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Novel Studies

In our class, we have done literature circles, not only to improve our novel interpretation skills, but also to understand certain aspects of multiculturalism in Canada. As mentioned before in the Multiculturalism post, Canada is one of the top countries that receives the highest number of immigrants. The two books I have read this year, Obasan and What Happened This Summer, are both about immigration and the lives of these newly landed immigrants in this nation.

Japanese Canadians in Vancouver, Canada

Obasan is a book that describes the story of a Japanese Canadian and her family. Most of the book is like a diary: a recollection of memories by a young Japanese woman in Vancouver named Noami. She discusses the “systematic racism” society had against Japanese people, in that they were referred to a negative term, “Japs.” Not only that, Noami talked how about the possessions of Japanese Canadians were confiscated and then they were sent to labour camps. Some fled their homes and moved to ghost towns to escape this persecution. In general, this book discusses about the treatment the Japanese Canadians received by the “white” Canadians and how they faced  racism throughout their lives.

What Happened This Summer is an interesting book, depicting the lives of several Chinese immigrants and how they adapt to Canadians lifestyles. Throughout the book, the Chinese kids continue to “fit in” as much as possible and to become more like Canadians. They drink, do drugs, do poorly at school, whatever it takes for them to fit into society. They are struggling between whether to accept the new Canadian cultures and values or uphold their old Chinese cultures. For instance, in Canada, you can do almost any occupations and still be looked upon as an admirable person. However, in Chinese culture, if you don’t become a doctor or engineer or an occupation with so called “great prestige” then you are regarded with disrespect and through of very poorly. For instance, in one of the chapters, there was a girl who wanted to go the Arts College in New York to study photography. However, her dad is absolutely adamant about not sending her there. He wants her to pursue an occupation of great “prestige” such as doctorate. This book was set in a time period after Obasan, so there wasn’t as much racism, but the Chinese students still faced the difficulties of adapting into the Canadian society.

Chinese workers were brought to Canada to construct the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR); their stay in this nation involved poor shelter, food, and faced racism everywhere they went

Canada used to be very racist and only preferred people that were “the whitest of the white.” In other words, Canada preferred immigrants from Britain, Germany, France, etc. When the Japanese and the Chinese began to come, the Canadians were extremely unjust to them. For instance, the Chinese were required to pay a head tax to be able to come to Canada. Being admitted into Canada was hard enough, but staying in Canada wasn’t much better. They faced racism everywhere, from working in a factor to just plain walking on the street. These two books reflect Canadian history, and how the immigrants from China and Japan faced a huge amount of racism by the white people (systematic racism). By reading these books, not only can we improve our reading and interpretation skills, but also appreciate how Canada has changed so much to become a multicultural society.


Dominion- State attached to the British Crown and member of the British Empire. Although a Dominion may control its internal affairs, it must abide by the decisions of Great Britain when it comes to relations with foreign countries.

British Empire- Group that includes Great Britain and its colonies. In 1914, it was the largest empire in the world and its possessions extended to all continents. Canada help the status of Dominion. As relations between Great Britain and its colonies evolved, several colonies began to want more autonomy.

Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)- Army formed in Canada in 1914 to serve overseas. The contingent was governed by British Armed Forces Law and held the status of a colonial troop.

Colony- Country that is not completely sovereign and is under the authority of another country.

Sovereignty- Characteristic of a State that is not under the authority of another State.

Imperialism- Movement designed to maintain the ties between Canada and the British Empire. Imperialists felt that Dominions must be considered as equal partners with the empire, not simple colonies.

Conscription- Recruiting system that ranks the population (as a rule, men only) by age. Some categories were then eliminated and people who would normally be exempt from duty were forced into service. In Canada, conscription was established by vote in the House of Commons.

Military Service Act- Law adopted on August 29, 1917 to gather 100,000 men as reinforcements for the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The law, which contained numerous exceptions, was applied erratically. Although 99,561 people were conscripted as a resulted of the law, only 24,100 soldiers actually fought at the front before the end of the war.

