Chinese Canadians are Canadians of full or partial Chinese ancestry. They comprise a subgroup of East Asian Canadians which is a further subgroup of Asian Canadians. The Chinese community in Canada is the one of the largest overseas Chinese communities and is the second largest Overseas Chinese community in North America after the United States, and also the seventh largest in the Chinese diaspora. Demographic research tends to include immigrants from Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau as well as overseas Chinese who have immigrated from South East Asia and South America into the broadly defined Chinese Canadian category as StatsCan refers to Taiwanese Canadians as a separate group apart from Chinese Canadians.
- Pre 19th century
- 20th century
- 21st century
- Population statistics
- List of Canadian census subdivisions with Chinese populations higher than the national average
- British Columbia
- Census data
- Cultural adjustment and assimilation
Canadians of Chinese descent, including mixed Chinese and other ethnic origins, make up about four percent of the Canadian population, or about 1.3 million people as of 2006. The Chinese Canadian community is the largest ethnic group of Asian Canadians, consisting approximately 40% of the Asian Canadian population. Most of them are concentrated within the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. The five metropolitan areas with the largest Chinese Canadian populations are the Greater Toronto Area (537,060), Metro Vancouver (402,000), Greater Montreal (120,000), Calgary Region (75,410), and the Edmonton Capital Region (53,670).
The first record of Chinese in what is known as Canada today can be dated back to 1788. The renegade British Captain John Meares hired a group of roughly 70 Chinese carpenters from Macau and employed them to build a ship, the North West America, at Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. This was then an increasingly important but disputed European outpost on the Pacific coast, which, after Spanish seizure, was abandoned by Mears, leaving the eventual whereabouts of the carpenters largely unknown.
Chinese railway workers made up the labour force for construction of two one-hundred mile sections of the Canadian Pacific Railway from the Pacific to Craigellachie in the Eagle Pass in British Columbia. The railway as a whole consisted of 28 such sections, 93% of which were constructed by workers of European origin. When British Columbia agreed to join Confederation in 1871, one of the conditions was that the Dominion government build a railway linking B.C. with eastern Canada within 10 years. British Columbia politicians and their electorate agitated for an immigration program from the British Isles to provide this railway labour, but Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, betraying the wishes of his constituency, Victoria, by insisting the project cut costs by employing Chinese to build the railway, and summarized the situation this way to Parliament in 1882: "It is simply a question of alternatives: either you must have this labour or you can't have the railway." (British Columbia politicians had wanted a settlement-immigration plan for workers from the British Isles, but Canadian politicians and investors said it would be too expensive).
Many workers from Guangdong Province arrived to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 19th century as did Chinese veterans of the gold rushes. These workers accepted the terms offered by the Chinese labour contractors who were engaged by the railway construction company to hire them — low pay, long hours, lower wages than non-Chinese workers and dangerous working conditions, in order to support their families that stayed in China. Their willingness to endure hardship for low wages enraged fellow non-Chinese workers who thought they were unnecessarily complicating the labour market situations. From the passage of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1885, the Canadian government began to charge a substantial head tax for each Chinese person trying to immigrate to Canada. The Chinese were the only ethnic group that had to pay such a tax.
In 1923, the federal Liberal government of William Lyon Mackenzie King banned Chinese immigration with the passage of the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, although numerous exemptions for businessmen, clergy, students and others did not end immigration entirely. With this act, the Chinese received similar legal treatment to blacks before them who Canada also had specifically excluded from immigration on the basis of race. (This was formalised in 1911 by Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier who in Sub-section (c) of Section 38 of the Immigration Act called blacks "unsuitable" for Canada.) During the next 25 years, more and more laws against the Chinese were passed. Most jobs were closed to Chinese men and women. Many Chinese opened their own restaurants and laundry businesses. In British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario, Chinese employers were not allowed to hire white females, so most Chinese businesses became Chinese-only.
