Emerging ideas and evolving ideologies have a profound impact on societies and how we view events. This webpage provides additional resources on political, social, and economic change, the disparities in power between the individual and the society, and how a collective identity can be constructed and changed over time.
The wife of merchant Chong Lee of the Kwong Lee Company arrived in Victoria, BC. She was Canada’s first female Chinese citizen. The photograph shown here is a studio portrait of an identified Chinese woman taken in Victoria, BC, circa 1870.
Royal Engineers either returned to Britain or have decided to settle in Coquitlam. They were considered the first group of settler residents in Coquitlam. The image shown here is a group portrait of the last of the Royal Engineers, taken in 1909.
The first known immigrant from Japan, Manzo Nagano, settled in Victoria, BC. The first wave of Japanese immigrants, called Issei (first generation), arrived between 1877 and 1928. By 1914, 10,000 people of Japanese ancestry had settled permanently in Canada.
The Canadian Pacific Railway company was formed to physically unite Canada from coast to coast. Chinese labourers were recruited to perform the most dangerous tasks of the construction. Many died while working due to the dangerous working conditions. Those who survived were not welcomed to stay in Canada after the construction completed. The image shown here is a photo of Chinese workers on the Great Northern Railway.
The Government of Canada passed the Chinese Immigration Act. This act was intended to limit the entrance of Chinese immigrants to Canada by charging each immigrant a head tax of $50.
First Sikhs in Canada. Sikhs began arriving in Canada at the turn of the 20th century. Some came to Canada as part of the Hong Kong military contingent en route to Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee (1897) and the coronation of King Edward VII (1902), and returned to Canada to establish themselves in British Columbia. Over 5,000 South Asians, more than 90 percent of them Sikhs, came to British Columbia before their immigration was banned in 1908.
The head tax is increased to $100. Since it was so difficult for Chinese workers to bring families to Canada it was common to take two photos, one of the people abroad, one of the family in China, and merge them together. This superimposed Chinese family portrait was taken in Vancouver circa, 1920.
The head tax increased to $500. The man in this photo, Soo Wing Chor came to Canada in 1923 and paid the $500 head tax. He was among the last group of Chinese immigrants to pay the head tax before the Federal Government effectively banned all immigration from China.
The Immigration Act passed, introducing a more restrictive immigration policy. This act significantly expanded the list of prohibited immigrants. Although the act did not specifically restrict immigration based on culture or ethnicity, it enabled the Canadian government to prohibit any group of immigrants they deemed unsuitable from coming to Canada.
Rodolphe Lemieux, then Canada’s minister of labour, travelled to Japan to negotiate an agreement to restrict immigration from the East Asian country. This led to what was later known as the Gentlemen’s Agreement.
The Gentlemen’s Agreement passes between Canada and Japan. This agreement restricted Japanese immigration to 400 men per year. This placed no restriction on the wives of these immigrants, which led to the picture bride phenomenon – Japanese immigrant workers in Canada and woman in Japan would exchange photos through a matchmaker. If they liked each other and wished to proceed with the marriage, the bride would then travel to Canada and unite with her groom. In most cases the prospective bride and groom would have only seen each other in pictures until this point, hence the name “picture brides.”
The Continuous Journey Regulation (an amendment to the Immigration Act of 1906) passed on April 10, 1908. This in effect blocked Indian immigration because passenger agents would not sell natives of India tickets to Canada. This also led to the SS Komagata Maru Incident in 1914.
BC Electric built a dam on Coquitlam Lake that prevented salmon from entering the lake and the connected streams. As a result, the Kwikwetlem lost their main food supply and were forced to become more reliant on settler’s economic systems, which heavily discriminated against Indigenous peoples.
The Komagata Maru, a Japanese Passenger Liner carrying immigrants from South Asia anchored in Vancouver’s harbour on May 23, 1914. The Canadian government denied passengers from landing in Canada on the basis of the Immigration Act. After a long standoff and confrontation, the ship left Vancouver waters on July 23, 1914, on the brink of WWI. The Komagata Maru incident was a gross display of injustice towards South Asian immigrants and exposed the fundamental unfairness of British ruling in India.
1914 – July
WWI began. The British Empire declared war on Germany on July 28, 1914. On the same day, Canada automatically entered the War due to Canada’s legal status as British Dominion (a self-governing nation under the British Empire). The image shown here is a wartime propaganda poster created by the United Kingdom Government for overseas recruitment.
1914 – August
The War Measures Act was adopted on August 22, 1914. This led to mass arrest and detention without due-process. Thousands of civilians were interned under the authority of the War Measures Act when the government labelled them “enemy aliens.”
WWI ended on November 11, 1918. According to the Canadian War Museum, close to 61,000 Canadians died during the war. Among them was Alexander Windram from Coquitlam. Before dispatching for Europe, he sent a postcard addressed to his daughter, saying “hope you are a good little girl, father will be home beside you some day again.” He died on the first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, one of the bloodiest battles of WWI.