French-Canadian nationalism- Henri Bourassa’s notion of nationalism law in the union of two founding peoples (anglophone and francophone) when Confederation was achieved by 1867. These two peoples were to be equal and enjoy the same privileges. This was in opposition to the dogma of imperialism.

Bill 17- Ontario government bill passed in 1912, which restricted French instruction in Ontario public schools. The law prompted great resentment among French-speaking populations across the country.

Military Voters Act- Law that extended the right to vote to all men and women in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

War-time Elections Act- Law which extended the right to vote to the mothers, wives, and sisters of the soldiers serving, while at the same time refusing that right to citizens from enemy countries.

Does having a Canadian Passport make me a Canadian?

When someone says “I am a Canadian,” what does it really mean? Does it refer to the passport you have? Does is refer to the Canadian Citizenship Test you passed? Or does it refer to your birth in Canada? So what’s the right answer? There is none. The term “Canadian” has no correct or wrong answer. There are infinite answers, depending on the person, where you come from, and what time period you came to Canada.

When you become a Canadian, whether its by birth or through permanent residency, you become part of history. This history contains many events and occurrences that shaped Canada into what it is today, which you would’ve read in my blog. We have discussed about the Canadian government and how and by who the nation is governed, the coming of First Nations and their debate about the Indian Act, multiculturalism, etc. All these incidents involve everyone, from the Aboriginal peoples to the French and British people. Everything that has happened in Canada are all interconnected and form what we call today “Canada.” Without the First Nations, the land we have today would not be ours. Because the First Nations found this land and maintained it well, the British became interested in this vast land and soon immigrated. Because of the settlement of the British, one of our official languages is English. Soon after, the French immigrated into Canada. Due to the large amount of French immigration, Canada became a bilingual country, such that the second language became French. Eventually, other immigrants from countries around the around began immigrating to Canada. We are continuously transforming our nation from a melting pot for which it once was to a mosaic; by given the title “Canadian” you are part of a bigger piece in the puzzle. Every single person and their heritage and culture is what makes Canada such a diverse, multicultural nation.

First Nations have shaped Canada in many ways, including artistically

So, my Martian friend, this will be the conclusion of my blog. I hope you have learned the basics of Canada and how it slowly changed through time to become what it is today. Having read this, I am hoping you have become interested in our nation and find it just as wonderful as I do.

This map shows the movement of immigrants to Upper and Lower Canada between 1831 and 1836. By 1831, Quebec was 45% English speaking.

After the War of 1812, a huge wave of people suddenly immigrated to Upper and Lower Canada; no one every anticipated such a huge number of immigrants. The majority of the English-speaking immigrants settled in Eastern Townships. French-speaking immigrants settled themselves in Lower Canada. They based their society on the seigneurial system, which is the system of landholding in New France; seigneurs were given estates and responsibilities to settle the land and oversee its administration. The French people continued this system as it had for generations before. However, the lack of farmland eventually became a serious problem.

Britain, the United States, and Europe were the 3 dominant countries in which immigrants came from. Attracted by incentives and

Britain, one of the most common nations immigrants to Canada came from

and promises, immigrants became aware of the actual reality and dangers involved in immigrating to Canada. The journey across the Atlantic Ocean was the primary concern of many potential immigrants, considering it being dangerous and quite expensive.

Many who left their home countries were very emotional. Immigrants knew they would never see those they left behind. This type of emotional affect on people is hard to interpret today, due to our technological advancements (i.e. airplanes, which take only hours to travel between Canada and Europe). During this time, immigrants were forced to endure harsh conditions for approximately 1 month, many of whom did not survive. Of these people, the poor were the most affected, for they had to travel in the infamous coffin ships. A coffin ship is essentially a death ship; disease and death were common on cargo vessels used to carry

passengers at this time.

Those hopeful for a new life in British North America pay for their pass at at a busy emigration agent's office in London.

The overpopulated cities and countryside of Britain gave Canada many new immigrants. A large population of poor farmers from Ireland and Scotland were attracted by the possibility to own land in Canada, but only a few could afford to travel in above-deck cabins on well-conditioned ships. Thus, most farmers traveled in steerage (the area below decks on a ship, used to store cargo) in filthy, overpopulated cargo vessels.

