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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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