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Chinese people had begun arriving in Canada before 1867, the year of Confederation. These early Chinese immigrants came from one tiny area of southern China and they spoke the dialects of that region.
Their experience differs greatly from those who have immigrated to Canada in more recent years. During the 1990s, for instance, the largest number of immigrants arriving in Canada came from China, but they came from every region of that vast country. As well, immigrants of Chinese descent arrived in the 1990s from Southeast Asia, India, South America and other places.
Many people look at early Chinese-Canadian history to study the anti-Chinese legislation that existed in this country until the Second World War. Awareness and understanding can help ensure that Canada does not repeat unjust actions of the past.
At the same time, the Chinese in Canada have a proud history here. They helped to build and develop our economy. As well, they formed communities to support and protect their fellow immigrants who arrived from China.
This exhibit explores the first century of Chinese-Canadian history, with the help of photographs, historical documents and suggested reading material from the collection of Library and Archives Canada.
Each section of this history is accompanied by a "vignette" -a comment from a fictional character created by Canadian author Paul Yee- suggesting what it might have felt like to be a Chinese immigrant in Canada in those early days. The fictional characters are based loosely on interviews with many members of the Chinese community in Canada.