Project Description

Toronto, Canada: A cold welcome

 

Toronto, Canada: A cold welcome Political & Economic Personal Stories
It was 1918, the end of the First World War, when 22-year-old Don Lee emigrated from a small village in Kaiping in Guangdong to Canada.

Don arrived in a Canada that suffered considerable anti-Chinese sentiment. Even if he had spoken fluent English, been educated in Canadian schools, and held a Canadian passport, it would have been hard to find a job outside Chinatown. This made it a practical necessity for Chinese at the time to stick to their own circles and maintain their language and culture.


Head tax

Toronto-Don-Lee-Head-Tax-Canada-smallAlso, the government had instituted a ‘head tax’ on Chinese immigrants. This meant that Don had to pay 500 Canadian dollars just to enter the country, the equivalent to two whole years of labor.

In spite of these obstacles, some 82,000 Chinese like Don entered Canada in the head tax-period of 1885-1923, filling the pockets of the Canadian government with an estimated 23 million Canadian dollars (the equivalent of over 1 billion USD today). In 1923, five years after Don entered Canada, the government would completely prohibit the entry of Chinese into Canada for about 25 years, with the exception of diplomats, university students and merchants.

Women
As if all of the above was not enough, it was quite a challenge for someone like Don to find a girlfriend in those days. For every Chinese woman in Canada, there were around 28 Chinese men.

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