Anti–Chinese laws

Watch an excerpt fromThe Secrets of Chinatown, set in Vancouver, British Columbia's Chinatown, 1935. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.
The enactment of discriminatory legislation

From the 1880s to the 1940s, federal, provincial and municipal governments enacted measures that restricted the lives of Chinese people in Canada. Some examples include the 1872 disenfranchisement of British Columbia's Chinese, a 1902 levy on Ontario's Chinese laundries, and legal restrictions from the 1910s that limited Chinese business–owners’ ability to hire non–Chinese women.

Those who pushed for these laws perceived the Chinese as dangerously different. Popular culture often reinforced this feeling by depicting the Chinese as a threat to mainstream society and values. This excerpt from the 1935 film The Secrets of Chinatown suggests a fear of miscegenation.

The racist motivations for these discriminatory laws generally applied to both Chinese and Japanese immigrants. Despite this, only the Chinese faced the imposition of a head tax and a period of formal exclusion. This can be explained in part by Japan's high international standing at the time.