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Jobs and Justice

Jobs and Justice: Fighting Discrimination in Wartime Canada, 1939-1945

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 256
  • Book Info
    Jobs and Justice
    Book Description:

    Juxtaposing a discussion of state policy with ideas of race and citizenship in Canadian civil society, Carmela K. Patrias shows how minority activists were able to bring national attention to racist employment discrimination during the Second World War and obtain official condemnation of such discrimination.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9387-6
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    Sometime in 1941 a group of ‘Slavic’ workers travelled from Alberta to Ontario in search of skilled jobs in war industries. All the workers were Canadian-born and all had been trained under the government’s War Emergency Training Programme. Yet, despite shortages of skilled labour in Ontario, they were unable to obtain work. Upon learning their names, Ontario employers refused to hire them, and the workers were eventually forced to return to Alberta.¹ The rejection of these workers, despite their Canadian birth and training, baffles the contemporary reader. Were these workers of Polish, Ukrainian, Czech, Slovak, Serbian, or Croatian descent? Did...

  5. Part One: Invidious Distinctions

    • 1 Employment Discrimination and State Complicity
      (pp. 19-44)

      Calls for the dismissal of ‘foreigners’ from their jobs arose almost immediately after the outbreak of the Second World War and intensified in 1940, following the sudden and rapid successes of German troops in western Europe and Italy’s entry into the war. Thousands of people across Canada lost their jobs. They came from a wide variety of occupations: miners in Cape Breton, steel workers in Hamilton, department store and hotel employees in Toronto and Winnipeg, municipal employees in Windsor and Calgary, and shipyard workers in Vancouver. They included not only workers who were born in, or could trace their origins...

  6. Part Two: Discrimination Is Sabotage:: Minority Accommodation, Protest, and Resistance

    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 45-49)

      An African Canadian graduate of a Montreal commercial high school, Mrs. Chalmers, firmly believed that war-generated demand for office clerks offered a unique opportunity to overcome racist exclusion from white-collar jobs. Her conviction was so strong that she was willing to weather repeated rejections from a Montreal employer in her quest. She returned seven days in a row to one office which advertised a clerical position in a local paper; each time the employer informed her that the position had been filled. For six days she returned home only to discover that the advertisement was still in the paper. ‘I...

    • 2 Jews
      (pp. 50-67)

      The writer of this excerpt, M. Wolfson, was the owner of Annabel’s, a women’s clothing manufacturer in Toronto. He was describing his experience with discrimination by state agencies, at the request of the Jewish Employment Service which was gathering such evidence in the autumn of 1942 as part of its campaign against racist employment discrimination. The letter’s purpose and content provide a glimpse of the most coherent anti-discrimination campaign developed by Canadian minorities during the Second World War – that mounted by the Jews. Ironically, given that their purported ‘unassimilability’ was one of the main reasons behind Canada’s refusal to admit...

    • 3 Other Racialized Citizens
      (pp. 68-90)

      The African Canadian wartime campaign against discrimination resembled that of Jewish activists in many ways. They too seized the opportunity of the state’s involvement in the labour market to direct attention to racist discrimination and to urge state officials to stop it. They too advocated legislation against discrimination. Because they were fewer in number, however, and no national organization united them, the African Canadian struggle against discrimination was decentralized. Churches, community organizations, and labour unions in big cities such as Montreal and Toronto, but also in small towns in southwestern Ontario with high concentrations of people of African descent, protested...

    • 4 The Disenfranchised
      (pp. 91-104)

      When white Vancouver Island miners belonging to the United Mine Workers of America went out on strike at the Dunsmuir Mines in Union Bay in August 1942, their co-workers of Chinese descent, who were not members of the union, also went on strike. White miners were protesting against receiving lower wages than unskilled workers in war industries; Chinese workers were protesting against being paid less than white miners at the Dunsmuir Mines. The Chinese washermen, dumpers, and trimmers, whose work was essential for supplying coal to ships on the Pacific coast, used the government’s wartime role in adjudicating disputes over...

  7. Part Three: Ambivalent Allies:: Anglo-Saxon Critics of Discrimination

    • [PART THREE Introduction]
      (pp. 105-112)

      In August 1942 aToronto Daily Stareditorial, reporting on a CBC broadcast by Dr W.C. Perry, pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Toronto, acknowledged and denounced racist employment discrimination in war production.¹ A few months later, aGlobe and Maileditorial responded to minority complaints by unequivocally condemning employment discrimination:

      Employers, short as they are of help, are refusing to hire individuals because of their color or because of their religion. While that is bad enough for private employers, it is even worse in Government-owned plants and plants having government orders. The money for the war contracts...

    • 5 Mainstream Critics and the Burden of Inherited Ideas
      (pp. 113-131)

      The names of Claris Silcox, Murray Gibbon, Watson Kirkconnell, and Robert England seldom appear in contemporary studies of mid-twentieth-century campaigns against discrimination and racism. The reason for their omission is that their efforts on behalf of minorities, frequently limited to those of European origin, are unknown or deemed irrelevant, even racist, by students of racism. In the Canada of the 1930s and 1940s, however, these men were widely considered the leading experts on the question of race. Their emphasis on environment rather than biology as determinants of difference, and their focus on cultural rather than racial diversity among Canada’s people,...

    • 6 Labour and the Left
      (pp. 132-150)

      Not all English Canadian activists or members of Canadian voluntary associations who tackled racism and discrimination shared the social conservatism of Silcox, Kirkconnell, and Gibbon. A number of them believed that class divisions were a significant and sometimes decisive feature of Canadian society and that racial inequality was closely linked to class inequality in Canada. These activists insisted during the war that overcoming racism was a prerequisite of building a more egalitarian and democratic society.

      One such activist was Scottish-born Watson Thomson, director of adult education for the University of Manitoba, a member of the Workers’ Educational Association and the...

  8. Part Four: Anglo-Saxon Guardianship

    • 7 Anglo-Saxon Guardianship
      (pp. 153-182)

      Even as state officials and agencies colluded in various forms of employment discrimination, the federal government initiated new agencies and programmes to integrate minority groups within the body of the nation. Two main objectives shaped the federal government’s minority policies in wartime. The first major impetus behind these initiatives was the belief that special efforts would be required to unify a population of diverse origins and to rally the large number of Canada’s inhabitants whose origins were neither British nor French behind the war effort. From the outset a key consideration behind government plans was the potential of employment discrimination...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 183-194)

    Shortly before the end of the Second World War, an editorial in theWinnipeg Free Pressnoted that the persistence of discriminatory employment practices was symptomatic of ‘a deep disease’ in Canadian society. ‘If this nation is to endure,’ the editorial warned, such discrimination ‘must be quickly rooted out.’¹ The paper was responding to news that employers continued to state a preference for ‘Anglo-Saxons’ in job advertisements, and that the bearers of foreign-sounding names, even men who had served in the Canadian armed forces, had difficulties finding employment in the city.²

    That employment discrimination continued to the very end of...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 195-240)
  11. Index
    (pp. 241-249)