Two members of Parliament from British Columbia argue the postwar fate of the Japanese in Canada
Angus Maclnnis, M.P.
IN DEALING with matters per taining to the war it is important that we should not forget the ends for which the war is being fought. To lose sight of those ends, to lose sight of the reasons that compelled the peoples of the United Nations to give their sons as a living sacrifice in this war cannot be done without incurring the danger of losing the war itself. These reasons had not to do with territory, national boundaries and material things. They had to do with human values, human dignity and human relationships. The attitude of Hitler’s Nazis to the Jews and the Nazi assumption of the master race emphasized their difference with civilized mankind far more than their lust for power and conquest. The taint of the superior race doctrine is not confined to Germany or to the Nazis; we find it on this continent. We find traces of it even in Canada.
In Canada it is being proposed that as a condition of our peace treaty with Japan at the end of the war all persons of Japanese origin in this country shall be “repatriated” to Japan. The advocates of this barbarous proposal have so far failed to justify it on any grounds save race prejudice. To such a policy I am strongly opposed as, I believe, are all freedom-loving Canadians.
Before stating why I am opposed to “repatriation” and before I put forward what I think should be Canada’s attitude to those of Japanese origin in our midst, I think it would be well to sketch briefly the history of our Oriental population. Though only Japanese are now mentioned in connection with the “repatriation” proposals the question is a much bigger one than appears on the surface.
The population of Canada is made up of many races and nationalities. Included among our 11,500,000 people are 23,149 persons of Japanese origin. Of that number more than 13,000 (Sparling Committee Report, 1940) are Canadian born. And of that number about 5,000 are of school age.
The first Japanese came to Canada about 50 years ago. They settled, as did most of the Chinese who began coming to Canada somewhat earlier, in British Columbia. In the early days of Oriental immigration, opposition came almost exclusively from the working class of the province, with organized labor giving voice to the workers’ protests.
It was not until toward the end of the first world war, when the Orientals began to buy and lease land, engage in farming, and to enter certain businesses, that opposition developed among farmers and small business people.
In 1908 there were race riots in Vancouver. Following that disturbance the Government of Canada entered into an agreement with the Government of Japan which limited the number of Japanese that would be allowed to enter Canada in any one year to 400. In 1928 that number was reduced by mutual understanding between the two Governments to 150.
The Japanese represent less than one half the Orientals in Canada. For obvious reasons opposition, at this time, is directed almost exclusively to Orientals of Japanese origin. Once the war is over the hostility now directed to the Japanese will show itself in regard to all Orientals—particularly if economic conditions should get into a depressed state. Race prejudice against Orientals is now much more prevalent among the middle class than among the working class. The workers, with some exceptions, have long ago come to the conclusion that the Orientals were brought to Canada as cheap labor to keep wages low. They have realized that the only way in which cheap labor can be obviated is to raise the living standards of all workers, white, yellow, black and brown.
Japanese In B. C.
THE concentration of nearly all of Canada’s Oriental population in British Columbia has resulted in
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Should We Send the Japs Bade?—No
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certain economic and political discrimination which would not have appeared if the same population had been spread across Canada. A few persons in influential positions have for years kept alive an agitation for still further restrictions. The people as a whole, however, have been adverse to additional discriminations. At the present time all persons of Asiatic origin, without regard to place of birth, living in the Province of British Columbia, are subject to the following disabilities:
They are not allowed to vote in federal, provincial or municipal elections. Yet they are liable to all taxes as paid by other citizens. Japanese who served in the first world war, if otherwise qualified, are allowed to vote.
They may not serve on a jury.
They may not be employed in the public service of the province, in municipal service or on public works carried on by the province.
Employers engaged in lumber operations on crown lands are forbidden to employ Orientals. Exception was made by federal order-in-council in this matter since the war because of the war need for lumber.
Orientals may not enter the professions of law or pharmacy as both professions make eligibility to vote in a provincial election a condition of entry.
The entry of Japan in the war opened the flood-gates of racial prejudice. Demands were made on the Government for the removal of all Japanese from the Pacific Coast. The government order-in-council passed to carry out this mass migration defined a person of Japanese nationality as any person whose parents or one of whose parents was of Japanese nationality. This broad definition brought much pain and distress in families where the husband or wife was white and the other Japanese or where the husband or wife had a father or mother who was Japanese. The order was later amended so as to exclude Urasians. No attempt was made to separate the loyal from the disloyal, if any.
The Japanese having been moved from the Pacific Coast Defense area on the ground of military precaution an agitation has now started for sending all of them “back” to Japan as a condition of any peace treaty with Japan. When the status of the Japanese in Canada was debated in the House of Commons during the recent session, all British Columbia members who took part in the debate except the writer favored “repatriation.” I reject the proposal for various reasons.
