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A Nation of Immigrants

A Nation of Immigrants: Readings in Canadian History, 1840s-1960s

Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 512
  • Book Info
    A Nation of Immigrants
    Book Description:

    This collection of essays examines immigrants and racial-ethnic relations in Canada from the mid-nineteenth century to the post-1945 era.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8727-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. TOPIC ONE The Irish in Nineteenth-Century Canada:: Class, Culture, and Conflict

    • [TOPIC ONE introduction]
      (pp. 3-5)

      The year 1847 looms large in the history of the Irish in Canada. In that year, over 100,000 Irish emigrants reached Canadaʹs shores in search of refuge from the poverty, disease, and hunger caused by the Great Potato Famine. For many contemporaries, the famine-era migrants came to define the Irish presence in Canada – destitute, shiftless, diseased, and Catholic. In the eyes of many, these immigrants were the helpless victims of forces beyond their control, forced to choose between migration or death. They were individuals abruptly uprooted from their homeland and relegated to living in the overcrowded, unsanitary, violent urban...

    • The Orange Order and Social Violence in Mid-Nineteenth Century Saint John
      (pp. 5-34)
      SCOTT W. SEE

      In March 1839, the St. Patrickʹs, St. Georgeʹs and St. Andrewʹs societies held a joint meeting in Saint John, New Brunswick. Delegates noted and condemned the Protestant-Catholic confrontations that appeared to be endemic in Boston and other unfortunate American cities. In a spirit of congeniality, they applauded themselves on the good fortune of living in a British colony free of such acrimonious religious strife. Generous toasts were proposed to young Queen Victoria, Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Harvey and, most effusively, to each other.¹ A short eight years later, after Saint John and neighbouring Portland had experienced a series of bloody riots...

    • St. Patrickʹs Day Parades in Nineteenth-Century Toronto: A Study of Immigrant Adjustment and Elite Control
      (pp. 35-54)

      Irish immigrants brought to nineteenth-century British North America a rich and diverse cultural heritage which continued to flourish in the areas they settled. A particular fondness for parades and processions was part of this inheritance and annual demonstrations commemorating the Battle of the Boyne and the feast of St. Patrick were soon commonplace throughout the colonies. In the charged sectarian climate of Ireland, however, ʹparades were at the very centre of the territorial ... political and economic struggleʹ and these connotations were also transplanted.¹ Especially in Toronto, where Catholic and Protestant Irish congregated in large numbers, parades frequently became the...

  5. TOPIC TWO American Blacks in Nineteenth-Century Ontario:: Challenging the Stereotypes

    • [TOPIC TWO introduction]
      (pp. 55-57)

      The legendary story of the Underground Railway is celebrated in a ʹHeritage Minute,ʹ one of a series of sixty-second docudramas broadcast regularly on television and designed to promote Canadian history. In it, a young black woman, a fugitive slave from the United States, anxiously awaits the arrival of her father, also an escaping slave who is being smuggled into Canada. At her side stands the calm and reassuring figure of a white Canadian woman abolitionist. Tensions mount when the black woman bursts out of the room in time to see the arrival of the carriage that was to carry her...

    • The Black Population of Canada West on the Eve of the American Civil War: A Reassessment Based on the Manuscript Census of 1861
      (pp. 58-82)

      There is a tour you can take through southwestern Ontario that stops at a number of historical sites associated with runaway slaves, including the home of Josiah Henson, once thought to be the model for Harriet Beecher Stoweʹs Uncle Tom. This tour, known as ʹThe Road to Freedom,ʹ provides a good illustration of the extent to which fugitive slaves dominate popular perceptions of the history of blacks in nineteenth-century Ontario. So do the books that schoolchildren read about the exploits of the men and women of the Underground Railroad. So too do the stories that appear in newspapers each year...

    • ʹSelf-Reliance Is the True Road to Independenceʹ: Ideology and the Ex-Slaves in Buxton and Chatham
      (pp. 82-100)

      During the first half of the nineteenth century thousands of American black slaves stood poised on the brink of freedom. Black and white abolitionists alike pondered the difficult transition from slavery to a life of freedom. On the other hand ex-slaves often had their own notions of life without slavery. This paper explores the meeting of abolitionist ideals and ex-slave expectations that took place in Canada West during the 1840s and 1850s. In Chatham and the nearby village of Buxton, the struggle began for the ideological leadership of refugee blacks. In Buxton a white Presbyterian missionary philanthropist, the Reverend William...

