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White Canada : a Japanese view of Canada's oriental problem Kawakami, Kiyoshi Karl, 1875-1949 1913

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LIKE other British colonies, Canada regards its territory as closed
to Oriental races. The watchword is "White Canada." That mystifying yet singularly appealing expression has been industriously exploited,
especially by those affiliated with the
labour unions on the Pacific Coast.
And yet Canada's treatment of
Asiatic races cannot be said always
to have been severe. True, it raises
against the Orient a barrier as insurmountable as that erected in other
exclusive countries, but those Asiatic
immigrants who were allowed to enter the country in accord with the
provisions of the immigration law
Canada has as a rule treated with
consideration and even leniency. She
has extended to the Orientals the privilege of naturalization and even of
securing homesteads. Even in British Columbia, the stronghold of the
anti-Oriental agitation, no such discriminatory laws as have been proposed and enacted in California have
been introduced in its Legislature.
There the Japanese and Chinese are
permitted to conduct business and
cultivate land, not only unmolested,
but enjoying all privileges enjoyed
by British subjects in Canada. They
can own land, both urban and rural,
and in Provinces other than British
Columbia they even enjoy voting privileges.
The question arises: "Why of all
Provinces and Territories  does Bri-
tish Columbia alone discriminate
against the Orientals in the matter of
franchise ? " In the Yukon Territory
there are about a hundred Japanese,
most of whom are naturalized, while
in the Provinces east of the Eockies
what small number of Japanese there
are have also sworn allegience to Canada. All these naturalized Japanese
exercise the franchise just as though
they were native Canadians. But in
British Columbia the Japanese,
though free to become Canadian subjects, are not allowed to cast a ballot.
The reason for this discriminatory
measure is not far to seek.
British Columbia does not issue
fishing licence to aliens. When Japanese fishermen were brought into the
Province they found it necessary to
secure naturalization certificates in
order to obtain fishing licence. Thus
it came to pass that almost ninety per
cent, of the naturalized Japanese in
British Columbia are fishermen, many^
of whom are uneducated, if not illiterate. The wisdom of naturalizing
such immigrants is open to question,
but in as much as the Province had
to rely upon them for the exploitation of one of its most important economic resources, it had to give them
naturalization certificates. Naturalization in such circumstances means
little more than the granting of fishing privilege. It does not necessarily
mean that the recipients of citizenship certificates are ready to become 194
faithful subjects of the Empire, nor
that they intend to reside permanently in Canada. Not a few of such
Japanese do not see much difference
between the fishing licence and the
naturalization paper.
Under such circumstances we can
fully understand, and even sympathize with, British Columbia when it
over-rode the Dominion law and deprived naturalized Japanese within
its jurisdiction of the right of casting the ballot. Certainly those Japanese fishermen who are not bona
fide citizens of the Dominion have no
moral right to protest against this
Provincial measure.
And yet the fact remains that this
discrimination is in obvious contravention of the naturalization law of
the Dominion. Besides, it wrongs
those Japanese who have obtained naturalization certificates in good faith,
and are to all intents and purposes
desirous of remaining loyal subjects
of the British Empire. It is estimated that up to 1911 some 3,091
fishermen were naturalized. Granting
that some of these men have since returned to their native country or passed into the unknown shores, there
must still be more than 2,000 naturalized Japanese engaged in fishery. It
would be unjust to presume that all
of these fishermen are ignorant and
otherwise unqualified to vote, for my
personal observations lead me to believe that some of them are intelligent and are sincerely desirous of
swearing allegiance to their adopted
country. Moreover, there are in British Columbia some five hundred naturalized Japanese who are not fishermen, but who are, in intelligence
and moral character, the equal of the
average immigrant from any European country. The interest and welfare of this class of Japanese it would
be the duty of British Columbia and
Canada to safeguard, especially since
the naturalization law obviously
means to extend the franchise to all
naturalized aliens.
At the same time British Columbia
has the right to prevent the injection
of undesirable elements into its body
politic. How, then, can the Province
find the way out of this dilemma ? To
me the way is clear. Issue fishing licence quite independently of naturalization paper; in other words, extend
fishing privilege to aliens, so that no
ignorant fisherman, whether Oriental
or European, need be naturalized simply because he is needed for the perpetuation of the salmon industry.
