Head Tax

Although Chinese workers were crucial to building the Canadian Pacific Railway, as soon as the cross-Canada railroad was completed in 1885, the Federal Government imposed a $50 Head Tax on Chinese coming to Canada. This racially discriminatory tax was applied only to the Chinese, and despite exemptions made for a small number of diplomats, clergy, merchants, students and scientists, the tax produced a heavy financial burden. The tax also created a major source of revenue split by the B.C. and Federal government over the next four decades--by 1923 when Chinese were legally excluded from entering Canada, over $22 million had been raised. Detailed records kept track of every Chinese entering Canada, as well as the thousands who were already in Canada 1885. Ironically, these records of over 97,000 Chinese have given us a remarkable glimpse at who they were, allowing descendants to search for them and researchers to study their impact on Canada.