other ethnic origin.


The first record of Chinese in what is known as Canada today can be dated back to 1788. The renegade British Captain James Meares hired a group of roughly 70 Chinese carpenters from Macaumarker and employed them to build a ship the North West America, at Nootka Soundmarker, Vancouver Islandmarker, British Columbiamarker, then an increasingly important European outpost on the Pacific coast. When the shipbuilding was done, Meares relocated the Chinese to the more amenable climes of San Blas, Mexico,

The first substantial wave of Chinese immigrants into the British colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia began in 1858 with the onset of the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush and a mass migration from the California gold fields. Most of these Chinese were "sojourners" in a sense, in that most of them planned on returning to their homeland after working in British North America for a period of time. Many came to British Columbia as common labourers and most were paid only in vouchers and mats of rice so they were captives of the Chinese-owned firms that imported them. Gold rushes elsewhere in the British Columbia Interior also attracted a significant number of miners, many of them defectors from the railway camps, many of whom engaged in ranching and farming as well as mercantile pursuits. Chinese ranchers and farmers controlled large amounts of land in the BC Interior, and were the dominant ownership of the region's gold mines after the initial gold rushes waned. Chinese freight companies were also notable in all the gold rushes, as well as merchants of all kinds.

Many workers from Fujianmarker and Guangdongmarker Provinces arrived to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 19th century as did Chinese veterans of the gold rushes. These workers accepted the terms offered by the Chinese labour contractors who were engaged by the railway construction company to hire them - low pay, long hours, lower wages than non-Chinese workers and dangerous working conditions, in order to support their families that stayed in China. Their willingness to endure hardship for low wages enraged fellow non-Chinese workers who thought they were unnecessarily complicating the labour market situations. From the passage of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1885, the Canadian government began to charge a substantial Head Tax for each Chinese person trying to immigrate to Canada. The Chinese were the only ethnic group that had to pay such a tax.

In 1923, the federal Liberal government of William Lyon Mackenzie King banned Chinese immigration with the passage of the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, although numerous exemptions for businessmen, clergy, students and others did not end immigration entirely. With this act, the Chinese received similar legal treatment to blacks before them who Canada also had specifically excluded from immigration on the basis of race. (This was formalised in 1911 by Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier who in Sub-section (c) of Section 38 of the Immigration Act called blacks "unsuitable" for Canada.) During the next 25 years more and more laws against the Chinese were passed. Most jobs were closed to Chinese men and women, . Many Chinese opened their own restaurant and laundry businesses. In British Columbiamarker, Saskatchewanmarker and Ontariomarker, Chinese employers were not allowed to hire white females, so most Chinese businesses became Chinese-only.

Some of those Chinese Canadian workers settled in Canada after the railway was constructed. Most could not bring the rest of their families, including immediate relatives, due to government restrictions and enormous processing fees. They established Chinatowns and societies in undesirable sections of the cities, such as Dupont Street (now East Pender) in Vancouver, which had been the focus of the early city's red-light district until Chinese merchants took over the area from the 1890s onwards.

During the Great Depression, life was even tougher for the Chinese than it was for other Canadians. In Albertamarker, for example, Chinese-Canadians received relief payments of less than half the amount paid to other Canadians. And because The Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited any additional immigration from China, the Chinese men who had arrived earlier had to face these hardships alone, without the companionship of their wives and children.

Census data from 1931 shows that there were 1,240 men to every 100 women in Chinese-Canadian communities. To protest The Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese-Canadians closed their businesses and boycotted Dominion Day celebrations every July 1, which became known as “Humiliation Day” by the Chinese-Canadians.

Canada was slow to lift the restrictions against the Chinese-Canadians and grant them full rights as Canadian citizens. Because Canada signed the United Nations' Charter of Human Rights at the conclusion of the Second World War, the Canadian government had to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act, which contravened the UN Charter. The same year, 1947, Chinese-Canadians were finally granted the right to vote in federal elections. But it took another 20 years, until the points system was adopted for selecting immigrants, that the Chinese began to be admitted under the same criteria as any other applicants.

