Creating Societies

Creating Societies: Immigrant Lives in Canada

Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    Creating Societies
    Book Description:

    Dirk Hoerder shows us that it is not shining railroad tracks or statesmen in Ottawa that make up the story of Canada but rather individual stories of life and labour - Caribbean women who care for children born in Canada, lonely prairie homesteaders, miners in Alberta and British Columbia, women labouring in factories, Chinese and Japanese immigrants carving out new lives in the face of hostility.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6798-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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

    The history of Canada has been viewed as nation-building by laying railway tracks, organized by great white men, or in economic terms as a country producing staples for world markets. But who laid the tracks, who grew the wheat, who clothed the great white men? Did not women and men, in addition to producing staples, raise new generations of Canadians? In the last decades, scholars have answered such questions by detailed studies of life in villages and urban neighbourhoods; they have examined ethnic groups and dominant structures, gender roles and life-cycles. Understanding Canadian society has advanced from abstractions to people....

    • CHAPTER ONE Settings
      (pp. 5-14)

      By the 1850s, profound changes were affecting the Atlantic world. Peoples in Europe had unsuccessfully rebelled against their rulers in 1848 and 1849. Under the concept of Manifest Destiny expansionist groups in the United States had annexed part of Mexico and were negotiating for the Northwest, including the future British Columbia. From the core areas of the Russian Empire settlers moved into Siberia, and from Siberia trappers and fishermen came to the Pacific coast of North America. In this world of empires, the future Canada consisted but of an interconnected string of settlements ranging from the Maritimes via the St...

    • CHAPTER TWO Sources
      (pp. 15-26)

      The images of immigrant lives that we find in life-writings depend on the intended audience – relatives and friends in the case of letters, an anonymous readership in the case of autobiographies written for publication. They depend on the structure of memory and the psychology of a particular author. They reflect a perceived society and a specific social space within it, not an objective one. But men and women act on the basis of their perceptions and they shape and reshape their identities on the basis of their emotional reactions to an “objective” event. These subjective processes are as important...

    • CHAPTER THREE Transitions
      (pp. 27-36)

      The decision to emigrate and leave the country of your birth was a long process. It was often the result of the family’s economic circumstances and the region’s socio-economic systems. The leave-taking from loved ones was a wrenching experience. The trip began with a train journey across Europe followed by the ocean-crossing, often perceived as dangerous and regularly combined with sea sickness. Further travel lay ahead from the port of arrival to the final destination – a harrowing experience for people who had most likely never travelled before. Men and women from the southern provinces of China or the Punjab...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Immigrants in a Settled Society: the Maritimes
      (pp. 39-48)

      Mid-nineteenth-century immigrants to the Maritime provinces came into a mature society with a population of more than three-quarters of a million in 1871. We will first look at the many-cultured people in a historical and Atlantic perspective. Next, we will turn to the experiences of a merchant of German origin in Lunenburg, a Scottish immigrant, and the wife of an English military officer in Fredericton. We will contrast their lives to the experience of a man whose failure reflected prevalent notions about scions of English families in the “colonies.” We will finally supplement the immigration story with that of internal...

    • CHAPTER FIVE French-Canadian Migrations
      (pp. 49-57)

      French-Canadian history in the St Lawrence Valley has been deeply influenced by demographic factors. In contradistinction to other European peoples, French women and men had stabilized birthrates early and by the seventeenth century few emigrated. In consequence, North America’s population by the 1750s consisted of about 65,000 French and about 1 million British.¹ When France ceded the economically unrewarding French-settled areas to Britain in 1763 in order to keep its lucrative Caribbean islands, the Quebec Act granted protection to the French language and the Catholic religion and assigned many of the province’s administrative roles to the seigneurs and the clergy....

    • CHAPTER SIX The Coming of the Irish
      (pp. 58-68)

      While the social space of French speakers extended from the Maritimes to the Ottawa river – and for thecoureurs de boisfarther west – that of the Irish extended from the Maritimes to the western end of Lake Erie. Irish came to French Canada because of military service in French armies, they came to Nova Scotia via the English connection, they came in the Loyalist migrations. Thus footholds for chain migration had been established early. The exploitation of the Irish peasants by English and Irish landlords and the rapid natural population increase had sent large numbers of Irish to...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Immigrants in Montreal
      (pp. 71-84)

      Thriving mid-nineteenth-century Montreal attracted newcomers in large numbers. William Weir, a young Scotsman, went to his uncle’s family in Lachute in 1842, then became a teacher while learning French, moved back to Montreal in 1844, and in 1847 set up in business for himself. His retrospective is a political history of Montreal and Quebec rather than a life-story. James Thomson, a journeyman baker from Scotland, came in 1844; Richard Hemsley, an English watchmaker, lived there in the 1860s and 1870s.¹

      Without exception, these immigrants came in contact with both anglophone and French-Canadian native-born men and women. In Weir’s view, the...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Life on the Ontario Frontier
      (pp. 85-95)

      Settlement clusters in what was to become Upper Canada had first been established by English-speaking Loyalists of many ethnicities, who combined political flight from what they considered turbulent republicanism in the United States with economic gain through land grants at their destination. From the 1810s to the 1850s two distinct streams of immigrant settlers followed: genteel English and Anglo-Irish, and working-class English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh. The first published their experiences and occupied public memory; the second, like the French Canadians, have to be reinserted into public memory by historians. We will look at the experiences of settlers with few...

