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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mistaken identities Brewer, A. Stephen


As many as 150,000 Americans immigrated to Canada during the Viet-Nam Era (1965-1977), because of their objections to the war their country was waging in Southeast Asia. Overwhelmingly, those of the war-inspired immigrants who remained in British Columbia in late 1991 believed that they were radical British Columbia leftists. They were not. Research for this paper primarily involved the collection of data from a self-selected group of emigres, who were asked to complete an eight-page survey questionnaire designed to provide both demographic data and a measure of their political orientation. The latter was tested through use of a standard question set, currently in wide use across North America as a measure of political thought, philosophy and orientation. A total of one hundred and fifty-two emigres, all resident in British Columbia, completed the survey questionnaire between July and October, 1991. The data base these completed questionnaires supplied was cross-tabulated, then compared to other data bases which reflected the political orientation and philosophies of the population of the province as a whole. The immigrant data base revealed several demographic surprises, the most notable being that immigration by American VietNam War objectors into Canada was not the exclusively male phenomenon it has been believed to be. While two-thirds of the respondents were the young, male military evaders they were expected to be, the remaining third were, typically, slightly older female objectors who came to Canada independently, for personal philosophical reasons. As a group, the respondents were exception-ally well-educated at the time of immigration, and tended to have come to Canada, to British Columbia, from homes in the Western United States. Survey responses showed that most respondents believed -- at the time they immigrated or one year later -- that they were radical British Columbia leftists. There is some evidence which suggests they may, in fact, have been radical American leftists before immigration; but the evidence clearly shows that, by Canadian standards, the emigres were not what they believed themselves to be. Survey responses further showed the majority of respondents stillsaw themselves, in late 1991, as radical British Columbia leftists. Again, their responses to the standard question set showed them to be anything but. This self-perception which was so at odds with a measurable reality poses a host of questions. Most were beyond the scope of this paper, which can be seen as little more than an entry point into research on this group of immigrants. The size and political motivation of the immigrant group make further study of its members vital to ongoing studies of the Canadian body politic and to considerations of Canadian society and culture in the late twentieth century.

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