Cargo ship owners came to realize that they could make great profit if they transformed their ships to carry passengers when they were traveling without cargo. Steerage holds contained bunks, but no washrooms. Diseases spread rampantly due to the poor food quality, bad hygiene, and crowded conditions. Small pox, cholera, and other diseases killed thousands of immigrants on the ship. Once these immigration ships arrived in North America, the entire ship would be quarantined. In 1832, almost half of all the immigrants who survived the trip to the colonies were horribly ill.

Chart displaying the number of immigrants from Great Britain from 1815-1850

Aboriginal people

The most read and well-known journals describing the life in the colonies of British North America were composed by relatively well-to-do English-speaking people. In Upper Canada, not everyone, however, considered themselves to be English; some were American, Irish, or Scottish. They didn’t just bring themselves, but also brought with them their language, culture, music, values, and traditions.

Lower Canada, previously been considered the French colony of New France, had a large population of Francophone (a French-speaking person), with a very distinctive culture and history.  There wanted very much to remain separated and distinct as much as possible from the English-speaking immigrants, which sometimes led to various conflicts.

History, as we know it today, are written by historians, whom we trust to have the accurate and correct knowledge. However, most historians forget or “neglect” the achievement and histories of Aboriginal peoples and non-English immigrants. They don’t mention much about the contributions women have made either. This type of “negligence” reveals what type of history we prefer to learn and are recorded. If only some group of people’s contributions are recognized, while others aren’t, how can our knowledge of history be correct? Through this discrimination, we can weed out and pay closer attention to those who have been brushed away. We can also educate ourselves about peoples’ values and attitudes in colonial times, especially their belief that European had a duty to “civilize” the world. School and churches around, until the 1950s, were teaching their students such ideologies. The contributions that women and other cultural groups have made are ignored and regarded wit very little detail in history textbooks. However, in this blog you will learn about these interesting contributions that women and other cultural groups have made.

In this graph, "Other" refers to Black people, Aboriginal peoples, other Europeans, and Asians. The majority group shown here are French, Irish, English, Scottish. This displays Canada's ethnic preference.

Timeline of the history of Black Canadians

From the mid-1600s to the 1700s, slavery was very common in New France; a large number of slaves were brought to New France by many loyalists from the American Revolution. Slavery was abolished in 1833 in all of British Empire, but courts in Upper and Lower Canada abolished such a crime long time ago. Interestingly, slavery came to a halt in Upper and Lower Canada sooner than anywhere else in North America. In 1793, Chloe Cooley, an enslaved Black woman, was forced to travel from Upper Canada to the United States to be sold. This incident was used by Governor John Simcoe to back up his arguments against slavery in Upper Canada. The Act to prevent slavery in Upper Canada was passed that July of that year.

Most of the Black Canadians living in Upper and Lower Canada were free; this was one of the major reasons as to why slavery was abolished in Canada. In fact, there were many refugees originated from the slave states in America. A population of free Black Americans came to the British colonies as Loyalists and were promised land in return during the Loyalist wave of immigration. During the Rebellions of 1837, the Black Militia fought against William Lyon Mackenzie and his rebels; the majority of the Black colonists thought if they lost, America would dominate Canada, which would ultimately result in the return of slavery.

Black Americans escaped slavery by immigrating to Upper Canada. They used various routes and safe houses called the “Underground Railway.” These people traveled hundreds of kilometres on foot. The Quaker and Methodist churches supported Black Americans escaping slavery. Their philosophy was that slavery was a sin against God and humankind. A Black activist named Harriet Tubman assisted hundreds of Black Americans escape through the Railway and safely enter Upper Canada. However, the utilization of the Underground Railway was highly dangerous. If one was caught, he/she would be severely punished, if not, killed.

Upper Canada was a refugee area for Black Americans, where slaves could have a new and free life. However, these people didn’t quite escape the racism and discrimination they faced in the States. Many Black immigrants weren’t respected as well as other races, and their descendants were not part of the government for a hundred years. Because of this racism, the black slaves lived in communities within communities, sometimes even just a few families in a miniature town. There were, however, some independent settlements, such as the one developed by Josiah Henson.

