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Feb 23 1939


From the Ottawa Journal, Feb. 23, 1939

This is not a good time to say anything that may seem to be appreciative of Japanese character. The ruthless and unprovoked Japanese war on China has aroused a deep feeling of dislike in this and other English-speaking countries to the Japanese; and we have something of a Japanese problem in British Columbia.

Nevertheless, it is desirable that the problem in British Columbia should be viewed dispassionately; and this can be done by the aid of a book just published, namely, The Japanese Canadians1, by Charles H. Young and Dr. Helen Y. Reid, under the auspices of the Canadian Institute of International affairs.

This book, in a word, suggests that while additional Japanese immigration into Canada is wholly undesirable, the second-generation Japanese among us--the children born in Canada or Japanese parents--are to be treated justly; that they can be good Canadians, and will be if they are treated justly.

* * *

At first, Japanese immigration was practically unrestricted. Thousands of Japanese, mostly men, came in British Columbia. This caused large trouble there, as the Japanese came into competition with Canadians for a living. Restrictions of one kind or another followed, gradually blocking immigration, until finally in 1922, by a "gentleman's agreement" with Japan, immigration was limited to not more than 150 a year. This agreement has been kept, so that during the past fifteen or sixteen years, there has been practically no grievance due to new immigration.

But what of the existing population of Japanese stock? In a word, we think, the majority of Japanese born in this country--the great majority--have a right to be considered good Canadians.

* * *

The total Japanese population numbers about 23,000 by our last census return, namely 13,335 male; 9,170 female. Only 7,700 of these remain nominally Japanese citizens, mostly the older men. Nearly 16,000 are British subjects, either by birth or naturalization. Many Japanese fought in the Canadian army in the war, and there is a Japanese Returned Soldiers' Association in Vancouver with 140 members, an affiliate of the great War Veterans' Association of Canada. The Japanese Camp and Mill Workers' Union is a member of the Canadian Trades and Labor Congress.

As to intelligence, the verdict is that the Japanese children in the public schools show as well as the average school subjects; and are superior to the whites in deportment, in attendance, industry and orderliness.


As to honesty, the authors of the book find that the idea that Japanese are less honest and reliable than, for instance, the Chinese, is not well founded. "In their business dealings, where honesty is measured in dollars and cents, the Japanese enjoy an enviable reputation in some parts of British Columbia. More than one bank manager stated that the Japanese were among the most reliable customers they had."

Beyond doubt, the great majority of the second-generation Japanese in British Columbia wish to be full-fledged Canadians. But they are not permitted to become so. They are excluded from the franchise. They have no vote.

Say the authors of The Japanese Canadians:

Exclusion of the great majority of the Japanese from the franchise in British Columbia is important because it involves not only denial of the right to vote in provincial elections but also exclusion from a whole series of activities in the political and economic life of the province. Absence of their names from the provincial voters' list excludes them from nomination as candidates for the Provincial Legislature, prevents them from voting in Federal elections, from voting in a municipal election or holding a municipal office, from voting for school trustees, and from doing jurors' duty; also from the professions of law and pharmacy.

Also, by law of British Columbia they are excluded from employment in lumbering, from employment by government contractors; and partially from the fishing industry.


Further immigration of Japanese into Canada is not desirable, because they who come, or might come, mostly men of adult years, are set in their own ways and for their own nationality; they cannot contribute anything of value to this country except labor which is not wanted; and their influence tends to promote separatism here between Canadians and the second-generation Japanese who can become good Canadians.

But this further immigration has practically been stopped for many years now by the "gentleman's agreement"; it does little harm; and common sense would seem to indicate that we in Canada should make the best we can of the people of Japanese stock born in this country.

What Japan is doing in China is not a nice thing; but neither is it a nice thing what Germany is doing to the Jews, or what the Italians did to Abyssinia-but none of us would dream of blaming Canadians of German or Italian stock for what has been going on in the Old World. Neither should we maintain prejudice against the Japanese Canadians.


Charles H. Young one of the authors of The Japanese Canadians is a McGill graduate who has been engaged for years in study of the foreign population of Western Canada; Dr. Helen Red, C.B.E., also a graduate of McGill, has done outstanding work in the field of social work in Canada.

They have spent years in inquiry into the subject of the book; they supply all possible information, in an absolutely impartial manner, they offer no advice; but their book is conclusive as to what the Journal thinks as already stated, that we in Canada are treating the Japanese Canadians unjustly; and that Christianity, true Canadianism and common sense call upon us to remove the injustice.

Incidentally, Dr. Helen Reid ranks with Charlotte Whitton and Hon. Cairine Wilson as one of the three outstanding women of Canada in public service; and if nominations to the Dominion Senate were based upon anything but party service, Dr. Reid and Miss Whitton would be among the best possible.

Whether or no, our Japanese citizens should get the justice which Dr. Reid helps to show they should have.

1 In Box 03-312, this book was recommended to Calvin by the General Secretary of The Japanese Canadian Citizens League.

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The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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