SESSION 2.1: Franchise as a Canadian Legal Legacy: Serving the Colonial Master

Satwinder Kaur Bains, University of the Fraser Valley

Abstract

In 1907 Indian immgrants who had arrived in Canada at the turn of the century(1903) legally lost the right to vote following a series of Acts and Regulations enacted by the Govt of Canada with the expressed purpose to bar immigration from India under the virulent slogan of White Canada Forever. However, while colonial rule is well documented, what is largely missing or omitted from the Canadian historical record in terms of challenges and successes in nation building is the struggles faced by peoples of color to legally challenge these laws. Basic rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizens were regularly trampled upon by the enactment of laws and regulations in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s in a colonized Canada where politicians regularly deferred to British colonial powers. One such issue was the franchise which was lost for forty years from 1907-1947, when community members fought vigorously to regain the right to vote while remaining law abiding and contributing members of society. How do South Asians respond when they are viewed as having just arrived although they have a long, rich and vibrant 100+ years history in Canada? I suggest in this paper that their unique lives are as much a part of Canadian history as that of any other community, yet it is curious that their history has not been adequately represented in the public record. I have found that the stories of early settlers who came from a rich tradition of oral history are dying, along with the people who experienced them. Recording this history has become important for future generations of South Asians who may not have any other access to the histories. Settlers suggest that looking back gives depth, gives perspective, gives courage to learn from the past and perhaps it helps to not repeat the same mistakes. The past is rich with stories, but these stories have to be unearthed and then recorded for them to give meaning to the past, but the question remains whose responsibility is it to do that?

 
May 4th, 2:15 PM May 4th, 3:45 PM

SESSION 2.1: Franchise as a Canadian Legal Legacy: Serving the Colonial Master

IB 1010

In 1907 Indian immgrants who had arrived in Canada at the turn of the century(1903) legally lost the right to vote following a series of Acts and Regulations enacted by the Govt of Canada with the expressed purpose to bar immigration from India under the virulent slogan of White Canada Forever. However, while colonial rule is well documented, what is largely missing or omitted from the Canadian historical record in terms of challenges and successes in nation building is the struggles faced by peoples of color to legally challenge these laws. Basic rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizens were regularly trampled upon by the enactment of laws and regulations in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s in a colonized Canada where politicians regularly deferred to British colonial powers. One such issue was the franchise which was lost for forty years from 1907-1947, when community members fought vigorously to regain the right to vote while remaining law abiding and contributing members of society. How do South Asians respond when they are viewed as having just arrived although they have a long, rich and vibrant 100+ years history in Canada? I suggest in this paper that their unique lives are as much a part of Canadian history as that of any other community, yet it is curious that their history has not been adequately represented in the public record. I have found that the stories of early settlers who came from a rich tradition of oral history are dying, along with the people who experienced them. Recording this history has become important for future generations of South Asians who may not have any other access to the histories. Settlers suggest that looking back gives depth, gives perspective, gives courage to learn from the past and perhaps it helps to not repeat the same mistakes. The past is rich with stories, but these stories have to be unearthed and then recorded for them to give meaning to the past, but the question remains whose responsibility is it to do that?