    • CHAPTER NINE Northward-Bound to the Lumbering and Mining Frontier
      (pp. 96-104)

      Urban workers left few life-writings – they did not have time to record their struggles – but long winters permitted reflection on the summer’s adventures in the “Old” Northwest Territories, which would later be incorporated into the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Northward migration from the densely settled St Lawrence Valley brought French-Canadian and other settlers to marginal farmlands, and into the mines or logging, where they mixed with Finns and other nationalities. The ubiquitous railway workers and engineers were among the first to penetrate northward, among them Italian labourers from Montreal. Around the cpr depot in Fort William, now...

    • CHAPTER TEN The Labouring and Lower Middle Classes in Toronto
      (pp. 105-118)

      The population of Toronto was less mixed in the 1890s than that of Montreal or Winnipeg. Just as Quebec City had a reputation of being predominantly French Canadian, so Toronto was regarded as the citadel of English Canadians. Both cities were “remarkably homogeneous, strong on church life, Sunday observance and morality,” as theCanadian Encyclopediaput it, or, as others might say, a little drab. As late as the end of the 1920s, a German working-class immigrant was arrested on a Toronto beach for indecent exposure: he wore swimming trunks only, not a whole suit. Toronto nevertheless was a switchyard...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Immigrant Crossroads at Winnipeg
      (pp. 121-136)

      Winnipeg became the gateway to the West when the transcontinental railway was completed in 1885.¹ French influence declined early. “Comment se fait-il que les capitaux français ne cherchent pas à s’assurer une part des richesses que l’achèvement du ‘Canadian Pacific’ a mis à la portée de tous? Pourquoi 1’initiative privée ne viendrait-elle pas ici lutter, amicalement, sur le terrain économique avec celle des Anglais, des Allemands, voire même des Américains?” one French observer asked himself taking up a topic that was discussed in Quebec society at the same time.² As a distribution and manufacturing centre, Winnipeg attracted large numbers of...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE The Opening of the West
      (pp. 137-150)

      Until the railways fanned out in the West, settlers from Winnipeg trekked out by cart. Collections of shacks, called towns, sprang up. The haphazard character and profit-making aspects of urban growth are reflected in many accounts. One real estate agent, selling lots in a distant western city, had a map “which showed the City Hall, then a little gap, and then came the property he was trying to dispose of.” When customers asked about the distance between city hall and the lots, the agent asserted: “Not far,” but cautiously added, “Really, I don’t know the exact distance.” A better-informed customer...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Community-Building: Homesteading and Bloc Farming
      (pp. 151-175)

      The prairies captured the imagination of many. Life was dynamic, with a better standard of living but a short time off in “next-year” country. The image of free land and the outdoor life led visitors to produce numerous factographic or opinionated accounts.¹ Educated Britishers travelled across the “Great Northwest” on self-assigned fact-finding missions. Osyp Oleskiv addressed his “About Free Lands and About Immigration” to Ukrainian peasants in 1895. A multitude of life-writings² reflects cultural origins, especially the experiences of Mennonites,³ Russian-Germans,⁴ Ukrainians (or Ruthenians),⁵ Poles,⁶ Askenazi Jews,⁷ Germans,⁸ Swiss, Dutch,⁹ Danish, Swedes, Norwegians,10Finns, French11and Belgians, Italians, and the...

    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN Storekeepers and Small Entrepreneurs
      (pp. 176-189)

      Farming families and homesteaders, spread over large distances, had to buy provisions, clothing, and shoes. Men, who badly needed their time for clearing land and doing the chores, had to hitch up their teams or even walk for many kilometres to reach a store. In 1909, “the country was all wilderness, the nearest store was Oak Point, about thirty miles distance from our farm, which Dad did walk for groceries at times.” Thus the arrival of a pedlar was a pleasure and the opening of a new store nearby even more so. Children viewed the choices with delight, women welcomed...

    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN Building and Imagining Western Society
      (pp. 190-204)

      Once immigrants had set up their homesteads and the question of provisions and stores was solved, communities had to be organized formally if only because children needed a school. People proceeded parsimoniously, since taxes might drive them back into poverty. The local was part of larger worlds. Two organizations, the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North-West Mounted Police, spanning the prairies and beyond, mediated between the local and the national and worldwide markets. A third larger connection was in the immigrants’ minds – old world politics and families. A fourth connection, the pomp and circumstance of the British Empire, remained...

