Acceptance and Opposition


Historical evidence shows that Chinese peoples were present in British Columbia as early as the late eighteenth century.1  It is safe to assume that these early Chinese immigrants worked alongside the white settlers and performed the same tasks as other labourers.  It does not seem that their presence in the colony caused any ill sentiment among the settlers of European descent.  In fact, the non-European immigrants were encouraged to migrate to the western colonies to help populate the area and further establish the colony.  It was not long, however, before this sentiment changed.  When European settlers felt that their livelihoods were being threatened by immigrant workers, opposition to “foreign” immigrants grew.2

During the first wave of Chinese immigration in the mid nineteenth century, many Chinese men came from California and Hong Kong to pan for gold on the banks of the Fraser River.  Most hoped to strike it rich then return to China to join their wives and families.  Workers of this type were seen as temporary residents of the colonies, or sojourners.  At first, these sojourners were not seen as a problem.  They established their own communities within British Columbia’s towns (of which Victoria’s Chinatown was the first) and followed the laws of the colony without contest.3  By the mid-1860s, the gold rush had dwindled and only a few miners remained on the Fraser Canyon. 

For more information about Anti-Chinese sentiment, click here.


1.David Chuenyan Lai, "Chinese: The Changing Geography of the Largest Visible Minority" in Canadian Western Geographical Series 36( 2001): 147.

2.Irene Genevieve Maire Zaffaroni, "The Great Chain of Being: Racism and Imperialism in Colonial Victoria, 1858-1871(Master's Thesis, University of Victoria, 1984), 167.

3.Patricia Roy, A White Man's Province: British Columbia Politicians and Chinese and Japanese Immigrants, 1858-1914 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1989), 42.


Home | Gold Rush | CPR | Settlement | Acceptance and Discrimination | Timeline