Chinese Canadians – The Largest Non-European Ethnic Group in Canada

Chinese Canadians represent the largest non-European ethnic group in Canada. They are largely concentrated in Toronto and Vancouver.

In the face of hostile public opinion and economic exclusion, Chinese immigrants built self-reliant communities known as Chinatowns. These served as a social, political and cultural oasis.

In a typical Chinese family, filial piety and loyalty are highly valued. Spending time with the family is expected and children are encouraged to be active in school.


Chinese people have a long history of migration. They moved mainly for economic reasons, and at their peak, over 20 million Chinese people had migrated abroad.

While many overseas Chinese adopted the local culture and developed a distinct sense of identity in their new homes, they also maintained strong ties to their homeland. This was in part due to a network of associations that were formed on the basis of dialect, kinship, or place of origin.

Chinatowns started to form in the mid-1900s as Chinese immigrants sought out business opportunities. In Oregon, they settled in southwest Oregon’s Josephine and Jackson Counties, in central and eastern Oregon’s Lane, Linn, and Marion Counties, and in northeast Oregon’s Baker, Wallowa, Morrow, and Grant Counties. They were primarily merchants and restaurant owners.

Languages spoken

As a country with vast geographical diversity, China is home to many different spoken languages. This diversity is largely due to the fact that mountains and rivers have often served as natural barriers, isolating communities and fostering the development of distinct localized linguistic forms.

Standard Mandarin, or Putonghua, is the most widely used dialect. It is also the official language of China and is taught in schools throughout the nation.

Shanghainese (Wu) is another popular dialect, while Hokkien (Min Nan) is spoken in parts of southern China. Hakka is a distinct dialect with unique phonetic features, and is found in regions of the country with significant historical Hakka migration. Gan, which is spoken in Jiangxi and surrounding areas, is a closely related language to Hakka.


As the only Asian nation with its own unique language and religion, China’s culture is a blend of deeply embedded traditions and recent, fundamental change. As China has become more receptive to outside influence, Chinese people are becoming increasingly international in their outlook and behaviour.

Most Chinese conduct is guided by the notion of ‘face’, an aspect of their culture that represents their social standing, reputation and dignity. People avoid losing face by acting in ways that may offend others, even unintentionally.

The first Chinese communities in London formed a small note in the medley of voices that could be heard on the city’s streets and at the Old Bailey. Men from these communities, who could not bring their families, tended to live in the East End of London, particularly in Poplar and Stepney around the docks and the Strangers’ Home.


There is much diversity in Chinese culture, including religions and beliefs. The term religion (zongjiao) is used in the sense of a set of beliefs and practices rather than a denominational affiliation.

A large percentage of Chinese people worship deities or spirits. Almost six-in-ten say they care somewhat or very much about choosing auspicious days, and nearly half believe in fengshui. Similarly, a majority believe in the concept of luck and carry a lucky charm or amulet to bring good fortune.

The Chinese government continues to crack down on house churches. ChinaAid and Bitter Winter have reported that authorities pressure individuals to renounce their faith and threaten to withdraw employment, education opportunities, and social welfare benefits. They also have repressed Christian organisations, closed churches, and forced landlords to terminate leases for unregistered venues.


Throughout the year, Chinese festivals celebrate traditional values of family and cultural heritage. They are a great opportunity for brands to create marketing content that resonates with Chinese consumers and build loyalty for their products and services.

The most prominent of these celebrations is the Chinese New Year, which starts on the first day of the lunar calendar and lasts for a week. It is celebrated both in China and overseas by Chinese emigrants.

The Lantern Festival is held a few days after the Chinese New Year and is an occasion to appreciate the full moon. People enjoy tangyuan, or sweet glutinous rice balls, and mooncakes. The Qingming or Tomb Sweeping Festival is a religious holiday to worship ancestors and exorcise evil spirits. It is also a time to spend family reunions.

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