APRIL 18, 2014
Chinese Canadian Immigrant Pipeline, 1912-1923
Chinese Canadian Immigrant Pipeline, 1912-1923
About this Visualization
This tool is designed to help visualize a decade in the patterns of immigration from China to Canada from 1912 to the imposition of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1923, broken down by month.

The data used is from the Head Tax Database, a record of all the Chinese immigrants who paid the tax imposed between 1885 and 1923 by the Canadian government in an attempt to control immigration and generate revenues. Data collected by enforcement officials from each registrant included information such as age, village and county of origin in China, last place of residence, occupation, height, and for the last 30,000 of the migrants coming after 1910, their destinations in Canada. Although hundreds of locations in Canada are represented in the full dataset, and the total number of entries is just under 100,000, in order to represent the data meaningfully, a subset of 4,000+ entries to 5 common final destinations was selected. The top two destinations—Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., were not used in order to focus on destinations in other parts of Canada. In order of popularity, these destinations were Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Nanaimo, and Ottawa. Each of the small balls represents a single person coming to Canada.

Although these destinations suggest that much Chinese immigration to Canada during this period was to the big cities or industrial towns like Nanaimo, it should be emphasised that this is only a fraction of the entire dataset and there were in fact thousands of Chinese who moved to small towns in rural areas, as some of the other visualizations of Chinese migration to Saskatchewan show.

This tool has three modes. The first breaks down immigration by the district of origin in China. We selected only the five most common counties of the eight which account for all of the Chinese immigration during the period. The second breaks down by occupation, split into four fairly loose categories – Labourers and Workers, Students, Merchants and their Families, and Others. The labourers and workers include a diversity of professions, ranging from the most common description of 'labourer' to highly specific positions like the 'Passanger Cook on the SS Indranvelli.' The students, it should be noted, are largely boys of school age who may in fact have been working as labourers of some kind. The category of 'Other' includes some rather interesting and unclassifiable professions like 'Priest' and 'Missionary.' The third mode breaks down by age group.

In the process of preparing the data for the visualization, we uncovered some intriguing trends that we sought to capture and which in part dictated which dimensions in the rich dataset we chose to present – we could even have made a mode breaking down immigration by height! Scrolling through or playing the visualization should reveal some of the changes that took place during the 1912 to 1923 period – a notable one since it was punctuated by the First World War, which Canada was involved in as a dominion of the British Empire. We hope the visualization serves as a tool that lets you discover some of these trends for yourself.

Chinese Canadian Immigrant Flows, 1912-1923
Spatial History