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Chinese Head Tax
Transcript of Chinese Head Tax
Building the Railroad
Chinese Head Tax
1885 Chinese Immigration Act sets a head tax of $50 for every Chinese Person
1903 Head tax on Chinese Immigrants is increased to $500 per person
1923 The Chinese Immigration Act excludes Chinese entry into Canada except for students or Chinese children born in Canada or returning to Canada
Chinese Head Tax
Building the railroad required a large amount of workers.
China was experiencing a large amount of poverty and most men were willing to work dangerous jobs for low pay.
After the competition of the railroad, Canada did not want Chinese immigration so the Canadian Government imposed a Head Tax.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a formal apology on June 22, 2006 to the Chinese Canadian Community
When the Dominion of Canada was created in 1867, the region of British Columbia at that time did not join Canada. Geographically isolated from the rest of the country by North America’s largest mountain range, the Rocky Mountains, BC was almost cut off from all contact with the eastern region of Canada. BC was seriously considering joining the US unless Canada would undertake the construction of a railway across the Rocky Mountains to connect BC with the other provinces. In 1871, when Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, promised to build a Canadian Pacific Railway within ten years, BC finally agreed to join Confederation.
Why did the Chinese People Immigrate to Canada?
- labourers sailed from Hong Kong to Victoria on board of the steamship “Madrid” also referred to as the “floating hell.” They had to endure dirty air, bad-quality food, mediocre hygiene, multiple storms and widespread anemia during several months crowded in the lower deck of the ship.
- China was experiencing a large amount of poverty and most men were willing to work dangerous jobs for low pay.
- The CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) would run 4667 km from Montreal to Vancouver with a major part of it passing through the granite walls of the Rockies.
- Hiring white workers for the who project would beg far too expensive, and they needed at least 10 000 workers and people from BC did not wait to build it by themselves.
- They turned to the Chinese labor force that they knew was hardworking, resilient, reliable and cheap
- After obtaining permission to hire the Chinese from the MacDonald government, the recruitment process of Chinese workers started. The Gold Rush was over, and the Chinese who remained in North America were eager to find work and were willing to work in railway construction. At the same time, Chinese workers were also directly recruited from China.
- They basically made up the labor force of two “one-hundred-mile” sections, considered the most dangerous parts of the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
From 1881 to 1884, there were around 15 700 Chinese who worked on the railway. Many of them even sacrificed their lives during the construction of railway – only to be hastily buried along the tracks. By the time this “Canadian artery” was finally completed, it was said that every sections of the railway was built upon Chinese sweat, tears and blood. The Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald acknowledged that “Without the Chinese, there would be no railroad.”
Finishing The Railroad
On November 7, 1885, the final golden spike was struck by Donald A. Smith, a principal shareholder. The ceremony was attended by a crowd of formally dressed gentlemen, proud of the miracle that Canada had wrought: the construction of the longest railway in the world. And they had done it without having a sizeable population, sufficient funds or adequate resources to overcome the complexity of the task.
However, during such an important and meaningful moment, not a single Chinese labourer was present to celebrate. And even after their significant contribution to Canada’s development, these unheard heroes did not earn the right to live freely in this country. The completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway represented the beginning of decades of struggle for the Chinese to be recognized as Canadians.
Realizing that the Head Tax would not discourage the Chinese from coming to Canada, the federal government in 1923 passed the infamous Chinese Immigration Act, commonly known as the Chinese Exclusion Act in an attempt to stop the flow of immigrants into the country.
For the 24 years this Act was in effect, almost all Chinese immigration demands were refused, including those of the wives and children of the several thousand Chinese already in Canada. In 1931, there were about 46 000 Chinese in Canada, with a male/female ratio of 16:1, while in China, whole villages were inhabited by women only – those “widows” who had been so cruelly separated from their husbands in Canada.
Group #1: Answer the following questions:
How did the Canadian feel about the Chinese during the railroad, and how did they feel about them after the railroad was built and why?
How did the head tax effect the Chinese immigrants?
Group #2: Answer the following questions:
How did the Exclusion Act effect Chinese immigrants?
What is being done about it today??
Video: Not Welcome Anymore