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Resources for Canadians of Chinese origin who wish to learn more about their personal connection to Chinese-Canadian history.
Last Updated: Jun 12, 2017 URL: http://guides.vpl.ca/ccg Print Guide RSS Updates

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Migration and Settlement in Canada

A majority of early Chinese immigrants to Canada came from Guangdong (Kwangtung) Province in South China's Pearl River Delta. For more information, see Back to China.

Knowledge concerning patterns of Chinese immigration and settlement in Canada may provide some insights into where your ancestors lived, worked and settled.

Detailed information on Chinese migration and settlement in Canada is provided in David Chuen-yan Lai's definitive study, Chinatowns: Towns within Cities in Canada (971.004 L18c), published in 1988 and in other titles listed in the Vancouver Public Library's Chinese-Canadian History subject guide.

Demographic information on the Chinese population is also found in historical census records, available in Literature and Social Science (Level 3) at the Vancouver Public Library's Central Branch and at other major libraries across Canada.

Tabs containing information for each Canadian province are available above.

The majority of early Chinese immigrants to Canada came to British Columbia. In 1881, 4350 people of Chinese origin resided in the province, representing 99.2% of the total number of Chinese in Canada.

Things had changed only slightly by 1891, when the census recorded 8910 people born in China and living in British Columbia. This amounted to 97.6% of the total number of people born in China and living in Canada.

By 1901, 14,201 people of Chinese nationality resided in B.C., accounting for 87% of the Canadian total.

As of 1911, the proportion of Chinese in Canada living in B.C. had decreased to 70% (19,568), but was not until 1951 that less than 50% of the Chinese-Canadian population resided in B.C.

According to the 2001 Canadian census, 373,830 people in British Columbia were of Chinese ethnic origin, but this figure reflects large waves of immigration following the end of restrictions on immigration (see History and Pioneers).

The historic distribution of Chinese immigrants in British Columbia is explored in detail in an article by David Chuen-yan Lai:

  • "Chinese Immigrants into British Columbia and Their Distribution, 1858-1970", Pacific Viewpoint, Vol. 14, 1973, p. 102-108.

The following books also explore the history of the Chinese community in British Columbia:

Brokering Belonging Chinese in Canada's Exclusion Era, 1885-1945 (2010)
Mar, Lisa Rose
971.1004 M29b

Chinatown: An Illustrated History of the Chinese Communities of Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax (2005)
Yee, Paul
971.004 Y42c

In the Sea of Sterile Mountains: The Chinese in British Columbia (1973)
Morton, James W.
323.1711 M88i

Inside Chinatown Ancient Culture in A New World = Yuduoli Hua Bu : Sui Yue Liu Hen, Gu Mao Xin Feng (2009)
Amos, Robert
971.1004 A52i
Memories of Cumberland Chinatown (1993)
Low, Philip C. P.
971.134 N17L9m

Saltwater City: An Illustrated History of the Chinese in Vancouver (1988)
Yee, Paul
971.1004 Y42s1

Sojourners in the North (1996)
Chow, Lily
971.1004 C55s

Yi Fao Speaking through Memory : A History of New Westminster's Chinese Community 1858-1980 (2008)
Wolf, Jim
971.1004 W85y

Yip Sang and the First Chinese Canadians (2011)
Hern, Frances
971.1004 S225h

For more on the Chinese community and genealogical research in British Columbia, see:

Before it became a province, Alberta was part of the North-West Territories. According to the 1881 census, no people of Chinese origin resided in the Territories.

By 1891, a combined total of 41 people born in China were living in the North-West Territories (although this does not necessarily mean that they were of Chinese nationality).

The 1901 census recorded 202 people of Chinese nationality living in the District of Alberta, representing a majority of the 252 Chinese residing in the four districts of the North-West Territories.

By 1911, Alberta had become a province and was home to 1787 people of Chinese origin.

Three decades later, in 1941, the Chinese population of Alberta was 3122. The largest Chinese communities were in Calgary (799), Edmonton (384) and Lethbridge (248).

According to the 2001 Canadian census, 108,050 people in Alberta were of Chinese ethnic origin, but this figure reflects large waves of immigration since the end of restrictions on immigration (see History and Pioneers).

