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Chinese-Canadians: Entering the professions

They risked their lives to help build Canada's railroad in the 1880s. But as soon as the work was done, Canada just wanted them gone. It was the beginning of a difficult history for Chinese immigrants to Canada. They struggled through the head tax, personal attacks and job discrimination. But the Chinese in Canada persevered. And today, Chinese-Canadians are an integral part of Canada's multicultural society, forging their own cultural identities.

Chinese-Canadians have traditionally been held back by racial prejudice. But things are beginning to change, says the host of this 1957 CBC Television special on the recent professional progress of Chinese-Canadians. In this clip, we meet Douglas Jung, "a handsome six-footer who broke the political-racial barrier" by becoming Canada's first Chinese-Canadian MP. This clip also profiles a Chinese lawyer, a professor and a doctor - all professions that Chinese people were excluded from in Canada not very long ago. 
• Because Chinese-Canadians were barred from citizenship until 1947, they were also barred from professions that required one to be a citizen (or, at that time, a British subject living in Canada). These professions included pharmacy, law, teaching and politics. By the late 1940s and 1950s, these professions were opening up for Chinese-Canadians.

• Before the Second World War, the majority of Chinese in Canada were employed in low-paying service industries. In 1931, for instance, 61 per cent of Chinese Canadians were servants, janitors, laundry and restaurant employees and unskilled workers. By the 1980s that number had dropped to about 25 per cent. Historian Peter S. Li notes that in general, postwar Chinese-Canadians have been "upwardly mobile" in terms of career paths.

• Between the two world wars, many entrepreneurial Chinese-Canadians also created their own employment by opening restaurants and laundries. According to Peter S. Li in the Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples (1999), restaurant ownership "provided a haven for many Chinese before the Second World War, and it remained an important source of employment and self-employment for members of the community after the war, even when opportunities in professional and technical occupations opened up to them."

• Born in British Columbia in 1924, Douglas Jung (shown in this clip) fought for Canada during the Second World War. Upon his return home, he used his veterans' benefits to study law at UBC. He began to practice law in Vancouver, and became Canada's first Chinese-Canadian MP (Conservative) in 1957. He died in 2002 at the age of 77.
Medium: Television
Program: Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: July 14, 1957
Guests: Dr. Chu, Margaret Gee, Douglas Jung, Leslie Wong
Reporter: Bill Cunningham
Duration: 6:19

Last updated: August 20, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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