Kelowna’s Chinatown

Kelowna Chinatown map

Kelowna’s Chinatown

Like many minority communities around the world, Kelowna’s Chinese community once occupied a space on the margins.  Faced with social, economic, and political barriers to mainstream society, they created a district of their own.  In Chinatown, they could live, conduct business, and socialize away from prying eyes. This separation reinforced the mystique of a group of people who were poorly understood by the dominant culture.

The first wave of Chinese migrants journeyed to what is now British Columbia during the 1858 gold rush.  Along with the gold mining towns of Barkerville and Yale, widespread discoveries drew gold hunters to streams throughout the land, including Kelowna.

Many Chinese remained after gold fever subsided.  These were joined by a second wave of Chinese migrants who played a critical role building the BC section of the transcontinental railway.  After the last spike was pounded, these able workers dispersed across the province to communities where labour was needed.

Hundreds of Chinese men came to Kelowna to work in the burgeoning agricultural industry, where their hard work was rewarded with low pay. A few opened businesses. Legally prohibited from operating more lucrative businesses and higher paying jobs, they opened restaurants, hand laundries, general stores, and repair shops. By 1909, Chinese comprised 15% of Kelowna’s predominantly British population.




尽管华人对当地经济发展做出了贡献,但是他们却遭受种族歧视。历史上卑诗省政府曾颁发160多件排华法案,剥夺华人在加拿大社会的多种权利。联邦政府移民政策对华人社区影响尤其重大。1885年“华人移民法案”要求每名进入加拿大的华人必须交纳人头税。在随后短短的时期内,人头税从50加元增加到500加元,而在1900年左右加拿大华工的平均年收入仅约400加元。1923 年联邦政府再次颁布“排华法案”,全面禁止华人移民加拿大。1924至1947年间,该法案的实施使许多华人因留在家乡的妻子儿女不能前来加拿大团聚而饱受妻离子散之苦。由于加拿大政府对华人移民的限制,基隆那的华人人口逐渐减少。20世纪七十年代,基隆那的唐人街消逝了。




儘管華人對當地經濟發展做出了貢獻,但是他們却遭受種族歧視。歷史上卑詩省政府曾頒發160多件排華法案,剝奪華人在加拿大社會的多種權利。聯邦政府移民政策對華人社區影響尤其重大。1885年“華人移民法案”要求每名進入加拿大的華人必須交纳人頭稅。在隨後短短的時期內,人頭稅從50加元增加到500加元,而在1900年左右加拿大華工的平均年收入僅約400加元。1923 年聯邦政府頒佈“排華法案”,全面禁止華人移民加拿大。1924至1947年間,該法案的實施使許多華人因留在家鄉的妻子兒女不能前來加拿大團聚而飽受妻離子散之苦。由於加拿大政府對華人移民的限制,基隆那的華人人口逐漸減少。20世紀七十年代,基隆那的唐人街消逝了。


Chinatown Sign Project 2017

Finished product:

Distinctive sign with pergola roof at City Park across from Leon, comprising 2 - 5x5 aluminum panels coated with printed vinyl, fabricated by the City sign shop.   This sign replaces the existing sign designed by Fred Martin. The project dovetails with a related project to provide related content in more detail on The impact of the project is extended by a related installation at the Okanagan Heritage Museum.


  1. To commemorate Kelowna’s historic Chinatown, and reveal how systemic racism contributed to its rise and to fall.
  2. To recognize the contributions of Chinese people to Kelowna and to BC.
  3. To provoke interest in learning more on this topic by visiting the website, the museum, and the cemetery.

Questions people have:

Was there really a Chinatown here? Why? Where did it go?

The Big Idea:

Kelowna had a Chinatown because Chinese were both necessary to, and unwanted by, mainstream society during Kelowna’s development.

Other major points:

  1. Like many newcomers, Chinese people originally arrived in BC, on a quest for gold. Others arrived to construct the transcontinental railroad. After it was completed, they dispersed to open businesses and work where there was a need. In Kelowna, there was an acute need for agricultural workers.
  2. Although they were essential to the economy, and enriched the cultural landscape, racism was rampant in Kelowna.
  3. Excluded from mainstream society, the Chinese banded together. Chinatown grew out of a need for community and basic services.
  4. BC has a history of racist legislation, which had a devastating impact on the Chinese population in BC. This injustice was acknowledged in the 2014 Provincial Apology.
  5. As a result of the Chinese Exclusion Act, women and therefore families were scarce. Predominantly male, the local Chinese population dwindled and died off, and Chinatown was torn down.
  6. Chinese have made, and continue to make, Kelowna a better community.