Arlene Chan

Country of Origin:



Immigration, Asian Heritage, Racism/Discrimination, Human Rights & Social Justice, Identity & Heritage, Multiculturalism & Diversity


    Browse while you listen: images with relate to audio


A third-generation Chinese Canadian, raised in Toronto’s Chinatown, Arlene retired as a manager/librarian at the Toronto Public Library to pursue writing. The author of six books, including The Chinese in Toronto from 1878 (2011) and The Chinese Community in Toronto (2013), she is working on a book about the Chinese head tax and exclusionary era.


Having grown up in Toronto's Chinatown. I have fostered a deep interest and understanding of the development of the Chinese community in Toronto. My mother who was born in Nanaimo, BC, was the first Chinese Canadian woman to receive the Order of Canada for her role in helping to change Canada's immigration laws that prevented family reunification and in saving Chinatown from further demolition. My father paid the $500 head tax when he arrived in Canada from China as a nine-year-old. They both faced adversity and anti-Chinese discrimination. My mother had to attend a segregated school. She lost her citizenship when she married my father and took on the official status of "alien." Her family was turned away from renting housing in the 1930s. Despite these obstacles, my parents became active not only in the Chinese community but also in the mainstream society where they broke many glass ceilings. A charitable organization has been established to recognize excellence in high school students of Chinese heritage (