Past Policies of BC Provincial Government towards Chinese

Posted by admin on Dec 14th, 2010

1875 After the first Provincial legislature agreed not to allow Indians or Chinese to vote, no Chinese voted in the second Provincial election. Since the federal government used provincial voter’s lists, Chinese were effectively barred from federal elections as well.

1876 Municipal Act was amended to prohibit Chinese from voting in any municipal election.

1875-79 BC land Act of 1874 was disallowed by Canada because it disregarded aboriginal title. The revised Land Act 1875 made land available to settlers free of charge except for Chinese and native Indians.

1877 When BC adopted a Coal Mines Regulation Act, its clause included “No Chinaman or person unable to speak good English could hold “any position of trust or responsibility…”. That controversial clause resulted in most mine owners not to employ Chinese underground.

1878 A clause was added in provincial public works contracts stating that Chinese should not be employed. This policy remained in effect for 80 years till 1958.

1880 Amidst other local politician’s resentment over Ottawa’s lack of action to the Chinese influx, an MLA suggested that since many easteners “really thought the Chinese very desirable”, BC should circulate info on the habits and undesirable influence of Chinese in the eastern Provinces.

1884 Premier William Smithe’s government introduced the Chinese Population Regulation Bill, imposing a $10 annual tax on all Chinese over the age of ten. The courts, however, found this ultra vires.

1885 Completion of the CPR resulted in many Chinese looking for work. BC Legislature re-enacted its 1884 Immigration Act “to prevent our province from being overrun with Chinese”. Such provincial immigration laws, though soon disallowed by the federal government, prompted the fed’s into a Royal Commission investigating the problem, then passing its own Chinese Immigration Act to introduce the notorious Head Tax. Till the end of that Act in 1923, more than $23 million were collected from 81,000 Chinese. That reportedly was the equivalent of the cost of the BC section of the CPR. Reportedly half of the total Head Tax collected was demanded to become BC government’s revenue.

1886 The BC Legislature accepted the idea of a “no Chinese” clause in a number of private bills incorporating utility, railway, and mining companies. This became standard practice.

1891 Provincial politicians realized the advantage of expressing their views on restricting Chinese immigration. MLA’s from New Westminster and Nanaimo suggested increasing the Head Tax to $200. The Legislature then approved asking for an increase of “at least” $100. Premier Robson stated the Chinese were “a most undesirable class and were not wanted in this country at all” and that they should be discouraged in order to “encourage those who were our own flesh and blood”.

1893 The Legislature, apparently without debate or division, agreed to increase the Head Tax to $1000 (though any increase should be a federal decision). The Province also asked for ¾ of the revenue from the Head Tax to cover its alleged costs of administering justice and providing facilities for lepers caused by the Chinese. The federal government was unsympathetic to the suggestions.

1894 Expecting election, the BC Legislature unanimously called for an increase in Head Tax. Without much debate, it passed amendment to include “No Chinese” clauses in two private acts incorporating mining companies.

1897 The Legislature called for increasing the Head tax to $500 and a greater provincial share of Head Tax revenues. The Provincial Liberal Association adopted “the discouragement by all constitutional methods of the immigration and employment” of Chinese labour as part of its platform. Almost passed was the Alien Labour Bill, whereby companies would be fined $10 to $25 per day for each Chinese or Japanese employed. Virtually the same Bill got passed in 1898 under a new name “Labour Regulation Act”

1899 Passed Alien Exclusion Act to deny Asians employment and thus the opportunity to share in the prosperity which other British Columbians were beginning to enjoy. Determined to reduce the Asians, BC refused federal government’s request to repeal the Labour Regulation Act. All charters granted by the legislature including 8 railway companies included clauses prohibiting the employment of Asians or imposing a penalty for hiring them. A special regulation under the Coal Mines Regulation Act was enforced to terminate employments of Asian coal miners who could not read the words “gas” and “danger”.

1900 the new legislature complained that the federal government’s doubling of the $50 Head Tax was “unsatisfactory, disappointing”. To attract eastern Canada’s attention to BC’s desire to restrict the Chinese, the legislature adopted “legislating aggressively whenever possible” and asked Head Tax be raised to $500. New legislation required workers engaged in “works carried on under Franchises granted by Private Acts” to prove their capacity by reading the act in a European language.

1902 Mines Minister E. G. Prior explained that the government must take steps “to check the immigration of these Orientals, who were a great detriment to working men and to industries in this province. Coal Mines Regulation Act was amended to provide “no Chinaman, Japanese or person unable to speak English shall be appointed to or shall occupy any position of trust …”. The courts eventually declared that ultra vires.

1903 BC Premier E. G. Prior went to Ottawa to discuss outstanding federal-provincial disputes, including “the regulation of Mongolian immigration”, the disallowance of the province Immigration Act and other laws restricting Asian competition. His re-enactment of the disallowed Act, though disallowed again by Ottawa later, was passed easily in the Legislature.

1904 After the McBride government used the 1903 Coal Mines Regulation Act to not issue new certificates to Chinese and to enforce the “no Chinese” clause by laying 142 charges against various managers at Cumberland, the unconstitutional Act was disallowed by the federal government.

1905 The legislature re-enacted the “no Chinese” clauses of the Coal Mines Regulation Act which was disallowed again.

1907 The Asiatic Exclusion League formed by Vancouver’s 58 labor unions, professionals and merchants to keep Orientals out of B.C. organized a giant rally at the old Vancouver City Hall to protest against giving jobs to Asian immigrants. They then led a parade of 9000 which turned violent and started looting and burning in Vancouver Chinatown, while shouting racist slogans “Keep Canada White” and “Stop the Yellow Peril”. There were smaller but similar anti-Chinese riots that reportedly lasted into the 50’s.

1911-12 Provincial revenue from Chinese Head Tax amounted to $1.4 million, or a little over 13% of total provincial revenue

1912 Premier Richard McBride stated “British Columbia must be kept white….we have the right to say that our own kind and color shall enjoy the fruits of our labour.” Yet he insisted his views were based on economic rather than racial considerations.

1919 Provincial Fire Marshall J.A. Thomas declared the New Westminster Chinatown district as “a fire trap in the heart of the City” and ordered the demolition of a large part of Chinatown bounded by Columbia, McNeely, Carnarvon and Blackie streets.

1920 New Westminster City building inspector issued further demolition for another 14 buildings, most in the core of Chinatown.

1923 to 1947 Under further public pressure from BC, Canada introduced the Chinese Immigration Act (also called Chinese Exclusion Act) in July 1, 1923 which banned the immigration of all but 44 Chinese till its repeal in 1947. The local Chinese communities became a vast bachelor society. Many who had wife and children in China were separated from them for twenty odd years.

1967 Immigration policies were finally amended to provide equal opportunities for Chinese to immigrate to Canada.

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