Chinese-Canadian Chronology

Select Events in Chinese-Canadian History

Greater Colonial History:

  • Prior to the mid-1850s Chinese "huashang" (華商) with their seasonal workers dominated Chinese emigration to Southeast Asia as traders, merchants, and artisans, through trade bans imposed by the imperial state of Qing (Contemporary Chinese America: Immigration, Ethnicity, and Community Transformation, Min Zhou)

  • Filipino and Chinese sailors made up the crews sailing out of Manila to New Spain by the 1600s in the Manila galleon era, and were probably involved in earlier trips in the 1500s. Early settlers to New Spain included mestizos mixed-raced peoples of Filipino/Chinese/Spanish descent. (The Making of Asian America: A History, Erika Lee)

  • 16th-17th century Jesuit Missions in North America and China due to the colonial drive of France and Spain (Wikipedia)

  • 1658-1659 Paris Foreign Missions Society appoint the first bishops overseeing China and Quebec (Wikipedia)

  • 1685 French king Louis XIV, who had made New France a royal province by 1663 and is linked to the expansion of French territorial claims in North America, sends a mission of five Jesuits to China (Wikipedia)

  • 1740 French Jesuit missionary Pierre Nicolas d'Incarville, who taught in Quebec between 1730-1739, is sent on a mission to China with the task of converting Qinlong Emperor (Wikipedia)

  • 1763 Treaty of Paris cedes French territories in North America to Britain and Spain (Wikipedia)

  • 1778 Chinese sailors first come to Hawaii with British Captain James Cook, becoming a destination for Chinese immigration and labor, who also explored Nootka Sound of modern-day British Columbia (Wikipedia)

  • 1786 Penang ceded to the British by the Sultanate of Kedah, trading post established, triggering an mass emigration from China to the British controlled Malay Peninsula (Wikipedia)

  • 1788 British Royal Navy Captain John Meares recruited dozens of Chinese workers to assist him in present-day British Columbia (British Columbia)

  • 1789 Spanish colonial fort and settlement Santa Cruz de Nuca and Fort San Miguel established near Vancouver Island of British Colombia until abandonment in 1795, with crews including "Manila men." The Nootka Sound Controversy took place during this time, resulting in the ceding of Spanish claims to the British (Wikipedia, Canadian Encyclopedia)

  • 1806 East India Company vessel arrives in Trinidad with Chinese immigrants as substitutes for African slaves, with the idea conceptualized by British Royal Navy Captain William Layman in 1802 (The Chinese in the West Indies, 1806-1995: A Documentary History, Walton Look Lai)

  • 1819 founding of Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles further bolstered Chinese emigration (Wikipedia)

  • 1826 establishment of the Straits Settlements controlled by the British East India Company consisting of Penang, Singapore, Malacca, and Dinding (Wikipedia)

  • 1833 British abolishes slavery through its empire with the Slavery Abolition Act, accelerating the global trade for indentured servants (Britannica)

  • 1839 First Opium War of Britain invasion of Qing (Wikipedia)

  • 1841 Convention of Chuenpi during the First Opium War ceding Hong Kong to the British, which becomes a major port for Chinese laborers (Wikipedia)

  • 1842 Treaty of Nanking ending the First Opium War establishes new treaty ports and foreign trade to the benefit of the British, making China a semi-colonial state (Wikipedia)

  • 1843 Treaty of the Bogue to supplement the previous Treaty of Nanking grants extraterritoriality and most favored nation status to Britain in China (Wikipedia)

  • 1843 Transport of 582 indentured Chinese from Singapore to Mauritius (Indentured Labor in the Age of Imperialism, 1834-1922, David Northrup)

  • 1848 Over 3000 Chinese indentured laborers arrive in British controlled Australia to work as shepherds and irrigation experts for private landowners and the Australian Agricultural Company, under British colonial governor Charles Augustus FitzRoy who formerly served as Governor of Prince Edward Island (Wikipedia)

  • 1850 British Guiana and Trinidad permitted to import Chinese indentured servants (Chʼing policy toward the coolie trade, 1847-1878, Robert L. Irick)

