Socio-Economic Segregation

Chinese were segregated socially, economically and politically. For example, they were not permitted to sit on the lower floor of the Victoria Opera House but had to sit in the upper gallery. Chinese people were not permitted to swim in the City’s Crystal Swimming Pool. A store manager in Victoria prohibited Chinese customers from entering the store every Saturday night from 7 to 10 p.m., claiming that many White women patronized the store at this time and did not like to see too many Chinamen around staring at them.  A permit from the sheriff was required for intermarriage. When White girls married Chinese boys, the marriage always ended mysteriously. For example, Amanda Clapton married Lee Land, a Chinese store owner in Victoria, in September 1908.  After spending their honeymoon in Vancouver, they were seen on the ferry returning to Victoria. The couple disappeared before the ferry reached Victoria. In the same year,  Amy Morris of San Francisco, intended to marry Lee Barker, a Chinese merchant in Victoria, but was soon deported by the police as “undesirable.”

By 1912, the Legislature of Saskatchewan, passed an Act to prohibit Chinese restaurants, and other small businesses, from employing White women. Similar acts were later passed in British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario. The regulation led to protests not only from Chinese merchants but also from White women. Eventually this discriminatory regulation was replaced by an Act requiring merchants to apply for a special permit to employ White women. This employment issue was  soon followed by Chinese student strikes over educational segregation. In 1921, 90 Chinese children under Grade 4 in Victoria had been placed in a segregated school and only about 150 Chinese students in senior grades were mixed with about 6,000 White children in public school. In September 1922, the Victoria School Board lined up all the non-segregated Chinese students and took them to a segregated school. Parents told their children to return home and began a strike. The year-long strike ended after the School Board, under pressure from Ottawa, churches and public opinion, backed down from its complete segregation policy. In 1920, the Federal Government passed a bill to disqualify persons from voting federally if they were not permitted to vote provincially.  As a result, professional societies could exclude anyone whose name was not on the voting list, without specifying race. Hence, Chinese people could not become lawyers, pharmacists, or doctors in British Columbia and some other provinces.