Riots in Vancouver

09 Sep
William Lyon Mackenzie King

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Photo credit: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives)

One of the most interesting stories about William Lyon Mackenzie King happened in 1907 when he was Deputy Minister of Labour.

On September 9, Ottawa heard that there had been a race riot in Vancouver.  People in British Columbia were greatly disturbed because thousands of Asiatics were coming to live there.  In a single year, 8,000 Japanese, 2,000 Sikhs and 1,500 Chinese arrived.  The Japanese were feared because they were very proud of their homeland which had become strong enough to defeat Russia in a war.  It suspected that the Japanese settling in Canada were the advance guard of a full-scale invasion.

Vancouver citizens formed the Asiatic Exclusion League, and on Saturday, September 8, attacked the Chinese and Japanese sections of the city.  The Chinese showed only passive resistance, but the Japanese put up a fight and rove out the attackers with sticks, bottles and knives.  The fighting continued on Sunday, September 9.

Prime Minister Laurier decided to send Deputy Minister of Labour Mackenzie King to Vancouver to assess Chinese and Japanese claims for losses through the rioting and, more important, to study the reasons for the recent influx of Japanese.  The Government moved cautiously because it was trying to work out  a trade agreement with Japan.

When Mackenzie King was in Vancouver, he raided the office of the Japanese immigration agent.  Later he told Governor-General Lord Grey that he had gone to Vancouver prejudiced in favour of the Japanese, but had changed his mind after studying documents he took from the immigration agent’s office.  It was clear that the Government of Japan knew immigration quotas were being exceeded, and that there was a definite danger of an invasion.

Mackenzie King’s official report on the situation has never been published, but Rodolphe Lemieux, Minister of Labour, went to Japan and managed to work out a satisfactory immigration agreement.  The anti-Asiatic feeling in British Columbia simmered down over the years.  The Japanese were evacuated during World War II, but that’s another story, for another day, for another post!

To read more about today’s post, there are a few good sites that offer more information.  So I suggest the Sedai – The Japanese Canadian Legacy Project, and then the INitiative for Student Teaching and Research in Chinese Canadian studies, and the People of the Valley: Japanese Community. All good places to start.


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8 responses to “Riots in Vancouver

  1. seeker

    September 9, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    Now Vancouver riots just because… what a city I live in. Starting to become like Montreal. This quota of Asian is very interesting. Good post, Tk. Guess what? I will be throwing a blog party on 9/11.

    • tkmorin

      September 9, 2013 at 11:40 pm

      Ummm … interesting. Detail? 🙂

      • seeker

        September 9, 2013 at 11:45 pm

        Stanley cup riot, Olympics riot, Occupy Vancouver, hopefully there will be no incident coming up with decriminalization of Marijuana

        • tkmorin

          September 10, 2013 at 11:00 am

          Umm, yes, there are those times. But then, you hear about them all over the globe, not just here … still, so not good!

  2. stanze

    September 9, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    “Like” isn’t the right word. But it’s very interesting. Must have been a difficult time.

    • tkmorin

      September 9, 2013 at 7:35 pm

      I’ll accept the “like” as “I’ve enjoyed the post, and even learned something” LOL thanks for dropping by! 🙂

  3. dcmontreal

    September 9, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Why would a Canadian city riot if they hadn’t just won the Stanley Cup? It just doesn’t make any sense!

    • tkmorin

      September 9, 2013 at 11:01 am

      When does a riot make sense … group mentality kicks in, I guess …


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