Emigrating from one country to another is still one of the most frequently discussed topics, if we are talking about the disquisition of everyday life related matters. In this paper, I would like to refer to the history of Chinese people who immigrated to Canada, and have a deeper insight into the Chinese-Canadian diaspora’s difficulties related to their immigration matters that occurred from the 19th century.
Around the 5th century it is reputed that five Buddhist monks had spent 40 years in the Americas (Conrad, Finkel 49). Chinese discoveries started in the 15th century, when Zhu Di Chinese emperor sponsored a Chinese fleet, what resulted in the pre-Columbian navigator achievements. There were other Chinese explorers sent out for a global discovery by the Ming dynasty, near the end of the 15th century, too, and eventually, the connections with the outside world from China never came to an end (Hall 64). One of the most significant period of time was when the Chinese porcelain started to gain popularity among several different countries all around the world e.g. first in Holland then in England, in North America and so on (Hall 70).
In the 18th century, Chinese ginseng had a huge role in trading, this way having the first considerably influential relationship with Canada—to be more exact,with the colonial North America at that time (Conrad, Finkel 117). Additionally, in 1778 Captain Cook stayed in the territory of Nootka Island, west Vancouver Island, and met the island’s natives called the Nuu’chah’nulth ( historically also called Nootka, as Captain Cook misunderstood their name). During his stay his trading was undoubtedly successful. The ship’s crew received food, artifacts, and sea otter pelts for their goods. Later, the selling of the received sea-otter skin to China profited so well, it made the opening of a whole new trading system possible (ibid.: 230). Accordingly, the extension of trading tracks to China could already foreshadow the potentiality of Chinese curiosity related to discovering the area belonging to Canada.
In the year of 1788, Chinese labourers had their work contracted to John Meares and arrived to Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island. The employer saw the future possibility of Chinese settlement to the colonial North America, as the Chinese employees’ work performances were quite outstanding. Being completely satisfied with them and due to the previously mentioned reasons, in his opinion, a group of Chinese workers would be ‘a very valuable acquisition’ for the feasible trading system (Meares no pag).
Nevertheless, the very first wave of real Chinese immigration started during the outbreak of the ‘gold rush’. In 1857, people discovered gold in the lower part of Fraser Valley. As a consequence of this event, several groups of Chinese gold miners were attracted, and arrived to the Colony of Vancouver Island (also called British Columbia, as it was ruled by the British Empire) in 1858. Firstly, a group of Chinese immigrants departed by boat from San Francisco and arrived to Victoria. In the search of a better subsistence in the “Gold Mountain” (also referred to as Gum Shan), labourers of China departed to Canada directly from Hong Kong (ABCCCH no pag).
As a matter of fact, their short-term stay in Canada was necessary for them, as there were terrible circumstances taking over their lives in the Chinese Guangdong Province. Gaining money was an essential, thus the workers could keep their families alive. On the other hand, Chinese people involved in immigration could feel like pioneers, as they were touching a fully whole area. The British Columbia territory was suffering of a severe shortage of labour workers, therefore the reliance of the British Empire was all on the Chinese constructers
Canadian treatment was not the most welcoming; it was completely hostile towards the Chinese workers, even though they were helping Canada in building out a new transcontinental railway and in reviving the economy, that “the English had been unable to develop” (Mar 19). Despite the Chinese assistance in improving Canada, the acceptance of the Chinese diaspora in the country was still imperceptible.