June 30 – The Chinese Exclusion Act - Today in Canadian History | Listen Notes

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The Chinese Immigration Act was passed on this day back in 1923. To learn more we spoke with Britt Braaten, the Curator and Manager of the Multicultural History Society of Ontario.

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TRANSCRIPT

00:00:06Today in canadian history for june thirtieth i'm mark foo it's the day before canada day across country day of celebration friends and family come together to take part in a parade or enjoy a fireworks display well for decades many people in the chinese canadian community have referred to
00:00:24july first as humiliation day chinese immigration act was passed on june thirtieth nineteen twenty three at the time legislation existed controlling the number of immigrants coming from most nations however china was the on ly nation that was under what was basically an outright ban there were very few
00:00:43exceptions as to who was allowed into canada britt bratton the curator and manager of the multi cultural history society of ontario explains so the exclusion act they say basically it virtually excluded chinese immigration to canada and that means there were a few exceptions for the most part chinese
00:01:07immigration holds it all together the exceptions were for people that they saw legitimately temporary immigrant so they weren't sena's adding to the chinese population in canada in any serious way so those were say members of the diplomatic corps merchants who at this time there were you know you
00:01:29had to prove you were emergent under um and they were sort of ways you had to prove that or a student while you were at school and you had to have documentation that said you know i am attending this school um and then as soon as you especially
00:01:45if you're a student you know once you stopped being a student you were no longer allowed to stay and then they also canadian born children of chinese parents They were born in canada and say when maybe you know people they'd be sent to china for their schooling say
00:02:02they were allowed to come back but other than that and that's in numbers terms of a very small number of people that qualified as a zoo and under those categories so the vast majority of chinese canadians are chinese people essentially weren't allowed to come to canada while this
00:02:22act was in place and the main one of the main things is that the chinese population in canada before this act was enacted it was overwhelmingly male there were some women but overall they're a lot a lot of men and a lot of them either had wives in
00:02:42china already and maybe families or they would during their time in canada travel back to china and marry but these wives weren't allowed to come into canada under this law Where did the pressure for these immigration restrictions on china come from I mean were they something that the
00:03:01people wanted or something that politicians are or where did they come from In i mean a lot of the pressure was coming from the west coast from bc in particular not because bc was inherently more racist or anything but because that's where most of the chinese population lived
00:03:18and especially you know and i mean when the chinese immigration act was passed this was in your post world war one sort of economic slump and because you know not only did he have a lot of chinese people in general but because they were mostly labourers and they
00:03:37were mostly men who then there was this whole rhetoric of you know taking our jobs type of idea and that's sort of what sparked a lot of this was this was an easily identifiable group that could be seen as the other and there were all these laborers so
00:03:55they must be taking jobs from white people in this whole sort of idea And so it wasn't so that i mean you know not to say all politicians are all people believed this but there was strong support in a crowd in different political parties This wasn't sort of
00:04:13on ly one party who supported this sort of thing we're their restrictions on on immigration from china prior to nineteen twenty three yeah oh yes So before the exclusion act in eighteen eighty five and may they enacted thie the head tax and it was fifty dollars to begin
00:04:34um and this was on chinese laborers and their families So the exemptions that was talking about earlier and students and diplomats and merchants thes same of it people were exempted this time from paying the head tax And then over from eighteen eighty five then the head tax was
00:04:55raised again to night two one hundred dollars and then up to five hundred dollars And they say that's five hundred dollars at that time are presented about two years wages so that's sort of an approximation to get an idea that this was not an insignificant sum So what
00:05:13that meant is you know chinese people were still coming chinese labourers were still coming and sometimes they would borrow the money to pay the head tax or that would be sort of a labor contractor who would pay it and then they would have to pay it back and
00:05:28things like that But what it meant is that it really it further exacerbated sort of the gender imbalance within the community because you're going to have to pay five hundred dollars to come which is two years wages and you're much less likely to bring your wife along with
00:05:46you and have to pay a thousand dollars then or bring any children and you know so um so it really created the society where there were a lot of the single you know single in quotation marks because a lot of them did have what isn't children but they
00:06:02were back in china and so there are all these men in canada and you know there were a few women and they had to live in this male dominated society as well So so that's sort of what was going on under the law and then by nineteen twenty
00:06:19three there was sort of a feeling that the you know this law wasn't effective enough in terms of restricting chinese immigration and so that's when the push for the the exclusion after came about it was also worth noting that be you know just because the chinese were the
00:06:38only sort of nationality that was specifically targeted like this but you know canada didn't have open arms everyone else you know they think places like japan agreed teo to a voluntary um sort of quota system where they would only send over x number of immigrants And so so
00:06:57there was no no law though no formal law like that japan sort of limited itself and china didn't do that so instead this law was passed today is a day full of canadian history a tornado hit the heart of regina on this day back in nineteen twelve killing
00:07:18twenty eight people the first transcontinental train journey across canada left montreal on this date back in eighteen eighty six the looney was introduced to the public by the royal canadian mint on this day back in nineteen eighty seven and as always we air this episode of today in
00:07:36canadian history Today in canadian history is produced by c g s w ninety point nine fm executive producers air job aroma and mark f eld original music is produced by the fisk fletcher and may trio our siri's is not meant to be definitive source on our past Instead
00:07:53we hope that it sparks a desire to learn more about our unique history For more information on the siri's or to recommend an event or moment check out our website a c g s w dot com slash today in canadian history and now it's time for your final
00:08:07canadian a quiz on this day back in nineteen ninety seven and angus reid poll showed that only thirty percent of canadian students could name john a macdonald as the first prime minister That's too easy for you two hundred twenty seven odd episodes in and you're listening all the
00:08:23way through to the end of the last one first of all thank you know really thanks so your final canadian a quiz which of these men were not a canadian prime minister john abbott mackenzie bowel william lyon mackenzie or arthur megan thie answer is william lyon mackenzie His
00:08:46grandson william lyon mackenzie king became prime minister but william lyon mackenzie was only mayor of toronto You think i was gonna make the last one an easy one

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ABOUT THIS PODCAST

Each episode of Today in Canadian History contains an interview with a Canadian professor, journalist, author, or “everyday” historian and focuses on a unique event or moment that took place on that day in Canadian history. Today in Canadian History presents Canada’s past in a unique and accessible manner. The series is designed to be a first step to learning more about our past. We would like to remind Canadians not just about what makes our country great, but what makes it complicated, beautiful, diverse, and ours. Feel free to get in touch with Marc & Joe via-email: [email protected]
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