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Oriental Canadians, outcasts or citizens? MacInnis, Grace and Angus MacInnis 1943

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Outcasts or Citizens
GRACE and ANGUS MaJNNIS HT^ACISM is essentially a pretentious way of saying
JL\ that 7 belong to the best people.' For such a
conviction it is the most gratifying formula that has
ever been discovered, for neither my own tmworthiness
nor the accusations of others can ever dislodge me from
my position—a position which was determined in the
womb of my mother at conception. It avoids all embarrassing questions about -my conduct of life and nullifies
all embarrassing claims by ^inferior' groups about their
own achievements and ethical standards.
"It has also the advantage of great simplicity. It avoids
any of the actual complexities of human nature and of
human history and sets up a five-word proposition which
the most tineducated can remember and glory in: 7 belong
to the Elect.' For political purposes the racist formula
has no rival. . . .
"The formula 7 belong to the Elect' has a far longer
history than has modem racism. These are fighting words
among the simplest naked savages. Among them this
formula is an integral part of their whole life-exprience,
which is, from our point of view, incredibly limited."
in "Race and Racism.5* ORIENTAL-CANADIANS...
A MONG the most difficult problems confronting the
-**- Canadian people are those concerning racial minorities. Hitler fanned the flames of race hatred for his
own purposes, but the Nazi dictator was not alone in
using this means to divide and rule. Here in Canada
racial animosities have been fomented by those who
were eager to continue the exploitation of the Canadian
people. On the one hand, they have cried loudly against
those of alien races; on the other, they have kept open
th channels of immigration to provide a reservoir of
cheap labor. "Profitable patriotism" has its victories in
peace no less than in war.
No single minority problem is more urgent than that
of the Orientals in British Columbia. It is likely that
the CCF will shortly be called upon to administer the
affairs of the province, and we must have a policy ready
to deal with this unsolved social issue left to us by
capitalist governments of the past. Their job was to
protect the interests of the minority, beclouding the
minds of the majority by emotion and prejudice. Ours
will be to legislate for the welfare of the people, securing
at every step their understanding and co-operation. It
is in this spirit that the CCF must approach the Oriental
Because Canada's Orientals are located mainly in
British Columbia, it has been taken largely for granted
that this is a purely local issue. British Columbia has
always protested that, owing to Ottawa's control of
immigration and other policies, the Oriental question
must be considered on a Canada-wide basis, This is
more obvious now that those of Japanese origin are
being settled in other provinces, and the Dominion
government is accepting responsibility for their removal
from the Pacific coast.
.Towards the end of this pamphlet will be found the
1943 Convention Statement of the British Columbia section of the CCF, dealing with the Orientals. This statement makes it clear that the Oriental issue is but a part
of the problem of racial minorities in Canada, which, in
turn, is but a part of the world-problem which must
come up for discussion and solution at world conferences
following the present conflict.
The war has focused attention upon those of Japanese origin in Canada, but it must not be forgotten that
the term "Oriental" includes citizens of Chinese and East
Indian (Hindu) origin as well. These two latter groups
have also incurred hostility and they continue to be
handicapped by discriminatory legislaton in regard to
the franchise and by various economic and social disqualifications. There is every reason to believe that,
when Canada is no longer at war with Japan, the age-old
economic factors will operate to put them once more in
the same category as citizens of Japanese origin.
