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.
Chuenyan Lai, "Chinese: The Changing Geography of
the Largest Visible Minority" in Canadian Western
Geographical Series 36( 2001): 147.
Maire Zaffaroni, "The Great Chain of Being: Racism and
Imperialism in Colonial Victoria, 1858-1871(Master's
Thesis, University of Victoria, 1984),
Roy, A White Man's Province: British Columbia Politicians
and Chinese and Japanese Immigrants, 1858-1914 (Vancouver:
UBC Press, 1989), 42.
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