The Chinese Immigration Act was replaced with the Chinese Exclusion Act, effectively banning Chinese immigration. This evoked stronger discrimination to the growing Chinese communities all over Canada, including Coquitlam. The photo shown here is a Coquitlam class portrait (likely from Millside High School), circa. 1928.
1939 – June
Jewish refugees feeling Nazi Germany abroad the MS St. Louis were turned away by the Canadian government. Eventually, they were forced to return to Europe, and many did not survive.
1939 – September
WWII began. Canada entered the war as Britain declared war on Germany on September 1, 1939. The image shown here is a newspaper clipping from The Vancouver Sun on the day Canada entered war.
1941 – December
Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. This triggered fear and hostility towards Japanese Canadians, most of whom were born and raised in Canada, and had little connection to Japan.
1942 – January
Prime Minister Mackenzie King ordered removal of all adult males of Japanese ancestry from the coast (January 14, 1942). This led to the mass-displacement of Japanese Canadians during WWII.
1942 – February
Cabinet approved Order-in-Council P.C. 1486. This led to the expulsion of approximately 21,000 Japanese Canadians from their homes.
WWII ended on September 2, 1945. More than 45,000 Canadian soldiers lost their lives to the war, including Hugh VanderVeen from Coquitlam. Hugh fought in the Royal Canadian Air Force. In 1944, his entire crew of nine went missing in action in a massive raid in Hamburg and were presumed dead. Hugh’s body was never found. To her dying day, his mother expected her son to return home, but he never did.
The Korean War began and will continue until July 27, 1953. This war created a large population of orphans. Approximately 180,000 were adopted by families in North America, Europe, and Australia.
Fairclough dismantles discriminatory policy during her term as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Ellen Fairclough oversaw improvements to the Canadian Immigration Service, but her most significant accomplishment was the radical reform of the government’s “white Canada” immigration policy. Regulations tabled in 1962 helped to eliminate racial discrimination in Canada’s immigration policy.
Canada and Korea formed a formal diplomatic relationship. This led to another surge in Korean immigration. Many Korean Canadians from this wave of immigration settled in Coquitlam and became part of the evolving identity of this city. The image shown here is a photo of Councilor Steve Kim posing in front of Hanin Village, a Korean Canadian cultural hub in Coquitlam.
Canada ended its immigration laws based on ethnic quotas, further eliminating racial discrimination in Canada’s immigration policy. However, myth and misinformation against immigrants still lingered after the 1960s and onward.
Vietnam War ended with the fall of Saigon (April 30, 1975). This led to a mass exodus of Vietnamese refugees to Canada and other countries. Between 1975-1976, Canada admitted 5,600 Vietnamese people as political refugees.
Canada introduced the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program, allowing private Canadian citizens to sponsor foreign refugees to safely integrate into Canada.
In the Singh Case, the Supreme Court of Canada concluded that a refugee has the right not to “be removed from Canada to a country where his life or his freedom would be threatened.”
The District of Coquitlam became the City of Coquitlam. As of 2022, it is the sixth-largest city in British Columbia. The image shown here is a newspaper clipping from The Vancouver Sun reporting on Coquitlam’s incorporation as a city.
The construction of the Coquitlam City Hall was completed. Located at the intersection of Pinetree Way and Guildford Way, the Coquitlam City Hall is the home of the Coquitlam City Council.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that immigration officers must consider children’s best interests before deporting their illegal immigrant parents. This ruling demonstrated Canada’s continuous effort to work towards more humanitarian immigration laws. The photo here shows Kosovar refugee children pose for a photograph in front of “sustainment site” facilities, Camp Argonaut (now Argonaut Cadet Training Centre), in Gagetown, New Brunswick.
Fraser Mill closes, marking the end of an era. The City of Coquitlam has re-zoned the area to include both commercial and residential use.
Chinese Head Tax Apology. Under much community pressure, Prime Minister Stephan Harper offered an apology to the Chinese community for the implementation of the head tax, which had been originally introduced in 1885. An official directive made in Parliament ordered compensation for the head tax of approximately $20,000 to be paid to survivors or their spouses.
MV Sun See incident occurred. Tamil refugees in Victoria on a Thai registered cargo ship with as many of 500 Tamil on board arrived in Canadian waters. The MV Sun Sea was intercepted by armed Canadian military vessels. Health and security officials boarded the ship in Victoria, BC, and the passengers were given medical check-ups. They were then moved to detention centers in the Vancouver area to await processing of their refugee claims.
Welcome to Coquitlam is established. The City’s annual Welcome to Coquitlam event was created to help newcomers learn about City programs and services as well as those provided in the community. The Coquitlam annual event is geared to both residents who are new to Coquitlam or Canada, as well as long-time residents; anyone who is interested in learning more about their City in encouraged to attend.
Formal apology for the Komagata Maru incident. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized for the Komagata Maru incident before the House of Commons. In 1914, a chartered ship carrying Punjabis who sought a better life in Canada was denied entry at the Port of Vancouver. A dramatic challenge to Canada’s former practice of excluding immigrants from India ensued. The passengers were finally turned away after a long legal ordeal, only to face a deadly conflict with police upon their return to India.