The Chinese Immigration Act, 1923

by setohj

What is the Chinese translation of the title “The Chinese Immigration Act, 1923”? With the approval of Parliament, the Governor General of Canada gave final assent to this law on June 30, 1923. Its purpose was to exclude the majority of Chinese from entering Canada.

In the BC Liberal government’s recent posting on their EmbraceBC website, their translation of the act appears in a Chinese version of one of their publications “Legislation Affecting British Columbians of Chinese Descent” (“影响卑诗省华人后裔的法例”). It translates “The Chinese Immigration Act, 1923” as “1923年华人移民法案”.  The word “act” in this government publication is translated as “法案” or in Mandarin pinyin: fa an. Most of the dictionaries I have consulted defines “法案” to mean a draft law not yet given authority by the government. In English we would call it a “bill,” or a proposed act. The only dictionary that I found which translates “法案” as “act” is the Far East Chinese-English Dictionary. Its definition nonetheless still suggests the notion of a draft piece of legislation that eventually becomes law: “a bill which has been passed by parliament; a law; a statute.”

What I find curious is that quite a few other publications use “法案” to translate the word “Act” when making reference to “The Chinese Immigration Act” or its more popular nomenclature “The Chinese Exclusion Act.”

Next week, I will be looking in The Chinese Times, a Chinese language newspaper founded early in the last century, and in David T.H. Lee’s book A History of Chinese in Canada to see how they translate the phrase “The Chinese Immigration Act.”