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Banner: Moving Here, Staying Here. The Canadian Immigrant Experience

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Free From Local Prejudice
A National Open-Door Policy
Filling the Promised Land
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A Depressing Period

The Japanese Exclusion

by Terry Watada, writer, literature professor, historian

Until the 20th century, there had been an uneasy tolerance of the Asian immigrant in Canada. However, with their willingness to accept low wages and to endure harsh conditions with little complaint, "Oriental" workers were soon considered a threat to "Canadian" workers and to the authority of the ruling classes. Such so-called Orientals included the Japanese.

Internationally, the Japanese were considered a major military power after they defeated the Chinese in 1894-1895 and the Russians in 1904-1905. As a result of their growing influence, they became close allies of England and Canada. Nonetheless, European Canadians were willing to threaten this diplomatic relationship by moving to limit or eliminate the Japanese presence in British Columbia. Editorials of the time, like those featured in Vancouver's Daily Province, reflected the commonly held attitude that British Columbia "must be a white man's country."

Between 1906 and 1920, growing domestic antagonism towards Japanese people led the Canadian government to limit and even exclude Japanese immigration. The government had to tread softly while doing this, however, so as not to offend the new power in the Pacific.

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