by Joe Haw
Prairie Chinese restaurants are important symbols, highlighting the legacy and enduring presence of Chinese Canadians. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Chinese migrants were frequently mistreated, despite their important contributions to Canada’s development. Discrimination, coupled with poor English, meant few employment opportunities existed, so many Chinese men opened restaurants to make a living. A restaurant was a good decision since cooking was the only skill needed to run one, something many Chinese were already accustomed to doing. Chinese restaurants endure, with one present in almost every prairie town.
The Chinese contributed much to the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, thus they played a large role in developing Canada, which heavily utilized the railway for the transport of goods and settlers. Chinese men worked hard on the Canadian Pacific Railway for pay much less than white workers.
Chinese immigrants often ran their restaurants for the entirety of their lives, even passing it down to the next generation. Charlie Chew, shown above, started the New Dayton Cafe with his father, Hoy Fat Leong, in 1917.
Chinese immigrants still managed to serve the community despite all the racism they experienced. Sam Wong, the owner of the Carlton Café shown above, offered free meals to people in need as well as soldiers during World War II.