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Young Adult Nonfiction Prejudice & Racism

Righting Canada's Wrongs: The Chinese Head Tax and Anti-Chinese Immigration Policies in the Twentieth Century

by (author) Arlene Chan

James Lorimer & Company Ltd., Publishers
Initial publish date
Oct 2014
Prejudice & Racism, Canada, Canada, Emigration & Immigration, Politics & Government
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2014
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 13 to 18
  • Grade: 8 to 12
  • Reading age: 13 to 18


The first Chinese immigrants arrived in Canada in the mid-1800s searching for gold and a better life. They found jobs in forestry, mining, and other resource industries. But life in Canada was difficult and the immigrants had to face racism and cultural barriers. Thousands were recruited to work building the Canadian Pacific Railway. Once the railway was finished, Canadian governments and many Canadians wanted the Chinese to go away.
The government took measures to stop immigration from China to Canada. Starting in 1885, the government imposed a Head Tax with the goal of stopping immigration from China. In 1923 a ban was imposed that lasted to 1947. Despite this hostility and racism, Chinese-Canadian citizens built lives for themselves and persisted in protesting official discrimination. In June 2006, Prime Minister Harper apologized to Chinese Canadians for the former racist policies of the Canadian government.
Through historical photographs, documents, and first-person narratives from Chinese Canadians who experienced the Head Tax or who were children of Head Tax payers, this book offers a full account of the injustice of this period in Canadian history. It documents how this official racism was confronted and finally acknowledged.

About the author

ARLENE CHAN, a third-generation Chinese Canadian, is a retired librarian and author of non-fiction works for children, young adults, and adults on Chinese festivals and the Chinese in Canada. An avid dragon boat racer and gold-medalist on the Canadian National Women's Dragon Boat Team, she lives, writes, and paddles in Toronto.

Arlene Chan's profile page


  • Winner, Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books for Kids & Teens Starred Selection
  • Winner, Resource Links The Year's Best - Non-Fiction Grades 7-12

Editorial Reviews

"An excellent resource for students doing a school or family genealogy project, or for those with an inquisitive mind. Once the book is opened, the photographs will definitely catch the attention and spark the interest of the reader."

The Deakin Review of Literature

"A wonderful series [Righting Canada's Wrongs] of beautiful books."

Times Colonist

"Arlene Chan has done a masterjob authoring this book...The Chinese Head Tax is a powerful story. Deeply moving and hugely important are the many recollections offered by eight Chinese Canadian who suffered with their families as a result of the head tax and the 24 years of the Exclusion Act. High school students and teachers of Canadian history and human rights courses will learn much from this book. Sadly, one of the lessons is that Canada has not always been a "just" society. Highly Recommended."

CM: Canadian Review of Materials

"...suitable for young readers of grade five and above.They will get more out of reading this book if they are guided by parents or teachers who can help them better understand and appreciate the complex issues and historical occurences."

The Dealing Review of Children's Literature

"The visuals are spectacular and will surely be a drawing card for students at the upper elementary, junior and senior high levels who might be studying this topic in their Canadian social studies programs...I would recommend this title for all schools and public libraries. These are topics our students need to be informed about in order to understand and appreciate our history. Rated E, excellent."

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