PAST A TIPPING POINT, A COUNTRY’S IDENTITY CHANGES (The Oriental Question–Part 1)
Professor Patricia Roy’s “The Oriental Question” was published in 2003. It was the second in a series of three books she wrote on the early Chinese and Japanese in Canada. Ms. Roy’s emphasis in the first book was on the Chinese. In the second, it is on the Japanese. In both, she condemns late 19th and early 20th Century Canada which viewed immigration from the Orient as a threat and took measures to nip the threat in the bud.
Roy takes the title of her book from some words used by the United Church of Canada. Roy says the church was in conflict. On one side was a clergy that advocated equality for Asians and, on the other, a laity who, in Roy’s characteristic words, “acted like other white British Columbians”. To reconcile the two views, the United Church appointed a commission in 1927 to study what it termed the “Oriental Question”, that is, the general issue of Oriental immigration to a society governed by British-based law and traditions. The sub-title of Roy’s book is “Consolidating A White Man’s Province”, a repetition of the title of Roy’s first book , “A White Man’s Province”. As readers might suspect, both the title of the first book and the sub-title of the second indicate Roy’s willingness to play the race card. They are also an unintentional “Reader Beware” alert that Professor Roy probably had a strong politically-correct bias against Canadian society of 100 years ago before even beginning her research.
In order to write her book, Roy says that she read the 1914 to 1941 editions of the major daily newspapers in B.C. and most of the weeklies in relevant smaller centres.
The exclusively-British Columbia emphasis may cause some Canadians to think that Roy’s two books and this topic are merely regional matters and are therefore insignificant nationally. The fact is that the events that occurred within the Chinese and Japanese immigration issues have had an enormous national impact. Indeed, as the immigration industry’s justifications for senseless high immigration have dissolved when confronted with facts, the immigration industry has desperately replaced them with allegations of injustice to the Chinese, Japanese and other groups—-and demands for perpetual and suicidal high immigration as atonement. Calls for “diversity” are really calls for a society that might have come into existence if Canada had been as weak 100 years ago as it is today. If we are to even bother with these allegations, the big question becomes : Are they true?
To Professor Roy, they are. She says that the evidence she has uncovered demonstrates that the majority population in Canada wanted to preserve its dominant position. To achieve that, it took measures to prevent the Asian population from growing and even to help it decline. In her view, it was wrong for British Columbia and the rest of Canada to have done that.
To make her case, Professor Roy had to deal with two major arguments used by the majority population.
The first of these was a cultural one. The majority population said it did not want to be overwhelmed by the large populations of Japan and China which were, according to a Smithers clergyman, 50 and 400 million respectively around 1919. In contrast, Canada’s population was about 8.5 million at that time. Those who feared “colonization” expressed it clearly by saying that they wanted to live in “British” Columbia, not “Chinese” or Oriental” Columbia. Ms. Roy does not have any sympathy with such a feeling. She goes to the multiculturalist’s grab-bag of insults. She calls Canadians of 100 years ago “xenophobic”, even “atavistic”. We might conclude that she believes that measures taken to preserve any society are “primitive” tendencies. To Roy, there is no such thing as a cultural limit to the number of outsiders that Canada (or any country?) can take. Typically, Roy never mentions the crucial point of how many of these people Canada was obligated to take, but there is little doubt that, to her, Canada had an obligation and the number taken was too small.
To Roy’s credit, she does mention one particularly brilliant resolution, presented in the B.C. Legislature in 1928. That resolution presented a unique way of trying to stop a potential immigration tsunami. In order to counter possible resentment from China and Japan, it “urged Ottawa to initiate negotiations with China and Japan to bring about exclusion and repatriation until ‘the proportion of Orientals in Canada to the Canadian population shall not exceed the proportion of Canadians in China and Japan respectively to the population of China and Japan’ .” In other words, reciprocity should apply : if China and Japan accepted only a few Canadians, then Canada would accept only a few Chinese and Japanese.
This resolution implied to China and Japan that, like both of them, Canada had already evolved an identity, that it did not need to ask other countries for recognition of its identity and that it would assert its identity in the way it believed it should. Its identity was connected to its three founding groups: First Nations, French and English. It also indirectly asked China and Japan how they would react if Canadians had arrived in their countries in such numbers as to make Chinese and Japanese believe that the character of their populations would change radically. Roy would likely have supported Chinese efforts to rid itself of its 19th century colonizers and to re-make China “a predominantly yellow man’s country” or parts of Africa predominantly black. But it is clear that she would not support a similar movement in Canada.
The second argument Roy deals with is an economic one. In her first book, Professor Roy does concede that the ill feeling against the Chinese and Japanese began as an economic issue. She does not say exactly when the situation changed, but that it became a discrimination issue in the early 1900’s. And she does concede that the economic issue continued to be contentious in the early decades of the 20th century. But, as with the cultural issue, Professor Roy does not try to explain the economic arguments of the majority population. She could have provided background to show that economic conditions in Japan, and particularly China, were much different from those in Canada. According to experts, Japanese workers in Canada could earn 10 times what they would earn in Japan. Chinese workers in Canada could earn 20 times as much as in China.
