Emergence of Canada’s New Chinese Immigrants

Different waves of Chinese immigrants arrived in Canada over time, regulated by conditions in China and Canada’s admission policy. These waves brought different types of Chinese, and the development of the Chinese community was shaped partly by Canada’s policy of admission and integration of the Chinese and partly by the composition of the Chinese arriving there.

Three Waves of New Arrivals

Three types of Chinese immigrant arrived in Canada over time. From the second half of the nineteenth century until the end of World War II, the Chinese who migrated to Canada were mainly peasants and workers from Fujian and Guangdong. Between the end of World War II and the mid-1990s, Hong Kong was the main source. These post-war Hong Kong immigrants were more diversified in occupation than their predecessors. After the 1980s, immigrants from mainland China to Canada, many of them highly educated, began to replace those from Hong Kong. This latest wave produced what is often referred to as the “new Chinese immigrants” in the overseas Chinese population, to distinguish them from earlier waves.

The conclusion of World War II put an end to Canada’s policy of excluding Chinese, and limited numbers, mainly relatives of those already in Canada, were allowed to enter. However, the Cold War of the 1950s and 1960s made direct immigration from mainland China difficult. Despite the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Canada and the PRC in 1971, the volume of immigration from the PRC to Canada remained small in the 1970s and 1980s. Between 1968 and 1976, immigrants from Hong Kong accounted for more than two-thirds of the total number of immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China to Canada (Li 1998: 99).

Immigrant landing data indicate that the level of immigration from Hong Kong was several thousand annually in the early 1980s but began to rise after the mid-1980s, eventually peaking at more than 44,000 in 1994 before dropping to 22,000 in 1997 (Fig. 17.1). Thereafter, immigration from Hong Kong to Canada kept falling and remained insignificant, at a level of fewer than 1000 a year after 1999. In contrast, immigration from the PRC was below 5000 a year between 1982 and 1989 but rose to more than 14,000 in 1991, largely because Canada allowed several thousand visa students from the PRC at Canadian universities at the time to remain as permanent residents in Canada as a result of the 1989 student protest and crackdown in China. After 1993, the immigration level from the PRC continued to rise, reaching almost 20,000 in 1998 and more than 40,000 in 2001, before falling back to 33,231 in 2002. The number continued to exceed 36,000 in 2003 and 2004, and was more than 42,000 in 2005. The annual number of immigrants from the PRC has declined slightly since but

Immigrants from the PRC and Hong Kong admitted annually to Canada by landing year, 1980-2009 (Source

Fig. 17.1 Immigrants from the PRC and Hong Kong admitted annually to Canada by landing year, 1980-2009 (Source: Data from 1980 to 2009 compiled from microdata file of Permanent Immigrants Data System, 1980-2009, Citizenship and Immigration Canada; data from 2010 to 2013 updated from Facts and Figures: Immigrant Overview Permanent Residents, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 2015)

remains at a relatively high level, close to 30,000 per year (Fig. 17.1). In the 24 years (1990-2014) after 1989, 647,728 immigrants arrived in Canada from the PRC, accounting for 11 % of the total number of immigrants admitted. Immigrants from Hong Kong made up only 4.6 % of Chinese immigrants to Canada between 1990 and 2014, and only 0.25 % of the total between 2000 and 2014.

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