Chinese Head Tax

As more Chinese immigrants came to Newfoundland in the first few years of the twentieth century, some people in the Dominion began complaining about them. Some were disturbed by the arrival of people who came from a culture so different from their own. Labour leaders argued that the Chinese would work for less money than native-born Newfoundlanders, and could take away their jobs if allowed to come in great numbers. In 1904, Newfoundland politicians began talking about ways to restrict Chinese immigration. The Canadian government had been restricting Chinese immigration since 1885, when they forced all Chinese people coming to Canada to pay a $50 fee, known as the Chinese Head Tax. By 1903, the Canadian Chinese Head Tax had been increased to $500.00. (Chinese Head Tax in Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, Chinese immigrants continued to come to Newfoundland. When fifty Chinese men arrived in St. John’s on a single day in early May, 1906, the debates in the Newfoundland House of Assembly and Legislative Council intensified. Politicians discussed implementing a head tax similar to the one imposed in Canada. Not everyone was against the Chinese, and they had defenders in both the community and among politicians. Eventually, the legislators who wanted to discourage Chinese immigration prevailed. On August 8, 1906, the “Act Respecting the Immigration of Chinese Persons” came into effect, requiring all Chinese immigrants to pay a tax of $300.00 – a hefty sum, equivalent to approximately three years’ wages in Newfoundland at the time. Between 1906 and 1949, over 300 Chinese people were forced to pay this tax. No other national or ethnic group coming to Newfoundland faced this kind of restriction.

Head Tax Certificate