Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Race, Labour, and The Architecture of White Jobs: Chinese Labour in British Columbia’s Salmon Canning Industry, 1871-1941

Document type Thesis
Author Eeg, Devin Ainsworth
Degree M.A., History
Publisher University of British Columbia; Vancouver, B.C.
Date 2017
Pages 67 pages


Chinese migrant workers in North America have typically been regarded in two ways by historians: either as competitive threats to white workers, or as workers isolated within ethnic niches. Few scholars have examined cases where Chinese workers complemented or supported the labour of others. This thesis looks at Chinese labour in British Columbia’s salmon canning industry between 1871 and 1941, arguing that Chinese workers were foundational to white fishing jobs in the province. Drawing on company records, Government reports, newspapers, and oral interviews, I examine Chinese manual labour, labour politics, and wages as three areas where Chinese workers upheld the labour of fishers in a nominally “white” industry. As such, this thesis offers a different outlook on the structural entanglement of race and labour in British Columbia in the seventy years after the province joined the Canadian Confederation.