There’s a great deal of anticipation in Greater Vancouver as the centenary of the Chinese Exclusion Act approaches. On July 1, 1923, the Parliament of Canada passed a law banning virtually all Chinese immigration to Canada. It wasn’t lifted until 1947.
The region, which is home to approximately 475,000 residents of Chinese descent, is preparing to reflect on this exclusionary past and embrace an inclusive future.
“This is a stark reminder about historical moments that we must learn not to repeat themselves,” says Henry Yao, MLA from Richmond South Centre, on June 10.
Moreover, the upcoming milestone serves as a solemn occasion for the 1.7 million Chinese Canadians across the country to commemorate what’s often called Humiliation Day—and recognize the significance of this historical event.
Many Chinese community groups and individuals in Vancouver are actively involved in commemorating the 100-year mark of the Chinese Exclusion Act. On June 10, members and friends of the Canada Committee 100 Society (CCS 100) gathered in Richmond.
As the Founding President of the Canada Committee 100 Society, Ding Guo hosted the event. He has previously held the position of producer for Omni BC’s Mandarin News.
“Our intent is not to complain, but rather to foster a collective understanding that transcends mere criticism,” says Ding.
This organization also launched a book to mark 100 years after the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was written by Guo Ding, Qireng Zhang, and Baoheng Jia. The book serves as a powerful reminder of what should be avoided, while simultaneously fostering diversity and inclusivity within all communities.
(Ding Guo is signing copies of their book)
“It stands as a steadfast aspiration, aimed at kindling inspiration within future generations, guiding them away from the perilous path of repeating those very mistakes,” says Ding.
Yao also attended this event. He was born in Taiwan and immigrated to Canada with his family at 11. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in the 2020 provincial election.
(Yao calls for reflection on the dark history)
Yao feels privileged and thankful that he didn’t live in the period of Chinese exclusion. “I wasn’t part of a generation who had the experience.”
He acknowledges the sorrowful and exasperating history of the Chinese Exclusion Act. He emphasizes the importance of learning from past mistakes and actively combating racism and hatred.
Yao draws parallels between the struggles faced by Indigenous communities and the ongoing efforts toward reconciliation, urging society to unite against racism and ethnic discrimination.
“We as a community must continue to work together with other ethnicities to find a way to stay united against racism against hatred,” says Yao.
He also expresses appreciation for the substantial government funding, exceeding $30 million, allocated towards the establishment of the Chinese Canadian Museum.
“The over $30 million investment in the Chinese Canadian Museum really reveals the historical barriers,” says Yao.
Yao believes that capturing historical narratives is pivotal in preventing the repetition of past injustices. And he acknowledges the invaluable contributions of the Chinese Canadian community in achieving this goal.
As Vancouver continues to grapple with the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic, Yao emphasizes the need for unwavering vigilance and unity in combating racism and discrimination. He underscores the importance of studying history and drawing lessons from it.
“We must be vigilant, we must stay focused, and we must study the history,” says Yao.
(Zhang and her certificate)
The upcoming 100-year mark of the Chinese Exclusion Act not only captures the attention of adult immigrants but also resonates with members of the younger generation, like Lei Zhang.
Zhang, a student from Churchill Secondary School in Vancouver, exhibits a genuine interest in the Chinese Exclusion Act and offers insightful perspectives.
“Though I’m young, I can so relate to the significance of fairness, equality, and inclusivity that were, unfortunately, missing 100 years ago.”
She has followed the discrimination against the Chinese community and Indigenous people for a long time. She was awarded third prize in the “First Nations and I” essay contest organized by CCS100.
Zhang passionately expresses her steadfast determination to prevent the recurrence of such humiliating legislation.
“Even though it has been repealed, it continues to have a significant influence in contemporary society. I think Its residual effects persist subconsciously within society. There is a long road ahead in eradicating discriminatory practices and prejudices,” says Zhang.
The cover photo by Xijian.
The article was written by Yuqi Feng.
Voices & Bridges publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive discussion and debate on important issues. Views represented in the articles are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the V&B.