    • Mary Ann Shadd and the Search for Equality
      (pp. 101-114)

      Educator, orator, reformer, and the first black woman editor of a newspaper in North America, Mary Ann Shadd worked throughout her life for the social and political integration of blacks. She first sought to achieve integration in the northern United States, but when that goal was thwarted by white legal maneuvering, especially after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, she decided that integration could better be achieved outside the United States. Thus, along with thousands of ʹhunted blacksʹ as W.E.B. Du Bois described them, Shadd moved to Canada in 1851. Unlike other emigrationists, though, she constantly held to...

  6. TOPIC THREE Settling the Canadian West:: The ʹExoticʹ Continentals

    • [TOPIC THREE introduction]
      (pp. 115-118)

      When in 1904 Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier said that the twentieth century would be Canadaʹs century, he had good reasons for his optimism. Canada had weathered the harsh realities of world depression and begun to enjoy dramatic economic growth. International conditions favoured a sharp increase in the demand for Canadian exports, especially natural products like wheat, while encouraging the foreign investment needed for the development of newly discovered mineral resources. Domestic industries prospered, helped along by the protective tariff, the Canadian Pacific Railway, and a rapidly increasing population. In 1900, Canadaʹs population stood at close to six million; by 1920,...

    • A Roumanian Pioneer
      (pp. 119-128)

      Mrs. Veronia Kokotailo came with her parents to Canada in 1898 when she was four years old. Her father had decided to leave the village of Boian in Roumania because his native land could no longer offer sustenance to him and his growing family. He owned the house they lived in, plus a scrap of land no larger than a small city lot. Over the preceding generations, the original land holding had been divided and subdivided among members of his family so that there was hardly enough to grow a garden. How could he hope to raise a family on...

    • The Ukrainian Impress on the Canadian West
      (pp. 128-162)

      A journey through the western interior of Canada, in the zone where the grasslands mix with the aspen-poplar forest, reveals extensive districts that stand out as one of the most distinct ethnic landscapes to be found anywhere in Canada and indeed in all of North America. They are the areas settled by Ukrainian immigrants and their descendants who began arriving in western Canada one hundred years ago. To uninitiated travellers, the onion-domed churches with their detached bell towers provide perhaps the strongest clue that they have entered a different ethnic environment. Closer inspection reveals additional features found predominantly, if not...

  7. TOPIC FOUR ʹWomenʹs Workʹ:: Paid Labour, Community-Building, and Protest

    • [TOPIC FOUR introduction]
      (pp. 163-166)

      In her autobiography,The Stream Runs Fast, Nellie McClung recounts an incident told to her by the friend of her domestic servant, Anna. Annaʹs friend Mary, a live-in domestic servant from Europe, was one day informed by her employer that she was not to use the family bathtub, but could take her bath at the YWCA. Mary was amenable to the idea, but worried that to bathe daily at the YWCA, located a mile away, would take up too much time from work. Her mistressʹs response was to tell Mary that ʹOne bath a week is plenty for you, and...

    • ʹI Wonʹt Be a Slave!ʹ: Finnish Domestics in Canada, 1911–1930
      (pp. 166-186)

      This touching funeral notice reveals some of the dark realities about domestic service in Canada. Why was the sixteen-year-old girl having to start her work day at 4:00 a.m.? What knowledge did she have of kerosene? And what protection in case of an accident? Who could she turn to for advice, or what avenues for complaint did she have? While the domestic servant looked after all the members and guests of the household, who looked after her? These questions were hotly debated in the various organizations established for Finnish maids in North America. Despite the many negative aspects of domestic...

    • Abrahamʹs Daughters: Women, Charity, and Power in the Canadian Jewish Community
      (pp. 186-202)

      However important the role of women and their associations has been in Jewish life, being female has translated into powerlessness in the political structure. Jewish women – energetic, skilled and committed as many have been and continue to be – operated on the periphery of the community. Without women, synagogues, schools, hospitals, homes for the aged, fund-raising organizations and representative federations would have been hard pressed to function effectively. Through fundraising, women provide the bulk of the finances that enable the community to undertake social welfare programs. Yet within these community associations women have generally been barred from the decision-making...

  8. TOPIC FIVE Men without Women:: ʹBachelorʹ Workers and Gendered Identities

    • [TOPIC FIVE introduction]
      (pp. 203-206)

      Throughout the early twentieth century, Canadaʹs official immigration policy remained agriculturalist in orientation. Yet these years also witnessed the arrival of thousands of immigrants from Europe and Asia who did not settle on the land. Alongside the flow of agriculturalists who entered Canada before 1930 were two parallel streams of immigrants whose labour was also much in demand: female domestic servants and industrial male workers. This section considers the latter group, namely, the non-British foreign-born men who filled the ranks of Canadaʹs industrial proletariat during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

      The significant presence of Chinese and central and...

