Aya Fujiwara. Ethnic Elites and Canadian identity: Japanese, Ukrainians, and Scots, 1919-1971. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2012. 288 pp. $31.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-88755-737-8.
Reviewed by Jan Raska (Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21)
Published on H-Canada (January, 2014)
Commissioned by Jane Nicholas
Ethnic Elites and the Emergence of Multiculturalism in Canada
Aya Fujiwara’s Ethnic Elites and Canadian Identity is a welcome contribution to the existing literature on ethnicity and multiculturalism in Canada. In using an approach that is anchored in chronology and supported by a comparative and thematic analysis spanning several decades, Fujiwara follows the role of elites from three ethnic communities in Canada during the twentieth century. A reworked version of her doctoral dissertation, Fujiwara considers how Japanese, Scottish, and Ukrainian ethnic elites in Canada influenced national identity as it shifted from Anglo-conformity (Franco-conformity in Quebec) prior to the Second World War towards ethnic pluralism in the 1960s. As a result, Fujiwara’s work reconsiders the idea that multiculturalism was the result of sociopolitical events in the 1960s, and established and promoted by “mainstream” Canadians. In an attempt to demonstrate how Japanese, Scottish, and Ukrainian ethnic elites influenced the rise of a multicultural Canada, Fujiwara considers the “constant manipulation” of political discourses and historical memories and myths shared within each ethnic community as they searched for a national identity. In choosing to focus her work on the three aforementioned ethnic communities, Fujiwara analyzes their contributions to the transformation of Canadian identity. She notes that ethnic elites were individuals who emerged from newcomer communities as “intermediaries between Canadians and their ethnic peoples after they arrived in Canada” (p. 3). Often as self-appointed representatives of their ethnic communities in Canada, elites possessed a dual identity between their old homeland and Canada. This transnational identity ultimately “shaped their roles, views, and missions” (p. 4). Fujiwara argues that leaders within these ethnic communities established their power through the manipulation of old world and Canadian politics. Similarly, these individuals attempted to balance their work on behalf of their ethnic communities with their Old World identity in order to construct a comfortable life in Canada.
Fujiwara freely admits that her arguments based on Japanese, Scottish, and Ukrainian experiences “cannot necessarily be applied to all ethnic groups in Canada” (p. 5). Yet, it is her hope that “useful clues” from this study can inform the reader on how other ethnic groups in Canada established and preserved ethnicity. While the Scots belonged to mainstream Canada, Ukrainians who were not of an Anglo-Protestant background, but remained white and Christian were preferred in mainstream society in comparison to Japanese, who were racially visible, from the “Orient,” and believed in Buddhism or Shintoism. As a result, Japanese in Canada were seen as unassimilable. Japanese and Ukrainian ethnic elites lobbied Canadian officials in an effort to gain recognition as “full-fledged citizens” without discrimination. Beginning in the 1920s, ideological divisions within the Japanese and Ukrainian communities split ethnic elites into opposing camps. Japanese were divided between issei (immigration generation) who sought the preservation of Japanese ethnocultural identity and those who supported Canadianization, and nisei (Canadian-born generation) who predominantly advocated for cultural plurality in Canada. Meanwhile, Ukrainians coalesced around nationalists who sought their homeland’s independence from the Soviet Union and communists who promoted the Soviet Union. According to Fujiwara, ethnic elites within these four camps sought to prove that they were the legitimate representatives of their communities in Canada. During the interwar period, Japanese and Ukrainians sought to fuse their Old World ethnicity with Canadian identity in an attempt to join mainstream society. As a result, Japanese and Ukrainian ethnic elites coupled homeland symbols and myths with their traditional collective stories to produce a new Canadian identity. While Scots were already an important part of mainstream Canadian society, Japanese and Ukrainian ethnic elites used Old World myths, symbols, and stories to fuse ethnic and mainstream boundaries, which Fujiwara notes “became indiscernible more quickly than in official Canadian identity (p. 7). For both Japanese and Ukrainian elites in Canada, the promotion of ethnic pluralism was seen as a mechanism in which both groups could achieve their desired dual identities. For Japanese elites, ethnicity was closely tied to race. In her work, Fujiwara effectively rejects the traditional interpretation of the evolution of Canadian identity--from Anglo conformity to “liberal-democratic ethnic pluralism” as previously delineated by mainstream Canada. Instead, Fujiwara demonstrates that ethnic elites were proponents of multiculturalism prior to the Second World War. In the postwar period, these elites influenced democratic values and Canadian identity while demanding that mainstream society recognize ethnicity as a part of Canadian identity.
