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Effects of Racism and Nativism on the immigrants in Canada from 1900s to 1930s

Abdul Moqueet July 24, 2018 Word count 1809 Nativism along with racism are tools used by a society to create a strong sense of national identity while safeguarding the interests of its citizens. Its primary approach is to use the means of hate and marginalization of individuals that defies the widely accepted norms of society in any form. This phenomenon was not only restricted to Canada but had been in practice throughout the world for centuries. Racism and anti foreign sentiments in early 1900s were a product of job insecurity faced by the locals from the incoming migrant workers. The idea of non-natives was highly discouraged due to strain that immigrants put on the societies resources. Provocative and highly motivating propagandas played a crucial role in developing a racially biased attitude among the public. Racism and nativism are dualistic notions that were very popular in the early 20th century as it highlighted the cynical nature of man that had more to do with superiority of one’s own race and values, resulting in the rejection of individuals who did not shared those common principles.

Eventually, these actions slowly but surely gave rise xenophobia among the public which made life particularly hard for the immigrants living in Canada. Racism and anti foreign sentiments in early 1900s were a product of job insecurity faced by the locals from the incoming immigrant workers. During the 20th century there had been numerous events that occurred, which not only motivated but also changed the political landscape of countries around the world, and this statement certainly holds true for Canada. Throughout the early 20th century immigrants belonging to non-Anglo-Saxon origins were subject to racist treatment by locals of the region they settled in. This was because the new immigrants did not readily assimilate into the dominant Anglo-Saxion society and posed a threat towards its core values. Despite that, another more crucial worry was that these new immigrants were taking over the labour jobs which were previously held by the locals. A perfect example of this would be the Chinese immigrants who were distinctively popular and desirable among the merchants as they were a prudent source for a merchant to make profit while at the same time were easily groom-able. Not only was the racism limited to the streets but was even publicly distributed by Victoria Gazette, which stated that “Chinese had done far more harms than good” as they have degraded the sector of labour by commonly accepting low wages. This was especially true as locals had the tendency to spend money with an open hand but, the Chinese on the other hand were more sensible with money and did not spend as openly on gambling and drinking, thus making it a little easier for them to survive on the low wages that they earned. Moreover, “Sinophobia [which is deeply] integrated within western culture combined with western image of China” resulted in Chinese immigrants to live with harsh racism directed at them by the society. In numerous different occasion they have also been discriminated by high ranking government officials, as the Colonial Governor called the Chinese “a nuisance – a moral scourge [and] a curse” while showing concerns about there rapidly growing population.

This not only demonstrates nativism along with racism at play but also highlights the fact that this behaviour by local population was clearly in response to insecurities they faced, along with lack of integration among both these groups. Moreover, these new immigrant workers were far more motivated to work while in contrast to the local population. The idea of immigrating non-Anglo-Saxons was highly discouraged due to strain that new immigrants put on the societies resources. Discouraging immigration of individuals belonging to non-Anglo-Saxion origins was not only meant to create a comprehensive society bonded by the same core values but was also going to promote the dominance of culture and religion at the same time. Not only were the new immigrants discouraged to come to Canada, but many immigrants who were already in the country had been deported. Deportations were especially centered towards disabled persons who were thought to be a burden on the societies resources. Many of the deportations were ruled on the bases of an individuals physical and mental health. Individuals that were “ill, feebleminded or insane” were quickly deported back to their home countries. Furthermore, during the early 20th century deportation rate was so high that the Department of Immigration has no records of its deportations. This goes to prove that early 20th century Canada was hard at work in keeping up to the interests of its majority Anglo-Saxon population who wanted to safeguard its fundamental Anglo-Saxion values. Deporting of the individuals was also systematically planned as there was a network in place consisting of “immigration agents, railroad conductors etc” , who escorted unwanted immigrants to be deported out of the country. Deportations were not only limited to the disabled persons, but it was also extended down to the women as the females were particularly exposed to the consequences of sexual or social deviances. This had a lot to do with their position in society as at the time they worked domestically, and it was in their utmost interest to avoid any stain on their moral character as this could cost them their jobs.

This goes in-depth to show that how deportation was the means that government used to get rid of individuals that it deemed undesirable and whom it considered to be a liability on the system. However, it also connects back to the main idea that these actions were performed to raise a homogeneous society that shares, and practices same set of beliefs. Provocative and highly motivating propagandas played a crucial role in developing a racially biased attitude among the public. After the commencement of World War 1, seeds of racism and nativism quickly sprouted as provocative propagandas were being fed to the public to create a sense of national identity. Subsequently these propagandas also led to racism against individuals belonging to countries that Canada was fighting against. This not only resulted in racism towards the enemy aliens but also led to an ever-growing sense of national identity which made matter worse. “Department of Immigration, [further] systematically started to deport people due to there political beliefs and activities” . Not only did these acts undermined their rights as the citizens but also went beyond any moral and ethical standards. Additionally, due to heavy losses of lives and finances during the World War, the sense wariness against the unseen enemies, which was heavily relayed and highlighted by the propagandas, brought on a sense of patriotism and the urge to protect the country from threats within its borders. Welcoming people who would not share the same values and beliefs made them a target for hatred and discrimination. Due to its nature, war had taken a heavy toll on every single family and affected many individuals on a very personal basis, thus triggering a reaction towards foreigners. Moreover, the looming threat of Reds and their doctrine spreading amongst the people was a great source of worry for the officials during the Great Depression. Communistic ideas during the Great Depression spread like wild fire as it attracted many people.

People wanted relief and an end to their miseries by having a concrete solution to the economic crisis Canada and its citizen were going through, but since the government failed to provide a relief the ideology became increasingly apparent and gained traction among the public. Communism gave the ideas of dignity and equality to the working class who before were facing hardships and unfair treatment. Having a ray of sunshine in the dark was exactly what the seekers were looking for and it was handed on a silver platter to them by the people following Communism. Moreover, to stop and put an end to this threat counter measures were introduced by “getting rid of political undesirables without the expense of charging [them] with hate crime or keeping [them] in penitentiary” . Though this naturally resulted in introducing a wave of fear among the public thus feeding in to the narrative of division which eventually resulted in racism to flourish and allowed for hate crimes to become part of the society. The arguments presented followed by the evidences provided proves that racism and nativism in Canada during the period from 1900s to 1930s was clearly linked to the socioeconomic activities which played a huge part in the growth and development of a racist rhetoric among the people. Moreover, the construction of a solid national identity which was created on the bases surrounding the core value present in Anglo-Saxon ideology, rejected anyone who did not assimilate or blended in with the culture. Clearing up the notion that racism and nativism in Canada was a fusion of political motivations along with a prospect to keep the society strengthened.

There were many things that trigged racism and anti foreign sentiments in early 1900s. One of them was the threat of job insecurity which was faced by the locals form the incoming migrant workers, who were coming in from all over the world trying to seek a better future. The idea of non-natives was highly discouraged due to the strain that immigrants put on the societies resources and lastly provocative and highly motivating propagandas played a crucial role in developing a racially biased attitude towards foreigners, who came into the country. It is believed that racism and nativism are dualistic notions that were very popular in the early 20th century as it highlighted the cynical and self-taught nature of man that had more to do with superiority of one’s own race and values which openly rejecting the individuals who do not share those same belief and common principle. In conclusion a saying of Franklin D. Roosevelt clearly highlights the point the one should, “Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants…” leaving one to wonder about the fact that on what foundation is their country built on and who’s blood, sweat and tears were shed to make it the great nation it is today.

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