  • 1852 Amoy China riots caused by the indentured servant trade which was operated by British firms, resulting in civilian deaths by British soldiers (Chʼing policy toward the coolie trade, 1847-1878, Robert L. Irick)

  • 1854 Earliest ship of Chinese migrant workers arrive in British Jamaica from China (Wikipedia)

  • 1854 Earliest ship of Chinese migrant workers arrive in Spanish Panama from China to work on the Panama Railroad (Wikipedia)

  • 1855 Australia passes the Chinese Restriction Act, including a poll tax (Wikipedia)

  • 1858 first wave of Chinese immigrants began arriving in British Columbia for the gold rush, but Chinese were not allowed to prospect in areas other than on abandoned sites due to racial discrimination, with others working in various industries for cheap wage. Founding of Victoria Chinatown by Chinese merchants from San Francisco. (Library and Archives Canada)

  • 1858 Treaty of Tientsin opened more ports to foreign trade, allowed Christian missionary activity, and legalized the import of opium, signed by James Bruce 8th Earl of Elgin and former Governor General of the Province of Canada (Wikipedia)

  • 1859 British dictate a regulated system of emigration in Canton as an aftermath of the Anglo-French invasion of Canton (Chʼing policy toward the coolie trade, 1847-1878, Robert L. Irick)

  • 1860 Convention of Peking including Britain forces the Chinese government to allow regulated emigration of contract laborers, signed by James Bruce 8th Earl of Elgin and former Governor General of the Province of Canada (Chʼing policy toward the coolie trade, 1847-1878, Robert L. Irick)

  • 1862 Battle of Shanghai involving Qing allied with the French, British, and United States against the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, marking significant foreign military intervention by the British in China (Wikipedia)

  • 1863 Hongmen society establishes a lodge, the first major Chinese organization in British Columbia (British Columbian Quarterly)

  • 1866 Peking regulations further regulating laborer emigration from China (Chʼing policy toward the coolie trade, 1847-1878, Robert L. Irick)

After Confederation:

  • 1867 Canada Constitution Act marking the formation of Canada as a country (Wikipedia article)

  • 1872 Chinese first banned from voting in Canada (Library and Archives Canada)

  • 1873 British colonial Hong Kong Legislative Council passes the Chinese Emigrant Ship Ordinance, finally withdrawing Hong Kong as a port of call for indentured servant ships and profiting from the indentured servant trade (Chʼing policy toward the coolie trade, 1847-1878, Robert L. Irick)

  • 1874 Chinese and Indigenous people prohibited from voting in British Columbia

  • 1880 Construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway begins, with underpaid Chinese laborers consisting of three-quarters of the total railway workforce, following the construction of the American transcontinental railroad from 1863-1869 (Library and Archives Canada)

  • 1885 Chinese Immigration Act where Chinese immigrants to Canada were forced to pay a head tax, until it was removed in 1923 in exchange for barring all Chinese immigrants (Canadian Encyclopedia)

  • 1866 Vancouver City Council disqualified the Chinese to vote at municipal elections on April 6 just as the city was incoporated, not restored until 1949

  • 1887 Vancouver anti-Chinese riot targeting a camp of Chinese workers (Wikipedia article)

  • 1891 D'Arcy Island in British Columbia becomes a leper colony for disposing of Chinese immigrants to die until 1924 (Toronto Star)

  • 1892 Attack by Calgary mob of over 300 men blaming Chinese community for smallpox outbreak (Wikipedia article)

  • 1898 Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory signed to "lease" New Territories (Wikipedia)

  • 1900 Chinese head tax doubled to $100 (British Columbia)

  • 1903 Chinese head tax increased to $500 (British Columbia)

  • 1905 Canadian Alfred Herbert Rennie established the Hong Kong Flour Mill Company in Hong Kong, the area has been known as "Rennie's Mill" until the handover to be renamed "Tiu Keng Leng" (Wikipedia)

  • 1907 Vancouver anti-Oriental riots targeting Chinatown (Wikipedia article)

  • 1908 drug laws enacted particularly due to the use of opium in the Chinese population, resulting in a higher portion of criminal charges on the Chinese (Wikipedia article)