The Underground Railway was a network of "safe houses" along travel routes that led from the slave-holding American states to the free northern states and to Canada.

Regardless of the racism they faced, black slaves were located in every colony of British North America. The slaves who came during the Loyalist migration period generally settled in the Maritimes, where many of their descendants still live to this day. Governor James Douglas invited Black colonists to settle in British Columbia. They occupied land on Salt Spring Island and essentially everywhere else.

Some of the Black slaves living in Upper Canada became home sick, and reminisced their life before slavery in their homeland. A Loyalist named Richard Pierpoint, who settled near present-day St. Catharines, Ontario, wrote the following letter. Sadly, his request was rejected, but he was granted land. The community he founded would eventually become part of the Underground Railway.

Most humbly showeth,

That you Excellency’s Petitioner is a native Bondu in Africa: that at the age of Sixteen Years he wsa made a Prisoner and sold as a Slave: that he was conveyed to American about the year1760, and sold to a British office; that he served his Majesty during the American Revolution War in the Corps called Butler’s Rangers… That your Excellency’s Petitioner is now old and without property; that he finds it difficult to obtain a livelihood by his labour; that he is above all things desirous to return to his native Country: that his Majesty’s Government be graciously pleased to grant him any relifef; he wishes it might be affording him the means to proceed to England and from thence to a Settlement near the Gmabia or Senegal Rivers, from whence he could return to Bondu…

-York, Upper Canada, July 21, 1821

A strong and influential women during colonial Canada

In Upper Canada, women colonists considered themselves to be very significant and in large part according to their social class, which recognized their expectations, values, lifestyles, and beliefs. Successes or failures done by their father or husbands were considered also the women’s successes and failures.

The majority of the women in colonial society were married. Women didn’t generally own land or work outside their homes (e.g. physical labour); unmarried women and widows required financial support from relatives for food, clothing, shelter, etc.

The term “divorce” was foreign and unknown during colonial times, so selecting the correct partner was of great significance. It’s difficult to understand today how a good marriage gave woman a status in various ways. Intelligent and resourceful married women, such as Catherine Parr Traill, Marry Ann Shadd, Anna Jameson, and Mary

Marry O’Brien were busy with their husbands’ activities.

The importance of selecting the correct spouse was so high to families, that many social events included matchmaking. Romantic love was idealistic, but was considered of less important compared to friendship and duty. In the upper classes, the match between a man and a women had to be arranged with an “equal” or better. A man had the option of “marrying down,” but a woman was not allowed to do so because a wife receives the status of her husband.

No one in colonial Canada had time to “nothing;” there was too much work to be done. Even Mary O’Brien, an upper-class women, had many friends and in the government and spent time visiting them. Not only that, but she also helped run the farm, as can be seen by her diary recording:

In colonial society, work came first. This woman is baking bread in an outdoor oven.

It was very busy again til twelve o’clock, first in directing my old Yorkshire man how to cut up a fat pig which was slaughtered last night and then in assisting the old Irishwomen to salt and pack away the same. I value myself on being able to put more in a barrel then anyone else except Southby, though this part fo the business is usually province of a man.

Here is another quote by Mary O’Brien, demonstrating how busy colonial Canada was:

I had just finished the first stage of my cooking and was about to shift my character from cook to gentlewomen…

-Mary O’Brien, a colonist in York, Upper Canada

People don’t just want to leave their country and travel hundred of kilometres in harsh conditions for fun. At times, they are forced to, due to economical reasons, physical reasons (major storms), or other reasons that makes living in that particular nation difficult. Reasons as to why people left their nation and immigrate to another nation are known as push factors.

