Montreal’s Chinese Community Faces Discrimination After Tension With Canadian Police

The Chinese Community Gathered to Denounce RCMP Allegations of Secret Police Stations

Chinese community organizations spoke out against the RCMP’s allegations on May 5. Photo Jiawei Hong

In March 2023, the RCMP accused the Chinese Family Service of Greater Montreal (SFCGM) and Centre Sino-Québec (CSG) of hosting secret Chinese government police stations. 

In a press conference held at the SFCGM on May 5, at the Chinese cultural and community centre in Montreal's Chinatown, the independent senator Yuen Pau Woo defended the SFCGM and CSG. They are demanding transparency and accountability from the authorities.

“And they suffered…not you, not the Minister, not the RCMP, but the individuals who would come here for services, and who are hesitating to come because they worry about what might happen if they come here, they are the ones suffering,” said Woo.  

Investigations of the illegal activity of so-called police stations by RCMP are still actively ongoing

Chinatown Roundtable head May Chiu said this allegation is the latest example of Sinophobia and anti-Chinese racism that began with Donald Trump’s comments blaming the COVID-19 pandemic on China in 2020. However, things may be more complicated than they seem.

The fears and hatred towards the Chinese government has been brought down to the Chinese population in society. 

“This anti-Chinese hate and racism is always simmering below the surface, and from time to time it bubbles up,” Chiu said. “Despite commemorations of the Exclusion Act, which prohibited all immigration of Chinese labourers for 10 years, and despite the apology for the head tax that was given by Stephen Harper, the racism never went away.”

The SFCGM and CSG have been helping Chinese Quebecers for years. However, according to Chiu, these community centres have been heavily stigmatized. The services suffered from funding cuts that have left them at continued risk of closure. The workers, who are mostly women, are fearful because they may lose their livelihood. It has come to a point that community members are now afraid of being investigated if they visit the centres.

However, racism doesn’t span only in the government itself. Pauline Wong, one of the participants of the press conference, has been involved with the SFCGM for over 22 years. She says things are more complicated than they seem, with immigrants and international students having difficulty integrating due to language barriers, for instance.

“There are too many people who need help, and nobody is there to help them, so that's how it all started. The seed was planted. It's been 47 years now that Family Services is in operation.” Wong said. 

Sinophobia affects the Chinese community in all aspects of life. According to Wong, the RCMP’s allegations make it more difficult for Chinese community members to rent out buildings in Montreal. 

Sinophobia has also reached the court systems in Quebec. Walter Tom, an immigration lawyer and the spokesperson of Progressive Chinese of Quebec, thinks the burden of presumption has been flipped backwards to a point where the racialized minorities have to prove their innocence. 

“When the racialized community member speaks, they can never speak as a Canadian or as a Quebecer, they're all stigmatized as being part of the other,” Tom said.

Tom’s grandfather immigrated to Canada and was a victim of the Chinese Head Tax in Canada. While he believes the country has progressed since then, he finds it shameful that the Chinese Canadian community continues to experience racism and legislation exclusion to this day. 

For now, the Chinese community is hoping the Quebec government takes action with transparency and holds itself accountable.