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Repression and Resistance

Repression and Resistance: Canadian Human Rights Activists, 1930-1960

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 370
  • Book Info
    Repression and Resistance
    Book Description:

    Examining the history of human rights in Canada from 1930 to 1960, the period just before the emergence of contemporary human rights groups,Repression and Resistancefocuses on the activists who fought against what they perceived to be the major human rights injustices of the time: the Quebec anti-communist padlock law, the violation of civil liberties during the war, the post-war attempt to deport Japanese Canadians, campaigns to obtain effective anti-discrimination legislation, civil liberties violations during the Cold War, and the struggle to obtain a Bill of Rights.

    Using newspaper files, government documents, collections of personal papers, and interviews with former political activists, Ross Lambertson demonstrates how certain Canadians ? including members of ethnic, labour, religious, civil libertarian, and other organizations ? were sufficiently "aroused by injustice" so as to fight for human rights. The book shows how these different activists and their organizations were inter-related, but also how, at the same time, they were very often separated by ideological, cultural, and geographic divisions.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7923-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations: Organizations and Laws
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-15)

    We live in ‘the age of rights.’ As Louis Henkin has noted, ‘human rights is the idea of our time, the only political-moral idea that has received universal acceptance. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, has been approved by virtually all governments representing all societies. Human rights are enshrined in the constitutions of virtually every one of today’s ... states.’¹ This is more than just international and constitutional window dressing. Aside from occasional criticisms of ‘human rights imperialism’ by non-Western authoritarian states, or philosophical arguments that question the validity of ‘socially...

  6. 1 Civil Libertarians and the Padlock Law
    (pp. 16-67)

    Canada’s gradual entry into the age of rights, from about 1930 to 1960, was marked by several developments. First, there emerged a number of organizations devoted to the protection of what today we would call ‘human rights.’ There had certainly been rights groups prior to this period; take, for example, the impressively named but unremittingly illiberal Equal Rights Protective Association, an organization formed in 1889 for promoting the rights of anglophone Protestants at the expense of French-speaking Catholics. But the period studied by this book, especially the post-war years, saw an unprecedented proliferation of organizations devoted to the protection of...

  7. 2 The Second World War: Civil Liberties at Risk
    (pp. 68-105)

    From the human rights perspective, the Second World War in Canada began with debate over libertarian rights and ended with arguments about egalitarian rights. This chapter deals primarily with the first debate, over questions of free speech, free association, and the right to due process, and shows how civil liberties groups were the most active organizations in the human rights community, with that community embracing a small number of other organizations, newspapers, and politicians. The next chapter looks at the way in which, towards the end of the war, an aroused public had come to focus much more on the...

  8. 3 The Japanese-Deportation Issue
    (pp. 106-142)

    In the later years of the war, discrimination against a variety of ethnic and religious minorities began to permeate public consciousness, and debates about libertarian rights shifted to arguments about egalitarian rights. Yet, even at the beginning of the war, the federal government showed some concern for egalitarian rights. For example, the committee creating the DOCR decided that, in general, members of minority ethnic groups would be treated as individuals rather than as members of collectivities. Therefore, with the exception of the Japanese Canadians (admittedly, a large exception), there were no plans to round up people simply because of their...

  9. 4 The Gouzenko Affair, Civil Libertarians, and the Shugar Case
    (pp. 143-195)

    As the Second World War drew to a close, there were mixed messages about what this would mean for civil liberties. The DOCR were about to expire, and Canada’s participation in the newly created United Nations suggested a commitment to the emerging concept of human rights. On the other hand, one contemporary observer, finishing his doctoral dissertation in 1945, argued that ‘the future of freedom in Canada does not look bright ... in view of the general lack of a public consciousness of the degree to which liberties have been infringed. Authority once exercised by government is seldom entirely relinquished.’¹...

  10. 5 The Canadian Jewish Congress and the Human Rights Community
    (pp. 196-242)

    As this book has noted, in the mid-1940s Canadians began to shift from the traditional language of ‘British liberties’ to the new discourse of ‘human rights.’ This development, which in large part was a reaction to the horrors of Nazi policies and subsequent references to human rights in the UN Charter, was connected to a greater respect for egalitarian rights than had been previously the case. The Japanesedeportation issue exemplified the early stages of this sea change.

    There were two major aspects to this. First, people’s attitudes altered. Although many Canadians retained their prejudices, racism and anti-Semitism became less and...

  11. 6 Civil Liberties Groups and the Cold War
    (pp. 243-280)

    Canada has never had a truly comprehensive and national civil liberties group analogous to the American Civil Liberties Union in the United States. As noted, the pre-war Canadian Civil Liberties Union was never more than a loosely affiliated collection of independent organizations, and post-war attempts to create a national body came to naught. An organization called the League for Democratic Rights (LDR) was active in the early years, but this was seen by most people as a Communist-front organization and largely ostracized by other more mainstream groups, which in turn could never manage to transcend their geographic separateness. Even today,...

  12. 7 The Dresden Story: The Jewish Labour Committee and Blacks in Dresden, Ontario
    (pp. 281-317)

    This book has already mentioned the contribution of the Jewish Labour Committee to the work of the Canadian Jewish Congress in the immediate post-war years. This chapter looks more closely at the JLC’s activities, with special attention to one of the main campaigns of its Toronto labour committee – obtaining an Ontario Fair Accommodation Practices act and ensuring that it would be effective. This legislation, along with its predecessor, the Ontario FEP act, was the precursor of analogous statutes in all the provinces and in Ottawa, helping to lead the way to both our modern human rights codes and the equality...

  13. 8 The Canadian Human Rights Community and the Bill of Rights
    (pp. 318-371)

    Earlier chapters in this book have mentioned in passing that certain key groups and individuals in the post-war Canadian human rights community became converted to the idea that the nation needed a bill of rights. The present chapter examines this intellectual sea change in more detail and explains how these people formed a policy network to attain their goal. It illustrates, moreover, the way in which the idea of a bill of rights brought together both libertarians and egalitarians. During the war the civil liberties groups in Canada had begun to widen their scope, embracing not just libertarian but also...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 372-386)

    This book has shown how Canada entered the age of rights from 1930 to 1960. It was, of course, simply the beginning of what Michael Ignatieff has called the rights revolution. Despite the advances described here, in 1960 discrimination against minority ethnic and religious groups was still far too common, limitations on libertarian rights were still excessive (at least from the liberal perspective), and the nation was not yet exposed to the ideas of feminism, gay liberation, and First Nations nationalism, to the idea that the rights of those with physical and mental disabilities were shamefully neglected, and to a...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 387-458)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 459-482)
  17. Index
    (pp. 483-523)