Chinese Immigration Act, 1923

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Chinese Immigration Act, 1923
Parliament of Canada
Enacted by14th Canadian Parliament
Commenced1 July 1923
Repealed14 May 1947
Repealed by
Canadian Citizenship Act, 1946
Status: Repealed

The Chinese Immigration Act, 1923, also known as the "Chinese Exclusion Act" (the duration of which has been dubbed the Exclusion Era),[1] was a Canadian Act of Parliament passed by the government of Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, banning most forms of Chinese immigration to Canada.[2][3] Immigration from most countries was controlled or restricted in some way, but only the Chinese were completely prohibited from immigrating to Canada.

The act was repealed in May 1947 after World War II, due to Canada having been a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Before 1923, Chinese immigration was heavily controlled by the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, which imposed an onerous head tax on all immigrants from China.

After various members of the federal and some provincial governments (especially British Columbia) put pressure on the federal government to discourage Chinese immigration, the Chinese Immigration Act was passed. It went into effect on 1 July 1923. The Act banned immigrants of Chinese heritage from entering Canada except those under the following titles:

Because Canada became a signatory following World War II of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with which the Chinese Immigration Act was inconsistent, the Canadian Parliament repealed the act on 14 May 1947 (following the proclamation of the Canadian Citizenship Act, 1946 on 1 January 1947). However, independent Chinese immigration to Canada came only after the liberalization of Canadian immigration policy under the governments of John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson, first by the elimination of restrictions based on national origins in 1962, followed by the establishment of the world's first points-based immigration system in 1967.[4]

Redress and legacy[edit]

Since the 1 July Dominion Day holiday coincided with the enforcement of the Chinese Immigration Act, Chinese-Canadians at the time referred to the anniversary of Confederation as "Humiliation Day" and refused to take any part in the celebration.[5][6][7]

On 22 June 2006, then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in the House of Commons.[8] The first phrase of the apology was spoken in Cantonese Chinese, despite the overwhelming number of affected Chinese who are versed in the Taishanese dialect. He announced that the survivors or their spouses will be paid approximately CA$20,000 (equivalent to $25,958 in 2021) in compensation for the head tax.

On 15 May 2014, then-Premier of British Columbia Christy Clark apologized in the Legislative Assembly.[9] The apology motion was unanimously passed and aims to make amends for historic wrongs. Unlike the federal apology, no individual compensation was provided. However, CA$1 million was promised to be put into a legacy fund which would help legacy initiatives. The formal apology went through a three-month consultation period with various parties to help ensure that the apology was done properly.

On 22 April 2018, then-Mayor of Vancouver, British Columbia Gregor Robertson issued a formal public apology.[10]

The Act and its legacy have been the subject of an acclaimed documentary film and work of historical fiction:

The centenary of the bill's commencement was marked on 1 July 2023; a national remembrance ceremony was held by the Senate on 23 June, while proclamations and memorial ceremonies were held in communities such as Calgary and Halifax.[5][6][7][13] The newly-founded Chinese Canadian Museum in Vancouver also opened to the public that day.[14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chinese Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons, Canada. 2005-04-18. p. 1100.
  2. ^ Stoke, Harold W. (1933). "Some Problems of Canadian Federalism". American Political Science Review. 27 (5): 806. doi:10.2307/1946903. ISSN 0003-0554. JSTOR 1946903. S2CID 147095086.
  3. ^ "Chinese Immigration Act, 1923 | Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21". Retrieved 2022-12-06.
  4. ^ Ng, Wing Chung (1999). The Chinese in Vancouver, 1945-80: The Pursuit of Identity and Power. UBC Press. pp. 120–121. ISBN 978-0-7748-0733-3.
  5. ^ a b Man, Guida; Wong, Keefer (2023-07-06). "A century after the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese women still face challenges in Canada". The Conversation. Retrieved 2023-07-10.
  6. ^ a b "Government to recognize historical significance of Canada's ban on Chinese immigrants". CTVNews. 2023-05-29. Retrieved 2023-07-10.
  7. ^ a b "Calgarians commemorate 100th anniversary of 'Chinese Exclusion Act'". CTV News Calgary. 2023-07-01. Retrieved 2023-07-10.
  8. ^ "Prime Minister Harper Offers Full Apology for the Chinese Head Tax". 22 June 2006.
  9. ^ Trade, Ministry of International. "Government of British Columbia Apology - Province of British Columbia". Retrieved 2023-02-16.
  10. ^ Pawson, Chad (Apr 22, 2018). "City of Vancouver formally apologizes to Chinese community for past discrimination". CBC News.
  11. ^ Lost Years at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  12. ^ "Throwback Thursday: 'The Red Tiger' by Chuck Lim". 25 February 2021.
  13. ^ Jiang, Xixi (2023-06-26). "Even after 100 years, the Chinese Exclusion Act's painful legacy still stings". New Canadian Media. Retrieved 2023-07-10.
  14. ^ "Legacy of Canada's ban on Chinese immigration lasted longer than the law". CTVNews. 2023-07-01. Retrieved 2023-07-10.
  15. ^ "Chinese Canadian Museum opens in B.C., 100 years after Exclusion Act took effect". Goldstream News Gazette. 2023-06-30. Retrieved 2023-07-10.

External links[edit]