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Chinese Immigration: 'Kin for hire'

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.

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It's a "kin for hire" racket and it could be huge. In this 1960 CBC Television clip, an RCMP official describes the investigation into what he believes is the "widespread wholesale smuggling" of Chinese immigrants into Canada. He suspects a massive syndicate of smugglers is providing fake Canadian relatives for potential Chinese immigrants. Prominent Chinese-Canadian Foon Sien is livid about the way this investigation has been conducted -- he says it puts the entire Chinese-Canadian community into disrepute. 
• Because of the Cold War and the fear of communism in Canada during the 1950s, the RCMP investigation (which lasted from 1959 to 1962) may have taken on a greater intensity than it would have otherwise, since the Chinese were often associated with communism.

• There were indeed a number of Chinese people coming to Canada under false pretenses in the late '50s and early '60s. Because immigration laws said new Chinese immigrants had to be the child (under 19 years old) or the spouse of a Canadian citizen, those who wanted to immigrate often obtained fake birth certificates. The Canadian "parent" in this equation was known as the "paper father," while the "child" in China would be called a "paper son."

• In the 1992 book Jin Guo: Voices of Chinese Canadian Women, Jean Lumb says these transaction were often favours to friends: "Say you had a son in Hong Kong who's 18 years old, right age, but he doesn't want to come here. And I have a son who's 21 -- too old. So we change papers, right? ... So a Wong became a Lee, or a Lee became a Lin... These poor kids had to lie about their age, their surname, their parents, in order to get over."

• Lumb, an activist for Chinese-Canadian causes, also stresses how bad this was for all involved: "It brought a cloud of suspicion over the Chinese people. What a terrible mess. How could people go through the rest of their lives with the wrong surname, living in fear of being deported? ... I had to tell the Canadian government that if they didn't change the laws, there would be more and more people using false papers since they were desperate to come in."

• Throughout the RCMP investigation, Foon Sien continually drew the federal government's attention to what he saw as systematic human rights violations: "I have received reports that the police in some places freely arrest and detain Chinese under suspicion. After several hours of interrogation they were released, but at the time of their detention they could not see the lawyer... The situation resembles a country under martial law. If the government does not restrict such actions, the basic rights and freedoms of the people are endangered."

• Douglas Jung, Canada's first Chinese-Canadian MP, introduced a private member's bill in 1962 called the Chinese Adjustment Statement Program. This bill granted amnesty for all paper sons or daughters if they came forward to the government. The amnesty period lasted until 1973. During that time, about 12,000 illegal immigrants came forward and had their immigration status legalized.

• With the new amnesty program and the removal of Chinese-specific restrictions in immigration policy in 1967, "paper son" immigration schemes ceased to be an issue as the 1960s wore on.
Medium: Television
Program: Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: May 29, 1960
Guests: Foon Sien, F. Spalding
Host: Stanley Burke
Reporter: Bill Cunningham
Duration: 10:05

Last updated: August 20, 2013

Page consulted on May 26, 2014

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