Probably the most authentic statistics available as
to the number of Orientals resident in Canada and in
British Columbia are those of the Dominion government
census, which is taken every ten years. The following
census figures for 1931 and 1941 show the number of
persons of Oriental origin:
4 In Canada
1931 1941
Chinese     46,519 34,627
Japanese  ..    23,342 23,149
East Indians  ..,-       1,400 1,465
In British Columbia
Chinese     27,139 18,619
Japanese _...    22,205 22,196
East Indians -.-       1,283 1,345
It will be noted that those of Chinese origin have
tended to settle across Canada, while those of Japanese
and East Indian origin have remained almost entirely
in British Columbia. The number of Chinese has dropped
considerably during the last decade, a trend likely to
continue because Chinese immigration has been virtually
cut off since 1923, and because their women were never
permitted to enter Canada in large numbers. While
the Japanese population shows little change in the decade, the future trend will probably be upward, although
their birthrate is declining relatively and never was of
the proportions that alarmists imagined. The East Indian
figures are scarcely large enough to concern even
The task of the CCF is to determine the best way
of dealing with these population groups, both from the
standpoint of the Canadian community and of the minorities involved. To understand CCF policy in this
matter it is essential to review briefly the story of how
the Orientals came to Canada and to consider the factors
which have made their presence a problem. BUSINESS AND GOVERNMENT IMPORT
The history of Oriental immigration into Canada is
essentially the story of how cheap labor was welcomed
and imported by the large employers of labor. Many
instances could be given, but here are two outstanding
Canadian Pacific Railway: In 1881 when the
transcontinental line was being built, the C.P.R. imported large numbers of Chinese from China and
the United States. From 1881 to 1884 inclusive,
15,701 Chinese entered British Columbia. In answer
to protests from the province, the Dominion government stated that it could neither influence the C.P.R.
to employ white labor nor could it afford to aid
white immigration.
Wellington Colliery Company: When the Legislature of British Columbia tried to exclude further
Orientals by passing the Immigration Act, the Lieutenant-Governor refused his assent on the ground
that the Act would be disallowed as it had been
before. The Lieutenant-Governor happened to be
Sir James Dunsmuir, president of the Wellington
Colliery Company, one of the largest importers of
Oriental labor in the province.
Further examples could be given, but these are
sufficient to show how big business and government
combined to create the Oriental problem. The Dominion
government had its own reasons for allowing it to grow
Trade Treaty with Japan: In 1907 Sir Wilfred
Laurier signed a trade treaty between Canada and
Japan, quieting British Columbia's demand for
Oriental exclusion by promising the business men terminal   elevators   at   Vancouver  and   a  swelling
grain trade with the Orient.
Another Treaty: Following anti-Oriental riots in
Vancouver in 1907, Ottawa signed a further treaty
with Japan, international considerations being "so
delicate" that the terms remained shrouded in
mystery for some time. Later it was discovered
that they permitted Japan to send large numbers of
immigrants to Canada every year. In 1928 the
"Gentlemen's Agreement" limited the number to
150 yearly.
From all this it is evident that the interests of
private profit prevailed over the need of coming to grips
with a growing social problem which had been created
by the importation of cheap labor.
The root cause of anti-Oriental feeling has always
been economic. Back in 1858, when a gold strike in the
Fraser River brought the first Chinese miners to British
Columbia, they were welcomed. When the boom collapsed a few years later and they went into road-building,
storekeeping, trading and packing, farming, gardening
and domestic service, prejudice mounted against them.
The reason was that their lower living standards enabled
them to undercut white workers.
But up through the years this root cause was always
skilfully obscured by those who exploited labor. By
diverting economic discontent into racial channels, employers and politicians managed to keep all labor standards down.  The workers did not see the real enemy.
Measures passed against the Orientals included
head tax for the Chinese and the disenfranchisement
in all elections of Chinese, Japanese and East Indians.
7 No single measure was passed to compel employers to
pay the same wages to Orientals as to whites and thus
end competition from a low-income group. On the contrary:
In 1934 the British Columbia Board of Industrial Relations issued a minimum wage order for
the sawmill industry which made it possible for an
employer to hire up to 25 percent of his workers at
wages of 25c an hour while those of the rest are
fixed at 35c. In practice, this 25 percent has frequently been Oriental.
Always the story has been the same. In good times
the anti-Oriental feeling abates; in depressions it becomes acute. Its curve has very little to do with the
color of the skin or the slant of the eyes; it is mainly
economic. During the war of 1914-18, when labor was
scarce, employers appealed to Ottawa to be allowed to
import more Orientals, but were refused. One request
was supported by the Vancouver Board of Trade.
Socialists take the position that the racial issue is
essentially a world problem which cannot be properly
settled until we have world-wide labor standards of
living. Seeking to exclude racial minorities from any
one country is, in itself, no cure for the real disease:
economic competition.