Some of those Chinese Canadian workers settled in Canada after the railway was constructed. Most could not bring the rest of their families, including immediate relatives, due to government restrictions and enormous processing fees. They established Chinatowns and societies in undesirable sections of the cities, such as Dupont Street (now East Pender) in Vancouver, which had been the focus of the early city's red-light district until Chinese merchants took over the area from the 1890s onwards. During the Great Depression, life was even tougher for the Chinese than it was for other Canadians. In Alberta, for example, Chinese-Canadians received relief payments of less than half the amount paid to other Canadians. And because The Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited any additional immigration from China, the Chinese men who had arrived earlier had to face these hardships alone, without the companionship of their wives and children. Census data from 1931 shows that there were 1,240 men to every 100 women in Chinese-Canadian communities. To protest The Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese-Canadians closed their businesses and boycotted Dominion Day celebrations every July 1, which became known as “Humiliation Day” by the Chinese-Canadians. Canada was slow to lift the restrictions against the Chinese-Canadians and grant them full rights as Canadian citizens. Because Canada signed the United Nations Charter of Human Rights at the conclusion of the Second World War, the Canadian government had to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act, which contravened the UN Charter. The same year, 1947, Chinese-Canadians were finally granted the right to vote in federal elections. However, it took another 20 years, until the points system was adopted for selecting immigrants, for the Chinese to begin to be admitted under the same criteria as any other applicants. After many years of organized calls for an official Canadian government public apology and redress to the historic Head tax, the minority Conservative government of Stephen Harper announced, as part of their pre-election campaign, an official apology. On June 22, 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a message of redress in the House of Commons, calling it a "grave injustice".
Some educated Chinese arrived in Canada during the war as refugees. Since the mid-20th century, most new Chinese Canadians come from university-educated families, who of still consider quality education an essential value. These newcomers are a major part of the "brain gain", the inverse of the infamous "brain drain", i.e., the occurrence of many Canadians leaving to the United States, of which Chinese have also been a part.
From 1947 to the early 1970s, Chinese immigrants to Canada came mostly from Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Southeast Asia. Chinese from the mainland who were eligible in the family reunification program had to visit the Canadian High Commission in Hong Kong, since Canada and the PRC did not have diplomatic relations until 1970. From the late 1980s, an influx of Taiwanese people immigrated to Canada forming a group of Taiwanese Canadians. The settled in areas such as Vancouver, British Columbia and to the adjacent cities of Burnaby, Richmond and Coquitlam. There was a significant influx of wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs from Hong Kong in the early and mid-1990s before the handover of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China (PRC). Canada was a preferred location, in part because investment visas were significantly easier to obtain than visas to the United States. Vancouver, Richmond and Toronto were the major destinations of these Chinese. During those years, immigrants from Hong Kong alone made up to 46% of all Chinese immigrants to Canada. After 1997, a significant portion of Chinese immigrants chose to move back to Hong Kong, some of a more permanent nature, after the dust of the handover was settled and fears of a "Communist takeover" turned out to be unnecessary.
In the 21st century, Chinese immigration from Hong Kong has dropped sharply and the largest source of Chinese immigration is from the mainland China. A smaller number have arrived from Taiwan and very small numbers from Fiji, French Polynesia, and New Zealand. Today, mainland China has taken over from Hong Kong and Taiwan as the largest source of Chinese immigration. The PRC has also taken over from all countries and regions as the country sending the most immigrants to Canada. According to the 2002 statistics from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the PRC has supplied the biggest number of Canadian immigrants since 2000, averaging well over 30,000 immigrants per year, totalling an average of 15% of all immigrants to Canada. This trend shows no sign of slowing down, with an all-time high of more than 40,000 reached in 2005. On June 22, 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a message of redress in the House of Commons, offering an apology in Cantonese and compensation for the head tax once paid by Chinese immigrants. Survivors or their spouses will be paid approximately $20,000 CAD in compensation.
In December 2008, the Philippines passed China as Canada's leading source of immigrants. In 2010, when Mainland China became the second largest economy in the world after the United States, its economic growth sparked even greater immigration opportunities to mainland Chinese. A 2011 survey shown that 60% of Chinese millionaires plan to immigrate, where 37% of the respondents wanted to immigrate to Canada. Many foreign countries such as Canada hold very large attraction for rich Chinese, because of their better social welfare system, higher quality of education and a greater opportunity for investment. The main reasons Chinese businesspeople want to move abroad was for some educational opportunities for their children, advanced medical treatment, worsening pollution back home (especially urban air quality) and food safety concerns. The Canadian Federal Investor Immigrant Program (FIIP) as a cash-for-visa scheme allows many powerful Chinese to seek for a Canadian citizenship, and recent reports show that 697 of the 700 (99.6%) of the applicants to this visa in 2011 were mainland Chinese. However, Canada— along with other English-speaking countries such as the United States and Australia— has increased its immigration requirements, forcing Chinese millionaires to seek permanent residency elsewhere.
In 2001, 25% of Chinese in Canada were Canadian-born. During the same year, the Chinese population stood at 1,094,700 accounted for 3.5% of Canada’s total population. By 2006 the population stood at 1,346,510 comprising 4.3% of the Canadian population. StatsCan projects by 2031, the Chinese Canadian population is projected to reach between 2.4 and 3.0 million, constituting approximately 6 percent of the Canadian population. Much of the growth will be bolstered by sustained immigration as well as creating a younger age structure.
