Chinese Immigration Act, 1923

Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion Immigration to Canada
Chinese Immigration Act, 1923
Parliament of Canada
Commenced1 July 1923
Repealed14 May 1947
Repealed by
Canadian Citizenship Act, 1946
Status: Repealed

The Chinese Immigration Act, 1923, known today as the Chinese Exclusion Act (the duration of which has been dubbed the Exclusion Era),[1] was an act passed by the Parliament of Canada, banning most forms of Chinese immigration to Canada. Immigration from most countries was controlled or restricted in some way, but only the Chinese were so completely prohibited from immigrating.


Before 1923, Chinese immigration was heavily controlled by the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, which imposed a hefty head tax on all immigrants from China.

After various members of the federal and some provincial governments (especially British Columbia) put pressure on the federal government to discourage Chinese immigration, the Chinese Immigration Act was passed. It went into effect on 1 July 1923. The Act banned Chinese immigrants from entering Canada except those under the following titles:

The Act did not only apply to Chinese from China, but to ethnic Chinese with British nationality as well. Since Dominion Day coincided with the enforcement of the Chinese Immigration Act, Chinese-Canadians at the time referred to the anniversary of Confederation as "Humiliation Day" and refused to take any part in the celebration.

Because Canada became a signatory following World War II of the United Nations' Charter of Human Rights, which the Chinese Immigration Act was evidently inconsistent with, the Canadian Parliament repealed the act on 14 May 1947 (following the proclamation of the Canadian Citizenship Act 1946 on 1 January 1947). However, independent Chinese immigration to Canada came only after the liberalization of Canadian immigration policy under the governments of John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson, first by the elimination of restrictions based on nation origins in 1962, followed by the establishment of the world's first points-based immigration system in 1967.[2]

Redress and legacy

On 22 June 2006, then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in the House of Commons. The first phrase of the apology was spoken in Cantonese Chinese, the most frequently spoken Chinese language among Chinese immigrants. He announced that the survivors or their spouses will be paid approximately CA$20,000 in compensation for the head tax.

On 15 May 2014, then-Premier of British Columbia Christy Clark apologized in the Legislative Assembly. The apology motion was unanimously passed and aims to make amends for historic wrongs. Unlike the federal apology, no individual compensation was provided. However, CA$1 million was promised to be put into a legacy fund which would help legacy initiatives. The formal apology went through a three-month consultation period with various parties to help ensure that the apology was done properly.

On 22 April 2018, then-Mayor of Vancouver, British Columbia Gregor Robertson issued a formal public apology.[3]

The Act and its legacy have been the subject of at least three documentary films:

See also


  1. ^ "Chinese Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons, Canada. 2005-04-18. p. 1100.
  2. ^ Ng, Wing Chung (1999). The Chinese in Vancouver, 1945-80: The Pursuit of Identity and Power. UBC Press. pp. 120–121. ISBN 978-0-7748-0733-3.
  3. ^ Pawson, Chad (Apr 22, 2018). "City of Vancouver formally apologizes to Chinese community for past discrimination". CBC News.
  4. ^ Moving the Mountain on IMDb
  5. ^ Cho, Karen, writer/director. 2004. In the Shadow of Gold Mountain (documentary film). CA: National Film Board of Canada.
  6. ^ Lost Years on IMDb