Fujiwara’s work is organized into six chapters. Chapter 1, “Changing Ethnic Profiles,” examines how segregation and integration influenced Scottish, Ukrainian, and Japanese ethnic elites’ dialogue with mainstream society. The chapter focuses on five factors which determined the Scottish, Ukrainian, and Japanese positions within Canadian society prior to the Second World War: racism, homeland politics, immigration, geographic dispersal, and religion. This chapter appropriately conveys that the Scots were firmly entrenched as a part of mainstream Canada. Ukrainians and Japanese became second-class citizens and preserved their ethnic identity in an attempt to gain greater influence in Canadian society. Chapter 2, “The Consolidation of Ethnic Boundaries and the Rise of the Mosaic,” explores the consolidation of ethnic boundaries and the role that ideological divisions, homeland politics, and relations between ethnic elites and Canadian officials played in the establishment of ethnic identity and the promotion of a Canadian mosaic. Although the Scots, Ukrainians, and Japanese all found the promotion of ethnicity to be advantageous for their identities, Fujiwara argues that Ukrainian ethnic elites held the “prerequisites to organize a more politically distinctive community” in comparison to Scottish and Japanese elites (p. 35). This chapter demonstrates that during the interwar period Japanese did not hold a position from which to negotiate with Canadian society. In the late 1930s, nationalist Ukrainians and issei Japanese promoted the notion of a Canadian mosaic in which both groups could maintain their dual identities. Chapter 3, “Increasing Tensions and the Wartime Mosaic,” discusses how the Second World War reinforced the ethnoracial hierarchy that existed in Canada, thereby increasing the divide between ethnic groups who were seen as suspect, and their contribution to nation-building. During this period, Scots were largely “invisible” as members of mainstream Canadian society and as important contributors to the Allied war effort. With the cooperation of the federal government, Ukrainian nationalists were incorporated into the war effort through the establishment of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee. This cooperation permitted Ukrainian nationalists to demonstrate their loyalty to Canada, strengthened their position within the broader Ukrainian community, and guaranteed that the promotion of Ukrainian independence in Europe remained a vital component of Ukrainian ethnic consciousness in Canada. Meanwhile, Japanese community members were labeled as enemy aliens and their community organizations were dismantled and members interned. In this chapter, Fujiwara explains that the Second World War provided Ukrainian nationalists with an opportunity to further their lobbying efforts for equal rights and to promote ethnic pluralism within Canadian society. Nisei Japanese condemned their wartime internment and racism towards their community by continuing their efforts to secure the franchise as an important democratic ideal. Conversely, Japanese could no longer openly support their old homeland. In this period, Scottish identity remained “fluid and defined by choice” since Scottish Canadians were members of mainstream society and actively participated in the Allied war effort (p. 103).
Chapter 4, “Democratic and Multicultural Citizenship,” focuses on how postwar Canadian identity was shaped by changes in public attitudes towards democracy, freedom, human rights, and citizenship with the emergence of the Cold War in 1946, the introduction of the Canadian Citizenship Act in 1947, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Fujiwara concludes that the postwar period was exemplified by the emergence of a “pan-Canadian identity around democracy and citizenship” (p. 130). Both Ukrainians and Japanese considered the enactment of the Canadian Citizenship Act in 1947 as official recognition of their status as equal citizens. However, Canadian officials continued to largely ignore ethnic issues unless they directly influenced Canadian foreign policy or the country’s image abroad. Canadian officials neglected efforts on the part of Ukrainian nationalists lobbying for an independent Ukraine. Conversely, the wartime loss of property, internment, deportation, and lack of the franchise demonstrated to Canadian officials that postwar legislation increasingly had to counter past racism. This chapter demonstrates that both Ukrainian and Japanese elites pressured the Canadian government to redefine Canadian citizenship and democracy, ultimately linking them to ethnic pluralism. Chapter 5, “The Canadianization and Ethnicization of Myths, Collective Memories, and Symbols,” discusses how Scots, Ukrainians, and Japanese incorporated postwar debates surrounding citizenship and democracy into their collective group myths and symbols. This process “ethnicized past events in Canada and consolidated their ethnic boundaries” (p.131). By examining homeland, Canadian, and regional myths and symbols, Fujiwara demonstrates that Scottish, Ukrainian, and Japanese elites helped to successfully establish a Canadian identity that was defined by ethnicity. Fujiwara argues that in comparison, Ukrainian nationalists best exemplified the interwoven ethnic and regional identities by focusing on the Canadian Prairies. In this period, all three ethnic groups brought further awareness of their ethnic identity to mainstream Canada by