Daniel Yip

Discrimination in Canada has always been a part of Canadian life. Even today, in an age where racism and discrimination is frowned upon, it is easy to find signs of racism, stereotyping, and discrimination in daily life. The Head Tax implemented in the early 20th century was a blatant form of discrimination against Chinese immigrants at the time. It was a way for the government to take advantage of people wanting to come to Canada, to start a new life. This situation can be likened to colonialism. It is a huge indecency to fellow human beings. Being of Chinese descent, my great-grandparents were subjected to the Head Tax. Not only did this prevent many people from coming to Canada to start a new life, it made starting a new life here very difficult. It was not only the government that was discriminating against new immigrants; racism was rampant during this time
Even though my father’s great-grandfather arrived in Canada on June 24, 1922, his first document from the Dominion of Canada was issued on August 23, 1923 when he was 13 years old at the time.

It was very difficult for the Yip family in the early years. Things were very expensive for a new immigrant Chinese family. My great-grandfather spent most of his time working in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and would make many trips back and forth between Saskatoon and Vancouver. My great- grandmother spent most of her time working as a cook. The Head Tax definitely had a toll on them. It was a tax used to discriminate against new immigrant families. For this reason, it led to our family being split up. My great- grandfather’s family was unable to afford to pay for all members of the family to be move over to Canada at the time. Only the eldest of the siblings, my father and his older brother were able to move over. They were brought to Canada to live with their grandparents while their parents were in China raising the rest of the family.

When my family first came to Canada, my Dad says they lived in Vancouver. The Head Tax being a huge financial burden on them at the time, it did have a huge toll on our family life. The family was split up; my great-grandfather and great-grandmother with the two oldest boys lived here in Canada, while my grandparents lived in China with the three younger siblings of the two boys. My father describes experiencing terrible acts of racism. At school he said he was often bullied and beat up by the white boys he went to school with.

In many ways the Chinese community has changed, yet stayed the same over the years. New and younger generations of Chinese-Canadians enjoy the luxury of being assimilated and accepted into Canadian society. However, the older generation; people such as my grandparents have not assimilated as well. It is uncertain whether it is due to the lack of effort on the part of individuals or society, but elder Chinese still seem to be “stuck “in isolated Chinese-only communities.

The island city of Richmond is an example of both a positive and negative change in the BC Lower Mainland. The City of Richmond has become densely populated with Asians, mainly of Chinese decent. While this creates a more comfortable and familiar environment for new immigrants, it also creates isolation and segregation. There is a failure to assimilate for these people. Richmond is the new “Chinatown” of the 21st century.

Discrimination in Canada has been reduced, but is far from being eliminated. People have become more accepting of other cultures and more accepting of people coming from different places, but there are still subtle forms of racism that exist. Within peer groups it is easy to often hear the stereotype of “Asians being good at math/science”. It might not be a comment that is said with any seriousness or authority, but it is evident that discrimination still exists today. Other words like “F.O.B.” (Fresh Off the Boat) are given to Asians who have an accent, or new immigrants who are having a hard time with English. This has been observed in my workplace often as a complaint about a fellow employee or of a customer being hard to understand, because they are so “FOB”.

It is interesting that Canada prides itself on being “multicultural”, when this really is not the case. Yes, there are a multitude of different cultures that exist in Canada, but they do not coexist. They are all separate cultures that have isolated and segregated themselves creating social cliques.


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