Discrimination in Canada in the 1920s
Discrimination in Canada in the 1920s
In the 1920s politicians and leading Canadians took an active role in discriminating against all ethnic groups other than white Anglo-Saxons. They achieved this by feeding the dark side of humanity: fear of different cultures, prejudice and xenophobia. In the 1920s Canada treated different peoples unjustly. The Chinese were faced with ridiculous laws, the Native Americans were forced to forfeit their culture and the Ukrainians were treated with suspicion wherever they went.
In the 1920s the Aboriginals faced much prejudice in Canadian society and it was at this time that their unique way of living was most suppressed. In 1876, the Indian Act had encouraged the gradual disappearance of Indians as Indians and promoted their assimilation into Canadian society. This act had made all Indians “wards of the state” and left them with little control of their own affairs. The 1920s was the time that this act was really applied. The Indian Act had been created earlier, but the Canadian government never seriously implemented it to get rid of the Aboriginal culture once and for all until the 1920s. The government funded Residential schools and they were an extremely effective way to make the Aboriginal children forget their traditions. At first, attendance at these schools was voluntary but in 1920 all aboriginal children between the ages of 7 and 15 were now required to go to residential schools.
The children were taken from their homes and at the schools were not allowed to speak their own languages or practice any cultural or spiritual rituals. This was extremely effective as these schools made aboriginal children forget their culture and when they grew up they could not pass it on to their own children, as they themselves knew nothing other than the “great Canadian way of life.” In addition, all Aboriginals were sent to reserves in which they lived in poverty and despair. They lost their traditional lifestyles and were given poor land on which to farm. When the Aboriginals began to raise funds with which they would appeal to regain ownership of the land, the Canadian government amended the Indian act. In 1927, the Indian act was amended to prohibit the raising of money or the pursuit of land claims. The Canadian government discriminated against the aboriginals and it was in the 1920s that the Native Americans lost much of their traditions, their cultures and their lifestyles.
The Anglo-Saxon Canadian community discriminated against Europeans such as the Ukrainians in the 1920s. The Ukrainians had immigrated to Canada in the hopes of starting a new life. They had come in order to escape the unbearable situations in which they had originally been living but the Canadians had something else in mind. Upon the start of World War One the Ukrainians were seen as enemies and aliens and 9000 Ukrainians were interned at camps across the country. Even after the end of the war, this racial discrimination did not cease. Many people were still kept under police surveillance, the Ukrainian language schools and churches were shut down and their newspapers were suppressed. They were still viewed by the Anglo-Saxon British Canadians as spies. The Ku Klux Klan established first in America began in the 1920s to be active in Canada. The Klan disapproved of immigrants and thought of them as a threat to Canada’s Anglo-Saxon character and discriminated against Ukrainians not only for their country of origin but also for their religion.
The 1920s were a time that Canadians were especially harsh to the Chinese immigrants. Even before the 1920s the Chinese faced hardship. They were the ONLY ethnic group to ever have to pay a head tax upon arrival. They were also forced to endure absurd laws such as taxes on rice and laundries or a law which stated that Chinese restaurants were forbidden to hire white women. Even so, Chinese immigration to Canada continued in full swing until the Chinese Exclusions Act was passed on July 1, 1923. This day is dubbed by the Chinese as “Humiliation day” and for many years they refused to celebrate Canada’s national holiday. This act forbade all Chinese immigration to Canada except students, diplomats and merchants and in 1928 the act was amended to prohibit ALL immigration from China.
From this time until 1947, when the act was repealed, only 8 people were admitted into Canada. The Chinese Exclusions Act shattered the plans of anyone who wished to bring their family over and also prevented anyone returning to China for a visit to stay more than 2 years without losing the right to return. After the act was passed, the Chinese had to register with the immigration office and were forced to carry their certificate of registration on them at all times or they could be jailed or fined. The act also prevented all Chinese from becoming Canadian citizens. The Chinese were faced with much racial discrimination by the Canadian government in the 1920s.
The 1920s were times filled with racism and Canadians prejudiced the people of many different races. Anglo-Saxon Canadians viewed the people of other religions and cultures as a threat to their own traditions and faith. They prejudiced against peoples of other races and used the most powerful weapon in their possession against them: the law. Many laws were passed to suppress the different cultures of the immigrants and assimilation was promoted. Look at Canada now: the only thing different about Canada is the colour of skin that its inhabitants possess. All immigrants learn to live like the rest of the Canadians and religion and culture end up far from their minds. The Aboriginal culture has long disappeared and immigration, while being encouraged, will only come true for the people whom it will be easy to assimilate into Canadian society.
I see no other reason for the Immigration Points System and the interviews that immigrants must pass before being allowed into the country. I see no other reason for every immigrant to prove that they can speak English or French before entering Canada. Knowing certain things like the language is important to easily assimilate into Canadian society and this is the reason why only individuals who are fluent in the language may enter the country. Canada is a multi-cultural nation, but in its making, many cultural traditions have been lost because of the racism that so many ethnic minorities faced before, after and especially during the 1920s.
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