Over the past 25-years or so, most of the civilized world has become more aware of the systematic racism intrinsically woven into the fabric of today’s western society. Although there is always more that can be done, it is getting better.
Brantford’s treatment of Six Nations Indians of the 19th and early 20th century is well documented for anyone willing to look. Thefts of land, misuse of Six Nations Trust Funds, and other frauds perpetrated against Six Nations offer testimony of that.
Canada had grown up as a nation closely linked to Great Britain and its seemingly endless wars. By 1914, Canada was marshalling thousands of troops for the European war effort. Then, after a 20-year laps of relative peace between 1919 and 1939, WWII broke out in 1939, ending in 1945. Then on heals of that came the Korean War of 1950-53. Although Canada was not officially fighting in Vietnam, there was a number of Canadians and Six Nations warriors fighting or assisting the main troops in the 1955-75 conflict.
Waging war also releases socially toxic poisons that can last for generations. It has always been much easier to kill an enemy that is considered “subhuman” and not worthy of respect, honour or dignity. Germans became “squareheads “, Japanese became “Japs”, Hungarians became “Hunkies”, Italians became “Wops” and so on.
After the war, these monickers stuck and were passed down to the next generation along with at least some of the prejudice and racist attitudes. We figured that if mom and dad talk that way about people, they must be right and so it’s OK.
That was my generation. Baby Boomers they call us now, but we were the post war generation who had to deal with fathers and brothers coming home damaged
That long string of wars required successive generations of otherwise normal Canadians to be marinaded in the worst kind of racism without impunity. In fact it was encouraged. If we were the good guy, there had to be a bad guy. In Canada’s case, sons and fathers and brothers were taught that the South Africans were evil after gold and diamonds were found in abundance.
Then it was the Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, Italians or any eastern Europeans who had become the bad guys that we were taught to hate and fear. Then the Japanese, then the Koreans, then the Chinese and Vietnamese. Now it’s people from any Muslim state or Central Americans, or Mexicans who are the targets of abuse.
All this indoctrination of hate for anyone different in any way from our selves was painted on. Coat after coat of racial slurs, epithet and stereo-types just accepted as normal talk.
Brantford was no different than any other Canadian town or city at that moment in history.
Residents from “enemy nations” were deemed enemy aliens, so German, Austrian, and Turkish descent were highly suspect. There is record of this from contemporary local news stories.
In a biography about early Brantford it is written, “Brantford’s immigrant population, that is, non-British immigrants, continued to remain a convenient target for blame when the occasion arose. They were seen as competitors for jobs. The city police commissioners wanted these “enemy aliens” in the city deported. Although nothing came of the matter, their request was endorsed by city council.”
Also: “In 1918 foreigners, that is, those who spoke with an Eastern European accent, were barred from using the city run swimming area on the Grand River.”