Cinemas, automobiles, radios and airplanes! Bootleggers, booze, flappers and jazz! The twenties seemed to usher in a new modern age. After the ordeal of the First World War, people were eager to enjoy life in the 1920s and a number of new inventions added to the excitement. However, not everyone was prosperous. Immigrants were often discriminated against and separated from. Discrimination was one of the factors that led to a mosaic of occupations and incomes in Canada. People of British descent were at the top, and so on down to Chinese and black Canadians who occupied the least esteemed jobs. Non-British and non-French groups had very little economic power, and they did not begin to make any significant inroads into the middle echelons of politics, education or public service until after the Second World War.
According to the Canadian Council for Refugees, specific measures taken by immigration officials included: an amendment to the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act to deport “domiciled aliens” with drug-related convictions (directed against the Chinese) in 1922; the prohibition of all Chinese immigrants in 1923; refusal of the ship the St. Louis, carrying 930 Jewish refugees, to land in 1939, forcing it to return to Europe — ultimately sentencing three-quarters of its passengers to death under the Nazi regime.Only after the Second World War did the doors to Canada begin to open — a least a little. According to Harold Troper, an immigration historian at the University of Toronto , officials in Ottawa were reluctant. Immigration authorities had “cut their teeth on the racist, racially-tinged immigration stuff of the 1920s and 1930s,” he explains. And they were in many ways supported by the Canadian public.
Troper cites a Gallup poll in 1945 that asked Canadians who they didn’t want allowed into Canada; their first choice was the Japanese, their second were Jews.Despite these racist sentiments, there were cries for more labour from businesses to meet the needs of a postwar booming economy, forcing Canada to accept more immigrants.Most people were opposed to this and some immigrants suffered severe discrimination. Organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, or KKK, the Native Sons of Canada and the Orange Order criticized the new immigrants as a threat to Canada’s “Anglo-Saxon” character. Several of the organizations, particularly the Ku Klux Klan , also opposed Catholic immigrants.
The KKK established itself in Montréal, Ontario, BC and Manitoba in the mid-1920s. Its members in Saskatchewan during the late 1920s reached 20,000 people. The Klan organised boycotts of Catholic representatives, scared legislators who appeared to be interested in French or Catholic interests, restricted migration, opposed Catholic schools and attempted to prevent interracial and Catholic-Protestant marriages. After Britain declared war on Aug. 4, 1914, most of the first recruits were Anglo-Saxon and English speaking, and those who weren’t, like Japanese, were simply turned away, said Professor Tim Cook.”Canada was not the multicultural country that it is today,” he said. “It was very much a prejudiced society.
“First Nations were treated a bit differently, he added, because they had a reputation for being snipers and scouts. Still, the government didn’t know what to do with aboriginal volunteers because it feared the Germans wouldn’t extend any mercy on the battlefield to those they captured. By the end of the war, about 4,000 First Nations served, said Cook.About 60 per cent of Canada’s first contingent of soldiers were British-born, 30 per cent were Canadian and about 10 per cent were others, Cook said, adding that most of the recruits were former British soldiers who served in the Boer War or were members of the Canadian militia or professional army.