    • Men without Women: Italian Migrants in Canada, 1885–1930
      (pp. 206-230)

      In July of 1908, the lead article of theRivista di Emigrazionedescribed emigration as the ʹgreatest social phenomenon of our epoch whether one is speaking of the demographic impact on the country, its economy, its moral condition, levels of criminality, state of public health, in fact, of any aspect of the peopleʹs life.ʹ¹ Since that time, both in countries of emigration and in immigrant-receiving countries, historians have created a rich literature about migrationʹs demographic and economic impact. From Robert FoersterʹsItalian Emigration of Our Times(1919) to recent studies of remittances andritornati, we have been shown the way...

    • Bachelor Workers
      (pp. 231-250)

      The trip from Hong Kong to Victoria took about 35 days under normal weather conditions. Depending on the quality of the ship and its crew, a one-way ticket cost between 15 and 20 Hong Kong dollars. A diet of rice, dried fish and preserved cabbage and other provisions added another 45 to 50 dollars. These expenses were paid by the labor contractors to the immigration brokers and shipping companies before the laborer left Hong Kong. Once the laborer began collecting a wage, a small portion, usually 2.5 per cent, would go to the contractor to repay the cost of his...

    • Bachelors, Boarding-Houses, and Blind Pigs: Gender Construction in a Multi-Ethnic Mining Camp, 1909–1920
      (pp. 251-290)

      Mining communities scattered across the North American industrial frontier in the latter part of the nineteenth century acquired a reputation for violence and lawlessness. Drunken brawls between men were supposedly everyday occurrences, while gambling and prostitution were ʹwide open.ʹ Social and political commentators, journalists, and even novelists of that era constructed a portrait of the mining camp as a place of social disorder.¹ The mining towns that sprang up in northern Ontario during the early twentieth century shared a similar image. Despite the best efforts of northern Ontario businessmen and provincial government bureaucrats to provide an alternative picture of northern...

  9. TOPIC SIX Demanding Rights, Organizing for Change:: Militants and Radicals

    • [TOPIC SIX introduction]
      (pp. 291-293)

      In the late 1970s, the U.S. radical historian Gabriel Kolko issued his now classic lament regarding the weakness of the American working class.¹ For Kolko, and for an entire generation of North American scholars, ethnic and racial differences among workers, as well as successive waves of immigrants and temporary migrants (or sojourners), proved the Achilles heel of American labour, dividing workers and hindering collective protest. Similar arguments have been made for Canada, and not without reason. From the start, the Canadian working class was ethnically diverse. This heterogeneity was perpetuated, as in the United States, by successive waves of migrants,...

    • Finnish Radicalism and Labour Activism in the Northern Ontario Woods
      (pp. 293-316)

      During the first half of the twentieth century a large proportion of activists in Canadaʹs labour movement and left-wing parties were immigrants, many of them ʹforeignersʹ from continental Europe. Jewish, Ukrainian, and Finnish immigrant groups provided leaders and the vast majority of recruits for the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) in the interwar period. New immigrants frequently became labour militants, striking to defend their group interests on the job. In strikes, recent arrivals from diverse European backgrounds sometimes acted in solidarity with one another and with Anglo-Celtic and French-Canadian workers. In certain locales and industries, however, a particular ethnic group...

    • Sewing Solidarity: The Eatonʹs Strike of 1912
      (pp. 316-322)

      ʹMr. John C. Eaton, ʺKing of Canadaʺ as he is generally called, is being taught the A.B.C.ʹs of Industrial Democracy by the striking Cloak Makers of Toronto,ʹ proclaimed the International Ladiesʹ Garment Workersʹ Union (ILGWU).¹ It was 1912, and the Jewish workers who laboured in the Toronto garment factory of the T. Eaton Company were locked in combat with one of the most powerful employers in the country. The ILGWU charged that:

      ... in this very Kingdom of the Eaton Company, frail children of fourteen years, in busy seasons, work from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. ... in slack season,...

    • Relief Strike: Immigrant Workers and the Great Depression in Crowland, Ontario, 1930–1935
      (pp. 322-358)

      On 2 April 1935, relief recipients from over a dozen ethnic groups employed on public works projects in Crowland, Ontario, laid down their tools in an effort to obtain ʹfairʹ compensation from their labour. Over the next month their strike became the source of consternation far beyond the boundaries of the small southern Ontario township. It was the subject of front-page stories in newspapers across Ontario, and it occasioned three visits from Premier Mitchell Hepburn, in the company of such key cabinet members as David Croll, minister of labour and welfare, and Attorney General Arthur Roebuck. The premier, who less...