    • CHAPTER SIXTEEN Mining in the Rockies
      (pp. 207-217)

      George M. Dawson of the Canadian Geological Survey explored the Crowsnest Pass area, the southernmost link between Alberta and British Columbia, in 1882 and 1883, and in 1898–9 the cpr built a line westward through the pass to tap its coal seams. Towns sprang up, and a memorial on the height of the pass credits two Italians as early pioneers in the construction work. When mountaineering became a hobby for the rich, alpine guides hired from Switzerland and Austria initiated a chain migration. Some Banff houses were constructed in the Swiss style, contrasting with the pagoda-style cpr stations. For...

    • CHAPTER SEVENTEEN East and West Do Meet
      (pp. 218-236)

      From the perspective of the colonial powers, the northwest coast had been a shared as well as contested domain of the Spanish, Russian, and British empires. From the perspective the Native peoples, the newcomers represented threats as well as trading opportunities. Natives exchanged goods with the eighteenth-century transpacific vessels of the European powers and in the nineteenth century with Northwest Company and Hudson’s Bay Company factors. European men and First Nation women lived together in keeping with “the customs of the country.” Some men became “Indianized” and their children developed Métis cultures. Much of the British Columbia elite, including the...

    • [PART SIX Introduction]
      (pp. 237-238)

      The breaking of the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919 and the War Measures Act of 1914 to limit freedoms of native-born and immigrant Canadians alike cast a shadow over society. Working-class immigrants feared deportation, labour organizations feared disruption. Colonization like that of the Peace River District was hailed as part of a frontier spirit, but settlers were reduced to ever more marginal lands on settlement “fringes” distant from market connections. Discontent with economic conditions in the 1920s and even more in the 1930s, as well as the feeling that neither provincial nor national governments acted in the interest of the...

    • CHAPTER EIGHTEEN From Dislocation to Politics of Protest
      (pp. 239-258)

      In continental Europe, dislocation from the First World War, hunger, and postwar economic havoc sent many to North America. Prospects for life-courses remained in limbo, as for example, for the Dziuzynski family. In August 1914, Carolina Dziuzynski’s father was drafted into the Austrian army. The family had to evacuate their home, leaving livestock and crops behind. In some places, officials would give them food, elsewhere they were reduced to begging. Even people willing to help “would tell us to move to a different place, as we were a burden to them.” From the Lwów district they trekked to Nowy Sacz,...

    • CHAPTER NINETEEN The Depression Thirties and Discriminatory Forties
      (pp. 259-278)

      For some immigrants the bad years began as early as 1927, but others found secure, if modest, niches throughout the 1930s. The exportdriven pole-cutting industry in British Columbia remained expansive. By contrast, farming had to cope with drought in addition to depression. In many families, food was allocated not according to hunger but according to what was available. “[Wartime] rationing, when it came in 1942, was almost meaningless: our coffee, tea, sugar and gasoline had been rationed by circumstances for a dozen years,” one family remembered. A few did not have to bother. The daughter of a British official on...

    • [PART SEVEN Introduction]
      (pp. 279-280)

      By the 1950s the immigrants and their children had achieved modestly comfortable lives. The second, third, and later generations had become part of the mainstream. But the mainstream was not merely the sum total of the input of the diverse British groups and the several French-speaking cultures, as well as that of Native Peoples and Métis. Each and every immigrant had observed, absorbed, or rejected what he or she found. With each person entering those social spaces that in the decades before the First World War became Canada, the dual mainstream and the marginalized Native and Métis societies were reformed,...

    • CHAPTER TWENTY Years of Change and Redefinition
      (pp. 281-294)

      In the century from the 1850s to the 1940s, identities had emerged in local contexts. Men and women gave “Canada” as their destination, while they then settled in Montreal or on a homestead; or they remained “unsettled” as itinerant labourers and easily dismissible live-in domestics; or they lived in a Chinatown or other ethnic quarter that was a neighbourhood and not a ghetto or tourist attraction. Early immigrants were only concerned to build a new life for themselves in their local and regional economies. They tried to do so without breaks in identities; they looked for continuity as well as...

    • CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE Multicultural Lives in Canada
      (pp. 295-308)

      The policy of multiculturalism provided the framework in which immigrant men and women from a last group of labour migrants from Southern Europe – Italy and Portugal in particular – and new labour migrants and refugees from Asia, the Caribbean, and from other parts of the world, could develop their human and social capital. Their resources upon arrival were often as limited as those of Bill Johnstone, the British miner, who started his first job weakened by hunger, and of Maki Fukushima, who cooked in a lumber camp a day after arrival. For the first time in centuries, Quebec could...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 309-364)
  13. Index
    (pp. 365-372)
  14. Index of Migrants
    (pp. 373-375)