This wage difference was a strong impetus for an immigration industry to begin in Canada. For many years, particularly from the mid-1880’s, the chief people in this industry were labour contractors who imported jobless Asians. Chinese labour contractors, the first to start this system here, were the equals of modern snakeheads. They paid for the transportation of Asians to Canada. They offered Asian workers, whom they held on contract, at below average wages to employers. An employer could hire one or many. This resulted in undetermined numbers of Chinese being hired instead of Canadians and caused considerable resentment. But Roy belongs to the dismembered school of thought that says that the Chinese did the jobs Canadians didn’t want to do. She does not bother to look at early 20th Century Royal Commission investigations which showed that Chinese contractors became very wealthy and that labour contracting was a significant factor in the labour market. Roy does quote a politician who refers to this practice, but she pays only token attention to the labour contractor issue. Because it was a key to understanding the complaints made against the Chinese and Japanese, her work takes on a serious flaw.
In the first four parts of Roy’s “The Oriental Question”, Roy does uncover a large amount of interesting other material.
In Chapter 1, for example, she points out that during WWI, the attitude of Canadian and British leaders was that it was best not to say much about the Asian immigration issue. Readers will be intrigued to discover that one of the reasons for this was that Japan, an ally of Canada, had sent part of its navy to patrol Canada’s west coast to protect Canada from German ships. As in all dealings with the Japanese, Canada was under pressure from Britain not to offend Japan. Commercial interests in Canada and the UK considered Japan an important trading partner. As a result, Canada and the UK dealt with Japan with diplomatic measures. In contrast, they issued edicts to weak and corrupt China.
In Chapter 2, Roy deals with the argument that Asians and whites were “inassimilable”, that is, they could not mix. She reviews significant theories of the time and summarizes the conclusions of historians who have studied the conflict. Roy also quotes many British Columbians who respected individual Asians, but who were hostile to large numbers of them. She says that a number of religious leaders urged acceptance of Asians already here. However, they were concerned about the threat of Buddhism, Confucianism and other Asian religions to white Christians. One made the fascinating comment that the history of North Africa (and its colonization by Muslims) might be repeated in North America.
Roy says that children of different races usually mixed well in the B.C. school system and that white teachers treated Asian students well. She cites the work of Dr. Peter Sandiford of the University of Toronto whose studies had found that Japanese children scored higher on intelligence tests than did Chinese and that Japanese and Chinese did better than white children. She acknowledges that Sandiford’s study was faulty, but there is little doubt that she is obsessed with a bias that whites were afraid of Asian brain power. To emphasize that, she had written an earlier essay on this topic. In this book, she mentions the names and achievements of a few brilliant Japanese and Chinese students. But she does concede that the Chinese were not angels. She narrates incidents involving Chinese cultural practices such as gambling and drug use which even the Chinese acknowledged as significant problems.
In Chapter 3, Professor Roy discusses a number of measures that Canada took between 1919 and 1929 to halt Asian immigration. The exclusion of Chinese labourers in 1923 was the most dramatic. But there were others. To avoid a potentially explosive job competition between returning WWI Canadian soldiers and new or returning Asian immigrants, Canada issued orders to trans-Pacific ships not to sell tickets to Chinese who did not have return certificates. These certificates entitled them to return to Canada without re-paying the Head Tax. Regarding this contentious issue, Roy reveals that Canada refunded the Head Tax to 1200 Chinese and offered a similar refund to any Chinese who wanted to return to China. According to Historical Statistics of Canada, about 80,000 Chinese paid the Head Tax. It would have been quite informative to learn how many other Chinese had been given a refund. Does Roy have a reason for not providing details? Roy comments that exclusion of Chinese labourers caused stagnation in Chinese population growth in the 1920’s. However, the Japanese population increased greatly, partly as a result of fraud, and partly because of an inflow of Japanese ‘picture brides’ and children.
A major point to be made in this analysis is that Professor Roy selects material that supports her claims and ignores material that does not.
For instance, in her Introduction to this book, she says that in 1911, B.C. had around 400,000 residents, of whom almost 8% were Asian. She adds that by 1941, B.C. had 800,000 residents but the Asian population had fallen to 5%. Her purpose in citing these figures is to dismiss the cultural argument in particular that the province was being overwhelmed by Asians.
However, she minimizes relevant facts. One is that Asians did not co-operate with the census takers, so the real Asian population was probably much higher than the figure that the census provides. A second is that she pays almost no attention to illegal Chinese immigration which a Royal Commission in 1911 had concluded was probably significant. A third is that a major reason for whatever decline occurred in the Asian population of B.C. was that a large number of the Chinese had moved to other parts of Canada, not back to China as may be implied.
The last and most important reality is that there is such a thing as a “Tipping Point” in the identity of the population of any place. The “Tipping Point” is a point of no return and is probably a much lower figure than most people would think. Canada, with a visible minority population of around 17%, is now discovering this with considerable alarm.
Most Canadians can see that when a country allows immigration to become so high that it passes that point, the country becomes something fundamentally different. In fact, it becomes another cultural entity. And as a result of importing large amounts of unnecessary labour, low-wage and other, the economic well-being of many people is undermined. In the chaotic vote-getting that follows, the society faces the danger of losing control of its future.
“The oriental question” that our ancestors referred to is still a crucial question. It is a question about how many immigrants Canada takes, where they are from and how compatible they are with our traditions. And officialdom is not asking these and other related questions.
It appears that Professor Roy refuses even to recognize the existence of a “Tipping Point”. And it is clear that high immigration supporters such as Canada’s multiculturalists and diversity promoters deny outright that such a point exists or, if it did, that it would ever present any danger. Most Canadians have experienced the intimidation that follows from these views.
With the benefit of hindsight, most Canadians can see that British Columbians of 100 years ago not only recognized such a point, but took measures to nip it in the bud.
(A FUTURE BULLETIN WILL COVER THE LAST CHAPTERS OF “THE ORIENTAL QUESTION”.)