On July 11, 1924, J. S. Woods worth explained the
socialist viewpoint to the House of Commons when he
replied to one of the numerous anti-Oriental speeches
of A. W. Neill, M.P.   Mr. Woodsworth said:
"But I call attention to the fact, as I have done
on previous occasions, that mere exclusion of Asiatics
will not solve the economic problem of the competition
8 of the Oriental races. The fact is that if steamers
cannot be repaired cheaply enough on this side of the
Pacific, they are repaired on the other side. The fact
is that these ships which enter our ports from China,
Japan and other parts of the Orient are bringing in
cheap goods that are made by cheap Oriental labor,
and these goods compete with our goods, and thus
with our workmen. So I repeat, exclusion is no
final solution of the economic problem.
"However, I protest as emphatically as I can
against the attitude taken by the member for Comox-
Alberni when he used words something like this: That
the preservation of our civilization depends on the
dominance of white races over the other races of the
world. If that be the case, then the sooner this civilization perishes from off the face of the earth, the
better. Does the hon. member mean to say that we
of the white race must eternally bestride this earth
and keep other races in subordination? It seems to
me that this is the very doctrine which some people
accused the Germans of preaching, and for the defeat
of which the world war was supposed to have been
fought. It is this use of the word 'dominance', this
idea of some superior Nordic race, that is responsible
for a great deal of the trouble which we have at the
present time, and I do not think that such statement
should go unchallenged. The hon. member recognized
that this was indeed a world problem, but I submit
that when he advocated exclusion and expressed a
great deal of prejudice against other races, he did not
offer anything like a world solution of the problem."—
(Hansard, p. 4357).
Socialists,   however,   recognize   that   world   solutions
will not be achieved overnight and that they must deal
9 with the problems of their particular area in the best
possible way at any given time. Realizing that business
would do nothing about Oriental competition in British
Columbia, realizing that the old-line parties would do
nothing except raise a furore at election time, Angus
Maclnnis, on behalf of the CCF group introduced the
following motion into the House of Commons in 1936;
"Whereas it is detrimental to the best interests of
Canada that there should be in the country groups to
whom because of race or religious beliefs, we do not
extend all the rights of citizenship:
"Therefore be it resolved, that, in the opinion of
this House, the government should take the necessary
measures to exclude from the country all persons belonging to these groups to whom we do not grant the
full rights and privileges of citizenship."
This motion was lost by 15 votes to 186, every Liberal
and every Conservative in the House voting against it.
In effect it said: Either we refuse to let people into
Canada, or, if we permit them to enter, we give them
full citizenship rights. Prominent among those who defeated this motion—and thus refused to make a straightforward decision on the Oriental issue—were A. W.
Neill and Tom Reid, British Columbia M.P.'s who had
denounced the Orientals for years and who were evidently much more concerned to keep on denouncing
them than to deal with the question of their citizenship
Accusations that this was a "trick motion" to put
others on the spot and to avoid recording the CCF stand
on excluding further Orientals, were disproved in 1938
when A. W. Neill brought in a motion to bar Japanese
from entering Canada in future. (Chinese were effectively excluded  in  1923.)     Mr.  Neill's  motion  was  de-
—1. feated by 42 votes to 79, all CCF members supporting it
and the Government rejecting it. Said Angus Maclnnis
on this occasion:
"The Oriental problem has given me much concern over quite a number of years because it has
never been faced honestly and squarely in this Dominion. . . . Greed for cheap labor brought the Oriental to British Columbia, and greed for trade has
kept him coming in."—(Hansard, p. 563).
The CCF group thus placed itself clearly on record
as opposing the entry of more Orientals to Canada. But
what about those already here? And what about their
children? Those who foment race prejudices do not
attempt to deal with those issues. But they cannot be
avoided. Alone among political parties, the CCF has
had the vision and courage to insist that hatred is no
program and that a real solution must be found.
For those of Oriental origin in Canada there can be
only one solution. That is to refuse to draw the color
line. Orientals who have become naturalized here, children born here of Oriental parents are Canadians and
should be accepted as such in the full sense of the term.
Their living-standards, their working-standards, their
educational and cultural standards should be on equal
levels with those of other Canadians.
