Is Victoria home to North America's Oldest Chinatown?
In almost every Canadian city you can find a Chinatown. Many of them are large enough to resemble a vibrant town-within-the-city. But how did they start, and why?
In the latest episode of The Secret Life of Canada — Chinatown — co-hosts Falen Johnson and Leah Simone-Bowen look at some of the earliest history of Chinese people in Canada, including the first waves of immigration, the building of the Canadian Pacific railway, the Chinese head tax and the Chinese Exclusion Act.
They also explore how Chinatowns went from much-needed safehavens to celebrated cultural spaces in many Canadian cities.
What you'll hear this episode
- Just who has the oldest Chinatown in North America? Hint: It's not Vancouver.
- Who Hui Shen was, and the oral histories that suggest he was he trading plant knowledge with the Haida Nation back in AD 500.
- The accidentally significant role of John Meares, a British trader who employed 50 Chinese men to travel with him to the Pacific Northwest (and was kind of a jerk).
- Why so many Chinese people wanted to immigrate to Canada, even before it was Canada.
- How Chinese workers helped Sir. John A. MacDonald keep his confederation promise of a railway from sea to shining sea, and why that promise came at a cost of many of their lives.
- Why Dominion Day, now known as Canada Day, was known as Humiliation Day to many Chinese people.
- The story of Chinatown. Resource guide by PBS about San Francisco's Chinatown. Companion to Chinatown: A Portrait of a World-Renowned Neighborhood.
- His 30-year obsession with a monk. Article by Robert J. Wiersema, published by The Globe and Mail.
- Fusang, or, The discovery of America by Chinese Buddhist priests in the fifth century Book by Charles Godfrey Leland.
- The History of Canada's early Chinese immigrants. Government of Canada
- The Spell of the Poppy An in-depth look into the Opium Wars, presented by the CBC Podcast On Drugs.
- Chinese Immigration Act. The Canadian Encyclopedia.
- Canadian Steel, Chinese Grit. Documentary by Karen Lee.
- Chinese-Canadians get the vote in 1947. Archival report by Sudha Krishna for CBC News.
- Chinese Immigration Act, 1923. The Canadian Museum on Immigration at Pier 21.
- Chinatowns: Towns within Cities in Canada. Book by David Chuenyan Lai.
- Victoria Chinatown: The oldest surviving Chinatown in Canada. The Chinese Heritage Fund and Simon Fraser University