After many years of organized calls for an official Canadian government public apology and redress to the historic Head tax, the minority Conservative government of Stephen Harper announced as part of their pre-election campaign, an official apology. On June 22 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a message of redress in the House of Commons, calling it a "grave injustice".

Some educated Chinese arrived in Canada during the war as refugees. Since the mid-20th century, most new Chinese Canadians come from university-educated families, one of whose most essential values is still quality education. These newcomers are a major part of the "Brain gain" the inverse of the infamous "Brain drain", i.e., Canadians leaving to the United Statesmarker of America, of which Chinese have also been a part.

Chinese Indonesians and Chinese Malaysians first arrived in Canada in 1960s during anti-Chinese riots in their respective home countries. From 1970s – 1999, many more Indonesians and Malaysians of Chinese origin settled in Canada. Many Chinese from Vietnammarker, Laosmarker and Kampucheamarker came to Canada as refugees in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.

Many Chinese from Latin America also came in large numbers, especially those from Nicaraguamarker who fled from the dictatorial Somoza rule and following the 1972 earthquakemarker. Chinese-Peruviansmarker fled Perumarker for political reasons. They mostly settled in Canada's large cities.

From the late 1980s, an influx of Taiwanese people immigrated to Canada forming a group of Taiwanese Canadians. The settled in areas such as Vancouvermarker, British Columbiamarker and to the adjacent cities of Burnabymarker, Richmondmarker, British Columbiamarker, and Coquitlammarker.

There was a significant influx of wealthy Chinese from Hong Kongmarker in the early and mid-1990s before the handover of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of Chinamarker (PRC). Canada was a preferred location, in part because investment visas were significantly easier to obtain than visas to the United States. Vancouvermarker, Richmondmarker and Toronto were the major destinations of these Chinese. During those years, immigrants from Hong Kong alone made up to 46% of all Chinese immigrants to Canada. After 1997, a significant portion of Chinese immigrants chose to move back to Hong Kong, some of a more permanent nature, after the dust of the handover was settled and fears of a "Communist takeover" turned out to be unnecessary.

In the 21st century, Chinese immigration from Hong Kong has dropped sharply and the largest source of Chinese immigration is from the mainland China.A smaller number have arrived from Taiwanmarker and very small numbers from Fijimarker, French Polynesiamarker, and New Zealandmarker.


In 2001, 25% of Chinese in Canada were Canadian-born.

Chinese population by province/territory

The Chinese Canadian Population according to Statistics Canada in the 2006 census in the 10 Canadian Provinces and 3 territories:

Province Chinese
Ontariomarker 644,465
British Columbiamarker 432,435
Albertamarker 137,600
Quebecmarker 91,900
Manitobamarker 17,930
Saskatchewanmarker 11,100
Nova Scotiamarker 5,140
New Brunswickmarker 2,895
Newfoundland and Labradormarker 1,650
Yukonmarker 545
Northwest Territoriesmarker 470
Prince Edward Islandmarker 300
Nunavutmarker 80
Canada 1,346,510

Canadian cities with large Chinese Populations:
City Province Chinese
Torontomarker Ontariomarker 537,060
Vancouvermarker British Columbiamarker 402,000
Montréalmarker Quebecmarker 82,665
Calgarymarker Albertamarker 75,410
Edmontonmarker Alberta 53,670
Ottawamarker Ontario 36,305
Winnipegmarker Manitobamarker 16,995
Hamiltonmarker Ontario 13,600
Abbotsfordmarker British Columbia 13,550
Kitchenermarker Ontario 10,970


In 2001, 87% of Chinese reported having a conversational knowledge of at least one official language, while 15% reported that they could speak neither English nor French. Of those who could not speak an official language, 50% immigrated to Canada in the 1990s, while 22% immigrated in the 1980s. These immigrants tended to be in the older age groups. Of prime working-age Chinese immigrants, 89% reported knowing at least one official language.

In 2001, Chinese was the third-most common reported mother tongue, after English and French. 3% of the population, or 872,000 people, reported the Chinese language as their mother tongue — the language that they learned as a child and still understand. The most common Chinese mother tongue is Cantonese. Of these people, 44% were born in Hong Kong, 27% were born in the Chinese Guangdong province, and 18% were Canadian-born. The second-most common reported Chinese mother tongue was Mandarin. Of these people, 85% were born in either Mainland China or Taiwanese China, 7% were Canadian-born, and 2% were born in Malaysiamarker. There is some evidence that fewer young Chinese-Canadians are speaking their parents' and grandparents' first language.

