In recent years, many people have moved to North America from China, but many people
do not know that Chinese people have a long history in Canada and the United States.
During the nineteenth century, both Canada and the United States were rapidly
expanding to the west, toward the Pacific Ocean. In those days, there were of course no
cars or airplanes to allow people and goods to move across the land. Instead, the best
method of long-distance transportation was the railroad. Railway trains could move
quickly across the countryside. However, there was one problem: before the railway
trains could run, railroads had to be built across very long distances.
To build the railroads was a very big job. Many men would be needed because the
distance was so long and the land was so difficult, with many mountains and rivers to be
crossed. For the men who owned the railroad companies, it would have been too
expensive to hire Canadian or American men to build the railroads because those
workers would only work for high wages.
The railroad owners decided to get workers from overseas. Many Chinese men were
willing to work for low wages because they were very poor. These men would work very
hard and send much of the money back to their relatives in China.
Thousands of Chinese men were brought to North America to work on the railroads. They
did good work, but their employers treated them badly. The work day was very long, and
working conditions were very unsafe. Many Chinese men died in accidents while
constructing the railroads. Some Chinese women also came to North America, but there
were many more men than women.
After the railroads were completed, by about the year 1900, very few Chinese people
were allowed to come to North America. Most people in Canada and the United States
were not familiar with Chinese people and did not want strangers to come to their
countries. Any Chinese person who came to North America had to pay an expensive tax.
This made it difficult for Chinese men to bring their wives and families to join them in
North America. Later, the governments of Canada and the United States made Chinese
Eventually, the people of Canada and the United States realized that their laws had been
unfair. They changed the rules so that Chinese people could immigrate in the same way
that people from other countries could do so. In recent decades, many Chinese people
have moved to North America, and have formed a very lively and successful community.
Many cities, such as Toronto, Vancouver, San Francisco, and New York, have been
enriched by Chinese culture. Chinese people are now very prominent in North America,
just as they were many years ago.