Pre-Immigration

In the spring of 1788 Captain John Meares, a British fur trader, recruited 50 Chinese smiths and carpenters from Macao and Guangzhou (Canton), and set sail for Canada. On 13 May, the Chinese arrived at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island, and in the following year another 70 Chinese workers were brought in by Captain Meares. They helped him build a fortress and a 40-tonne schooner. Their craftsmanship, obedience and diligence impressed him so much that he wrote in his memoirs: “if hereafter trading posts should be established on the American coast, a colony of these men should be a very important acquisition.” His remarks were prophetic. The supply of cheap Chinese labour was nearly indispensable in opening the virgin land of British Columbia. In the summer of 1789, the Spaniards arrived at Nootka Sound and fought with the British. What happened to the Chinese is still a mystery as some were imprisoned by the Spaniards, some escaped and some might have been killed. For 69 years after 1789 there was no written evidence of further Chinese arrivals on the western coast of Canada.