The Fall of British Vancouver and the Rise of ‘Pacific’ Canada
By Dr. Ricardo Duchesne, UNB
MAKING AN IMMIGRANT NATION
Ever since Canada was officially designated a multicultural nation during the prime ministership of Pierre Elliot Trudeau in the 1970s the age-old British character of this nation has been under relentless assaults. Multiculturalism promulgates the equality of all races, religions and cultures; accordingly, it demands a Canada in which no particular ethnic group has a privileged position in the nation’s history and culture. Will Kymlicka, the most prominent scholar and salesperson of Canadian multiculturalism, sums up succinctly what it all entails: ‘Adopting multiculturalism is a way for Canadians to say that never again will we view Canada as a “white”’ country … as a “British” country (and hence compel non-British immigrants to relinquish or hide their ethnic identity).’ Non-British immigrants can retain and affirm their ethnic identity; they have a ‘distinctive group identity’, which must be protected ‘from the impact’ of the ‘dominant’ white culture.
Of course, multiculturalism is always presented to the public through rose-tinted glasses as a pluralistic philosophy dedicated to the prevention of discriminatory acts and xenophobic feelings. Immigrants should have the opportunity to celebrate their heritages and religious beliefs as well as being encouraged to see themselves as members of a wider liberal-democratic culture. But multiculturalism contains a negation within its very essence. It protects the group rights of non-Western peoples while simultaneously denying the host (Western) nation any group rights of its own. The host culture is seen as a neutral site characterized by its provision of individual rights, which apply to everyone, and of group rights, which apply only to non-whites. The Anglo-French founders are mandated to be ethnically neutral and historically disinterested; representatives of certain deracinated values that belong to ‘humanity.’ While multicultural ideologues implicitly recognize that minorities have deep attachment to their ethnic backgrounds, and, in this vein, recognize that humans do have a natural love of their own heritage and ethnicity; they call upon whites to practice historical amnesia and pretend they were not the creators of Canada’s institutions, parliamentary traditions, and common law. The historical fact that Canada was built as a nation state around a founding ethnic core must be discarded and hidden from students.
Children were once taught that Canada was a unique nation founded by two peoples, the French and the English; later they were taught that the ‘Aboriginals’ were founders as well; now they are learning to include Asians and new immigrants in the founding narrative. Newcomers are coming mostly from Asia; therefore Canadians should redefine their ‘roots of citizenship’ to reflect this new reality. In a 2002 publication, A Newcomer’s Introduction to Canada, released by Citizenship and Immigration Canada ‘for new immigrants,’ it was announced that ‘Canada is a land of many cultures and many peoples’. Other than the Aboriginal people, everyone is an immigrant to Canada: ‘We have all come from somewhere else.’ The lack of unity or a national culture in Canada is presented as a positive trait: ‘Through Canada’s history, millions of immigrants have helped to build this country.’ The heritage of the English and French amounts to no more than a set of procedural laws and institutional templates a market economy, equality under the law, democratic representation which belong to everyone. Minorities stand for authentic traditions celebrated for their colour and vibrancy.
Our esteemed liberal elites are also hard at work ‘exposing’ the colonizing activities of the first settlers, their use of a ‘white supremacist’ ideology as a nation-building tool, their imposition of the Chinese Head Tax, their anti-Asia immigration laws, and their continued existence as the ‘historically dominant majority’. They fashion themselves as liberators uncovering the suppressed histories of minorities and correcting ‘the mythology that whites built Canada’.
The savviest user of the media in the advancement of Asian interests against Canada’s British heritage is Henry Yu. A history professor at the University of British Columbia, Yu accuses Canada of being ‘systematically racist’ and in need of reparations through massive immigration from the non-Western world. He is the recent recipient of two huge grants, a $1.17 million project entitled ‘Chinese Canadian Stories: Uncommon Histories from a Common Past,’ which will seek a major ‘reinterpretation of Canadian history through the lens of Chinese Canadians,’ as well as $950,000 from the Federal government to document the ‘ignored histories’ of one of the ‘founding peoples’ of Canada.