  • 1910 The Immigration Act gave powers to the government to exclude people on the basis of race with the newly created status of "Canadian Citizen" (Wikipedia article)

  • 1911 Sun Yat-sen's visit to Victoria Hongmen society for fundraising became the largest financial contributor to the Canton Uprising (University of Victoria Library)

  • 1911 founding of the Republic of China with the 1911 Xinhua Revolution, including the principle of Five Races Under One Union: the Han, the Manchus, the Mongols, the Tibetans, and the Uyghurs (Wikipedia)

  • 1912 the White Women’s Labour Protection Act makes it illegal for Chinese men to hire White women (Cambridge University Press)

  • 1917 Thousands of non-combatant Chinese laborers pass through Canada to support British troops in World War I (CBC News)

  • 1918 Spanish flu pandemic where the Chinese-Canadian community was particularly vulnerable (anti-oriental sentiment, poor living and working conditions), the establishment of the Montreal Chinese Hospital by sympathetic Catholic nuns (Wikipedia)

  • 1919 Toronto mob of 400 attack and ransack Chinatown stores (Simon Fraser University)

  • 1919 Several thousand soldiers and civilians ravaged businesses owned by Chinese immigrants in Halifax (Halifax)

  • 1922 Victoria school segregation protests in response to the District School Board’s decision to implement racial segregation in its schools (Canada's History)

  • 1923 The Chinese Immigration Act barred Chinese from immigrating to Canada, making July 1 known as "Humiliation Day" among Chinese Canadians (Library and Archives Canada)

  • 1930s The Great Depression in which the Chinese people were given less relief by the government (Library and Archives Canada)

  • 1941 Canadians defend Hong Kong against invading Japanese forces during World War II (Veteran Affairs Canada)

  • 1945 The end of World War II with the establishment of the United Nations (Library and Archives Canada)

  • 1945 Kew Dock Yip becomes the first Chinese Canadian lawyer, graduating from the Toronto Osgoode Hall Law School (Wikipedia article)

  • 1946 Sai Wan War Cemetery military cemetery is built in Hong Kong for Commonwealth casualties during World War II (Veterans Canada)

  • 1947 Chinese granted the right to vote and Chinese displaced persons allowed into Canada as the Chinese Immigration Act is repealed (Library and Archives Canada)

  • 1947 Canadian citizen of Japanese descent, convicted of high treason and war crimes for his actions during World War II for his participation in the Imperial Japanese Army, known as the Kamloops kid, one of arguably only two Canadians in history to have faced prosecution for war crimes, tortured Canadian prisoners of war from the Hong Kong Garrison. He testified as to having been on the receiving end of racism during his upbringing in Canada. (Wikipedia)

  • 1948 Larry Kwong, a professional hockey player playing the center position, becomes the first Chinese Canadian and first from Vernon British Columbia to receive ice time in the NHL, logging one minute in a single game for the New York Rangers (Canadian Encyclopedia)

  • 1948 Norman Kwong begins his career in the CFL as fullback, the first Chinese Canadian to play on a professional Canadian football team, where he goes on to win multiple Grey Cups (Wikipedia article)

  • 1950 Canada participates in the Korean War as a part of the United Nations front against North Korea and the People’s Liberation Army of the People's Republic of China (Veteran Affairs Canada)

  • 1953 the end of the Korean War

  • 1955 demolition of part of Toronto's Old Chinatown of St. John's Ward due to the construction of Nathan Phillips Square and Toronto City Hall

  • 1957 Douglas Jung becomes the first Canadian Member of Parliament of Chinese and Asian descent in the House of Commons of Canada (Wikipedia article)

  • 1967 Restrictions for immigration on the basis of race replaced by a points system (Library and Archives Canada)

  • 1970 Canada with Pierre Elliott Trudeau as prime minister officially recognized the People's Republic of China, breaking diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan)

  • 1971 Canada’s federal multiculturalism policy adopted in Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government

  • 1972 Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune honored as a National Historic Person of Canada. He is remembered as a deified martyr by the Chinese Communist Party for his medical contributions during the Second Sino-Japanese. He was also know to be an alienator of friends and family, alcoholic and spendthrift. (Phoenix: The Life of Norman Bethune, Roderick Stewart, Sharon Stewart)

