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A contribution to international ill-will Angus, Henry F. 1939

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(The Immigration Act and The Chinese Immigration Act and certain
H. F. Angus
IF we lay aside for the moment those excuses for irrational and
even for inhuman behaviour which are usually placed beyond
criticism by the potent words "History" and "Politics", the
capitalist system is not the only one of our arrangements which
would remain naked and defenceless. Nothing is essentially
reasonable merely because its historical origins are known, and no
arrangement is desirable merely because there would be strong or
even violent opposition to changing it suddenly. If we could clear
our minds of prejudice, it would inevitably strike us as grotesque
that, in exercising its powers to control immigration into Canada,
the Parliament of Canada should have hit on the idea of dividing
the human race into two categories, so that each category could be
subjected to appropriate regulations.
Should anyone doubt this statement, it is not difficult to verify
it by an experiment. He need only ask an intelligent but badly
informed man or woman—and these victims are as plentiful as the
guinea pigs used in the laboratory—to guess what the two categories are. State the problem clearly. It consists in finding a
significant criterion by which, metaphorically speaking, mankind
can be divided into sheep and goats, for convenience in framing
regulations which shall ensure the admissibility into Canada of the
best sheep and the exclusion from Canada of almost all the goats.
Then allow three guesses!
"Perhaps the test is religious. Canada is a Christian country.
The human race may be divided into Christian and non-Christian.
Is that the right answer?"   "No.   Guess again!"
"A language test might be reasonable. Perhaps you distinguish
those who speak one of your official languages, English and French,
from those who speak neither. Is something of this sort the criterion you use?"   "No.   You may guess once more".
"Perhaps you draw a colour line, and exclude the coloured
races. Is White and Coloured the correct answer?" "No. None
of your guesses are right.   Would you like to try again?" —-
"Old and Young, perhaps? Or Rich and Poor? Or Individualist and Socialist? Or British subjects and Aliens?" "No. The
true answer is that we distinguish between persons of Chinese
origin or descent in male line, and persons not of Chinese origin
or descent in the male line."
The danger of this sort of experiment is that your intelligent
victim may reverse the roles, and ask you in what respect Chinese
are not as other men, what qualities are common to Chinese which
other men do not share, why Canada should find it convenient
to place the Chinese in a class by themselves. These questions
might be embarrassing, for the Chinese are not a degraded people
with a low civilization and an ignoble history, nor has the impression which they have made on those who have known them best
been an unfavorable one. You will find yourself groping for the
old excuses based on the reasons which have actually led during
the last forty years to a policy of exclusion, and the political pressure in which these reasons have expressed themselves. But your
questioner is, by hypothesis, intelligent. He presses you to say
on what rational grounds this policy of dealing with the Chinese
as a race apart is continued. "What, for instance, would the position
of the Chinese be if the Chinese Immigration Act were repealed,
and they were dealt with under the Immigration Act and the
regulations made in accordance with it;—if they were treated, that
is, as other human beings?"
You have one more chance of evading the issue and, in consideration for the fair name of Canada, you decide to take it. You
point out that the Immigration Act does not prohibit the entry of
men or women of any race, provided that they comply with conditions which are not unreasonable, while the Chinese Immigration
Act does (with few exceptions) prohibit the entry into Canada
of anyone of Chinese origin or descent, no matter what his personal
merits, and no matter what his nationality or where his domicile
may be. Large groups of people are, no doubt, excluded
from Canada under the terms of the Immigration Act; but the
grounds of exclusion, while not altogether uncontentious, are
reasonably intelligible. Those who are kept out include physical
and mental defectives; criminals, even if they are physically and
mentally beyond reproach; illiterates no matter how healthy, sane
and moral they may be; and persons of revolutionary tendencies
even if they are healthy, sane, moral and well-educated. These
categories would not perhaps comprise more than a small proportion of the persons of Chinese origin or descent who might wish
to migrate to Canada. Hence, you may say, the need for a special
Chinese Immigration Act, if Chinese are to be excluded. To replace the  sentence deleted.
But,  under the Chinese  Immigration Act,   Chinese  students
may enter  Canada  to attend  Canadian Universities   (though
hot   institutions which do  not grant degrees),   and regulations may he made governing the admission of merchants
and  Chinese  passing through Canada   in transit.
But your intelligent questioner has heard you say something
about regulations made in accordance with the Immigration Act.
"Do these regulations," he asks, "provide a means of restricting
immigration which might cover the case of the Chinese? Are men
and women of other races actually admitted fairly freely to Canada?''