This is the policy adopted by most
States in the United States. California, for instance, issues fishing licence to any alien upon the payment
of an annual fee of $10. I do not see
why British Columbia cannot adopt
a similar policy. On the other hand,
all aliens, naturalized in conformity
to the laws of the Dominion, should
be allowed to enjoy all privileges,
civil and political, enjoyed by the citizens of Canada, This British Columbia can afford to do, once she has
found the way to secure labour for
the promotion of the salmon industry
without at the same time admitting
ignorant fishermen into citizenship.
British Columbia's peculiar manner of dealing with the naturalization
question naturally created a grievance among those Japanese who secured citizenship certificates in good
faith. A few years ago these Japanese sought redress through legal channels. In the Provincial courts their
claim was upheld, but the Privy
Council at London, to which the Province carried the case, virtually overruled the decision of the courts by
declaring that the franchise can be
exercised by naturalized foreigners
only when the Provincial Government
recognizes their fitness as voters.
Prom the purely legal point of view
there is still room for the Japanese to
urge their contention, but the real
remedy—a remedy satisfactory to
both parties—should be found, I believe, on the line suggested in the foregoing passages.
At present Canada has within its
boundaries 12,000 Japanese, as against
40,000 Chinese. The cry of "White
Canada" was first raised in the eighties against the Chinese. In 1885 the
first anti-Chinese law was passed, imposing upon each incoming Chinese
a poll tax of $50, and permitting the
steamers to bring only one Chinese
immigrant per each ton of the capacity of each vessel. In 1901 the poll
tax was raised to $100, and in 1904
to $500; yet during the past several
years Chinese have been coming in in
much larger numbers than Japanese.
The restriction of Japanese immigration follows a line totally different from that followed in dealing with
Chinese immigration. The Japanese
are not required to pay any poll tax
which is not imposed upon European
immigrants. In accord with the pro-
visons of the general immigration law
they must possess upon their arrival
in Canada at least $25 during the
eight months from March to October,
and from November to February,
when demand for labour becomes less,
at least $50. But there is between
Canada and Japan, as between the
United States and the Mikado's Empire, a sort of "gentleman's agreement." This understanding, entered
into in 1908, admits Japanese only of
the following classes:
1. Settled agriculturists.
2. Parents, wives, and children of
resident Japanese.
3. Those coming back to Canada to
resume their residence or business.
This agreement was the immediate
outcome of the unscrupulous act of
some self-seeking Japanese and Canadians who brought Japanese from
Hawaiian plantations by the shipload. Prior to 1907 the Japanese
Government of its own accord restricted the emigration of its subjects
to Canada, and thus prevented the
immigration question from interfering with the cordial relations existing
between Canada and Japan. But in
that year a body of Japanese in Vancouver, in complicity with their Cana-
adian associates, broached the idea of
importing    Japanese     labourers    in
Hawaii in order to supply the unprecedented demand for labour created
by the general prosperity then prevailing in Canada and the United
States. For this specific purpose these
men chartered a steamer and began
importing Japanese on a large scale.
The result was that during the twelve
months from July 1, 1907, to June 30,
1908, there were 7,601 Japanese immigrants, showing an increase of
5,500 as compared with the figures
for the preceding year.
This sudden influx of Japanese
labourers naturally aroused among
the labouring class a hostile feeling
against the Japanese. About this
time the Exclusion League of San
Francisco, having established a
branch office in Seattle, was striving
to extend its influence to British Columbia. Fowler, the man in charge
of the Seattle office of the League,
came to Vancouver, instructed by his
chief, O. A. Tveitmoe, to fan the anti-
Japanese sentiment alrealy stirred up
by the influx of Hawaiian Japanese.
The result was the Vancouver riot of
September 7th, 1907. On the evening
of that day several hundred labourers
marched through Powell Street to
demonstrate their hostility against
the Japanese. On the whole, these
men were orderly and apparently had
no intention to resort to violence. But
some of them, under influence of liquor, uttered vile epithets and attacked some Japanese, and broke the
windows of a few Japanese stores.
The Japanese readily accepted the
challenge, and the scene that followed
was one of violence and disorder.
When the scuffle ended several men
of each group were seriously wounded.
