Wed. Jun 19th, 2024
The early development of Canada was built on oppression — The cross-country railway that connected the lands, that were forcefully taken from the Canadian indigenous peoples, was built by the cheap and exploitable Chinese labours. Despite being given full apologies, the discrimination of the past still affect the indigenous and Chinese Canadian communities. The legacy of colonization still remains but is swept under the rug — The damage of racism is still occurring. 

In the past 12 months, there are two events: The discovery of unmarked graves in a former residential school site and the pandemic-related racism against Chinese Canadians.

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Many Canadians were surprised by the unmarked graves and nation-wide protests because they believe offical reconciliation with the First Nation communities has already been “accomplished” by the government and Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They are unaware that the apology and reconciliation processes are not mandated to engage both sides, as perpetrators are not included in the process.

The Truth and Reconciliation commission continues to avoid the systemic and structural issues of residential schools and other institutionalized racism against the Indigenous peoples. The whole process is controlled by the commission, with the victims to testify and provide information only. So, the process is more of a reconciliation pronouncement on the part of the government and commission. The victims themselves had no input into what the reconciliation settlement should be. Thus, the past harms and ongoing legacy of assimilation policies are never being held accountable.

The mainstream Canadians generally believe that Anti-Chinese racism is a thing of the past since the government of Canada had already issued a full apology for the Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923. I do not want mainstream Canadians to think that Chinese Canadians have already gotten their “reconciliation” with the state of Canada. Prime Minister Harper’s apology in 2006 was a grand gesture, but it was not a “full redress” settlement. The government of Canada controlled the whole settlement process, as the victims and their descendants had no input into the redress settlement should be — This settlement was partial redress. The apology by Harper was a political move in response to Canadians and the world becoming more aware of Canada’s status as “Multicultural” country.

Furthermore, there is a concept that the Chinese do not need sympathy for past suffering since the Chinese are the “Model Minority” — a stereotype of Chinese Canadian being affluent and well-educated. This stereotype is a false concept to discriminate against the Chinese and undermine the seriousness of Anti-Chinese racism. Many Canadians do not acknowledge the harms of racism; they believe that racist bias are just jokes, and that the Chinese Canadians might overacted to their “silly” jokes. This is a serious matter. When the society is peaceful, racism is present, though socially submerged. However, when there is pressure or crisis like the recent pandemic and Trump’s anti-Chinese rhetoric, the ugliness of racism gets pushed to the surface, exacerbates Anti-Chinese sentiment, and makes it more overt.

In bringing to light the histories and experiences of Indigenous and Chinese Canadian people, the legacy of colonialism remains as the damage of racism is occurring. From the institutionalized racism like the Indigenous residential school and Chinese Exclusion Act to the recent events like the discovery of unmarked graves and pandemic-related discrimination, the “multicultural” Canada is not exempt from racist legacy. Only by acknowledging racism and discrimination can we educate ourselves and speak out against injustices. It is only by standing united, putting efforts together to take a stand against the aftermaths from our shared past of racism and oppression.


Burney, Shehla. Coming to Gum San: The Story of Chinese Canadians. Toronto: Multicultural History Society of Ontario, 1995.

Dere, William G. W. Being Chinese in Canada: The Struggle for Identity, Redress and Belonging. Douglas & McIntyre, Madeira Park, BC, 2019.

Chan, Arlene. “Chinese Head Tax in Canada”. The Canadian Encyclopedia, 3 June 2020, Historica Canada. Accessed 3 September 2021.

Chan, Arlene. “Chinese Immigration Act”. The Canadian Encyclopedia, 7 March 2017, Historica Canada. Accessed 3 September 2021.

James, Matt. “Recognition, Redistribution and Redress: The Case of the “Chinese Head Tax”.” Canadian Journal of Political Science, vol. 37, no. 4, 2004, pp. 883-902.

“Library and Archives Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Web Archive.” Government of Canada. Library and Archives Canada, 2019, Accessed 3 September 2021.

Llewellyn, Jennifer. “Bridging the Gap between Truth and Reconciliation: Restorative Justice and the Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation Commission” in M. Brant-Castellano, L. Archibald, M. DeGagne, eds. From Truth to Reconciliation: Transforming the Legacy of Residential Schools (Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2008) 183.

Nayler, Jade. “In search of Gold Mountain: My father’s Chinese head tax story”. CBC News Canada. May 24, 2021. Accessed 3 September 2021.

35 thoughts on “Legacy of Colonzation and Damage of Racism: Disenfranchisement of Canadian Indigenous and Chinese”
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