Canada’s Dark Truth: The Chinese Exclusion Act’s 100th Anniversary

Did you know that it has only been 76 years since Canada repealed the legislated anti-Asian racist policy: the Chinese Immigration Act, which came to be known as The Chinese Exclusion Act?

The ramifications of this racist and discriminatory act have been passed on from generation to generation and are still felt today. In fact, there has been a steady rise in anti-Asian racism across world as we have seen in the news and social media.

What was the Chinese Exclusion Act?

With May marking Asian Heritage Month, it is critical that our community learns about, remembers, and reflects on this dark stain in Canadian history and how this trauma persists and is still felt in our Chinese Canadian communities today.

2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act, a racist and discriminatory policy which restricted all Chinese immigration to Canada by instituting unfair rules and regulations while limiting the number of Chinese Immigrants who entered Canada during this time to fewer than 50 people. Because of this, families were torn apart, and their dreams of reuniting were destroyed.

How long did the Chinese Exclusion Act last?

This policy was passed on July 1st 1923 and remained in effect for 24 years. You read that correctly. While the rest of Canada was celebrating Canada Day, the Chinese Canadian community referred to it as “Humiliation Day.” Chinese Canadians did not even have the basic human right to vote until 1949, after the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1947. That’s only 74 years ago.

Prior to the Chinese Exclusion Act, Canada had tried other ways to keep Chinese immigrants from coming to Canada, including instilling a “Head Tax” in 1885 started at $50 per person. But, when that was not enough to discourage people from immigrating, Canada continued to raise the cost to up to $500 by 1903.

Despite the constant battles Chinese Canadians have fought and continue to fight, Chinese communities have shown a resiliency that is stronger than hatred, and have continued to build Canada from the ground up, and contribute to what it is today in every aspect.

Beyond Asian Heritage Month, we need to hold space for Asian Canadians to share their stories, and for others to learn how to become better allies. Together we can spread kindness, and build safer, more inclusive communities across Canada.

How to learn more about the Chinese Exclusion Act

To learn more and start up a conversation with your family and friends, check out the resources below! 

Your input is deeply valued. If you have ideas about how Markham Public Library can support the Chinese Canadian Community, feel free to email:

Chinese Exclusion Act Resources:

Chinese Canadian Stories: This digitized collection at the University of British Columbia contains materials that document Chinese Canadian history. It contains digitized photographs, audio and video recordings, as well as manuscripts (including correspondence and diaries).

Road to Justice: A website that examines the history of Canadian laws that were meant to exclude, restrict or control the lives of Chinese Canadians.

CBC Archives: News stories which have covered the Chinese head tax, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the ongoing efforts over many years to request a formal apology and reparations from the Canadian government.

Chinese Exclusion Act Centenary: A hub for individuals and organizations interested in commemorating the Exclusion Act. Check out a range of events going on across Canada that allow for learning, reflection, and dialogue.

Blog References:

Canadians must stand up against ‘unacceptable’ rise in anti-Asian racism: minister - National |

Significant events in the history of Asian communities in Canada -

Chinese Canadians - Veterans Affairs Canada

Canadian Museum for Human Rights