Emily Yip

My great-grandfather – Yip See Tim

My great-grandfather, Yip See Tim was subject to a head tax of five hundred dollars for immigrating into Canada. He arrived in Canada on Jun 24 1922, and received his official Head Tax certificate a year later on August 23, 1923. His father, my great-great grandfather had worked on the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). After the CPR was completed in1885, the Government of Canada imposed the Head Tax for every Chinese person entering the country. It was a difficult amount to pay, but he was determined to bring his son over in hopes they would be able to create a better life.

Yip See Tim was fifteen when he arrived in Canada from Canton, China. He and his father wasted no time, and immediately moved to Vancouver Island in search of work. Finding work was incredibly difficult, because the Chinese were simply not as welcomed as say, Europeans immigrants. They were looked down upon because of their race and their poor command of English. It was terribly trying, but with relentless determination and strong conviction, my great-grandfather eventually found work as a kitchen help in a Western style restaurant; it was the only place that would hire him because it did not require a lot of communication skills.

After some time, he moved to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. It was, however, not the best decision, because during the cold winters, many businesses closed down due to lack of business. After little luck, he settled in Vancouver where he once again found work at a restaurant; this time as a cook. He worked in a restaurant of a small hotel, and started saving up money in order to visit his homeland in China.

In 1928 at the age of eighteen, my great-grandfather went back to China to marry. Unfortunately, he could not stay long, and came back to Canada by himself after they were married. My great-grandfather did not have a lot of opportunities to visit his family, and during the first few decades of his marriage, he only had the chance to see his family a handful of times. Two years after his marriage, he went back to see his wife, my great-grandmother in 1930. His first and only son was born in 1931. However, he did not have any more children because his visits to his wife in China were infrequent, and he could not bring his family over to Canada. In 1940, my great-great grandfather passed away, leaving my great-grandfather alone in a country that still felt foreign to him, despite all the years he had lived here.

Alone without his father, my great-grandfather was fiercely independent. He continued to work and save money to both send to his family in China, and to visit them more often. Even after the Exclusion Act was repealed in 1947, many Chinese still faced terrible difficulties as immigration was still very selective. My great-grandfather voiced his concerns to his family in China by letter that life was not easy in Canada; it was hard to find work, and not knowing the language made everything all the more difficult. He told his family that he was not always treated fairly, and it was evident because he was Chinese. Because of this, his family chose to stay in China, while he continued to live alone in Canada.

In 1955 and 1957 he returned to China at which time, his first and second grandchildren were born. In the years to come, he still did not see his family very much. It was not until 1969, when he was 62, did everything change. Forty-seven years after he arrived in Canada, part of his family was able to join him; his wife brought along his two eldest grandchildren to Canada. It was not his entire family, but it must have been incredibly life changing to be able to spend his last years with his wife and grandchildren. He barely saw his son and daughter in law, both of whom remained in China. In 1976, he passed away at the age of sixty-nine. After his death, his eldest grandson was able to sponsor his mother and father to come to Canada, who brought along his other two brothers and younger sister.

I cannot imagine how difficult life must have been at that time for Chinese immigrants. I know that for some, the memories of discrimination will be forever etched in their minds, and the time they lost with their families can never be recovered. They faced indescribable hardships alone in a foreign land, all in hopes of creating a better life for themselves and their families. I have nothing but appreciation and admiration for my great-grandfather. He was hard working, and never gave up even though he was treated poorly. His determination was firm, and he persisted until his family was finally able to join him. I am so very thankful, because if it were not for him, I would not be living in Canada today.


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