Racism in Canadian Society: Historical Expressions and Progression in the Late 20th Century


Added on  2023-04-24

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Racism and intolerance of ethnic differentness have marked Canadian society and
government since before 1867. In what ways was racism expressed and demonstrated in
post-Confederation Canada, and why? To what extent was its influence diminished in the
late 20th century?
Although Canada is making effort to create the country a mosaic of peoples and culture,
the long history of prejudice and discrimination still remains vital 1. In Canada, racism has been
prominent since decades marking Canadian society since before 1867. Canada has been a
difficult place to govern physically to govern and conceive. Canada presents enormous as well as
large challenges in regard to culture. The paper aims to discuss the ways racism and was
expressed a demonstrated in post-confederation Canada and the reasons for it. Also, the paper
will discuss the extent and the reasons due to which its influence diminished in the late 20th
Post-confederation Canada (1867) is the history of a new nation that begins at its
formation till World War I broke out in 1914. Canada consisted of 3.5 million populations that
resided in large expansion from Cape Breton to beyond the great lake near to the Canada-US
border. The French population was high during that period, counting almost one French in every
three Canadian. About 100,000 were aboriginals residing in those areas. The largest city was
Montreal followed by Toronto and Quebec at about 60000. Overall a culture mix was found
during the post-confederation. The mix culture was tied and linked together by the common
thread of emerging national identity. However, there were several false steps along the way that
included the struggles of aboriginal people and over federal unity, the ever-present tensions.
1Stevens, Joyce West. "African American female adolescent identity development: A three-dimensional
perspective." Serving African American Children. Routledge, 2018. 141-168.

It was during the long 19th century when the ideals of democracy were spreading across Europe
and Atlantic. The process was seen to be occurring a decade sooner in Canada along with the
influences of the development of colonial culture. The French revolution’s three major ideal
Liberte, egalite, fraternity made it possible to question practices such as slavery, religion and
related. These concepts have provided a vocabulary with which one could challenges oligarchies
and exploitative employers in the period of industrialization. It was the set of beliefs that became
the foundation of the 19th-century philosophy of liberalism. Liberalism gave the idea of
fundamental rights that human should have as human. Such concepts of human rights were hard
to imagine before the 1780s however it was still found in around the time of Confederation.
Looking at the history of colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries, the biological language of
settlement is the only pattern, population and sustenance.
Racism was perceived along with the changes that were taking places. The racism began
along with immigration and industrialization. There are several bilingual countries however they
are much smaller countries. During the end of 19th century, the number of people in Canada
remained small when the immigrants arrived setting mainly in the west. The non-British and
non-French immigration were seen by English speaking Canadians as a way of growing
economic development. It was during this time when most English speaking Canadians Shared
prejudices in regard to comparative desirability of immigrant group.
Racism was demonstrated to a great manner during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The
belief in white superiority and progress was taken for granted across the western world.
According to many English speaking Canadians, the Anglo-Saxon people and british principles
of the government were the apex of biological evolution. They believed they were the Canada’s
greatness relied on its Anglo-Saxon heritage. This was one of the underlining factor of racism

building in Canada. the most desirable people were the British and American immigrant
followed by western and northern Europeans, Jews and southern European. Gradually social
isolation was becoming wider and larger speculating the aboriginals. The last people in the
ranking order were the blacks and Asian immigrants such as Chinese, Canadians, Japanese and
south Asian. They were considered as the inferior group who were unable to be assimilated into
the Canadian society. Demonstration of racism began to take a prominent feature during this
time in Canada. The black Canadians encountered major prejudice in the pre-confederation
certainly revolted in protest for the racism. Despite several opposition, slavery existed in areas
such as New France and British North America.
Asians in the Canada were regarded unwanted, alien and inferior. According to organized
labour groups the jobs were taken away by the Asians and they were the cause of lowered living
standards for all the workers as they were willing to work in minimum wages. Asians were faced
with isolation from most unions, and Asians were certainly paid less than other workers. Due to
discrimination in legislation and social practices the Asians were not excluded from voting,
practicing law and pharmacy. They could not serve on juries, be elected to public services or
build careers in education, public works or civil services. On several occasions in violent anti-
Chinese and anti-Asian riots the public opinion on Asian immigration. In order to exclude the
Asian from public schools various attempts were made by the anti-Asian groups. Black
Canadians were faced with similar discriminations in areas such as housing employment and
access to public services during the 19th century as well as mid-20th century2.
2 Backhouse, Constance. Colour-coded: A legal history of racism in Canada, 1900-1950.
University of Toronto Press, 1999.

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