Racism in Canada The common belief that Canada is far less racist then their neighbors to the south is perhaps one of the greatest falsehoods of North American society today. Through out history, Canada has been home to many race-based atrocities. Because of time and lack of media attention these events have been buried. To such an extent have these issues been neglected that the general public now cannot recognized them or discern them as part of their countrys past. Although recently over the past thirty to forty years Canada has been on the leading edge with human rights and in areas of equality between people / sexes, this has not always been the case. Canadas history has been just a recently blemished as that of the infamous United States.
Three examples that depict this downfall are: the Chinese head tax, the internet of Japanese Canadians during world war two and the open anti-Semitism of the early though mid nineteen hundreds. It is important that people begin to recognize the downfalls of our marvelous country rather then living in ignorance. The first example of open racism in Canada was shown shortly after the completion of the Canadian Nation Railway in 1885. The government chose to enact a law designed to restrict immigration access of Chinese to Canada. This law stated that any immigrant of a Chinese heritage was required to pay a head tax in order to become a resident of the country. The law was enacted primarily because the need for cheap laborers was no longer necessary due to the completion of the railway.
Unlike most other laws concerning immigration, this new tax was only directed towards people of a Chinese decent consequently singling out one minority group and purposely restricting their access. The head tax started an amount of fit dollars but was increased to one hundred dollars by 1900, it was again increased to a small fortune of five hundred dollars per person in 1903. On top of this, Newfoundland imposed an additional three hundred-dollar provincial head tax on top of the already high five hundred-dollar federal tax. Through the use of head tax, it is estimated that the Canadian government collected over 24 million dollars from approximately 81,000 Chinese immigrants. At the same time that this tax was being collected, the Canadian government was offering European immigrants financial and property incentives to move to Canada. This only showed the clear bias of the Canadian government towards the Chinese people.
This tax continued to be in effect until 1923 when it was replaced by the exclusion act. This exclusion act was set in place to prevent access of the Chinese to Canada entirely. The exclusion act was part of active law for nearly a quatre r of a century and during that time, only a total of seven people of Chinese descent were allowed into the country. The law was eventually revoked years after the end of World War 2 but, strictly enforced quotas were placed on Chinese immigrants, hence limiting the number of Chinese who were allowed into the country.
In addition, the Chinese were last to gain the right to vote in federal elections (1951) and even up to this point, the Canadian government refuses to compensate the remaining people who were effected by the unjust head tax of the past. Another example of Canadas racist history is the treatment of the Jewish. Unlike the underground racism of the United States during the 1920's, the Canadian attitude was quite open towards that of anti-Semitism. It wasnt uncommon to see signs on beaches or in public places, which read No dogs or Jews Allowed. Signs such as these were commonly found in major urban areas such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Furthermore, prominent political figures were openly attached to anti-Semitism groups.
Some examples include: Edouard Plamandon, Adrian Arc and and perhaps best known, Mackenzie King one of the prime ministers of Canada. These powerful people in Canadian society took the stance of openly praising Hitler, justifying German pogroms on the Jewish and denying safety in Canada to Jewish fleeing Nazi Germany. Furthermore, there were public newspapers which carried hate articles directed towards the Jewish community; perhaps most notably was the Sema in religieuse de Quebec. Although fully aware of the practices taking place, the government chose not to halt the obviously racist practices. As a result of the governments lack of intervention, the practices continued through World War Two until they finally declined to their loss of acceptance from the Canadian society.
The final example and perhaps the most prominent was the World War Two internment of Japanese Canadians. This event took less then sixty years ago during World War Two. Due to the involvement of Japan in WWII and the bombing of Pearl harbor in 1941, people of Japanese descent were sought out by the government and placed into internment camps located in the interior of the country. All possessions including homes, valuables, shops, boats etc were auctioned off. All proceeds from the auctions went not to the owners but rather to the Canadian government. When told of the internment, the government stated that the camps would be similar to small rural communities but in reality they were more similar to POW camps.
Unlike the U.S. who attempted to keep families together, Canada decided to separate the men from the women and children. The work camps that men were sent to, were designated by the government to be controlled conditions of productive work and settlement for the duration of the war". In reality Japanese men were subjected forced labour in fields on government farms and building the countrys infrastructure. Women and children were sent to other camps where they lived in poor living conditions for nearly two years till until the completion of the war. What made this a prime example of Canada racism was that earlier on in the war although some Germans and Italians had been detained, it was on an individual basis.
The primary difference is that, in the Japanese case, is that an entire group of was deprived of their freedom because they were Japanese. Furthermore, many of these potential threats were actually second generation Japanese who had never been to Japan or for that matter could speak Japanese. This internment was in direct violation of the freedom of over 28,000 people not because of their actions but rather, because of their appearance / race. Although there arent rows of endless crosses or fields filled with poppies to act as reminders to us today as to these events of our past, it is imperative that we as a people are not ignorant of their existence. Much like any war, hundreds of thousands of Canadian citizens fought for a better life not just for themselves but also for generations to come. Today perhaps more then ever it is important that we remember and accept these events of our past rather then burring them in history books.
Events such as the Chinese head tax, the Japanese internment, the open anti-Semitism of 1920's, Ukrainian internment, should be spoken and taught about before they are forgotten. Canada has not always been a country of tolerance and acceptance of multiculturalism and, we should not take it for granted. As stated in the common adage: If we dont learn our history, were subject to repeat it. contact for citation listing / bibliography.