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After receiving royal assent on July 10th of the previous year, the Head Tax on Chinese Immigrants is officially increased to $500, in an attempt by the federal government (with pressure from prominent Vancouver politicians) to restrict Asian immigration.
“Every person of Chinese origin, irrespective of allegiance, shall pay into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of Canada, on entering Canada…a tax of five hundred dollars,” states the text of the bill, which has been modified several times since its introduction.
When originally instituted, the Head Tax was $50, roughly equal to the average annual savings of a Chinese labourer in Canada. However, it failed to discourage Asian immigration, and so, in 1900, the amount was doubled to $100. In 1904, after a Royal Commission was appointed to study the matter, the federal government raised the tax for the final time, to $500 – roughly equivalent to two years’ wages for the average Chinese immigrant.
“It will be a good thing for British Columbia when this phase of the Oritental question is forever put out of business by ceasing to be a question,” says Senator William Templeman. “That is what we are trying to do here.”
None of the local papers make any mention of the event.
Despite the exhorbitant fees, Asian immigrants will continue to arrive in Canada until 1923, when the Federal Government will completely halt all Chinese immigration.
IMAGE: Chinese labourers at the Royal City Planning Mill, shortly after the fire of 1886. Image courtesy of the Vancouver Public Library.