Alarmed by this outbreak, the Dominion authorities sent special com-
missoners to Japan to negotiate an
agreement for the restriction of Japanese immigration. The result was
an exclusion agreement much of the
same nature as that between Japan
and the United States. Before 1907
Japanese immigration to Canada was 196
not very large. In 1904 there were
only 354 immigrants, in 1905 1,922,
and in 1906 2,042. In 1907, as we
have already noted, the figures suddenly increased to 7,601. Then came
the immigration convention, as the
result of which Japanese immigration
suddenly declined to 495. In 1909 it
continued to decline, the figures for
the year being 271. In 1910 there
wrere 437 Japanese immigrants, and
in 1911, 765. It must be borne in
mind that the majority of Japanese
immigrants now seeking Canadian
shores are not fresh immigrants, but
those who were in Canada before and
are coming back to resume their residence or business there. In the following table we observe that Japanese immigration since the conclusion
of the "gentleman's agreement" is
much smaller than Chinese immigration:
Year. Japanese. Chinese.
1908-1909     495 1,887
1909-1910     271 2,156
1910-1911     437 5,278
1911-1912     765 6,247
Not only has "White Canada"
erected a barrier against the Chinese
and Japanese, but it is even more
strictly excluding the Hindus, who
are, like the Canadians themselves, the
subjects of His Britannic Majesty.
Up to 1905 Hindu immigration to
Canada was a negligible quantity, but
in the year following there are 2,124
immigrants from East India, and in
1907, 2,623. Then Canada took immediate steps to check the further influx of Hindus, as the result of which
there  were   only  six  immigrants  in
1908. Since that year the figures
have remained almost stationary, the
number for 1911 being only three.
The treatment accorded the Hindus
in Canada is much the same as that
given them in the United States. This
is undoubtedly due to the fact that
the East Indians are in their religious
practices, customs, and appearance,
far more exotic than the Japanese,
and even the Chinese. Even as the
Chinese used to regard the queue as
the inalienable appendange to the
head, so the Hindu clings to the turban almost with reverence, and is furthermore wedded to peculiar ideas
and habits born of the religious conceptions and practices of his native
country. Such ideas and habits, when
better understood, may be found
harmless and unobjectionable, but as
yet they are a puzzle to the Occidentals, and in consequence the cause of
aversion and repugnance. In the
United States, and especially on the
Pacific Coast, I saw Hindu immigrants, unable to secure a lodging,
sleep in deserted, ramshackle buildings and unoccupied barns. It is
probably much the same story in British Columbia.
In Canada the Hindus are not only
refused the franchise, but are forbidden to bring their wives or children
with them and establish family relations. At one time the Canadian
Government went so far as to form a
scheme for the wholesale deportation
of East Indians to Honduras. The
scheme was not carried out, as the
Hindus refused to go, but the Parliament at Ottawa adopted in 1911 an
immigration law providing a clause
which made it virtually impossible
for the Hindus to enter the Dominion. That clause provides that no immigrants "who have come to Canada
otherwise than by continuous journey
from the country of which they are
natives or citizens, and upon through
tickets purchased in that country or
prepaid in Canada" shall be admitted. Innocent on the face of it, the
clause is to all intents and purposes
directed against the Hindus, who consider it •' cruel, vexatious and tricky.''
To understand the Hindu point of
view one need only recall that there
is no direct steamship service between Canada and East India, and
that no steamship companies in India
will issue through tickets to Canada.
This discriminatory measure has been
the cause of bitter complaint on the
part of the Hindus. "The Canadian
Immigration Law,"  says   a   Hindu
writer, "has laid a clearly defined
line between His Majesty's subjects
of Canada and that of India, in the
face of the bold and clear proclamation of our late Queen Victoria. It
is a puzzling riddle to be solved that
in India we are British subjects, in
England we are British subjects, but
in Canada, to legalize our British
citizenship right, we have to secure
another deed to that effect."
Canada is "white." Oriental immigration as compared with that
from Europe is insignificant. In the
fiscal year 1911-1912 immigrants to
Canada totalled 354,237, of whom
only 1,845 were Orientals—6,247 Chinese, 765 Japanese, and three Hindus.
