Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Power, Immigration and the "Prescribed Amount" Rule: The Canadian Government and the Syrians in the Early Twentieth Century

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Power, Immigration and the "Prescribed Amount" Rule: The Canadian Government and the Syrians in the Early Twentieth Century

Article excerpt

Abstract

A governmental regulation prescribing a minimum amount of money to be possessed by "Asiatic" immigrants at point of entry to Canada became part of an assemblage of instruments and procedures established by the Canadian state in the early twentieth century to restrict immigration from Asia. Among the "Asiatic" immigrants who were especially affected by the regulation were the Syrians. In 1911-1912, the Syrians in Canada mounted a challenge against the control measure. This represented a momentous turn in the Syrian group's political agency and in the terms of its power relationship with the state. Yet, this oppositional agency was seriously limited. It challenged the mode of deployment of the "prescribed amount" regulation as well as some of its operational assumptions about Syrians. However, it also manifested compliance with the general mode of thinking about populations, "race" and "desirable" immigrants that gave justificatory ground to the state's power practices. This paper examines this episode of tension and contention in relations between the state and Syrians in Canada with a view to deepening understanding of power relations in the immigration domain in Canada.

Resume

Un reglement gouvernemental prescrivant que les immigrants <> aient avec eux un montant minimum d'argent pour entrer au Canada, est fut integre a un assemblage d'instruments et de procedures etablis par l'Etat canadien au debut du vingtieme siecle pour limiter l'immigration en provenance d'Asie. Parmi ces <>, les Syriens furent particulierement affectes par ce reglement. En 1911-1912, ils ont conteste cette mesure de controle. Ce fut un tournant important pour l'action politique du groupe syrien et en termes de sa relation de pouvoir avec l'Etat. Cette action d'opposition etait pourtant serieusement limitee. Elle s'objectait au mode d'execution de la reglementation du <>, ainsi que de ses presuppositions sur les Syriens. Elle a cependant aussi manifeste son alignement avec la facon generale de penser concernant les populations, les <> et les immigrants <> qui donnaient une base justificatrice aux pratiques du pouvoir d'Etat. Cet article examine cet episode de tension et de contention dans les rapports entre l'Etat et les Syriens dans le cas canadien, dans le but d'y approfondir la comprehension des relations de pouvoir dans le domaine de l'immigration.

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This paper examines the power relationship in the first decades of the 20th century, between, on one hand, an organizational body of the Canadian state--namely the administrative units, services and operations responsible for immigration and the regulation of entry and stay in Canada--and, on the other, an immigrant communal group in Canada that identified itself and was identified as "Syrian." (1) It does so by focusing on a notable and informative episode in that relationship, namely the challenge that the Syrians mounted against the deployment and the accompanying rationale of a particular instrument of governmental power in the immigration domain. This focus of inquiry seeks to achieve three analytical aims.

First, it seeks to gain a better understanding of the terms of power relations between the Canadian state and immigrant minority groups. To do this, it focuses on an episode of confrontation and contention in the relationship. Specifically, it examines a case wherein one party (the Syrians) confronts the other (the Canadian state, as represented by immigration authorities) over two related components of the exercise of governmental power: tactically, the imposition of a specific condition on immigrant entry, namely the "prescribed minimum amount" condition; conceptually, the mode of thinking--especially a certain conception of "desirability" and "non-desirability" with respect to immigrants and future members of the Canadian population and nation--that gave justificatory support to the design and deployment of this tactic as well as others. …

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