  10. TOPIC SEVEN Encountering the ʹOtherʹ:: Society and State Responses, 1900s-1930s

    • [TOPIC SEVEN introduction]
      (pp. 359-361)

      On the eve of the First World War, the project of constructing a nation-state in the northern half of North America was on track. Between 1900 and 1914, Canadaʹs population had increased by about 40 per cent, its gross national product and wheat production had more than doubled, and vast tracts of territory had been settled into homesteads. Canadians were also well on their way to becoming a predominantly urban population. By 1921 more Canadians lived in cities than in rural areas. Urban growth was due in part to immigrants who increasingly congregated in the city, despite official attempts to...

    • A Disgrace to ʹChristian Canadaʹ: Protestant Foreign Missionary Concerns about the Treatment of South Asians in Canada, 1907–1940
      (pp. 361-384)

      ʹSeriously, how is it that these flabby philanthropists, these goody-good sloppy sentimentalists invariably champion the cause of foreigners against their own people and kin, as in this case?ʹ The author of this question was a 1912 letter-writer toSaturday Nightmagazine who identified himself (?) only as ʹFar West.ʹ The ʹforeignersʹ in this instance were immigrants from India. Unless they were stopped, ʹFar Westʹ warned, they would continue to flee their own overcrowded homeland for British Columbia. There, given their willingness to accept low wages and live cheaply ʹin dens not fit for a swine,ʹ they would soon flood the...

    • State Repression of Labour and the Left in Canada, 1914–1920: The Impact of the First World War
      (pp. 384-412)

      For the Canadian working class, as for workers the world over, the experience of the First World War proved momentous. Not surprisingly, the Canadian bourgeoisie also learned important lessons from the process of organizing for war, not least of which was the potential power of the state apparatus to respond to serious threats from within as well as from without its borders. The Canadian labour revolt of 1917–20, which joined the international proletarian upsurge of those years, represented the first significant nationwide working-class challenge to bourgeois rule.¹ It met with a stern response, which established the parameters for state...

    • ʹThe line must be drawn somewhereʹ: Canada and Jewish Refugees, 1933–1939
      (pp. 412-446)

      On 15 May 1939 907 desperate German Jews set sail from Hamburg on the luxury linerSt. Louis. Like many who had sailed on this ship before, these passengers were – or at least had been – the cream of German society: distinguished, well-off, educated, cultured. Most had contributed much to their native land. All were now penniless. They had been stripped of their possessions, hounded out of their homes and businesses and now their country. Their most prized possession was the entrance visa to Cuba each carried on board.

      For the Jews of Germany life had become impossible. Countless...

  11. TOPIC EIGHT Regulating Minorities in ʹHotʹ and ʹColdʹ War Contexts, 1939–1960s

    • [TOPIC EIGHT introduction]
      (pp. 447-451)

      Not only at the time of arrival do immigrants capture the attention of government officials or reform-minded gatekeepers. Dramatic events that fuel concerns about a countryʹs resources and its capacity to mount a united national effort inevitably provoke anxious debate about the disloyalty or ʹdivided loyaltyʹ of racial-ethnic minorities. The Second World War provides an example of how a wartime context could unleash ʹa war withinʹ as state authorities and others sought to regulate the behaviour of immigrants, in part through a massive propaganda campaign designed to rally immigrants to Canadaʹs war, but also through the surveillance and repression of...

    • Ethnic Relations in Wartime: Nationalism and European Minorities in Alberta during the Second World War
      (pp. 451-481)

      The impact of national crises such as war on ethnic relations in Canada is a subject which has recently begun to receive scholarly attention. Historians John Thompson and Donald Avery have discussed the upsurge of nativism towards ʹenemy aliensʹ during World War I, and a number of authors have recently examined the impact of World War II on attitudes toward the Japanese. However, the fate of minority ethnic groups other than the Japanese during the Second World War has not been examined.¹

      This article focuses on ethnic relations in Alberta from 1939 to 1945 and attempts to assess the impact...

    • Making ʹNew Canadiansʹ: Social Workers, Women, and the Reshaping of Immigrant Families
      (pp. 482-513)

      In the spring of 1958 Mrs Gabura, a Hungarian refugee, entered the office of the International Institute of Metropolitan Toronto, a social agency offering aid to the cityʹs non-British immigrants. With her husband employed out of town, Gabura came to the institute hoping to find a job and locate a daycare for her two small children. The Hungarian-speaking counsellor assigned to the case promptly placed her client in private service and the children in a Catholic nursery. It soon became clear, however, that a seemingly straightforward case of job placement masked a turbulent history of marital cruelty.

      Staff workers first...