Dominion Immigration House Site
Dominion Immigration Building Site
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Dominion Immigration Building was a large, two-storey brick building located at Dallas Road and Ontario Street in the James Bay neighbourhood of Victoria, British Columbia. Demolished in 1978, the site now contains a townhouse complex, surrounded on three sides by a low stone wall. Three identical plaques commemorating the site's past are prominently placed on each public face of the complex, Ontario and Simcoe Streets and Dallas Road.
The Dominion Immigration House Site is important for its historical, cultural and spiritual values, primarily for its former use as a federal government centre for immigrants arriving from Asia to the west coast of Canada, and as a reminder of the unjust imprisonment and bureaucratic racism that took place there.
The site of the former Dominion Immigration building has historical significance for its role as B.C.'s processing centre for Chinese, Japanese and South Asian immigrants. Between 1907 and 1957 thousands of immigrants were detained here, sometimes for months, before being permitted to land in Canada.
The Dominion Immigration House Site is valuable for its association with the systemic racism that greeted Chinese and other immigrants upon their arrival in Canada, and as a reminder of past restrictive government regulations for Asian immigration enacted through legislation such as the Chinese Immigration Act and the Head Tax. The enforcement of these exclusionary immigration policies by officers at the Immigration House often meant the segregation of detainees based on cultural background, with immigrants being held for days or even months before being interviewed, and enduring lengthy and intense interrogation.
The place is a valuable reminder of the impact of these government immigration policies on early Chinese immigrants to B.C., seen in the hardships endured by Chinese people during their incarceration, and in some detainees taking their own lives when denied access to Canada.
The physical aspects of the former Dominion Immigration building are important for illustrating the purpose for which it was built. The building was a formidable, prison-like structure, constructed of brick with interior concrete walls and bars across the windows. Wall fragments from the building reveal poems etched in Chinese characters and letters to loved ones in China. These material remnants have spiritual value as an expression of the pain of those detained at this site.
Source: Province of British Columbia, Heritage Branch
Province of British Columbia
Heritage Conservation Act, s.18
Provincially Recognized Heritage Site (Recognized)
1978/01/01 to 1978/01/01
1907/01/01 to 1957/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Governing Canada
- Government and Institutions
- Peopling the Land
- Migration and Immigration
Function - Category and Type
- Multiple Dwelling
- Customs Building
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Province of British Columbia, Heritage Branch
Cross-Reference to Collection