Academic journal article Manitoba History

Aya Fujiwara, Ethnic Elites and Canadian Identity: Japanese, Ukrainians, and Scots, 1919-1971

Academic journal article Manitoba History

Aya Fujiwara, Ethnic Elites and Canadian Identity: Japanese, Ukrainians, and Scots, 1919-1971

Article excerpt

Aya Fujiwara, Ethnic Elites and Canadian Identity: Japanese, Ukrainians, and Scots, 1919-1971. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2012, 256 pages. ISBN 9780887557378, $27.95 (paperback)

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In this book Aya Fujiwara sets out to contextualize ethnic group leaders in Canada as they laid the groundwork for modern Canadian multiculturalism prior to the 1960s. Elites in the various communities were essential for communicating the needs and promoting the values of each group (both to themselves and mainstream society).

The study compares three groups: Japanese, Ukrainians, and Scots, each with very different group experiences. White the Japanese were racially defined in their early period in Canada and made up a very small percentage of the population of the western provinces, the Ukrainians were defined by the mainstream more for their religious and linguistic differences, and they made up a significant proportion of the prairie demographic. These differences between the groups are well discussed, with clear repercussions for later political inclusion and activism in Canada. More description of the initial reasons for immigration of Japanese and Ukrainian settlers would have been helpful at the outset, since these reasons may help us better understand later developments.

The Scots were a very different case, having a much longer immigration history in Canada and with huge numbers, making up a good proportion of mainstream society. Ethnic consciousness, such as it was, relied mostly on a handful of politicians and scholars who hoped to retain Scottish myths and symbols. The choice of Scots as a comparative element in the study is interesting, and Fujiwara relates a number of times that people of Scottish background did not form an ethnic community. This inclusion of the Scots does, however, provide a mainstream contrast, as well as ways to conceptualize ethnicity other than as a tool for group political action.

Throughout her analysis, Fujiwara is sensitive to the conflicts and tensions within the ethnic groups she studies. Among the Japanese there were tensions between the issei and nisei (first-and second-generation), while among the Ukrainians the dominant conflicting groups were nationalists and communists. It is telling that this type of intra-ethnic tension was absent from Scottish descendants, who helped define the mainstream and whose "ethnicity" was not used for self-protection or political aims.

For some Ukrainians and Japanese the constant references to the homeland went hand-in-hand with nationalist tendencies, and this created a dangerous complexity in times of international conflict. Many issei tended to identify with the Japanese Emperor and the myth of common descent with the Yamato race. Japanese imperialism in the 1930s and 1940s severely tested this fidelity, and the internal dynamics were forever changed with the Second World War and Japanese-Canadian experiences of internment and property confiscation. Leaders of the Ukrainian National Federation in the 1930s hoped that the Nazi regime might redraw national boundaries in Europe, potentially liberating Ukraine from Soviet rule. …

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