Term Paper: Immigrant Workers Find Themselves in After Arriving

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¶ … IMMIGRANT WORKERS FIND THEMSELVES in AFTER ARRIVING in CANADA? WHY WERE EMPLOYERS SO INTERESTED in HIRING THEM?

The immigrant issue was an important element to be taken into account when discussing certain segments in the history of both the U.S. And Canada. Although in North American, the debate over the status of immigrants was more or less related to specific issues such as efficiency and economic development, in Canada there were other stringent factors which determine the social behavior of white employers and workers towards immigrant workers such as the Chinese, Eastern Europeans, or black people. In this sense, there are economic, psychological, and historical factors which contributed to the establishment of an exclusive attitude towards foreign workers, without however completely denying them basic rights in the society.

First and foremost, it is important to underline the fact that there are certain differences concerning the specific treatment of immigrants. In the early years of the migration into Canada there were many ethnic groups that had decided to work in British Columbia. Thus, there were Chinese, East Europeans, and a large number of black people. However, there are studies which have pointed out the fact that the particular treatment of the society in terms of ethnic inclusion or exclusion is also determined by the specificities of the race or ethnic background. In this sense for instance, a reference made to the North American society reveals the fact that "the overrepresentation of certain ethnic groups in particular occupations is a phenomenon almost as old as human story. In North America such ethnic concentrations has produced familiar stereotypes: the Italian barber or mason, the Korean shopkeeper, the black chambermaid, and the Jewish lawyer. The reverse side of this process of inclusion, of course, is exclusion: there are few black in self-employment or professions, remain underrepresented in corporate boardrooms." Therefore, it can be said that there are important differences that can, to a certain extent determine the eventual behavior of the adopting society in terms of exclusion or inclusion of the immigrant population.

Yet another issue that must be kept in mind is the prior situation of the people coming as immigrants, in Canada and elsewhere. For instance, on the Canadian soil, among immigrant there was a differing attitude. In this sense, while Chinese were modest in their demands, East Europeans were more reluctant to accept low paid work places. From this point-of-view, there was an increasingly tense situation between the white workers who had greater demands and the low paid docile Asian workers who, after harsh conditions in their countries, had low expectations and were more suitable for the Canadian employer. As this reality expanded, so did the attitude of exclusion rather than inclusion of the immigrant workforce. This triggered in its turn a certain confrontational situation in which immigrants became to be perceived as less than human beings and thus unworthy of consideration as part of the Canadian labor force. Therefore, it can be said that there was a hostile and recalcitrant attitude towards immigrants, despite their obvious benefic presence, especially for the economic segment.

There are various aspects which can comprehensively characterize the position of immigrants in the late 19th century Canada.

First, Canada represented a rather accessible environment for immigrants to settle and try to build a better life than in their home countries. As statistics have shown, Canada, having new desires for expansion and economic growth was in acute need of cheap labor force. In this sense, "it was therefore assumed by both immigration officials and employers that many agricultural immigrants would initially, at any rate, provide a source of cheap seasonal labor." However, in the beginning, the relation with the rest of native, white workers was one of subordination as immigrants were considered to be of inferior status. This was largely due to the fact that there was an economic competition between the high wage white workers and the low wage Asian ones. Nonetheless, there was little contact between the two sides of the working class because white laborers were less interested in working in areas such as railroad construction or agricultural activities.

Second, unlike many parts of the American territory where the flux of immigrants lacked more or less a strict control of the authorities, in Canada, immigrants were strictly controlled and their presence in the country had to suit the necessities of the Canadian economy overall. Thus, immigrants were brought in the country in order to cater for certain specificities of different parts of the state. For instance, European immigrants were best considered for agricultural work and thus, in the light of certain failures, there were agreements reached between the Canadian government and the North Atlantic Trading Company which "directed over 70, 000 immigrants to Canada, most of them from the Austrian provinces of Galicia and Bukovina." However, this practice proved to be of relative success because of the lack of guarantees in terms of proper qualification of the immigrants such companies would allow passage in Canada. Also, there was the matter of the close connection between the state and the private companies which, according to Terry Morley, was almost unique in the industrial history.

Nonetheless, there was a rather well established system of recruitment of foreign workforce, especially from Britain and the Austrian Empire.

Third, an important element in the evolution of the way in which immigrants came to perceive their country of adoption was the industrial boost in which Canada became involved. Therefore, in the early years of the 20th century, it became obvious the fact that there was an increasing need for workers in areas such as railroads, trains, or road construction. This is why the immigrant workforce created a rather unstable environment for the rest of the employment market. While "commercial farmers bitterly complained about the lack of help during periods of peak production," railroad companies were eager to use immigrant workers in their own businesses, despite the eventual lack of experience or adaptation. The reason for the increased demand for immigrants was due to the low wages employers' practices in their relation to the immigrants. Also, there was the issue of obedience, as most immigrant, coming into the courtly were willing to take in any job available.

As time passed and more and more foreign workers came to live in Canada, a growing tension between white workers and other nationalities was on the rise. This is justified by the fact that the increased competition between them left the white majority no other instinctual choice but to exclude immigrants. Therefore, the attitude with which immigrants came to be confronted was one of rejection and superiority from the part of the white Canadians.

As a result of this discretionary and biased behavior, immigrants were also restricted to engaging in only a certain number of activities, among which sleeping car porters which was a job mostly left to black immigrants. In this line of work, there was a certain attitude that began to quite spread and in many cases, immigrants were often encouraged to become servile and obedient. This in turn created a general feeling of inferiority towards immigrants which determined their label as second class individuals. From this perspective, they were treated with less respect by white citizens who nonetheless encouraged it by the practice of tipping and other means of scarce remunerations. However, most of the immigrants that were engaged even in poorly paid jobs were able to save a certain amount of money and buy a house or later on cars. Therefore, despite the fact that their treatment was racially biased, immigrants did not consider this situation to be worse than the one experienced in their own country.

From a historical perspective, however, there were certain elements which encouraged the emancipation of immigrants in Canada. At the turn of the century, there were various movements that militated for certain civic rights for immigrants and a fair treatment and proper working conditions. Some of the most important initiatives in this sense were conducted by the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the Union of Auto Workers. They played a significant role in drawing the attention on the conditions experienced by black workers and in general immigrants in different working areas, in particular related to discriminatory practices. However, the timing of voicing these types of requests was in relation to the general trends that began to manifest not only in North America, but more profoundly in Europe. These were a reverberation of the socialist ideas that placed the worker and his rights in the center of most public debates, as it became obvious that the conditions endured by low paid immigrants and other discriminated strata of the society were no longer in accordance with the new emerging economic needs and demands. In this sense, pressures began to be made by workers that were now organized in different types of trade unions militating for better working conditions.

The strongest motivation in terms of the reasons for which employers chose to hire immigrants… [END OF PREVIEW]

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