However, only about 790,500 people reported speaking a Chinese language at home on a regular basis, 81,900 fewer than those who reported having a Chinese mother tongue.
This suggests some language loss has occurred, mainly among the Canadian-born who learned Chinese as a child, but who may not speak it regularly or do not use it as their main language at home.
Nonetheless, as many as 89% of the Canadian-born Chinese are competent at not only speaking, but reading and writing the difficult Chinese characters.
It was not unusual to see Canadian born Chinese able to even write Chinese fluently enough knowing as much as 4000 characters(字).
This phenomena is as a result of high concentrations of Chinese Canadians residing in both Vancouver and Richmond area in British Columbia, where they are given the opportunity to keep up their language and culture.


As of 2001, almost 75% of the Chinese population in Canada lived in either Torontomarker or Vancouvermarker. The Chinese population was 17% in Vancouver and 9% in Toronto. More than 50% of the Chinese immigrants who just arrived in 2000/2001 reported that their reason for settling in a given region was because their family and friends already lived there.

Education and employment

In 2001, 31% of Chinese in Canada, both foreign-born and Canadian-born, had a university education, compared with the national average of 18%.

Of prime working-age Chinese in Canada, about 20% were in sales and services; 20% in business, finance, and administration; 16% in natural and applied sciences; 13% in management; and 11% in processing, manufacturing, and utilities.. However, there is a trend that Chinese move toward small towns and rural areas for agricultural and agri-food operations in recent years

Chinese who immigrated to Canada in the 1990s and were of prime working-age in 2001 had an employment rate of 61%, which was lower than the national average of 80%. Many reported that the recognition of foreign qualifications was a major issue. However, the employment rate for Canadian-born Chinese men of prime working-age was 86%, the same as the national average. The employment rate for Canadian-born Chinese women of prime working-age was 83%, which was higher than the national average of 76%.


Canadian-born Chinese or "Jook-sing" in Cantonese, are often called "CBCs", equivalent to "ABC" (American-born Chinese). The majority of Canadian-born Chinese during the 1970s and 1980s were descended from immigrants of Hong Kong and Southern China, and more recently from mainland Chinese immigrants.

Notable Chinese Canadians

See List of Chinese Canadians.


List of Chinese language media outlets in Canada:

See also


  1. " Ethnic Origin (247), Single and Multiple Ethnic Origin Responses (3) and Sex (3) for the Population of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2006 Census - 20% Sample Data," [1]
  2. J. Morton, In the Sea of Sterile Mountains: The Chinese in British Columbia, 1976
  3. J. Morton, In the Sea of Sterile Mountains: The Chinese in British Columbia, 1976, final chapter
  4. CIC Canada "Recent Immigrants in Metropolitan Areas: Canada—A Comparative Profile Based on the 2001 Census"
  5. "Chinese Canadians: Enriching the cultural mosaic," Canadian Social Trends, Spring 2005, no. 76
  6. Ethnocultural Portrait of Canada Highlight Tables (choose desired city in the left column and look under the term "Chinese" in the chart)
  7. [2]
  8. [3]
  9. [4]
  10. [5]
  11. [6]
  12. [7]
  13. [8]
  14. [9]
  15. [10]
  16. [11]
  17. [12]
  18. [13]
  19. [14]
  20. Ethnic origins, 2006 counts, for census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations - 20% sample data
  21. [Canada-China agriculture and Food Development Exchange Centre]


  • Pon, Gordon. "Antiracism in the Cosmopolis: Race, Class, and Gender in the Lives of Elite Chinese Canadian Women", Social Justice, vol. 32 (4): pp. 161–179 (2005)
  • Lindsay, Colin. The Chinese Community in Canada, Profiles of Ethnic Communities in Canada, 2001, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada, Catalog #89-621-XIE (ISBN 0-662-43444-7)
  • Li, Peter S. "Chinese". Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples (Toronto: Multicultural History Society of Ontario, 1999).

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