I reject it first because I will not be party to discriminating against a people because of race or color. Japanese are not the only people of enemy alien origin or nationality in Canada. I refuse to have one standard of treatment for persons of German and Italian origin and another standard for persons of Japanese origin. Such a policy is wrong in principle. It would be accepted in Asia, by friend and foe alike, as another proof that the Western Nations have no intention of dealing with the people of Asia on a basis of equality. Asia’s teeming millions will have to be included in the new order on
equal terms with the rest of the world, otherwise the hope for world peace will never be anything more substantial than a hope.
Secondly, I reject the “repatriation” proposal because the majority of those whom it proposes to remove from this country are not Japanese but Canadians—Canadians even as you and I. Citizens of Canada cannot be “repatriated” to some other country. They may by force be transported, deported or exiled, but we cannot salve our conscience in the circumstances by the use of the term “repatriate.” Indeed, the more rabid of our racialists now openly advocate deportation. However, for the great majority of those of Japanese origin in our midst now, Canada is their home and they know no other.
In Canada Lawfully
A third reason why I oppose the “repatriation” proposal is because the Japanese in Canada are here lawfully. As mentioned earlier in this article, Orientals were brought to this country as cheap labor. Naturally their coming was favored by the exploiters of labor and opposed by the workers. The Japanese nationals here are here by virtue of agreements between the Governments of Canada and the Governments of Japan. Those Japanese who have taken out naturalization papers are citizens of Canada by virtue of the operation of the laws of Canada. ¡ Those born here are citizens because ! they were born here and no governj ment has the moral or legal right to ! limit or nullify their citizenship.
Our Japanese population has always been industrious and law-abiding. They have been, as far as we let them be, loyal citizens. The young men have offered their services in the armed forces of the Country. These offers have with few exceptions been rejected.
It is worthy of note that although the whole population of Japanese origin has been singled out for treatment different to that accorded to the peoples of any other nation with which we are at war there has not, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain a been single act of sabotage or even subversive activity brought home to any one of them.
I am not only opposed to the “repatriation” proposal, but I am also opposed to any political, social or economic discrimination against persons of Oriental origin who are citizens of Canada by birth or naturalization. To make peace possible and, when achieved, permanent each country will have to deal with the problems of race and nationality within its own boundaries on a basis of justice and equality.
The Japanese who were removed from the British Columbia coast have taken their removal in good part. They realized the naturalness and the inevitability of the race prejudice, against them. Many of them, though leaving British Columbia with regret, believe it to be in their own interests to settle in other provinces and are willing to co-operate to that end.
Steps, then, should be taken immediately to relocate some of them in the provinces in which they have already found employment and in some cases established homes. This is a problem for the whole of Canada and the provinces should assist the Federal Government. Once the war is over it will be impossible legally to restrict the right of movement of citizens from one province to another, but if these people, citizens of Canada in their own right, establish homes and
means of livelihood in other provinces now there will be much less urge to return to British Columbia. British Columbia, however, will have to accept its share.
It must be remembered that persons of Japanese origin constitute only one in every 500 of the population. I wish it to be definitely and clearly understood that I favor the removal of all economic, social and political disabilities. Canadian born and naturalized Japanese voted in the recent Ontario elections. Is there any sound reason why they should not vote in every province on the same basis as other citizens? I cannot think of any.
It is said that the Japanese are an unassimilable people. I do not agree. We have made no attempt to assimilate those who came in among us. Indeed, we put every obstacle possible in the way of social intercourse which must precede assimilation. Second and third generation Japanese in Canada and the United States differ strikingly in appearance from their parents. The difference of mental and spiritual outlook is even greater than the physical.
It is said that they won’t intermarry with our people. When this statement is denied and it is pointed out that mixed marriages do take place, the next question is likely to be: “Would
you like to see your son or daughter marry a Jap?” Marriage is largely a matter of propinquity. If the social, economic and political barriers which now divide the races and accentuate race prejudice were removed there is no doubt but mixed marriages would increase. To me that question is not important enough to worry about. I am convinced that it will work out if given time under the conditions I have suggested. It is said that Abraham Lincoln, when asked if he would marry a negro woman, said:
“I do not understand that because
I do not want a negro woman for a
slave, I must necessarily want her
for a wife. My understanding is
that I can just let her alone.”
In the same way a person might not want to marry a Japanese, but that is no good reason for wishing to deprive the Japanese Canadian of his moral and legal right to vote.
To conclude, I advocate granting to those of Japanese origin in Canada all the rights and privileges that I have, on the sole basis that they are human beings. To deny them one iota of the rights and privileges enjoyed by, I shall say, individuals of the race to which I belong would be a denial of the brotherhood of ihan; a denial to fellow humans of rights and privileges which I enjoy for no better reason than that my race was here first. It would be an assertion on my part of the superior race theory for the eradication of which from the minds of men our young men are dying all manner of death in every part of the world. This world can only be at peace when all its people are FREE and EQUAL.
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