The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan


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Female Employment Act

Sylvia Fedoruk.
Office of the Lieutenant Governor

In the early decades of the 20th century, many Saskatchewan citizens regarded Chinese immigrants to the province with suspicion and hostility. The Labour movement supported legislation which would restrict the employment of Chinese workers, and community leaders expressed anxiety about the dangers of social contact. One of the responses to this current of public opinion was An Act to Prevent the Employment of Female Labour in Certain Capacities, enacted by the Saskatchewan Legislature in 1912, which prevented the employment of White women or girls in any “restaurant, laundry or other place of business or amusement owned, kept or managed by any Chinaman.” A Chinese businessman, Yee Clun, convicted of violating the statute challenged the Act on the grounds that it impinged on his right as a naturalized Canadian citizen to operate his business. The majority of the Supreme Court of Canada, though acknowledging that it did affect his rights, held that the essential purpose of the statute was to protect women and girls in a labour context, and that it therefore lay within the power of the provincial government to enact such legislation. In subsequent legislation, the Female Employment Act, the direct prohibition of employment of White women by Chinese men, was replaced by provisions which required any employer to obtain a license from the municipality to employ women; municipalities did on occasion use these provisions to prevent Chinese employers from hiring White female employees. These provisions were in place until 1969, when the statute was repealed as part of the consolidation of the Labour Standards Act.

Beth Bilson

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