Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

The "Jewish Phase" in the Movement for Racial Equality in Canada

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

The "Jewish Phase" in the Movement for Racial Equality in Canada

Article excerpt


Following World War II, leaders of Canadian Jewry explained antisemitism as an aspect of racial prejudice in general, a problem attributable to pathological individuals who engaged in discrimination and whose behaviour influenced the attitudes and prejudices of the public. This interpretation suggested an appropriate strategy: interrupt the syndrome of prejudice through the force of law, thus prohibiting discriminatory practices and, at the same time, setting a standard of non-discrimination for the law-abiding population. A universalist philosophy led to tactical alliances with other minority and liberal organizations, designed to confront discrimination against any Canadian group and to generate a constituency for legal reform. The situation of African Canadians in Dresden. Ontario, became a focal issue for the campaign, demonstrating the damaging effects of discrimination and the utility of legal restraint.

This article assesses the role of Canadian Jewry in the movement for protective legislation, suggesting that it represented a distinctive phase in the on-going struggle for racial equality. The article addresses the nature of their achievement and the reasons for their success.

Apres la Seconde Guerre mondiale, les dirigeants des Juifs canadiens ont explique l'antisemitisme comme etant, en general, un des aspects des prejuges raciaux, probleme attribue des individus pathologiques s'adonnant a la discrimination et dont le comportement a influence les attitudes et les prejuges du public. Cette interpretation necessitait une strategie appropriee, a savoir qu'il fallait mettre fin au syndrome de prejuges au moyen de la force de la loi et interdire ainsi toutes pratiques discriminatoires et. en meme temps, etablir une norme de non discrimination pour les citoyens respectueux de la loi. Une philosophie universaliste a donne lieu a des alliances tactiques avec d'autres minorites et organismes liberaux crees dans le but d'affronter la discrimination contre tout groupe canadien et de produire ainsi une structure de base d'une reforme judiciaire. Le cas des Canadiens africains a Dresden, en Ontario, devint le point de mire de Ia campagne, illustrant les effets dommageables de la discriminatio n et l'utilite decontraintes juridiques

Cet article se veut une evaluation du role des Juifs canadiens dans le mouvement de Ia loi protectrice en suggerant qu'elle represente une phase distincte dans la lutte continue pour l'egalite raciale. L'article porte sur la nature de leurs realisations et les raisons de leur succes.


There have been three recognizable phases in the movement for racial equality in postwar Canada, each one designed to confront a particular definition of the "race" problem faced by minority Canadians. The first phase can be characterized as a campaign for "Equal Citizenship," whose chief feature was the insistence that the government itself should stop making legal distinctions among citizens with respect to such things as the franchise and other civil rights, immigration, and access to government jobs and services. In the second phase, the government was enlisted as an ally to erect a "Protective Shield" of legislation guarding citizens against the discriminatory behaviour of other citizens. In the third phase, governments were urged to wield a "Remedial Sword" to correct systemic conditions that produce discriminatory results even in the apparent absence of overt prejudicial acts. Although the three phases are not strictly chronological--all three co-exist today, for example -- one or another has tended to dominate the organized movement for policy reform in Canada in recent decades. (1)

Of course Jews have been involved in every phase of the struggle for equality, and there was no time when Jews alone were responsible for the movement. The "Jewish Phase" of the title is meant to suggest that there was one broad moment when Canadian Jews and Jewish organizations were fundamental to the conceptualization and implementation of human rights policy. …

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