The quick succession of Vancouver’s first seven police chiefs between 1886-1907 is a unique example of how the construction of Vancouver’s Chinatown as a racial place had an effect on the Vancouver Police Department. Although claims of a purportedly vice ridden Chinatown were central to the turn of the twentieth century politicians and moral reformers’ desires to prevent inter-racial socialization, these claims had no immediate effect on Vancouver. Not until the reformers alleged the police department was corrupt and responsible for the apparently rampant gambling in Chinatown did they influence the department’s operation in Chinatown. This thesis looks at the process by which this rhetoric reinforced ideas about gambling in Chinatown and influenced the police department’s response to this problem. This process allowed moral reformers on Vancouver’s city council to consolidate their power over the VPD and force the VPD to rigorously police Chinatown. Although the reformers' influence on the VPD’s operations in Chinatown was not permanent, their efforts to characterize gambling as a distinctively "Chinese" vice facilitated their efforts to police social interaction between Chinese and non-Chinese people, and aided in the construction of Chinatown as a racialized space.
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Thesis advisor: Geiger, Andrea
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