And yet there are plenty .of alarmists
trying to conjure up the phantom of
an Oriental domination. Through the
activities of such alarmists various
anti-Oriental bills have been occasionally introduced in the Legislature,
both Dominion and Provincial. Some
of such bills are no doubt put forward for the purpose of wooing the
labour vote and need not be taken at
their face value. The Province of
Saskatchewan, for instance, adopted
two years ago a law prohibiting the
Orientals, keeping stores and amusement places, from employing white
And yet when I was travelling in that Province last year I
came across in the City of Moose Jaw
two Japanese young men operating a
prosperous restaurant where all waitresses were Canadians of English or
French descent. I found the establishment one of the best restaurants
in the city, and patronized by the
leading business men and the best
classes of residents. The city authorities were fully informed of the
enactment of the new law with regard
to the employment of white women
by Orientals, but they could see no
sense in applying such a law to a respectable Japanese restaurant. Its
proprietors,      educated,      intelligent
men, were themselves married to
Canadian women of respectable families, and were among the best citizens of the city. Why molest their
legitimate business simply because
some politicians wanted to curry favour with a radical segment of the
labouring class? So these Japanese
were permitted to conduct their restaurant as if the employment law had
never been passed. Yet the existence
of such a law was highly repugnant
to the Japanese, and it was but natural that the Japanese Consul at
Vancouver requested the authorities
of Saskatchewan to exempt the Japanese from the scope of this law. The
Provincial Government graciously responded to the request, and the Japanese merchants and business men are
no longer subject to that discriminatory law. So far as other Oriental
peoples are concerned, that law still
remains valid.
The story of the Japanese restaurant-keepers in Moose Jaw is but one
of many instances of the fact that the
Japanese are possessed of essential
qualities to make good citizens. A few
years ago these Japanese donated
$500 to the Young Men's Christian
Association of Moose Jaw, and find
staunchest supporters among the religious workers of the city. In Vancouver and Victoria there are a number of public-spirited, intelligent Japanese, who should be allowed, as
their brothers in other parts of Canada, to exercise the voting privilege,
as do other Canadian citizens.
The principle represented by the
catchword "White Canada" is not
necessarily a wrong one, but Canada
would do well to reflect that all
"whites" are not "good whites."
Moreover, while Canada is admitting
the Chinese by the thousand, it is barring out the subjects of the most advanced and enlightened country in
the Orient, an allay of the British Empire. Again, in the fiscal year 1911-
1912, Canada admitted South and
Eastern European immigrants as follows: 198
Bulgarians        3,295
Hebrews        5,322
Poles        5,060
Russians        9,805
Turks            632
Greeks        693
Italians        7,590
Roumanians           793
Servians           209
Syrians           144
In the United States many authorities on the immigration question are
beginning to realize the danger of admitting without restriction immigrants of the races represented in the
above .table. If Canada's enormous
natural resources cannot be developed
without recourse to immigrants it
would seem the part of wisdom on
her part to conceive her laws so as to
receive only desirable immigrants,
both from Europe and Asia.
It is much to be hoped that Canada and the British Empire will not
permit the shibboleth of "White Canada" to be exploited by those pseudo-
publicists and self-styled patriots who
have their own axes to grind. It is
just such publicists and patriots who
constantly raise the hysterical cry of
"Japanese domination." They say
that the Japanese have placed in their
political programme "the occupation
of British Columbia," when in reality, Japanese immigrants are merely
peace-loving, law-abiding, unobtrusive souls, desirous only of improving
their lot in life in this new world of
opportunity.    They say that the Ja
panese have "settled down in British Columbia in solid phalanxes of
10,000 or more at a time and place,"
when the entire Japanese population
in Canada does not exceed 14,000, of
whom less than 4,000 are in Vancouver.
All such alarmist notes are sounded
chiefly, if not merely, for the purpose
of creating a powerful Pacific fleet of
warships for the Dominion. One can
well understand why so many of the
politicians of British Columbia are
eager to conjure up the bogey of Japanese domination, when one recalls
that men-of-war are far more liberal
customers of coast-wise cities even
than men-of-commerce.
To indicate the extent of patronage
which a naval fleet bestows upon a
seaport city, let me cite the case of
San Francisco. In 1912 $5,000,000
wras expended in the City of the Golden Gate by the Commissary for Supplies. In the fiscal year 1913 the expenditure increased to $8,000,000. As
a writer in a recent military journal
states, '' ninety cents out of every dollar of this not inconsiderable sum will
swell the bank accounts of San Francisco merchants, civilians, mechanics,
labourers, and others to wThom the
United States pays living expenses."
Is it any wonder that Vancouver
craves "defence"? It wants to see
Dreadnoughts frequent its harbour
not because of any fear of Oriental
invasion, but because the navy is notoriously "a good spender."


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