II-109594.1 | Portrait of an unidentified Chinese man, Montreal, QC, 1895

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Portrait of an unidentified Chinese man, Montreal, QC, 1895
Wm. Notman & Son
1895, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
8 x 5 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  male (26812) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

The diversity of the manpower presented a huge challenge to the labour movement. The unions were grappling with linguistic and ethnic barriers that hindered their attempts at mobilization. The employers soon saw the advantage of hiring a multi-racial, multi-lingual workforce lass liable to identify with workers' solidarity. In the late-19th century unionized workers suspected that immigration was a weapon to break strikes and sow discord within their organisations. They demanded amendments to the Alien Labour Act in an attempt to prevent the bosses from bringing in part-time workers and Chinese labourers. In British Columbia this attitude, tinged with chauvinism and racism, led to the formation of the Asiatic Exclusion League. In 1907 these tensions led to serious riots against the Chinese community of Vancouver.

  • What

    Between 1880 and 1885 the Canadian Pacific Railroad brought in 15,000 Chinese labourers to build the railway. These workers later spread all across Canada, establishing small communities in most cities.

  • Where

    The Chinese community of Montreal settled along De La Gauchetière Street, where the Chinese neighbourhood developed.

  • When

    This portrait of a Chinese man in Montreal dates from 1895, when some of the earlier immigrants from France and Great Britain and many Jews began to move to the outskirts of the city, leaving their former residences for new waves of immigrants.

  • Who

    Chinese immigrants found it increasingly difficult to bring their wives-to-be or their parents from China. The head tax imposed on every Chinese immigrant after 1885 rose from 100 dollars in 1900 to 500 dollars in 1903.