The history of the Chinese community in Alberta is explored in the following books:

Chinatown: An Illustrated History of the Chinese Communities of Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax (2005)
Yee, Paul
971.004 Y42c

Moon Cakes in Gold Mountain: From China to the Canadian Plains (1991)
Dawson, J. Brian
971.23004 D27m

The Other Side of Gold Mountain: Glimpses of Chinese Pioneer Life on the Prairies from the Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection (2010)
Evans, Brian L.
971.2004 E92o
  • Includes biographical information on Lee Kee (a.k.a. Chung Kee), Edmonton laundryman.

For more information on the Chinese community and genealogical research in Alberta, see:

The Sien Lok Society is a Calgary-based organization dedicated to advancing and preserving Chinese-Canadian heritage.

Before it became a province, Saskatchewan was part of the North-West Territories. According to the 1881 census, no people of Chinese origin resided in the Territories.

By 1891, a combined total of 41 people born in China were living in the North-West Territories (although this does not necessarily mean that they were of Chinese nationality).

The 1901 census recorded 50 people of Chinese nationality living in the Districts of Assinboia East, Assiniboia West, and Saskatchewan, an area roughly corresponding to the modern province of Saskatchewan.

By 1911, Saskatchewan had become a province and was home to 957 people of Chinese origin.

By 1941, there 2545 Chinese residents in Saskatchewan. Moose Jaw had the largest Chinese community (261), followed by Regina (247), Saskatoon (206), and Prince Albert (103).

According to the 2001 Canadian census, 9,275 people in Saskatchewan were of Chinese ethnic origin.

The history of the Chinese community in Moose Jaw is explored in the following book:

Crossings: A Portrait of the Chinese Community of Moose Jaw (2005)
Smith, Heather
971.244004 S71c

For a general account of the Chinese community in Saskatchewan, see:

The Other Side of Gold Mountain: Glimpses of Chinese Pioneer Life on the Prairies from the Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection (2010)
Evans, Brian L.
971.2004 E92o
  • Includes biographical information on Jue Doey Gam (a.k.a. Chow Chow), a Saskatchewan businessman who owned and operated a combined hotel, cafe, confectionery, and bakery in Lacadena.

For more information on the Chinese community and genealogical research in Saskatchewan see:

According to the 1881 census, only 4 people of Chinese origin resided in Manitoba. By 1891, 31 people living in the province were born in China (although this does not necessarily mean that they were of Chinese nationality).

In 1901, Manitoba had 167 residents of Chinese nationality, while the 1911 census recorded 885 people of Chinese origin. This had risen to 1248 by 1941. In that year, the largest Chinese community was in Winnipeg (762). No other communities in Manitoba had more than 100 Chinese residents.

According to the 2001 Canadian census, 14,245 people in Manitoba were of Chinese ethnic origin.

For information on the history of Chinese pioneers in Manitoba, see:

Way of the Bachelor: Early Chinese Settlement in Manitoba (2011)
Marshall, Alison R.
971.27004 M36w

The history of the Chinese community in Winnipeg is explored in the following book:

Chinatown: An Illustrated History of the Chinese Communities of Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax (2005)
Yee, Paul
971.004 Y42c

For more on the Chinese community and genealogical research in Manitoba, see:

According to the 1881 census, only 22 people of Chinese origin resided in Ontario.

Although overall totals remained small, the numbers of Chinese residing in Ontario increased significantly in each successive decennial census. In 1891, 97 people born in China were living in the province (although this does not necessarily mean that they were of Chinese nationality). By 1901, there were 629 people of Chinese nationality in Ontario. 2766 people of Chinese origin were recorded in 1911.

According to the 1921 census, 14.2% of the Chinese in Canada were in Ontario. Beginning with the 1931 census, numbers rose more slowly, reflecting the impact of the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923.

In 1941, there were 6143 Chinese people in Ontario. The largest Chinese communities were in Toronto (2326), Ottawa (272), Windsor (259), and Hamilton (236). No other communities in Ontario had more than 100 Chinese residents.

After repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act, the pace of growth changed, at first gradually, and then accelerating, reaching 41.6% of the total Chinese-Canadian population by 1981.

According to the 2001 Canadian census, 518,550 people in Ontario were of Chinese ethnic origin, but this figure reflects large waves of immigration since the end of restrictions on immigration (see History and Pioneers).