During the 2011 census in Canada, it was estimated that 1,324,700 individuals of pure Chinese origin resided in Canada. This number increased to 1,487,000 individuals, when including those of both pure Chinese origin and people of partial Chinese ancestry (meaning, individuals with both Chinese and some other racial and ethnic origin) during the 2011 census in Canada.
Most of the Chinese Canadian community is concentrated within the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. The five metropolitan areas with the largest Chinese Canadian populations are the Greater Toronto Area (537,060), Metro Vancouver (402,000), Greater Montreal (120,000), Calgary Region (75,410), and the Edmonton Capital Region (53,670). The Chinese are the largest visible minority group in Alberta and British Columbia, and are the second largest in Ontario. The highest concentration of Chinese Canadians is in Vancouver, where one in five residents are Chinese.
The province of Saskatchewan has a growing Chinese community, at over one percent as of 2006, mainly in the city of Saskatoon (2.1%), the province's largest city, and to a lesser extent, Regina (1.9%), the capital of the province. The Riversdale neighborhood of Saskatoon has a historical Chinese settlement dating back to the early 1900s, where Chinese immigrants were employed by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, and established businesses within this district. Riversdale is currently home to many Chinese restaurants and stores. Chinese are the largest visible minority group in Saskatchewan.
The Chinese Canadian Population according to Statistics Canada in the 2011 census in the 10 Canadian provinces and 3 territories:
Canadian metropolitan areas with large Chinese populations:
List of Canadian census subdivisions with Chinese populations higher than the national average
Source: Canada 2011 Census
National average: 4.5%
In 2001, 87% of Chinese reported having a conversational knowledge of at least one official language, while 15% reported that they could speak neither English nor French. Of those who could not speak an official language, 50% immigrated to Canada in the 1990s, while 22% immigrated in the 1980s. These immigrants tended to be in the older age groups. Of prime working-age Chinese immigrants, 89% reported knowing at least one official language.
In 2001, collectively, the varieties of Chinese are the third-most common reported mother tongue, after English and French. 3% of the Canadian population, or 872,000 people, reported the Chinese language as their mother tongue — the language that they learned as a child and still understand. The most common Chinese mother tongue is Cantonese. Of these people, 44% were born in Hong Kong, 27% were born in Guangdong Province in China, and 18% were Canadian-born. The second-most common reported Chinese mother tongue was Mandarin. Of these people, 85% were born in either Mainland China or Taiwan, 7% were Canadian-born, and 2% were born in Malaysia. There is some evidence that fewer young Chinese-Canadians are speaking their parents' and grandparents' first language.
However, only about 790,500 people reported speaking Chinese at home on a regular basis, 81,900 fewer than those who reported having a Chinese mother tongue. This suggests some language loss has occurred, mainly among the Canadian-born who learned Chinese as a child, but who may not speak it regularly or do not use it as their main language at home.
Some varieties may be underreported due to respondents simply responding "Chinese" rather than specifying:
As of 2001, almost 75% of the Chinese population in Canada lived in either Toronto or Vancouver. The Chinese population was 17% in Vancouver and 9% in Toronto. More than 50% of the Chinese immigrants who just arrived in 2000/2001 reported that their reason for settling in a given region was because their family and friends already lived there.
The economic growth of mainland China since the turn of the 21st century has sparked even greater emigration opportunities for mainland Chinese. A 2011 survey showed that 60% of Chinese millionaires planned to emigrate, where 37% of the respondents wanted to emigrate to Canada. The main reasons Chinese businesspeople wanted to move abroad was for greater educational opportunities for their children, advanced medical treatment, worsening pollution back home (especially urban air quality), concerns of political instability and food safety concerns. The Canadian Immigrant Investor Program (CANIIP) allows many powerful Chinese to qualify for Canadian citizenship: among the 700 applicants to this program in 2011, 697 (99.6%) were mainland Chinese. In addition, many Chinese immigrants to Canada apply through the provincial nominee program, which requires immigrants to invest in a business in the province in which they settle.
In 2001, 31% of Chinese in Canada, both foreign-born and Canadian-born, had a university education, compared with the national average of 18%.
