New archive highlights years of racism faced by Chinese Canadians | Toronto Star

A good reminder of our history:

Seventy-one years ago Mavis Chu Lew Garland and eight of her preschool classmates were photographed on the porch of the Chinese Canadian Institute on the corner of Dundas St. W. and University Ave.

Times were different, rather “extremely difficult,” she says, being born to a Chinese immigrant father and a white mother when interracial marriages were seen as unacceptable.

But now, at the age of 76, Garland and her classmates have come together to recreate a photo that was taken during a period of discrimination, and now represents a snapshot of Canadian immigrant history.

The photo, which Garland found while scrounging through old shoeboxes is just one of the artifacts donated to the Toronto Public Library as part of a three-year initiative, the Chinese Canadian archives, which opened on Tuesday at the Toronto Reference Library.

Since the announcement calling for donations in July, the library has received hundreds of articles to commemorate the historic voices of the Chinese people in Canada. Among the collection are old photographs of the city’s first Chinese restaurants, and businesses that once existed in the area where City Hall stands today.

But among the pieces of colourful memorabilia are documents highlighting a Canadian history of discrimination, including documentation on the racist Chinese head tax, showing how it rose from $50 in 1885 to $100 in 1900 and eventually to $500 in 1903 — at the time the price of buying two houses in Toronto.

Seventy-one years ago Mavis Chu Lew Garland and eight of her preschool classmates were photographed on the porch of the Chinese Canadian Institute on the corner of Dundas St. W. and University Ave.

Times were different, rather “extremely difficult,” she says, being born to a Chinese immigrant father and a white mother when interracial marriages were seen as unacceptable.

But now, at the age of 76, Garland and her classmates have come together to recreate a photo that was taken during a period of discrimination, and now represents a snapshot of Canadian immigrant history.

The photo, which Garland found while scrounging through old shoeboxes is just one of the artifacts donated to the Toronto Public Library as part of a three-year initiative, the Chinese Canadian archives, which opened on Tuesday at the Toronto Reference Library.

Since the announcement calling for donations in July, the library has received hundreds of articles to commemorate the historic voices of the Chinese people in Canada. Among the collection are old photographs of the city’s first Chinese restaurants, and businesses that once existed in the area where City Hall stands today.

But among the pieces of colourful memorabilia are documents highlighting a Canadian history of discrimination, including documentation on the racist Chinese head tax, showing how it rose from $50 in 1885 to $100 in 1900 and eventually to $500 in 1903 — at the time the price of buying two houses in Toronto.

Then there was the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1881, when an estimated 17,000 Chinese workers were brought to Canada and endured long working days, for around $1 a day. Due to the poor working conditions and illnesses, records estimated that they died in the thousands.

“All of them remained nameless in the history of Canada,” the monument standing just outside the Rogers Centre commemorating the Chinese CPR workers reads.

“I feel like a lot of the lives, work, and contributions of Chinese-Canadians have remained nameless,” 28-year-old Coly Chau told the Star.

Chau immigrated to Montreal from Hong Kong at the age of 5.

“Elementary and secondary education gave me very little exposure to the history of Chinese Canadians” Chau says.

After graduating high school, Chau said a lack of belonging pushed her to “dig deeper” to research and learn about her history.

“As an immigrant, my experiences have been greatly attributed to the contributions and experiences of those Chinese Canadians that came before my family and I,” Chau said. “There are instances of racism that I’ve experienced, or the feeling of being an outsider — but those that came before me worked very hard to dismantle a lot of it, and lessen it for us now.”

Source: New archive highlights years of racism faced by Chinese Canadians | Toronto Star

Advertisements

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: