The History Of Chinese Food In Canada
Chinese food was introduced to Canada by the Cantonese that built the Canadian Pacific Railway. Fifteen thousand Chinese immigrants workers laboured to build the railway, which was finished in 1885. After the construction of the railroad, which connected Quebec to British Columbia, Chinese immigrants settled across Canada in rural and urban areas, particularly Vancouver. These immigrants set up restaurants and food stands that sold traditional Chinese cuisine. In many towns, the first and sometimes the only restaurant would be a cafe that sold Cantonese food.
Railway Workers and Canadian Chinese cuisine
The railway workers would set up food stands in their railroad camps. The food that was cooked in these stands began to evolve and reflect the local Canadian palate and preferred serving methods. This is how the genre of Chinese Canadian food was born. The Canadian railway workers encouraged the Chinese cooks to serve the food family style, rather than individual servings.
2nd wave of Immigration
After the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885, the Chinese were discouraged from immigrating to Canada, through a tax of $50, that was due from each immigrant upon arriving in Canada. This tax, enacted in 1885, was later raised to $100 in 1900, and was $500 by 1923, which effectively halted the influx of immigrants from China. The Canadian government also passed the Chinese Immigration Act, which explicitly prohibited nearly everyone of Chinese descent from entering Canada. The Chinese that remained in Canada were excluded from holding any professional positions by law. This is how so many Chinese ended up in the restaurant industry.
Finally, the exorbitant immigration tax and Chinese Immigration Act, were lifted in 1947. More Chinese filtered into Canada, particularly during the 1960's-1980's. This wave of immigrants chose to settle in urban areas, particularly Vancouver and Toronto. Both cities had already established "Chinatowns" with built in communities. Often, the Chinese that came over would end up working in a relative's restaurant to pay off his/her travel debts.
Canadian Chinese cuisine today
The Chinese are the largest immigrant group in Canada, with Chinese, the 3rd most spoken language in the country. Today there are Chinese restaurants in almost every town in Canada, no matter how small. There are many styles of Chinese cuisine, that hail from different regions and cultures of China. The original food-stands, eventually gave way to drive-ins, after the invention of the automobile.
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