Young Canadians are generally aware of the role the Chinese immigrant labourers played in the building of the railway across Canada. The story of the East Indian immigrants who were denied access to Canada in the Komagata Maru incident of 1914, is less well-known, in spite of many articles, books, a theatre performance, and a recent documentary film (Continuous Journey 2005) on the subject. However, the story of Sikh and Chinese immigration and employment, in the time between the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the virtual closure of South Asian immigration after 1914, has not been told and is not known to most Canadians
Canadians are also generally unaware of the impact of the immigration restrictions imposed by the Canadian federal and provincial governments on the early Chinese and Sikh (East Indian) immigrants. Also generally unknown are the kinds of contributions these early immigrants made to the development of Canadian industry in sectors other than the railway, laundry and the lumber industry.
The film, Beyond the Gardens’ Wall addresses the gap in our knowledge of Canadian immigrant history by telling the unknown story of a specific group of about 200 Chinese and Sikh immigrant workers who came to Victoria in the early 1900s. The story of their experiences due to immigration restrictions has been revealed by dedicated research for over 40 years, and it is now time to release it to all Canadians and the international community.
This film tells a unique new story of a multi-racial immigrant community that was harshly impacted by Canada’s restrictive “Head Tax” and “Continuous Journey” immigration laws. The Asian workers in this community were actively prevented from bringing their wives and families to Canada. In spite of the official discrimination, the different immigration groups in the community worked together relatively smoothly at a time when racism was leading to rampant discrimination elsewhere in B.C.
In bringing to light, and to life, the story of this lost community, Beyond the Gardens’ Wall makes an important contribution to the history of the Chinese and Sikh people in Canada. The story of the immigrant workers of Tod Inlet is also important to the interpretation of the history of Gowlland Tod Provincial Park and the world famous Butchart Gardens, a National Historic Site, which share the community’s rich history.
The film addresses the following immigration restrictions:
- The Head Tax immigration restrictions (under the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, revised in 1903) and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923 experienced by the Chinese-Canadian community
- The Continuous Journey clause (an Order in Council under the The Immigration Act of January 8, 1908), the required possession of $200 per person, and the restriction of women and children under 18, regulations that affected the Indo-Canadian community