Without question they should have full citizenship
rights, including the franchise. Many people do not know
that, with the sole exception of the Chinese in Saskatchewan, Orientals of all three groups—Chinese, Japanese and
East Indian—have the right to vote in every province
except British Columbia. The same thing is true of every
state in the American union, including the West Coast
11 states. The CCF is urging that British Columbia cease
being the one spot in North America where Orientals cannot become full citizens.
Children of Oriental origin born in Canada are Canadian citizens. In 1924 an agreement was reached with
Japan that, unless Japanese-Canadian parents registered
their children with the Japanese consul within 14 days
of birth, Japan would have no claim on them. Although discrimination against Orientals in British Columbia made this dual citizenship understandable, it was
never desirable from a Canadian standpoint. Fewer
parents of Japanese origin were registering their children with the consul as time elapsed, and, with the
granting of full Canadian citizenship rights, dual citizenship should never again be permitted.
Until the Japanese-Canadians were evacuated from
the West Coast areas, their children attended the public
schools of the province, went to high school, and, when
their parents could afford it, to the university, where
their scholarship record was high. But Orientals remain in an inferior position, because of disabilities which
may be listed as follows:
(1) In British Columbia no person of Japanese, Chinese
or East Indian origin may vote in federal, provincial or municipal elections. The sole exceptions are
Japanese who served in the Canadian forces in the
last war and who may vote federally and provin-
(2) None can be nominated for school trustee.
(3) None can serve on a jury.
(4) None can be employed in the public or municipal
services of the province or on public works.
/12 (5) These barriers prevent Orientals from entering
either the profession of law or pharmacy, both of
which require eligibility to vote in provincial
(6) Economic and social pressures have operated to
confine those of Oriental origin almost entirely to
certain types of farm and industrial work, practically barring the door to the professions.
(7) Although no legislation has been passed to limit
the number of Japanese who may obtain fishing
licenses or operate canneries and fish plants, continual pressure has been exercised on both federal
and provincial governments to discriminate in
issuing these licenses on purely racial grounds.
Similar attempts have been made in the matter
of business licenses.
When the British Columbia Legislature in 1938 was
asked to consider a Vancouver city charter amendment
that would allow discrimination against persons of Oriental origin in the matter of licenses, Hon. H. G. T.
Perry, then Liberal member for Fort George, accused
the city of "Hitler philosophy."
"If we struck out the word 'Asiatics' and put in
/Hebraic,' would we be doing the same thing by law
as Hitler is doing in Germany?" he asked. "Your fundamental philosophy and thought on this is exactly the
same as Hitler's. Even if it were intra vires I would
oppose it. . . . Where are you going to stop? We allowed the Orientals to come here. Surely we're going
to allow them some human rights."—Vancouver Sun,
November 15, 1938).
Mr. Perry's anti-Nazi stand of 1938 is just as necessary
It is a well-established principle of both British and
Canadian constitutional government that there should
be no taxation without representation. Yet today in
British Columbia, citizens of Oriental origin, who have
no right to vote, are exempt neither from the Taxation
Act nor the Income Tax Act. Further, they may, at the
discretion of the federal authorities, be called up for
military service at any time. No freedom-loving British
Columbian would put up with this state of affairs for
himself. It is time that we ended it for our fellow-citizens
to whom it applies. British fair play, fair play of any
kind, repudiates this sort of thing. Tyranny leads to
Nazism as it exists in Germany today. If it is not good
for the people of Germany, then it is not good for the
people of British Columbia.
Before the war with Japan broke out, there were
numerous indications that Canadians of other origins
were becoming aroused to the need for having Oriental-
Canadians on an equal footing. Several examples may
be mentioned:
(1) Various church denominations kept speaking out
for complete equality of citizenship.
(2) The Camp and Mill Workers' Union, organized
in 1920 by Japanese, was accepted into affiliation
in 1927 by the Trades and Labor Congress of
(3) In 1931 this union persuaded the Congress convention, which met that year in Vancouver, to
endorse "equality of treatment and full rights of
citizenship" for the second generation Japanese.
(4) A West Coast fishermen's union accepted Orientals
as members on the same terms as others.
14 (5) In various co-operative and community undertakings throughout British Columbia the Orientals
were gradually being accepted on the same basis
as other citizens.
