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Chinese Head Tax

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Carly Pines

on 10 January 2016

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Transcript of Chinese Head Tax

The Chinese head tax was a fixed amount of money charged to each Chinese person entering Canada. The Chinese head tax was first started after the Canadian parliament passed the Chinese Immigration Act in 1885. This was supposed to discourage the Chinese from entering Canada after finishing the Canadian Pacific Railway.
In the 1880s, around 15 000 labourers were brought from China to do the construction work on the Canadian Pacific Railway. However, the Chinese were paid a third or half of the money the whites got. Since there was a tax system, limiting Chinese immigration, it discouraged Chinese women and children from joining their men.
What Was It Like To Be in the Chinese Head Tax? 1890-1914
Why Did the Federal Government Pass the Chinese Immigration Act?
As the numbers of Chinese labourers increased, so did the dislike of the Chinese among the other workers in the economy. This resulted in legislation, to limit immigration of Chinese workers. The Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 was passed by the government of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King in response to continue demands for more difficult to pay regulations to limit Chinese immigration. This was to prevent the Chinese coming to Canada.
What's the Difference Between the Immigration Now and Before?
Most immigrants came from Asia. Before, they used to come because the fathers/husbands were working for the railway. But Canada didn't want the Chinese to come, therefore, making the Chinese head tax. They will set an amount of money for each family member who comes to Canada. Now they come for Canada's education. During the Chinese head tax, the Chinese would come to do construction on the Pacific Railway. Now, immigrants come for the education but have to pass inspections (ex. public health) just like the immigrants before. Nearly 42 000 immigrants in 1900, were men to do manual labor jobs that were available on the railroads, on farmland, and transportation of manufactured goods.
What Happened When the Chinese Immigrated?
History Project
Chinese Head Tax
The Chinese Immigration Act had changes in 1900. In 1885, the head tax started, the Chinese must pay $10 when coming into Canada. The head tax changed to $100. The Chinese can leave Canada but must return within a year of departing or pay the head tax again on their return. The whites were fearful that cheap Chinese labour would take jobs away from whites and push wages down, some labour groups pressured the government to intervene. The federal government decided to limit the Chinese population in Canada. This prevented women and children from coming with their men.
What do the Chinese feel about the head tax now compared to before?
As of December 2007, the Chinese community continues to grow while healing from the head tax. While some are satisfied with the current remedy for the head tax, others want something for the descendants of head tax payers. Although others want the government to apologize to all the Chinese for the racist policies in the past. Chinese immigrants were considered a source of cheap labour because of their economic desperation and the acceptance of low pay from employers. Chinese usually received less than 50 percent of what Caucasian workers were paid for the same work.
What Did Other People Do to Try to Change Things?
Before:
Now:
People saw the Chinese as cheap labour. They were paid half or a third of what the whites got for doing the same work.
It was said that four Chinese died for every mile of track laid in the most dangerous part of the Rocky Mountains.
Stephen Harper apologized to the Chinese in 2006
OTTAWA — “On behalf of the people and government of Canada, we offer a full apology to Chinese-Canadians for the head tax and express our deepest sorrow for the subsequent exclusion of Chinese immigrants.”

"I'm of the view that an apology was entirely appropriate," Mar said. "I would say the head tax was discriminatory, the immigration act was racist. It caused great harm and great pain to my family and others, but the relevant question today, as the prime minister put it, is did the Chinese triumph over this great adversity? The answer is yes. Will redress make any difference, I think the answer is no."
In June 2006, Steven Harper apologizes to the Chinese for the racism towards the Chinese, followed by Canada's Chinese head tax. The government offered individual payments of $20,000 to living Chinese head tax payers and living descendants of the payers.
The conditions during work were harsh, and at times impossible. About one thousand Chinese labourers died building the Canadian Pacific Railway. But the Chinese immigrants persevered, and in doing so, helped to ensure the future of Canada. Instead of quitting, they kept going, even if it meant death.
Holding a 1914 head-tax document belonging to his great, great grandfather, Lee described what British Columbia's formal apology for racist and discriminatory government policies against Chinese immigrants means to him.

"When I walk out this door today, I feel so proud that I can put my head up and I tell everybody I'm proud to be Canadian," he said. "I can be proud to be Chinese."
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