Vancouver’s Race Riots

On September 7, 1907, white racists rioted in Vancouver.  They attacked and rampaged through Chinatown, and they attacked and were beaten back from Japantown.  No one died, but only through luck.  The riot was spurred by a march of the Asiatic Exclusion League, a labour union-supported group of racists seeking to exclude all non-white labour from British Columbia.

We can tell ourselves that this was now a hundred and fourteen years ago. Unfortunately, the riot was only the beginning. Over the next fifteen or so years, these same racists managed to have laws passed that reduced Japanese, Indian and Chinese immigration to a trickle.  They also had Native Canadians moved to reserves, and set up residential schools with their own horrific scandals that we are re-living today.  Peaceful law-abiding Japanese-Canadians were moved to internment camps and their homes and business were confiscated. The Chinese Exclusion Act stayed on the books until 1947; and indigenous peoples were not given the vote until as late as 1960.

Canada’s racist past is nowhere near as deep nor as broad as that in many countries, but it does exist, and we will be obliged to repeat our sins if we choose to forget those of our own history.

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