The history of the Chinese communities in Toronto and Ottawa is explored in the following books:

Chinatown: An Illustrated History of the Chinese Communities of Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax (2005)
Yee, Paul
971.004 Y42c

The Chinese in Toronto from 1878: From Outside to Inside the Circle (2011)
Chan, Arlene
971.3004 C45c

For more information on the Chinese community and genealogical research in Ontario see:

According to the 1881 census, only 7 people of Chinese origin resided in Quebec.

Although totals remained small, the numbers of Chinese residing in Quebec rose sharply over the next two decades. In 1891, 36 people living in the province were born in China (although this does not necessarily mean that they were of Chinese nationality). In 1901, there were 982 people of Chinese nationality in Quebec, and the 1911 census recorded 1578 people of Chinese origin.

By 1941, there were 2378 Chinese people in Quebec. The largest Chinese communities were in Montreal (1865) and Quebec City (134).

According to the 2001 Canadian census, 63,000 people in Quebec were of Chinese ethnic origin but this figure reflects large waves of immigration since the end of restrictions on immigration (see History and Pioneers).

The history of the Chinese community in Montreal is explored in the following books:

Chinatown: An Illustrated History of the Chinese Communities of Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax (2005)
Yee, Paul
971.004 Y42c

Smoke and Fire: The Chinese in Montreal (1991)
Chan, Kwok B.
Ref. 305.8951 B94s

For more information on the Chinese community and genealogical research in Quebec see:

According to the 1881 Canadian census, no persons of Chinese origin resided in New Brunswick. The 1891 census recorded 8 people whose place of birth was China (although this does not necessarily mean that they were of Chinese nationality). In 1901, 50 persons of Chinese nationality were recorded in the province. In 1911, there were 93 people of Chinese origin in New Brunswick.

By 1941, New Brunswick had 152 Chinese residents. There were no Chinese communities of any significant size.

According to the 2001 Canadian census, 2,080 people in New Brunswick were of Chinese ethnic origin.

For more information on the Chinese community and genealogical research in New Brunswick, see:

According to the 1881 Canadian census, no persons of Chinese origin resided in Nova Scotia. The 1891 census recorded 5 people whose place of birth was China (although this does not necessarily mean that they were of Chinese nationality). In 1901, 84 persons of Chinese nationality were recorded in the province. In 1911, there were 134 people of Chinese origin in Nova Scotia.

By 1941, there were 372 Chinese people in Nova Scotia. The largest Chinese community in 1941 was in Halifax (127).

According to the 2001 Canadian census, 3,675 people in Nova Scotia were of Chinese ethnic origin.

The history of the Chinese community in Halifax is explored in the following book:

Chinatown: An Illustrated History of the Chinese Communities of Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax (2005)
Yee, Paul
971.004 Y42c

For more information on the Chinese community and genealogical research in Nova Scotia see:

According to the 1881 Canadian census, no persons of Chinese origin resided in Prince Edward Island. The 1891 census recorded only one person whose place of birth was China (and the person may not have been of Chinese nationality). In 1901, 4 persons of Chinese nationality were recorded in the province. In 1911, there were still only 4 people of Chinese origin in Prince Edward Island.

By 1941, Prince Edward Island had 45 Chinese residents.

According to the 2001 Canadian census, 225 people in Prince Edward Island were of Chinese ethnic origin.

The history of the Chinese community in Prince Edward Island is explored in the following book:

Chinese Islanders: Making a Home in the New World (2006)
Chiang, Hung Min
971.7004 C53c

For more information on the Chinese community and genealogical research in Prince Edward Island see:

The first Chinese immigrants came to Newfoundland in 1895. The community continued to grow steadily until 1906 when Newfoundland - which had not yet joined Confederation and remained a separate colony of Britain - passed legislation imposing a head tax similar to that introduced in Canada in 1885. Despite the $300.00 tax, Chinese continued to arrive in Newfoundland and the community gained a small footing in industries outside its traditional niche in laundries, such as iron ore mining and fishing.

Newfoundland became part of the Canadian Confederation in 1949. According to the 2001 Canadian census, 1,110 people in Newfoundland were of Chinese ethnic origin.

For more information on the Chinese community and genealogical research in Newfoundland see:

The Territories, with their small populations, have historically been home to very few Chinese. In 1941, there were only 3 Chinese in the Territories.

According to the 2001 Canadian census, 45 people of Chinese origin resided in Nunavut, 310 in the Northwest Territories, and 295 in Yukon.

For more information on the Chinese community and genealogical research in the Territories, see:

      

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