There were various countries in which people were leaving to immigrate to Canada. The following are the countries and their push factors:

A map of Europe, showing various countries where immigrants came from, such as Greece


  • Greece, at this time, was experiencing a civil war, and thus people wished to leave and settle elsewhere
  • Not only a civil war, but Greece went to war against Cypress, and once again, people seekedrefuge and immigrated to Canada
  • Diseases were rampant in this nation, particular the disease tuberculosis


  • Economy was very poor at this nation, and jobs became very hard to keep or find
  • The Philippines were under the martial law of Marcos Government in 1965
  • This nation did now have any civil liberties (civil liberties are rights and freedoms that gives an individual specific rights, such as the right to live)
  • At this time, there was no freedom of press
  • There was a huge curfew in the Philippines
  • This nation lacked various rights and freedoms, which many hated very much, and thus wanted to leave and immigrate to Canada
  • Potential Philippino immigrants could not immigrate to Malaysia, the United States of America, Spain, or Indonesia due tovarious reasons, including: being at war with these countries or the fact that European countries are eurocentric

Honk Kong

  • The population in Hong Kong was booming and eventually this nation became very overpopulated so people decided to immigrate to a new country: Canada.
  • There were British tensions in this nation
  • The Honk Kong government was communist, and many didn’t like this, so they moved elsewhere (i.e. Canada)


  • The new political leader/regime they had was disliked by many


  • The conditions left after the Second World War was devastating; economy as well as the physical structure of this nation was left unrecognizable
  • Some believe people left this nation to escape the Soviet Union
  • There was political persecution in Austria
  • The amount of taxes that were demanded by Austrians became unbelievable after the Second World War; aggressive taxes
  • Trade unions in this nation became extremely powerful


  • There were violent protests in 1968
  • This nation became from rural to industrialized in a quick period of time, resulting in land that was used for farming to disappear
  • Yugoslavians were permitted to leave their nation, whereas the other Soviet Union nations couldn’t


  • The economy went downhill and became unrest
  • Italians believed their government didn’t represent them well and wished to move to another nation
  • It took a great period of time before all the states of Italy united to become one country (i.e. there were Northern Italians, Southern Italians, etc.)
  • Southern Italians immigrated to Canada because they had little wealth and believed with the land and the economic situation in Canada, they could start a new life


  • This country faced much political trouble in the 1950s
  • There was a fascist government from 1932 to 1968; many disliked this form of government because of its unorganized form , as well as the fact that people got beat up

United States of America

  • Slavery was dominant in almost all the states, and thus Black Africans wanted to immigrate to Canada, where they could be free

    A map of the United States of America

Nations must make itself “attractive” if it wants to bring in more immigrants. Qualities that attract new immigrants to settle in a nation are referred to as pull factors.

Canada during 1895-1914 became quite attractive to many eyes of the Europeans. In my opinion, I believe the pull factors significantly outweigh the push factors of Canadian immigration. The first and foremost, the Dominion Lands Act was a powerful incentive for immigrants to come to Canada. Many believed this Act was their dreams come true. Under this Act, the Canadian Government gave free land, a quarter section, to new immigrants. The only catch was to pay a $10 fee and reside within the property for a minimum of 3 years. Europe, as mentioned in the Push Factors Post, became very overpopulated and land became very scarce. Land-wanting Europeans found this Act to be more than a good enough reason to immigrate to Canada.

The social and economic opportunities of Canada were much better than that of Europe’s, which is another pull factor. Canada had no social system that Europeans were required to follow in Europe. Instead, people in Canada had the freedom to move wherever they pleased, in addition to social freedom. In Europe, it was next to impossible to escalate in the social classes. However, in Canada, if you worked hard and had determination, there was a very high chance of you rising economically (i.e. wealth). Essentially, you are given opportunities to excel in Canada, whereas Europe you are given opportunities based on birth (i.e. born in a peasant family vs. born in a noble family). These immigrants had the right to vote (many were not permitted to vote in Europe). There was freedom of religion, in that they could practice their religion and culture.  In essence, Canada had much more freedom, socially and physically, than Europe.

Royal North West Mounted Police

Canadian Pacific Railway helped many to move from west to east and vice versa

Other pull factors were established by the Canadian Government itself. For instance, the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in November 1885 provided a gateway for immigrants from the west to travel to the east much more easily and faster, and vice versa. Not only, the government signed various treaties with the Aboriginal peoples and gave them land up North (reserves). This created much more land for new immigrants to come and settle. To establish a proper a low and order, particularly in the Prairies, in 1870s, Ottawa created the Royal North West Mounted Police.