Standing by our Principles: The Trades and Labor Congress of Canada and Immigration, 1933 – 1939
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This paper explores the approach of Canada’slargest labour central, the Tradesand Labor Congress (TLC), to immigration from 1933 to 1939. This was a unique period in Canada’s immigration history, as in 1930the government responded to the onset of the Great Depression by closing the gates to almost allimmigration for the first time since Confederation, and by 1933 there was no doubt that the gates would remainclosedfor some time. Despite this dramatic change, Canadian labour leaders stood by theirlongstanding views on immigration through to the end of the 1930s. Although the level of concern about immigration predictably declined, TLC leaders generally gainedconfidence that their established views had widespread support. This confidenceencouraged unionists to pose as protectors of immigrants against hardship in Canada. Italso assured them that they did not have to devote as much energyas in earlier periodsto agitating for the deportation of some immigrants, or to their longtime favourite cause, restricting immigration from Asiaand southern and eastern Europe. Altogether, changes in the economy and immigration rates did not necessarily entail changes in labour’s attitudes. A number ofother factors, including ideologicaltrends within the movement, prevailing attitudes towards race and gender, and the efforts of groups advocating immigration served to entrench labour’s views even moredeeply in the 1930s.
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