producing Scottish-, Ukrainian-, and Japanese-Canadian histories that demonstrated they were not just Canadians. Chapter 6, “Ethnic Movements and the Road to Multiculturalism,” explores the evolution of multiculturalism in Canada from “ethnic elites’ eyes” and argues that the role of ethnic elites was vital in the formation of an official multiculturalism policy in 1971 (p. 156). During this process, Ukrainian nationalists’ view of an ethnically pluralistic Canadian identity overshadowed other ethnic elites’ interpretations. Fujiwara contextualizes this period by noting that the federal government’s enactment of the Bill of Rights in 1960 prohibited ethnoracial, sexual, and religious discrimination. This chapter briefly mentions the rise of French nationalism during Quebec’s Quiet Revolution in which French Canadians demanded linguistic and cultural equality with British Canadians. These calls for equality led to the establishment of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in 1963 in an attempt by the federal government to resolve tensions between English and French Canadians. Fujiwara argues that during this period, Ukrainian nationalists were at the forefront of lobbying efforts to establish multiculturalism as a federal policy. This was due in part to the integration of high-ranking Ukrainian Canadians in university and college positions, and as federal officials who could promote their ethnic group’s collective rights and advocate for an independent Ukraine. Ukrainian communists and Japanese focused their efforts on promoting human rights in Canada and abroad, while cultural identity was valued as an expression of their identity.
Ethnic Elites and Canadian Identity convincingly determines that ethnic elites were vital in the establishment of a “pan-Canadian identity” based on ethnic pluralism. In particular, this study notes that Ukrainian and Japanese ethnic elites were instrumental in narrowing the space between mainstream British ideas of pluralism and democracy. Similarly, these same ethnic elites were able to amend their own viewpoints to reflect those found in mainstream Canadian society. With the introduction of the federal policy of multiculturalism in 1971, the boundaries between ethnic groups and mainstream society largely diminished as both sets of elites supported official multiculturalism as a fundamental aspect of Canadian identity. During the postwar period, Ukrainian nationalists more consistently maintained their community than Ukrainian communists or issei and nisei Japanese. In comparison with Ukrainians and Japanese, Fujiwara determines that Scots in Canada did not have to become members of their community’s elite because they had already become prominent individuals within mainstream society. Fujiwara concludes that while many Ukrainian and Japanese elites were forced to organize their communities, Scots did not feel the need to compete for leadership of their ethnic community. Scots in Canada did not use their ethnicity as a political strength, but rather to assert their claim as inventors of Canadian democratic values. Ultimately, multiculturalism permitted Ukrainian nationalists and Japanese elites to preserve their ethnic identities without ethnoracial discrimination or legal difficulties.
Ethnic Elites and Canadian Identity is based on a large array of archival sources and published primary and secondary sources, including collections located at Library and Archives Canada, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, the Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University, Acadia University Archives and Special Collections, University of British Columbia Archives, and the Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives. For her study, Fujiwara also consulted several ethnic newspapers, including New Canadian, Nisei Affairs, Tairiku jiho (Continental Times), Tairiku nippo (Continental Daily), Ukrainskyi holos (Ukrainian Voice), Ukrainian Canadian, and Zakhidni visty (Western News). In addition, House of Commons and Senate Debates, and briefs submitted on behalf of Japanese and Ukrainian community organizations to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism informed this study. Although Ethnic Elites and Canadian Identity briefly discusses pertinent immigration and citizenship legislation over the span of five decades, readers would be better served by a more fluid discussion of the evolution of legislation brought forth by successive Canadian governments from the 1920s to the 1970s. Similarly, a more in-depth overview of Scottish, Ukrainian, and Japanese community institutions and publications would provide the reader with a better understanding of the composition, agenda, and influence of ethnic organizations within their respective communities and the broader Canadian society. In conclusion, Aya Fujiwara’s work successfully examines the role of Japanese, Scottish, and Ukrainian ethnic elites in the establishment of a new Canadian identity, and persuasively illustrates that these ethnic elites began to work towards a multicultural Canada beginning in the interwar period. The contributions of Japanese, Scottish, and Ukrainian ethnic elites led to the establishment of a federal multiculturalism policy in 1971.
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Jan Raska. Review of Fujiwara, Aya, Ethnic Elites and Canadian identity: Japanese, Ukrainians, and Scots, 1919-1971.
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