You decide to be candid. It is true that there is an Order-
in-Council (P. C. 2115, dated 16th September, 1930) which totally
prohibits the landing in Canada of any immigrant of Asiatic race.
It does not apply to Japan, because a series of agreements have
been made with that country, of which the most recent is that of
1928. There is no great difference between the severity of the
rules restricting Asiatic immigration in general and the severity
of the Chinese Immigration Act.
"Is there any difference at all? Does the Chinese Immigration
Act exclude anyone who would not be excluded in any case by
P. C. 2115?" "Yes. The Chinese Immigration Act still has some
effect. The Chinese Immigration Act applied to all "entrants"
into Canada, while the Immigration Act, and the regulations made
in accordance with it, deal only with "immigrants", that is, with
entrants who intend to acquire Canadian domicile. But fofrthe
Chinese IiiMwigtaliuii Act, Chinese students might come' to "Canadian uni^i'aife., Chitiebe'boui'iata might visit Cainaria,..and.rifflhaps
Ghinooo merchants might make a. temporary aojoum..harie. Then
P. C. 2115 makes an exception, which has no counterpart in the
Chinese Immigration Act, for the wife or unmarried children under
eighteen years of age of any Canadian citizen legally admitted
to and resident in Canada."
"Is it solely for the sake of these special cases, which in the
aggregate can hardly be said to constitute a menace to Canada,
that the Chinese Immigration Act is retained?"
"The Order excluding Asiatics has not always been quite so
severe as it has been made by P. C. 2115, which was made on
16th September, 1930, ostensibly because of the unemployment
prevalent in Canada. Previously they had been admitted in a
few cases under P. C. 182, dated 31st January, 1923. Agricultural
labourers, female domestic servants, and farmers with capital were
the favoured categories. Each Asiatic immigrant must possess
$250 in his own right. From British Columbian ports skilled and
unskilled labour of whatever race was barred by P. C. 1202, dated
9th January, 1919. Asiatics are not likely to enter by Atlantic
ports. Finally, under P. C. 23 of 7th January, 1914, all immigrants must come to Canada by a continuous journey from their
country of origin, on a ticket purchased in that country or prepaid 26 THE DALHOUSIE REVIEW
in Canada. Thus even before the Order of 1930, it was not easy
for Asiatics to enter Canada, unless of course, they were Japanese,
for P. C. 182 like P. C. 2115 does not apply to Japan. Even if
they had enjoyed the status of Asiatics in general, Chinese would
not have entered at all freely."
"What would happen if Chinese were given the same privileges
as Japanese?"
"Japanese are admitted only if they have passports with a
vise from the Canadian Minister in Japan. Numbers are limited
to 150 a year. They must fall within a very limited number of
categories: domestic servants for employers of their own race;
farm labourers for Japanese; the wife and children of a Japanese
resident in Canada. If a similar concession were extended to
Chinese, the numbers would no doubt be lower, because the figure
of 150 is presumably chosen with relation to the number of Japanese
resident in Canada and their reasonable requirements in the matter
of servants, labourers and wives".
"What is the point of precluding Chinese with Canadian
domicile or even citizenship from bringing their wives and children
tp Canada? What interest have Canadians in keeping the Chinese
in Canada soli et casti? Are they in some way unfitted for family
life or remiss in family obligations"?
"Far from it; they have a high reputation for filial piety and
for care oftheir children. But the object of the exclusion of wives
and children is probably to limit the numbers in the next generation
of Chinese in Canada to the children of Chinese women already
in Canada. The effect of this limitation will be that the numbers
of Chinese in British Columbia will fall rapidly in the next twenty
years, until a small and manageable Chinese community remains.
It may be inhumane to exclude the wives and children, but we do
it for the benefit of the next generation of Canadians".
"Presumably, that is a very important consideration in a
young country? Does it influence your social policy as well? Do
you, for instance, make careful provision to prevent the propagation of the feeble-minded, and to provide for the careful education
of defectives"?
"We are not, one must admit, altogether logical in these
matters. No doubt it may be quite as undesirable for our posterity
to have for fellow citizens feeble-minded Caucasians or idiot negroes
as sane Chinese. But tne question of cost enters into the matter.