In an Op Ed piece in The Vancouver Sun (February 2, 2010), ‘Vancouver’s Own Not-So Quiet Revolution’, Yu claimed that the English language ‘stunts diversity’. Calling it a ‘colonial’ language, he demanded that Asian languages, long ‘silenced’ by ‘white supremacists’, be given the same official status. He even equated the presence of a high number of whites in leadership positions with ‘the legacy of a long history of apartheid and white supremacy’. Elsewhere he added that the old bilingual Canada ‘no longer makes sense’. Canada has ceased to be a Western-Atlantic nation. Between 2001 and 2006, the top four places of births for immigrants were in Asia; the five largest Canadian cities are heavily populated by Chinese ‘migrants’. ‘In Vancouver, Canada’s third largest city, the visible minority is white.’ This ‘new Pacific Canada’, he observed, marks a return to a Canada originally Pacific. The ‘dominance of white supremacy in immigration policy’ between the 1920s and 1960s disrupted this founding Pacific orientation.
Yu relies on two meagre facts to support these claims: Asians built portions of the transcontinental railroad in the late 19th century, and the Chinese proportion of the population in British Columbia in 1901 was 10 per cent. The truth is that Chinese immigrants have played a microscopic role in Canada’s history. In 1901, 96 per cent of the Canadian population was European in origin; there were only 17,043 Chinese immigrants (born outside Canada) relative to a population of 5.3 million. Vancouver, with the highest Chinese proportion throughout Canada’s history, was virtually a white European city from its beginnings in the 1870s to the 1980s. In the 1950s, when the city had been fully developed into a metropolis, the British accounted for about 75 per cent of the population, and other Europeans accounted for about 18 per cent, whereas the Asian proportion (Chinese and Japanese) accounted for only 3 or 4 per cent. Patricia Roy’s Vancouver, An Illustrated History (1980), exhibits a city that was overwhelmingly British in its architectural landscape, notwithstanding its Chinatown and Little Tokyo. The sports, the education, the legal system every institution was British. The Founding Fathers, the Mayors, the magistrates, the school trustees, the chief constables, the physicians, the presidents of the Board of Trade were all British descendents.
The famed British sociologist Anthony Giddens calls Canada ‘quintessentially an immigrant society’. This is totally untrue. The British and the French were settlers, not immigrants. They did not move from one country to another; they were the creators of a new country ex nihilo, out of a wilderness. The Aboriginals were here first, but they didn’t create Canada. Canada’s aboriginal population, living in tribal groups, reacted to, rather than participated in, the creation of a new civilization in a massive continental landmass barely occupied. Indeed the nation-state called Canada is British. The French certainly created the colony of New France, but the Canadian nation-state with its economic infrastructure across the country, and the majority of settlers and homestead farmers, were British. All Canadians, regardless of ethnic origin, are the beneficiaries of a British civilization.
‘The city has changed irrevocably in the last 20 years’, Yu says. It has. The total number of Chinese in Vancouver in 1951 was still a meagre 8,729, in a population of roughly 345,000; in 1971, it had increased to 30,640. During the 80s the entire Third World was invited to come to Canada. Consequently, by the mid-90s, the Chinese population in Vancouver suddenly shot up to 300,000, out of a total population of 1.8 million. The population with British ethnic origins was reduced to 35.9 per cent by 2006, whereas the Asian population climbed to 42 per cent. ‘In Vancouver’, Yu says euphorically, ‘you can’t go to a neighbourhood now where Chinese aren’t living in significant numbers. It’s incredible.’
Before this invasion, Vancouver was a jovial city, with a strong sense of community and family life. YouTube videos show Vancouverites enjoying life in the city’s parks in the 1940s or 1960s; harmoniously, with occasional pictures of (happy) Asian children those days are gone. ‘Vancouver is clearly an Asia Pacific city now’, says pollster Angus Reid, Canada’s most prominent public opinion surveyor. The landscape has undergone a massive transformation unprecedented in the history of cities. However, the legacy of the past is still visible, creating a bi-polar atmosphere, with a purely market-driven Asian side, dictated by external forces and controlled by (foreign) Chinese millionaires, and a European side standing for tradition, Britishness, and Vancouver as it was. The controversy over the ‘monster houses’ associated with Chinese real estate activities in the 1990s a phrase prohibited in polite talk accurately represents the huge, uniform and soulless houses that replaced the old European-style homes.
Yu describes present-day Vancouver as ‘a global city that is one stop within the Pacific world, with two-thirds of male Canadians of Hong Kong origin between the ages of 25 and 40 living and working outside Canada.’ For these Pacific trotters, Canada is a place in which alien businessmen have equal rights to make use of its better educational opportunities, exploit advanced medical treatment, and avoid the pollution they create back home. Coming from a background in which corruption is endemic with officials operating like Mafia dons, regularly embezzling funds and sending the money to family members abroad, these migrants covet Canada’s fresher pastures. A 2011 survey showed that more than half of China’s millionaires are either considering emigrating or have already completed their immigration applications, of which 37 per cent of the respondents wanted to emigrate to Canada.
