Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

The Development of the Chinese Community in Saskatoon

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

The Development of the Chinese Community in Saskatoon

Article excerpt


The history of Chinese immigration to Canada started when the first group of Chinese labourers arrived in the West Coast and joined the workers building the Pacific Railway. Initially they were segregated from mainstream Canadian society in physical, social and cultural ways. Nevertheless, over time, they have gradually integrated into the Canadian society by living and working resiliently and collaboratively. After Canada became more multicultural, Chinese Canadians and other immigrants have been increasingly integrated and continue to contribute to the diverse, mobile and vibrant society in Canada. According to the National Household Survey (NHS) in 2011, the Chinese in Canada numbered about 1,487,580 (Statistics Canada 2011). They made up 21.1% of the visible minority population and 4.4% of the total population. A majority (82.4%) of the Chinese in Canada reported single Chinese ethnic ancestry, and a considerable proportion of them reported multiple ethnic origins (17.6%). Among the immigrants whose mother tongue was not one of the two official languages, Chinese languages were the most common mother tongues.

In the past decades, there have been a number of book projects recording and exploring the history of Chinese communities in some of the provinces or regions within Canada, especially British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta (e.g., Chan 2013; Dawson 1991; Morton 1973; Wickberg 1982). Information about many ongoing Chinese community-based projects can be found on the Internet as well, for example, "Chinese-Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia," "Chinese-Canadians: profiles from a community," "The Chinese Experience in British Columbia: 1850-1950, Nanaimo Chinatowns project," and so on. However, a similar research project has never been found on the Chinese community in Saskatoon. Even regarding the larger Chinese community in Saskatchewan, we can only find projects which either briefly include it as a part of the Chinese population on the Prairies or focus on the initial Chinese community in Saskatchewan which was formed in Moose Jaw (Dawson 1991; Lee and Smith 2005). Historically, the Chinese community has been developing side by side with the City of Saskatoon and the Province of Saskatchewan, and the Chinese immigrants have come together to develop a unique regional culture and identity. Therefore, it becomes important and necessary to fill this gap by exploring and analyzing the past and present experiences of the Chinese community in Saskatoon.

The discussion in this article starts with a background overview of the early discriminating laws and policies as well as public racism against the Chinese in Saskatoon, which largely echoed the discrimination and hostility faced by the Chinese throughout Canada. The discussion continues to explore three primary aspects of the development of the Chinese community in Saskatoon: 1) the demographic trends in the community, which have been intertwined with changes in immigration policy since the early 20th century; 2) the socioeconomic changes of the Chinese population in the city; and 3) the development of Chinese organizations in Saskatoon, their primary roles in the Chinese community, and the special structure and culture among these organizations which distinguish this Chinese community from the ones in larger metropolitan areas like Toronto and Vancouver.


The discussion in this article relies on community-based research which uses two types of data: secondary data including published statistics and information from government publications, academic and non-academic publications, and newspaper articles; as well as first-hand interview data.

The published statistics and literature allow us to identify the major demographic patterns and significant historical trends and events related to the Chinese population in Saskatoon, and to discuss the impacts of institutional and socioeconomic changes on the Chinese community there. …

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