Of prime working-age Chinese in Canada, about 20% were in sales and services; 20% in business, finance, and administration; 16% in natural and applied sciences; 13% in management; and 11% in processing, manufacturing, and utilities. However, there is a trend that Chinese move toward small towns and rural areas for agricultural and agri-food operations in recent years
Chinese who immigrated to Canada in the 1990s and were of prime working-age in 2001 had an employment rate of 61%, which was lower than the national average of 80%. Many reported that the recognition of foreign qualifications was a major issue. However, the employment rate for Canadian-born Chinese men of prime working-age was 86%, the same as the national average. The employment rate for Canadian-born Chinese women of prime working-age was 83%, which was higher than the national average of 76%.
Generational differences are also evident regarding religious practice and affiliation within this population group.
Among Toronto’s early Chinese immigrants especially, the church body was an important structure serving as a meeting place, hall and leisure club. Even today, over 30 churches in Toronto continue to hold Chinese congregations.
Christianity reached its peak of popularity in the early 1960s, with the 1961 census still reporting that 60% of the Chinese declared themselves Christians. Over the following 40 years Christianity has been steadily declining both among Canadian-born Chinese and new immigrants. Religiously, the Chinese Canadian community is different from the rest of the population in that the majority of Chinese Canadians do not report a religious affiliation, although, according to a demographic analysis in 2010, 672,000 Chinese Canadians (slightly more than half) practice the Chinese folk religion.
In 2001, 56% of Chinese Canadians aged 15 and over said that they did not have any religious affiliation, compared with the national average of 17%. As a result, Chinese Canadians make up 13% of all Canadians who did not report a religious affiliation despite making up 4% of the population. Among Chinese Canadians, 14% were Buddhist, 14% were Catholic and 9% belonged to a Protestant denomination.
Canadians of Chinese origin have established a presence in the Canadian media scene spearheading several Chinese language media outlets in Canada.
A number of daily and weekly Chinese newspapers are printed and distributed throughout Canada. Ming Pao Daily News owned by the Ming Pao Group has a pro-China view, other newspapers in the Chinese news media market in Canada include the Canadian edition of the The Epoch Times, Sing Tao Daily and the World Journal.
Cultural adjustment and assimilation
According to the Canadian Ethnic Diversity Survey conducted in 2002 show that 76 percent of Canadians of Chinese origin said they had a strong sense of belonging to Canada. At the same time, 58% said that they had a strong sense of belonging to their ethnic or cultural group. Canadians of Chinese origin are also active in Canadian society. During the same year, 64 percent of Chinese Canadians who were eligible to vote reported doing so in the 2000 federal election, while 60 percent said they voted in the 1996 provincial election. At the same time, about 35 percent reported that they had participated in an organization such as a sports team or community association in the 12 months preceding the survey. Concurrently, though, over one in three over (34%) Canadians of Chinese origin reported that they had experienced discrimination, prejudice, or unfair treatment based on their ethnicity, race, religion, language or accent in the past five years, or since they came to Canada. A majority of those who had experienced discrimination said that they felt it was based on their race or skin colour, while 42 percent said that the discrimination took place at work or when applying for a job or promotion.
The majority of Canadian-born Chinese during the 1970s and 1980s were descended from immigrants of Hong Kong and Southern China, and more recently from mainland Chinese immigrants since the 1990s. Canadians of Chinese origin born in Canada who have mostly assimilated into Canadian culture mainly self-identify as solely Canadian while others (particularly Chinese born overseas who immigrated to Canada during their late stages of their lives) primarily self-identify as a mixture of the being both Chinese and Canadian. In Canada, strong feelings of ethnic heritage is bolstered by the clustering of immigrant communities in large urban centres as many Canadians of Chinese extraction, especially new immigrants have a proclivity to associate nearly exclusively with their ethnic compatriots due to unfamiliarity with a new culture. Nonetheless, many Canadians of Chinese origin who have assimilated into Canadian society are more open and have chosen to seek associates outside the Chinese community, toward more multicultural groups of friends and associates from a mosaic of different ethnic and ancestral backgrounds due to Canada's strong emphasis on diversity and multiculturalism. Much of the community take on both old and new social and cultural traditions and values passed on from generation to generation. Culturally, many Canadians of Chinese background who were born in China and immigrated to Canada in their late childhood years are brought up with a more Confucianist-style upbringing with families emphasizing respect for elders, academic achievement, kinship, and taking care of the parents when they're old. Canadians of Chinese origin particularly the second generation and beyond have more liberal parenting beliefs, are raised with a more Western style upbringing and embrace more modern Western and Canadian values and traditions such as environmental sustainability and stewardship of the earth, individualism, humanitarianism, equality, fairness, freedom, rule of law, commitment to social justice and respecting cultural differences as well as respect for all individuals in society.