Our immigrants generally come from cultures which, by our standards, are not merely illiberal but vulgarly racist. The works of Frank Dikötter on Chinese racism are worth considering. In The Discourse of Race in Modern China (1992), he reveals how traditional Chinese notions about inferior ‘barbarians’ intermingled with Nazi forms of ‘scientific’ racism to form a distinctively Chinese racial consciousness in the 20th century. In Imperfect Conceptions: Medical Knowledge, Birth Defects, and Eugenics in China (1998), Dikötter references government publications calling for eugenics as a vital tool in the enhancement of the ‘biological fitness’ of the nation, and heralding the twenty-first century as an era to be dominated by ‘biological competition’ between the ‘white race’ and the ‘yellow race’. M. Dujon Johnson’s Race and Racism in the Chinas: Chinese Racial Attitudes towards Africans and African-Americans (2007), focuses on a series of incidents during the 1980s and 1990s, including one in which thousands of Chinese students set about destroying the dormitories of African students in Nanjing, Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin, shouting ‘Kill the black devils!’ Johnson writes, ‘[my experience] demonstrated how life in Chinese society is racially segregated and in many aspects similar to a system of racial apartheid.’ Recently, NBC News reported (May 16, 2012) that ‘racial discrimination is a harsh reality within China’s ESL (English as a second language) industry’, where having a white face is a near-absolute requirement.
Ethnic minorities in China are treated as second-class citizens. Tibetans are routinely described as lazy, ignorant, and dirty. Han migration to Tibet is destroying their heritage; Han companies dominate the main industries, and the Chinese get the best jobs. The province of Xinjiang, nominally an autonomous region, is likewise being flooded with Han migrants. In 1949, Han Chinese amounted to only 5 per cent of Xinjiang’s population; today they are up to 41 per cent. Urumqi, the capital city, consists of 75 per cent Han Chinese, of the 2.5 million inhabitants. The average Chinese views the natives from Xinjiang as backward and as ungrateful for not appreciating the modern infrastructure bestowed upon them by the Han. In the summer of 2009, this region saw violent riots by 2,000 to 3,000 thousand Uighur workers and Xinjiang separatists, in which approximately 150 Han Chinese were killed. The Communist reprisals were swift; the policy of Sinicization was intensified; in May 2010 Beijing announced a new development strategy to pour $1.5 billion into the region, encourage the migration of more Han Chinese businessmen, together with a ‘love the great motherland, build a beautiful homeland’ patriotic education campaign that aimed to indoctrinate the Uighurs that ‘ethnic minorities are inseparable from the Han’.
Multiculturalism calls upon Canadians to ‘never again view Canada as a white [or] a British country’. This command has been thoroughly implemented in Vancouver. No one is allowed to call the city British. Anti-racist campaigns, regularly directed at whites, are enforced in the schools and workplaces. While the founders have been dispossessed, the Chinese migrants have been encouraged to celebrate their ethnic identity. How about some answers to these run of the mill questions: How can one argue that Han Chinese migration into Canada is a wonderful act of diversity when most of the ‘migrants’ come from places where diversity is suppressed and Han supremacist ideas are officially sanctioned? Why are ‘Anglo’ people the only ones disallowed from retaining their ethnic identity and ancestry? Why is the dismemberment of Anglo heritage, history, and ancestry in Canada viewed as progressive and its affirmation as xenophobic? Can we interpret Han migration into Vancouver, in combination with multiculturalism and the continuous campaigns against white racism, as a form of Sinicization? Why are whites the only people on the planet expected to accept diversity and massive immigration? Why is everyone assuming that pride, loyalty, and affection for Canada’s European heritage are incompatible with the liberal-democratic values Europeans developed?
Indeed why is it that, not just within Canada, but across the world, the greatest intellectual movement in history, the European Enlightenment, that extraordinary flash of moral vision which rescued billions from ignorance, hunger, disease, slavery, anarchy and despair, creating the very opulence and freedom its critics bask in, has become the latter’s target? Perhaps in their hearts, like all colonialists, they are terrified of democracy, the voice of the people.
Ricardo Duchesne is Professor of Sociology at the University of New Brunswick, and author of The Uniqueness of Western Civilization (2011).
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