From Huaqiao to Residents: The Chinese Experience in Kingston, 1875 to 1980
Origins of Kingston’s Chinese Community
The first Chinese immigrants arrived in Canada in the mid-1800s, drawn by the Fraser River gold rush in British Columbia and the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad across Canada. At the time, the Chinese immigrants who came to Canada, were almost exclusively male, both married and single, and sent their salaries back home to their families in China. These immigrants were known in Canada as “sojourners”, a term coined in 1882 by Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald. However, Chinese immigrants did not use this term and referred to themselves as “huaqiao”, meaning “overseas Chinese”.
The Fraser River gold rush ended in 1880 and the Canadian Pacific Railroad was completed soon after in 1885, resulting in a sharp decrease in demand for Chinese labour. As Chinese continued to arrive on the West Coast, many white Canadians believed that their jobs were being threatened by the growing immigrant population and the British Columbia provincial government passed several laws restricting the locations in which Chinese people could work, as well as their ability to be hired by employers. The federal government also enacted a Head Tax of $50 each on all Chinese entering the country in 1885. Chinese immigrants began to head east across Canada looking for work, and slowly began to reach central Ontario and the Maritimes. For Chinese coming to Central Ontario, Kingston was attractive and offered opportunities for advancement.
At the time, most Chinese came to Kingston from Western Canada or Toronto. These Chinese immigrants came almost exclusively from a rural background, and many were originally from Guangdong Province in Southern China, specifically the four counties of Sun-wui, Hoi-ping, Toi-san, and Yin-ping. Immigrants also came from the province of Fujian, the coastal neighbor of Guangdong.
These first Chinese immigrants found work in Kingston’s service sector or started their own businesses, usually laundries and restaurants. There is also some evidence that they sold items such as tea from their laundries as a source of extra income. Later generations began to enter other jobs, trades, and professions and, by 1941, the Kingston City Directory listed Chinese people employed in such varied fields as carpentry and stenography. Most Chinese lived and worked centrally in the downtown core of Kingston, where their business could cater to the surrounding residents, as well as targeting tourists and students. In Kingston, there was no “Chinatown”, an area of the city exclusively for Chinese businesses and residences, but most settled in the downtown core, along Princess Street between Division Street and Sydenham Street. By remaining close to one another, the Chinese community was able to support its members. It was also very common for Chinese residences to be attached to their businesses, adding to this sense of community. Accordingly, other Chinese clubs and organizations were often situated nearby.
Before the arrival of any migrating residents to Kingston, the first Chinese person to come to the city was a traveling lecturer named Wong Chin Loo, who delivered a lecture at Sydenham Street Church about life in China on November 18, 1875. He returned again in November of 1879 and gave a second lecture. A lengthy article in the British Whig accompanied this lecture, detailing aspects of life in China, from diet to religion, for all of Kingston to read. Wong Chin Loo was for the most part received with curiosity and courtesy but there was one incident where he was insulted for his style of dress and the way he spoke. He was the first recorded Chinese person in Kingston.
第一批华裔移民在金斯顿的服务业找到了工作或者是自己开业。最普遍的生意就是开餐馆和洗衣店。也有证据说他们为了更多的收入在洗衣店里卖茶之类的物品。他们的后代却开始找不同的工作和职业。1941年，金斯顿的姓名地址录列了在各种各样的领域的华人，比如木工业和速记。大部分的华人在金斯顿的市中心居住与工作。他们的生意供应给住在周围的居民, 以及游客和学生。金斯顿虽然没有一个独给华人商业和住宿的唐人街，大多数的华人选择居住在市中心沿着公主大道 (Princess Street) Division Street 和 Sydenham Street 之间。由于他们住的离彼此不远，金斯顿的华人群体可以互相照顾。许多家庭都选择住在他们生意的附近，让在金斯顿的华人有更多的社区意识。其他华人社团和组织也相应的位于这区的旁边。
在其他移民者来到金斯顿之前，第一个来到这城市华人是一个旅行演讲者, Wong Chin Loo。1875年11月18日，他在 Sydenham Street 教堂发表了一个关于在中国的生活的演讲。来年的11月，他再次回来发表了第二个演讲。一篇又长又详细的英国辉格的文章伴随了这个演讲，给所有的金斯顿居民读。文章包括了中国的生活的许多方面，诸如饮食与宗教。 他的演讲的大部分的反应是好奇和好意，但是有一次有人侮辱他的穿衣风格和他的口音。他是第一个在金斯顿被记载的华人。