An eloquent tribute to the character of a fellow-
Canadian was given in the House of Common on July
12, 1943, by R. T. Graham, Liberal member from Saskatchewan, when he said:
"In justice to a very brave man and a very fine
citizen of Japanese origin, I cannot let the statement
made by the hon. member for New Westminster (Tom
Reid) go unchallenged. I have in mind a young Japanese who served with distinction in my own company
in France and who was decorated by this nation. He
saved the life of one of his comrades by performing
a very brave deed. He came back and settled in my
district where he is now farming and is one of the
most highly respected farmers in his particular area.
Today he has two sons serving with the Canadian forces
in this war."   (Hansard, p. 4785).
Space will not permit a review of the story of the
evacuation of Canadians of Japanese origin from the
"protected area" of British Columbia. The attack on
Pearl Harbor in December 1941 caused fear of possible
sabotage from Orientals on the West Coast. In British
Columbia a citizens' committee was formed to press for
action. Finally the British Columbia Security Commission was established by the Federal Government. It
undertook the removal of those of Japanese origin, receiving, with few exceptions, their wholehearted cooperation and it is noteworthy that throughout this
period the Mounted Police failed to discover a single act
of sabotage on the part of any person of Japanese origin.
15 Now the great majority are settled in the mountain
valleys of the Interior in pioneer conditions, with their
homes disrupted, their businesses gone; their property is
being sold by the Custodian of Enemy» Alien Property,
their educational and social needs are neglected, and
great uncertainty about the future hangs over their
heads. Comparatively few have found the opportunity
to take their families to eastern Canada. Small wonder
that they tend to cling together in the Interior settlements rather than to plunge into the unknown East
where hostility might prove even greater than the hostility
they had known on the West Coast.
Building the Cooperative Commonwealth is not an
easy task. At every stage we are confronted by problems
yet unsolved by any social engineer. Some of these are
so hedged about with the prejudices and hatreds of competitive society that we are tempted to yield to popular
clamor and leave them to become even more formidable.
We shall do so at the cost of our future social order.
For, unless the foundations of the Cooperative Commonwealth are based on the solid rock of socialist principle,
the new structure cannot withstand the attacks of those
who seek to destroy it.
During these war years and in the period to follow,
the CCF is rising to power in Canada. Whether in opposition or in office, we must face the tremendous job of
constructing a new economic, and social system in this
country as a part of the planned and more just world
:>rder in whose creation we must share. In this critical
transition we dare not lose sight of our objective. Weakness and appeasement on fundamental issues now would
spell disaster later.
The Regina Manifesto, adopted at the first National
Convention of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in 1933, has in its preamble this paragraph:
16 . "The new social order at which we aim is not one
in which individuality will be crushed out by a system of regimentation. Nor shall we interfere with cultural rights of racial or religious minorities. What we
seek is a proper collective organization of our economic
resources such as will make possible a much greater
degree of leisure and a much richer individual life for
every citizen."
Section 12 is entitled "Freedom" and outlines CCF
ideas concerning it. One of the clauses reads:
"Equal treatment before the law of all residents
of Canada irrespective of race, nationality or religious
or political beliefs."
Ten years later (April, 1943) the British Columbia
section of the CCF met in its annual convention to consider various problems, among them that of the Oriental
in British Columbia, with particular reference to those
of Japanese origin. Recognizing the need for a policy to
cover the immediate war situation and, at the same time,
to indicate the lines along which a post-war settlement
of the Oriental question must be found, it laid down the
following principles:
"This Convention believes that the Japanese question is but a part of the problem of all racial minorities
in Canada and that it must be solved along the lines of
social justice set forth in the Atlantic Charter.
"This solution can only come about through the
elimination for all Canadians of economic insecurity
which is the underlying cause of all racial antagonisms.
