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The treatment of migrant labour in Canada reveals the limited extent to which immigration was actually open to all. Chinese labourers had long been attracted to British Columbia, previously working in the fur trade and joining mine workers by the time of the Gold Rush of 1859. After Confederation and following the beginning of railway construction, larger numbers of Chinese migrants, first from California, later from Hong Kong, arrived in British Columbia. When an American contractor began building the B.C. section of the CPR, the numbers of Chinese labourers significantly increased. Between 1881 and 1884, some 15,701 Chinese males came to British Columbia, many to work on the railway.

Local prejudice grew against these newcomers who were characterized as "unassimilable" migrants. Negative stereotypes of Chinese males circulated in local press editorials
and in B.C.'s legislature. Local complaints against Chinese and Japanese labour consistently ebbed and flowed with the province's economic booms and busts, and usually intensified in periods when locals believed that poorly paid Asian labourers were taking jobs from Euro-Canadians. During more difficult economic periods, fears rose that the "Yellow Peril" would "inundate" the British race.

Historical Context

1867-1914: Fitfull Growth:
Foundations page four