NüVoices Podcast #82: Chinese Canadian Immigrant Histories with Arlene Chan and Melanie Ng

In this episode of the NüVoices podcast, historians Arlene Chan and Melanie Ng chat with us about the first Chinese migrants who made their way to Canada in the 19th century. From there, Arlene and Melanie retrace the throughline of Chinese Canadian migration, from exclusionary anti-Chinese immigration laws to present-day sinophobia found in many Western countries today.

We also learn about Arlene’s trailblazing mother, Jean Lumb, who played a major role in changing Canada’s racist immigration laws.

Throughout the episode, we hear from Sheila, a Chinese immigrant in her 80’s who came to Canada following the turmoil of WWII and the Chinese Civil War. Many thanks to Solarina Ho, who hosted this episode and Joanna Chiu, who recorded Sheila’s riveting first-hand account of her immigration journey.

About Arlene: Arlene Chan is a historian and activist. She has authored or co-authored more than half a dozen books focused on the Chinese diaspora in Canada, especially the early days of the community in Toronto. From the first Chinese resident ever recorded in the city’s directory, to the development of Chinatown, she has documented the lives of some of these early Chinese immigrants who built our Chinatowns and who carved out incredible lives under enormously difficult circumstances. Her mother, Jean Lumb, played an important role in not only saving Canada’s Chinatowns, but also in changing Canada’s racist immigration laws. She wrote about these laws in her book Righting Canada’s Wrongs: The Chinese Head Tax and Anti-Chinese Immigration Policies in the Twentieth Century.

About Melanie: Melanie Ng is a 4th-year PhD student with the history Department at the University of Toronto. She has been a museum educator with the Royal Ontario Museum, and her research focuses on the power dynamics that transpacific empires, racial thinking, and state legal apparatuses had over the movement of Chinese migrants across imperial boundaries and state borders in the late-nineteenth to twentieth century. In particular, she nvestigates the clandestine migration networks that transpacific Chinese migrants developed and used to circumvent and challenge Canada’s discriminatory, exclusionary immigration laws.

About SolarinaShe is a freelance reporter and writer with more than 15 years of journalism experience, most of which was spent at one of the world’s largest and oldest news agencies, Reuters. She currently writes on a broad range of health, general, and business news for various publications and organizations, with a particular focus on COVID-19. Her personal areas of interest include topics related to China, women’s issues, media/journalism, parenting and children, immigration, the environment, space exploration, technology, and pop culture (mostly television).