It costs very little to exclude Chinese women. While we have agreed
not to mention politics, the same sort of consideration which makes
it good politics to exclude Chinese makes it bad politics to prevent INTERNATIONAL ILL-WILL
the propagation of the unfit. Too many voters would be affected,
and as likely as not they are good members of the  "
"You must not say of which party! Academic freedom is all
very well, but it should not be abused. But have you counted the
costs quite fairly? Might it not be a positive financial gain to
limit the numbers of the feeble-minded, especially in those classes
in which their families cannot support them? And might there
not be some advantage in treating Chinese citizens with courtesy
and consideration? Are you sure that it has cost Canada nothing
to treat the Chinese as a race apart? Are you sure that it will cost
nothing in the future? Why, for instance, do you treat the Japanese
"Perhaps we are inconsistent. If we neglect politics and
history, we must appear insincere in excluding Chinese on grounds
which we might apply to Japanese as well, and in excluding the
wives of Chinese on grounds which might equally well lead us to
control the feeble-minded. We treat the Japanese differently for
a reason which is historical and political. The Japanese provided
themselves with powerful armaments, and became valuable as allies
and dangerous as enemies. They were faithful allies in a time
of great danger. China has not amounted to much in a military
sense. Besides, by treating the Japanese with courtesy, we have
secured their goodwill. They resent very bitterly the American
exclusion law of 1924."
"Are the Chinese incapable of resentment? Or is their goodwill not worth having? If it is worth having, the price seems very
low.   You do not surely hope to get it for less?"
"I suppose that Chinese are both sensitive and capable of
resentment, and tneir goodwill is well worth having. We hope
that we do treat tnem well enough to secure their goodwill. There
is a certain relativity in these matters. We may not treat them
well, but many other nations treat them worse. The Chinese have
enough to think about in freeing their country from invasion, in
securing their power at home, and in negotiating about extraterritoriality, without bothering about the wives of tneir emigrants.
We have quite seriously discussed sending a Minister to China,
as we have sent one to Japan, if anything more is needed to show our
"But your Chinese Immigration Act is definitely insulting.
Even if you will not treat the Chinese as well as you treat the
Japanese, why not repeal the Chinese Immigration Act? The main
effect would, you say, be to admit students and perhaps merchants
or tourists". i   ■-
"Politically, it is out of the question. Canada is not governed
by a dictator. You cannot in reason expect members of parliament to take a step which may make bitter enemies and which
is not likely to win them a single vote. Most Canadians of Chinese
race live in British Columbia, and if they live there they cannot
vote even in Dominion elections unless they served in the war,
and, so far as I know, none of them did. On the other hand, there
would be bitter opposition to anything which looked like opening
the door to Chinese immigration".
"How do you account for so curious a state of mind? It
seems almost comic that strong political feeling should be aroused
by a proposal to make family life accessible to a few thousand
Chinese in Canada. It is not as if Canadian women wanted to
marry them themselves;—that would be a rational motive".
"We are not dealing with rational motives. It is a matter
of strong racial prejudices re-inforcing an economic fear. If we
meet people alien in race, in civilization, in religion and in thought,
we feel a genuine curiosity about them, and we are as likely as
not to take a real liking to them. But if we feel that a foreign
mode of life is likely to be thrust upon us, it is another matter.
For instance, in a university, a few foreigners, a few Japanese, a
few Indians, a few negroes, a few Chinese are usually welcome.
They are objects of interest. Universities on the Pacific Coast
sometimes congratulate themselves on affording unusual opportunities for international contacts. Increase the size of any one
group, and it is another matter. It begins to have a life of its own,
distinctive or exclusive interests which make it conscious of itself
and which make others acutely conscious of it. Foreign individuals are often popular, foreign groups rarely are. Immigrant
groups are no exception to this rule. Immigrants are most welcome
if they can lose their identity as soon as possible. Loss of identity
is in the main a psychological process. It takes place through
social relations, in business, in sport, in society, in schools and
universities. Ironically enough, identity disappears in institutions
in which we attempt to develop personality, and not merely in
gaols and asylums. A tenacious culture may be a psychological
obstacle, particularly if it is backed by pride of race, religion or
language. This psychological obstacle is probably not very important in the case of Asiatic immigrants. The important obstacle
in their case is that of racial physical characteristics, which while
not in themselves a barrier, persist and label their bearer as foreign.
The label remains even when it is fundamentally a false label,
much as a trade reputation may remain after the article has deteriorated". INTERNATIONAL ILL-WILL
"You have explained, though you have not justified, race
prejudice.   Can you explain and justify economic fears"?