"The present proponents of repatriation, the representatives of big business and reaction, base their
proposals on a return to the old pre-war conditions of
unemployment   and   resulting   racial   jealousies   and
17 hatreds. These reactionaries who shout so blatantly for
repatriation were the very ones who encouraged the
entry to Canada of cheap labor for purposes of labor
"While the CCF was in favor of evacuation of the
Japanese from the protected area for reasons of defense, it must be noted that such demands immediate
action by the Dominion Government to avoid aggravation of social and economic problems in British Columbia during the post-war period. In this connection the
following facts are noted:
"The majority of the Japanese families are now being maintained and housed in crowded and temporary
quarters at public expense in a few centres in the
interior of B.C. Arrangements for limited relocation
in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, have been negotiated only for the duration of the war. Opportunities for
productive employment have been negligible and their
financial resources are being exhausted. Partial education of Japanese children, financed by the Dominion
Government, is mainly under the direction of the
Japanese themselves. Substantial investments now
under Government administration, are still held by
the Japanese in various business enterprises in B.C.
"It may therefore be anticipated that upon cessation
of hostilities pressure will be exercised by the Japanese and by the province and communities where they
are now resident, for their immediate return to the
Coast area. This will confront communities in this
area with acute problems during the demobilization
period. Japanese workers have been displaced in their
former occupations, housing accommodation has been
re-allocated, and educational facilities are overtaxed. It
is therefore imperative that the Dominion Government
should now plan to protect the Coast area against any
sudden return of an impoverished Japanese commun-
18 ity; seeking re-establishment as a racial group,  at a
time and under conditions provocative of disturbances.
"The proposed repatriation does not offer any practical solution of the problems likely to arise in the
period immediately following the defeat of Japan.
Years may elapse in the stabilization of affairs in the
Orient, and before the peace conference. Canada cannot act in such a matter independently but must act
in conference with the United Nations, having reference to a similar situation in the United States and
the Hawaiian Islands. Eventually all matters affecting
racial minorities must be dealt with as an international
question at a world peace conference in accordance
with the principles of the Atlantic Charter.
"As immediate measure possible to Canada, and designed to facilitate post-war reconstruction and minimize racial friction, this Convention advocates:
"1. That Japanese be now assisted to obtain productive
and permanent employment outside the protected
area, and in other provinces at prevailing rates of
pay to protect labor standards, and under conditions
enabling them to re-settle with their families. This
will substantially relieve the present manpower
shortage and mitigate against any future concentration on the Coast in B.C. In this connection, attention is directed to the fact that a similar policy is
being carried out in the United States, to the point
where loyal Japanese-Americans are being enrolled
in combatant units of the American Army.
"2. That transfer of investments held by Japanese in
B.C. to other sections of the Dominion be facilitated.
"3. That education of the Japanese children be conducted
in strict conformity with Canadian standards and
under qualified Canadian teachers.
19 "4. That responsibility for the satisfactory re-settlement
of Japanese across Canada be fixed now with the
Dominion Government,"
Today in Canada, as in every other part of the world,
a battle is going on between two kinds of ideas. On the
one side are those who believe in a way of life based on
ruthless competition. They look upon the peoples of other
nations and races as rivals for wealth and power, or as
subjects for exploitation. They use their control over
the sources of education and publicity to fan the latent
sparks of race prejudice into the destroying flames of
race hatred. They wish to keep the Orientals in a state
of inferiority which tends to depress the living-standards
of all workers, regardless of color. If they can keep the
workers divided over racial differences, they can hide
the real causes of unemployment and poverty.
On the other side are those who think in co-operative
terms. They insist on a single standard of citizenship for
all Canadians. They refuse to join in the cry for "repatriation." Even if it were physically possible to remove every person of Oriental origin to Asia—which it
is not—it would not be repatriation for the great majority.   It would be exile.   You cannot repatriate native-
born Canadians by sending them elsewhere.   But you
can help them  to  fuller  citizenship   in  this,   the land
of their birth.   You can help to place them on a footing
of social, economic and political equality.   Only in this
way  can  workers  of all racial origins stand  shoulder
to  shoulder  to raise   their  living  conditions.    Only  in
this way can those who call themselves Christians prove
that they are prepared to carry the principle of brotherhood into effect. Only in this way can we have unity
and harmony in Canada, for unity and harmony are based
on equality and social justice. Only in this way can we
in Canada make our contribution to the building of a
world where peace and brotherhood will prevail.
20  teJs^t
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By David Lewis and F. R.
Scott    -
This Pamphlet and the Publications listed above
may be obtained through
16 East Hastings Street
Vancouver, B.C.
Broadway Printers Ltd.


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