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Article

Chinese Head Tax in Canada

The Chinese head tax was enacted to restrict immigration after Chinese labour was no longer needed to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. Between 1885 and 1923, Chinese immigrants had to pay a head tax to enter Canada. The tax was levied under the Chinese Immigration Act (1885). It was the first legislation in Canadian history to exclude immigration on the basis of ethnic background. With few exceptions, Chinese people had to pay at least $50 to come to Canada. The tax was later raised to $100, then to $500. During the 38 years the tax was in effect, around 82,000 Chinese immigrants paid nearly $23 million in tax. The head tax was removed with the passing of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1923. Also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, it banned all Chinese immigrants until its repeal in 1947. In 2006, the federal government apologized for the head tax and its other racist immigration policies targeting Chinese people.

Article

Women's Suffrage in Canada

Women’s suffrage (or franchise) is the right of women to vote in political elections; campaigns for this right generally included demand for the right to run for public office. The women’s suffrage movement was a decades-long struggle to address fundamental issues of equity and justice. Women in Canada, particularly Asian and Indigenous women, met strong resistance as they struggled for basic human rights, including suffrage.

Representative of more than justice in politics, suffrage represented hopes for improvements in education, healthcare and employment as well as an end to violence against women. For non-white women, gaining the vote also meant fighting against racial injustices.

(See also Women’s Suffrage Timeline.)

Article

Imperialism

Support for the British Empire and imperialism was strong in much of Canada in the decades after Confederation. But gradually, imperialist loyalties declined and Canadians demanded and won full autonomy within the empire.

Article

Chinese Immigration Act

The Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, known also as the Chinese Exclusion Act, banned the entry of virtually all Chinese immigrants for 24 years. Although migration into Canada from most countries was controlled or restricted in some way, only Chinese people were singled out completely from entering on the basis of race. The four exceptions to the exclusion were students, merchants (excluding laundry, restaurant and retail operators), diplomats and Canadian-born Chinese returning from education in China. The limit on absence from Canada was two years, and the consequence for not returning on time was being barred re-entry. Additionally, every person of Chinese descent, whether Canadian-born or naturalized, was required to register for an identity card within 12 months. The penalty for noncompliance was imprisonment or a fine of up to $500. Though the Act was repealed in 1947, immigration restrictions on the basis of race and national origin were not fully scrubbed until 1967.

Article

Political History

Political history is the study of the processes, activities and institutions of governments, the influences on them and the individuals involved with them.

Speech

Wilfrid Laurier: Let Them Become Canadians, 1905

On 1 September 1905, Wilfrid Laurier spoke before an audience of some 10,000 people in Edmonton, the newly minted capital of Alberta, which had just joined Confederation along with Saskatchewan. It had been 11 years since he’d last visited Edmonton, and he remarked that so much had changed in that time. He noted the growth of cities in the West, as well as the development of industry and transportation, agriculture and trade there. “Gigantic strides are made on all sides over these new provinces,” he said. It was a crowning moment of a movement — to colonize the West — and Laurier was there to thank the immigrants and settlers who had made that possible. Though the Laurier government’s immigration policies championed the arrival of some and barred the landing of others, his comments on acceptance in this speech served as a better model to follow.

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Reciprocity

Reciprocity was a free trade agreement between the United States and Canada. It mutually reduced import duties and protective tariffs on certain goods exchanged between the two countries. It was in effect from 1854 to 1866 and was controversial at times on both sides of the border. It was replaced in 1878 by the Conservative Party’s protectionist National Policy. It involved levying tariffs on imported goods to shield Canadian manufacturers from American competition. A narrower reciprocity agreement was introduced in 1935 and expanded in 1938. However, it was suspended in 1948 after both countries signed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

Article

Slavery Abolition Act, 1833

​An Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Colonies; for promoting the Industry of the manumitted slaves; and for compensating the Persons hitherto entitled to the Service of such Slaves (also known as the Slavery Abolition Act) received Royal Assent on 28 August 1833 and took effect 1 August 1834. The Act abolished enslavement in most British colonies, freeing over 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and South Africa as well as a small number in Canada.

Article

Manifest Destiny

The term Manifest Destiny was first used in 1845 by New York City journalist John Louis O’Sullivan. He used the term in the context of America’s annexation of the Republic of Texas. Manifest Destiny represented the idea that it was America’s right — its destiny, in fact — to expand across all of North America. Politicians and citizens in the United States called for the US to expand by claiming control of British territory. This included the Province of Canada (formerly Upper Canada and Lower Canada), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Article

Quebec Act, 1774

The Quebec Act received royal assent on 22 June 1774. It revoked the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which had aimed to assimilate the French-Canadian population under English rule. The Quebec Act was put into effect on 1 May 1775. It was passed to gain the loyalty of the French-speaking majority of the Province of Quebec. Based on recommendations from Governors James Murray and Guy Carleton, the Act guaranteed the freedom of worship and restored French property rights. However, the Act had dire consequences for Britain’s North American empire. Considered one of the five “Intolerable Acts” by the Thirteen American Colonies, the Quebec Act was one of the direct causes of the American Revolutionary War (1775–83). It was followed by the Constitutional Act in 1791.

This is the full-length entry about the Quebec Act of 1774. For a plain language summary, please see The Quebec Act, 1774 (Plain-Language Summary).

Article

Confederation

Confederation refers to the process of federal union in which the British North American colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada joined together to form the Dominion of Canada. The term Confederation also stands for 1 July 1867, the date of the creation of the Dominion. (See also Canada Day.) Before Confederation, British North America also included Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, British Columbia, and the vast territories of Rupert’s Land (the private domain of the Hudson’s Bay Company) and the North-Western Territory. Beginning in 1864, colonial politicians (now known as the Fathers of Confederation) met and negotiated the terms of Confederation at conferences in Charlottetown, Quebec City and London, England. Their work resulted in the British North America Act, Canada’s Constitution. It was passed by the British Parliament. At its creation in 1867, the Dominion of Canada included four provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Between then and 1999, six more provinces and three territories joined Confederation.

(This is the full-length entry about Confederation. For a plain language summary, please see Confederation (Plain Language Summary).)

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Dominion Lands Act

The Dominion Lands Act was a federal law that received royal assent on 14 April 1872. It allowed for lands in Western Canada to be granted to individuals, colonization companies, the Hudson’s Bay Company, railway construction, municipalities and religious groups. The Act set aside land for First Nations reserves. Métis lands were organized by the government outside the Dominion Lands Act, using the scrip system. The Act also set aside lands for what would become National Parks (1883). The Dominion Lands Act devised specific homestead policies to encourage settlement in the West. It covered eligibility and settlers’ responsibilities, and outlined a standard measure for surveying and subdividing land. Some 1.25 million homesteads were made available over an expanse of about 80 million hectares — the largest survey grid in the world. The Act was repealed in 1930, when lands and resources were transferred from the federal government to the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. From 1870 to 1930, roughly 625,000 land patents were issued to homesteaders. As a result, hundreds of thousands of settlers poured into the region.

Article

War Measures Act

The War Measures Act was a federal law adopted by Parliament on 22 August 1914, after the beginning of the First World War. It gave broad powers to the Canadian government to maintain security and order during “war, invasion or insurrection.” It was used, controversially, to suspend the civil liberties of people in Canada who were considered “enemy aliens” during both world wars. This led to mass arrests and detentions without charges or trials. The War Measures Act was also invoked in Quebec during the 1970 October Crisis. The Act was repealed and replaced by the more limited Emergencies Act in 1988.