  • 1973 Canada establishes the family reunification agreement with the People's Republic of China

  • 1980 Chinese Canadians protest against racist TV program produced by CTV which charged that foreign students from China were taking up a large proportion of Canadian university spots (CBC Archives)

  • 1980 Parliament passed a motion recognizing "the contributions made to the Canadian mosaic and culture by the people of Chinese background" (Chinese Americans book)

  • 1982 Federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms

  • 1984 Redress campaign seeking official government apology and compensation of Chinese head tax initiated (Chinese Canadian Women Timeline)

  • 1987 an all-party parliamentary resolution to recognize the injustice and discrimination of the head tax and the Chinese Exclusion Act (Chinese Americans book)

  • 1988 Canadian Multiculturalism Act (Wikipedia)

  • 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in the People's Republic China leads a response by the Canadian government, including the extension of visas of students already in Canada

  • 2002 Asian Heritage Month is established for the month of May (Canada.ca)

  • 2003 Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and anti-Asian incidents

  • 2006 apology for Chinese head tax issued by the Canadian government (Press Release for Canada)

  • 2014 British Columbia premier apologized for racist historical policies in the province (Chinese Americans book)

  • 2020 COVID19 Coronavirus disease and anti-Asian incidents

  • Early 21st century Beginning of apologies for historical anti-Chinese legislation

Chinese-Canadian History by Memorable Dates

  • January 1: The Canadian Citizenship Act came into force to introduce Canadian citizenship as an entity independent from British subject status, overturning anti-Asian measures in 1947

  • February 1887: arsonists burn down laundries during an anti-Chinese riot in Vancouver

  • February 16: British colony of Malaya including Singapore surrenders to the Empire of Japan in 1942

  • February 18-19: Anti-Chinese riots in Halifax in 1919

  • March 13: Larry Kwong makes his debut for the New York Rangers as the first Chinese Canadian NHL hockey player in 1948

  • April 2: Part of Toronto Old Chinatown demolition begins in 1955

  • April 6: voting rights for civic elections removed from the Chinese in Vancouver in 1886

  • April 15: British troops advance during the Six-Day War in Hong Kong New Territories, resulting in death of hundreds of Chinese by the hands of British colonial troops, under former the jurisdiction of Newfoundland governor Sir Henry Arthur Blake

  • May: Asian Heritage Month designated in Canada since 2002

  • May 13: Chinese workers of British fur trader Captain John Meares arrive on Vancouver Island in 1788

  • May 14: federal Chinese Exclusion Act repealed in 1947

  • May 15: British Columbia issues formal apology to Chinese Canadians for historic wrongs done by past provincial governments in 2014

  • June 16: Canadian Parliament passed a motion recognizing the contribution of Chinese immigrants in 1980

  • June 22: Prime Minister Harper offers full apology for the Chinese Head Tax in 2006

  • July 1: Humiliation Day, Chinese Exclusion Act established in Canada in 1923

  • July 21: Canadian Multiculturalism Act enacted by the Parliament of Canada in 1988

  • August 15: Japan declares surrender as Hong Kong returns to British colonial rule in 1945

  • September 7-9: Vancouver anti-Asiatic riots in 1907

  • September 30: CTV Television documentary W5 anti-Chinese episode airs, eventually leading to the formation of the The Chinese Canadian National Council in 1979

  • October 13: Canada with Pierre Elliott Trudeau as prime minister officially recognized the People's Republic of China in 1970

  • October 18: former governor general of Canada James Bruce orders the Imperial Old Summer Palace be burned down in retaliation in 1860

  • October 24: former governor general of the Province of Canada James Bruce at the Convention of Peking forces Qing to concede more land to the British colony of Hong Kong in 1860

  • November 7: photograph of last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was taken while excluding the Chinese in 1885

  • November 11: Remembrance day to commemorate our Chinese Canadian veterans

  • December 8: British colony of Malaya surrenders to the Empire of Japan in 1941

  • December 25: British colony of Hong Kong surrenders to the Empire of Japan in 1941