Racism & Sinophobia

Unfortunately, members of Brantford's Chinese community faced racism and Sinophobia on both a local and a national level.


The first Chinese immigrant to Brantford, Lee Lett, arrived in 1885 hoping to set up a laundry, but left town again only two weeks after his arrival due to the racism and hostility he encountered. He was harassed by locals, his windows were smashed with rocks, and the townspeople even threatened to "ship Lee Lett in a cattle car to Guelph".


Expositor articles constantly referred to Chinese community members using the term "celestial" and other racial slurs. Some articles even went so far as to mockingly reproduce the accents of their interview subjects.


Chinese proprietors of both restaurants and laundries faced accusations of uncleanliness and poor workmanship. An ad was run in the Expositor in January 1924 by a white launderer in the city under the headline "Canadians of Brantford -- Where do your bundles go?", scolding Brantfordians for taking their clothes to Chinese-owned laundries (which they called "not very conducive to good health" and accused of "[depriving] not less than 10,000 Canadians of employment") and urging them to demonstrate their "Canadianism" by "[patronizing] Canadian businesses".


On the national level, Chinese Brantfordians had to contend with racist legislation. From 1885 until 1923, those hoping to emigrate from China had to pay a head tax, which was raised to $500 in 1903 - a prohibitive sum for most. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923 prevented many Chinese immigrants who were already in Canada from bringing their families over to join them in their new home. The Act was not repealed until 1947.

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