Chinese Canadian

From Academic Kids

A Chinese Canadian is a person of Chinese descent or origin who was born in or immigrated to Canada. Considered from the perspective of China, they are a group of overseas Chinese. In 2001 there were 1,094,700 Canadians of Chinese descent, making them Canada's seventh largest ethnic group.

The gate to Montreal's Chinatown
The gate to Montreal's Chinatown


The first record of Chinese in what is known as Canada today can be dated back to 1788. British Captain James Meares hired a group of Chinese carpenters from Macau and settled them on Nootka Sound part of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. However, there is surviving information related to the whereabouts of these early immigrants to Canada or their possible survivors.

The next wave of Chinese immigrants into British North America began in 1858. Most of these Chinese were "sojourners" in a sense, in that most of them planned on returning to their homeland after working in British North America for a period of time. They were mostly rural Cantonese who were at the lower end of the social ladder. Most of them came to British Columbia as "coolies" (苦力 in Chinese) and most were paid in vouchers. Gold rushes at the BC interior also attracted a significant number of Chinese to BC.

Many workers from Fujian and Guangdong Province arrived to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 19th century. Many of these workers accepted the discriminatory disadvantages of working long hours, lower wages than non-Chinese workers and dangerous working conditions such as explosions for the mountain passes, 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 1885, the Canadian government began to charge a substantial head tax for each Chinese person trying to immigrate to Canada. In 1923 the Canadian government banned Chinese immigration completely.

Some of those Chinese Canadian workers settled in Canada after the railway was constructed. But most could not bring the rest of their family, not even their immediate family, to Canada because of government restrictions and enormous processing fees. Their contacts with non-Chinese were restricted as well, officially and unofficially. They established Chinatowns and societies in undesirable sections of the cities.

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, one of whose most essential values is still quality education. These newcomers are a major part of the "Brain gain" the inverse of the infamous "Brain drain", i.e., Canadians leaving to the United States of America.

Chinese Indonesians first arrived in Canada in 1960s during anti-Chinese riots in Indonesia. From 1970s – 1999, many more Chinese Indonesians settled Canada.

Many Chinese from Vietnam, Laos, and Kampuchea came to Canada as refugees in the aftermath of Vietnam War. Early Chinese Canadians have close relationships with them as a result of their Chinese heritage. They lived mostly in Quebec province.

Many Chinese from Latin America also came in large numbers. Most important are Nicaraguans who fled from the dictatorial Somoza rule and dangerous earthquake in 1980’s, Peruvians who also escaped from earthquake and cruel Velasco regime, and Brazilians. These Chinese are concentrated in Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.

There was a significant influx of wealthy Chinese from Hong Kong in the early and mid-1990s. These Chinese immigrants were worried about the pending handover of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China and 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.

Few Chinese came from Pacific Islands, mostly Fiji, French Polynesia, and New Zealand. Chinese Australians also stayed in Canada.

Prominent Chinese Canadians

Within Canada


Some second-generation Chinese Canadians are sent to after-school Mandarin and/or Cantonese Chinese schools to maintain or improve their Chinese language ability. Many, but not all, first-generation parents encourage or persuade their children to attend the life science, engineering, or commerce faculties of universities, since they believe that only those studies will lead to a stable career and prominence in society.

Given names

Most Chinese Canadians have the Romanization of their Chinese given names as their middle name, or the other way around, but generally prefer to be called in their English name. Some have French names, those from Macao and Brazil generally already have Portuguese names, and Chinese Hispanics and some Chinese Filipinos have Spanish names. However, some consider their names easily pronounced by non-Chinese, so their only given name is in Chinese. However, there are those whose first and middle names are entirely Western.


Many first-generation children who spend their entire childhood and adolescence in Chinese regions may find, without proper guidance, that it is extremely difficult to fit into the mainstream Canadian culture, and have thus isolated themselves individually or in a small group of Chinese-speaking Canadians. Among themselves they discuss Chinese popular music, news, and books, in Chinese. This trend may continue into university and after that into work, where they get employed in a Chinese Canadian-owned company. A small number of isolated Chinese Canadians immediately return to their birth countries or the USA after they receive their education in Canada. On the other hand, there are also those newcomers who try hard to participate in various aspects of Canadian society and strive to speak native-level English or French. But such embraces of Canadian culture do not necessarily guarantee a successful fit into Canadian society. They still find it difficult to get into any of the careers of their choice. As a result, some such people also have to return to China. But due to their high degree of acculturation into Canadian culture and the growing distance from Chinese culture, they sometimes have a difficult adjustment back into their Chinese society, most noticeably linguistically.

The most recent Canadian census showed that 29% of immigrants from China couldn’t speak either official language; the highest level among all measured countries of origin. Taiwan came in third at 13% (behind India at 15%). This likely reflects the relative ease with which Chinese persons, as the third-largest ethnic group in Canada (behind old-stock English and French Canadians), can conduct themselves exclusively within the Chinese community. It may also reflect the recent nature of Chinese immigration to Canada.


Some refer to those Chinese Canadians of later generations as "CBC" (Canadian-born Chinese), a parallel to ABC (American-born Chinese). While the name emphasizes their Chinese-ness, some "CBCs" themselves use it as well, usually simply out of convenience and may not fully agree with it. These people also sometimes refer to themselves as "Bananas" since they may look Asian, yet they do not speak Chinese and/or share little with Chinese culture.

Some of the labeled "Jook-sing" reject the possibility that China has anything to do with themselves as individuals.

Chinese illegal aliens in Canada

Groups of Fujianese refugees illegally arrived on Canada by boat in poor conditions in the late 20th century, but virtually none of them became Canadian citizens or residents and were mostly sent back to the People's Republic of China in a few months after time in isolated detention camps.

See also


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