"Immigrants are both customers and competitors. If immi-
migration is properly balanced and suited to the conditions of the
country, these two aspects off-set each other. With increased
numbers we develop not unemployment but greater specialization
and thus greater per capita wealth. But if, as is likely, immigration is not properly balanced and suited to the condition of
the country, the process of balancing has to take place. This
process is usually painful, and may be accompanied by unemployment. It closely resembles the readjustment which must
follow a period during which new inventions are applied to save
labour in industrial processes. It may thus be dangerous as well
as painful, though in the long run it will probably lead to greater
per capita wealth. In practice a panic element enters into the
question, and the degree of unemployment attributable to immigration is likely to be exaggerated, and the degree of additional
per capita income attributable to immigration is likely to be underrated. Much of the dislike of Asiatic immigration is to be traced
directly or indirectly to this source. Non-Asiatics think that
wages would be higher and employment better if there were no
Asiatics in Canada and if none had ever been admitted. Probably
this belief is true at some times and false at others. It has never
been scientifically tested. It has at times been very intensely
and emotionally held. Shiploads of men arrived ready to work
for lower wages than those which prevailed in Canada. It was
assumed that these were only a small proportion of the men who
were ready to migrate as opportunity offered. Subconsciously we
are all Malthusians at heart. The situation seemed a nightmare;
Malthusianism with its geometrical ratio reinforced by immigration,
and with its tempo accelerated by the high birthrate of an immigrant group, in a land of plenty! The one element of safety appeared to be that the Chinese brought very few women with them.
A further economic apprehension arose. The Chinese remitted
money to China to support their families there. It was thought
that these remittances constituted a drain on British Columbia,
and that the province would be much better off if it received
settlers who would spend their earnings in the province. All the
economics of protectionism supported this view". I
"No doubt these considerations explain the acts of the^past
and the sentiment which exists to-day. But do they justify that
sentiment? Can Canadians not change their minds as^circum-
stances alter?" 30 THE DALHOUSIE REVIEW
"That is an educational problem. We have made many experiments in education, some of which have been curious, but we
have not succeeded in training people to discard prejudices the
moment these lose any valid claim to be justifiable beliefs. Our
people call their prejudices principles, and boast naively of the
tenacity with which they cling to them".
"Does this mean that the racial prejudices and the economic
fears remain to-day in undiminished intensity"?
"No. They are altering perceptibly, though gradually. Any
abrupt action might make them flare up again. Let us look at
them one by one. The Canadian-born Chinese and Japanese,
while they are still subjected to some disabilities both economic
and political, are so obviously not a danger to the community that
there is probably now more sentiment for than against their equal
treatment. If they do not throw away their advantages by impatience, they are quite likely to be treated like other men and
women within the next ten years. The widespread understanding,
or to speak more frankly the popular exaggeration, of the importance of conciliating the goodwill of foreign countries in which we
wish to find markets has led to a total cessation of racial slights of
a petty character. In labour circles doctrinal emphasis on the
class war precludes racial enmities, except in countries in which
the foreign race is identified with the hostile class. It is not as
capitalists that the Chinese and Japanese in British Columbia are
"In the second place, even apart from the recent Orders-in-
Council, the restrictions imposed on immigration in general have
removed any danger of its being a menace—even a temporary
menace—to the wage level. For many years the entry of 'skilled
and unskilled' labour through British Columbian ports has been
forbidden, and Asiatic labour is unlikely to enter by way of Halifax
or Montreal. It is true that agricultural labour and domestic
service are not counted either as skilled or as unskilled, but followers
of these two careers in British Columbia are not politically influential, and politically speaking, no one cares how low labourers'
and servants' wages fall".
"The fact that the Chinese send remittances to their families
in China would, if knowledge of foreign trade were more widespread, be accepted as one of the ways in which China pays for
her imports, and among other imports for the goods which China
buys from Canada. But enthusiasm for foreign trade has hitherto
been identified with a search for markets, and not with a study
of how those markets acquire the purchasing power which makes INTERNATIONAL ILL-WILL
them markets. Consequently, an argument that Chinese, like
men of other races, should be allowed to bring their wives and
children to live with them might be reinforced by the suggestion
that if they did so, they would spend more of their earnings in
"If this view of popular opinion is correct, what would happen
if the Chinese Immigration Act were repealed to-morrow"?
"The men who repealed it might or might not lose some votes
at the next election. Apart from that, the fortunes of Canada
would not be greatly affected. An influx of Chinese immigration
would be impossible under our existing Immigration Act and
regulations. The arrival of a few students would probably be
welcomed and so, if it took place, would the arrival of a few merchants and a few tourists. But the best time to repeal the Chinese
Immigration Act would be just after a general election, and not
immediately before one".
"And what would happen if Chinese were accorded concessions similar to those which have been accorded to Japanese?"
