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Racism In Canada Essay, Research Paper
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 country?s 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. Canada?s 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 fifty 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 quatrer 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 Canada?s 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 wasn?t
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 Arcand 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 ?Semain 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 government?s 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 WW2 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 country?s 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 aren?t 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 don?t learn our
history, we?re subject to repeat it?.
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