"To make such concessions would be far bolder. Probably
it would be bolder action than we have any right to expect from
the politicians of a democracy. They are what their electorates
make them, and courage to resist their electorate or to challenge
its prejudices is not a quality likely to be developed by a struggle
for existence which takes the form of elections. However, for the
sake of argument, let us suppose that our politicians display the
necessary courage. The material consequences of their bold step
would be slight, but its moral benefit would be great. Perhaps a
thousand Chinese would enter Canada in the next ten years and
these would not numerically take the place of those who are likely to
die during the same period. There would be a change in attitude
towards Canada of Chinese living in Canada. To the next generation we should pass on a larger racial minority, but a more contented
one. A great obstacle to good relations with China would be removed. The appointment of a Canadian Minister to China has
been discussed. It would be an empty gesture, and an undignified
gesture, while the Chinese Immigration Act remains on our statute
book. It would, on the other hand, be a very impressive act if
the new Minister were empowered to negotiate an agreement with
China on the lines of the most recent agreement with Japan, providing for the entry of limited numbers of specified classes subject
to the issue of passports by the Chinese Government and to
their receiving the vise of the Canadian Minister".
"If I understand you correctly, you think that Canada would
be well-advised to treat Chinese and Japanese alike.   You think 32 THE DALHOUSIE REVIEW
that the insulting Chinese Immigration Act might be repealed
by a parliament fresh from elections at which its members had given
no more specific undertakings to the voters than to do all in their
power to promote good-will between nations as a step in restoring
prosperity; but you think that to repeal the Chinese Immigration
Act on the eve of an election might be politically foolish. When
we come to extending to China the privileges which Japan enjoys,
you think that no democratic Government could be expected to
do this, although it would be a wise and far-sighted act. Do not
these opinions of yours imply contempt for Canada's political
"Most opinions on social and economic questions do that.
As I pointed out at the beginning of our discussion, opinions apply
rational tests to policy. Governments which did this would not
survive. It is a greater evil to be without rational policies than to
be without Governments, which means that our political system
might be defended even rationally as the least of the evils among
which we must take our choice. One might distrust our Government as a device for securing wise policies, and yet admire it as a
most ingenious device for avoiding anarchy."
"To take such a position is to transfer your distrust from
the Government to the people whom you represent as being incapable
of tolerating a reasonable Government".
"Contempt and admiration are both out of the question.
The Canadian people are no worse than other peoples. Of course,
if we are prepared to behave rationally we should be rich, prosperous
and peaceable. Our whole life would be revolutionized, for good
or evil. Canada would rapidly become a Utopia. But the consequences from the standpoint of our immigration law would be
curious. We should then be thoroughly justified in a policy of
rigid exclusion. We should have, of course, one Immigration Act
and not two. We should not distinguish Chinese and non-Chinese.
But if we were ourselves capable of a social and economic organization which was completely reasonable while the rest of the world
remained as it is, we might very appropriately divide the human
race into two categories: Canadians and non-Canadians, which
would correspond closely to the categories sane and insane. We
should apply the principles of the Chinese Immigration Act to all
races and all nationalities. We should prohibit all immigration
for the same reason for which to-day we should prohibit interbreeding with monkeys, were such a thing possible. For if we
were capable of reasonable government, that is if we were capable
of pursuing consistent policies directed to conscious objectives, we INTERNATIONAL ILL-WILL
should be a race apart, as different from the rest of mankind as
man in his most sanguine moments believes that he differs from
the ape".
"To return to the actual world, do you or do you not think
that Canada has an important decision to make in regard to her
treatment of the Chinese? Do you or do you not think that
something should be done"?
If you have let the argument drift as far as this, you are more
or less cornered and you naturally try to escape by a reasonable
compromise. Do not be surprised if you find yourself saying
something like this:
"Yes. Quite seriously I tnink that the case for repealing
the Chinese Immigration Act is overwhelming. The Act is insulting. It could not be justified for a moment in discussion,
except by arguments which would justify wars or persecutions.
Sooner or later we shall be forced to repeal it in order to retain
the goodwill of China. To act now, without coercion, at a time
when China is weak and is beset with perils, would be to act gracefully and with dignity. To make it impossible for other nations
to say to us, 'How can you advocate disarmament when you take
advantage of the weakness of one country (China) and make
concessions to the strength of another (Japan)?' is well worth, in
my opinion, the sacrifice involved in stirring up public discussion".
"And this is as far as you would go"?
"Yes, for the moment at any rate. I-can see no valid objection
to extending to China the same privileges which we extend to
Japan. From the standpoint of Canada I can see great advantages,
for we should avoid creating an embittered minority of Canadians
of Chinese race. But perhaps these advantages are not worth
the controversy through which alone they could be secured. In
a few years they may come naturally enough, and might even be
quite acceptable, as part of a general understanding with China
in which they were conceded not as an element in bargaining but
as a gesture of goodwill".


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