Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Workers Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)

Over eight million Canadians resist national oppression

The development of our country’s oppressed peoples

The oppressed nationalities in our country have developed differently from the dominant English-Canadian nation, which makes up the majority of the population in Canada.

Throughout Canadian history, they have developed into communities with specific characteristics.

First of all were the Indians and Inuit, who occupied great expanses of the country long before the brutal European colonization. They have maintained themselves as distinct peoples despite the attacks they have suffered. Today the Indian, Inuit and Métis people are a large group with various languages and cultures, and constitute a number of different national minorities.

Then there were the French settlers, the founders of New France and the forefathers of the French-speaking nationalities in Canada: the Quebec people, the Acadians and the French-Canadians. Historical conditions led each of these nationalities to develop in its own distinct way.

Other national groups, victims of racism, have established compact communities. Black Canadians and Chinese Canadians, for example, have developed, after generations in Canada, into national minorities.

The real founding peoples of Canada: the Indians, Inuit and Métis

Genocide, assimilation, marginalization, theft of their ancestral lands, destruction of their lifestyles, isolation on reserves and brutal exploitation at work: this has been the lot of Canada’s Native peoples since the beginnings of colonization.

Yet, despite these attacks, they have proudly held on to their cultures, their languages and their ways of life. Today, the Native peoples in Canada number over one million.

The Indians

“(Being an Indian-Ed.) means saying the land is an old friend and an old friend your father knew, your grandfather knew, indeed your people always have known... we see our land as much, much more than the white man sees it. To the Indian people our land really is our life. Without our land we cannot – we could no longer exist as a people. If our land is destroyed, we too are destroyed. If your people ever take our land you will be taking our life.” These words were spoken by a Dene Indian at Fort McPherson during the 1977 hearings on the building of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline.

The Indians and the Inuit (whom we will discuss later), the first people in Canada, numbered about 300,000 before the arrival of white settlers.

The Indian population was and is today composed of distinctive groups who do not speak the same Indian language nor live on the same territory. Divided into 11 linguistic families, there are 58 different tribes spread across Canada. [1]

The Indian peoples had attained varying levels of development. The Iroquois and the Pacific Coast Indians were non-nomadic. The Haidas and the Salishans, on the Pacific Coast, had begun a division of labour and practised a kind of limited slave system. The Iroquois, a mainly agricultural people in eastern Canada, had stable, evolved social structures: they shared a common language and territory but had developed neither a complex division of labour nor a class structure.

Other Indian peoples were nomadic hunting tribes. They did not live in a fixed place but followed their game: bison, deer or moose.

There was no great division of labour. Everyone’s work, men’s and women’s alike, was necessary for the survival of the community. The social and organizational structure was very simple, democratic and without class divisions. Engels described this mode of production as “primitive communism”:

... the household is maintained by a number of families in common and is communistic; the land belongs to the tribe... There cannot be any poor or needy – the communal household and the gens know their responsibilities toward the old, the sick, and those disabled in war. All are equal and free – the women included. There is no place yet for slaves, nor as a rule, for the subjugation of other tribes. [2]

Each tribe had developed its own distinctive style of decorating their hide shelters; some did weaving or pottery; others harvested wild rice or tapped the maple trees to produce syrup.

Colonization impeded the development of Indian societies.

First, entire tribes, like the Beothuks in Newfoundland, were wiped out by force; then there were the diseases transmitted by the settlers which wiped out entire populations; and there was the exploitation of their work in the fur trade which led to Indian dependency on the whites and forced them to change their lifestyle.

In exchange for their furs, sold at high prices in Europe, the Indians received, as a fur trader of the period said, “paint, china and other trinkets.” [3]

To open up the country to white settlement, the colonialists “bought” Indian lands in what amounted to wholesale expropriation and legal robbery. In 1805, the Indian lands in York County, over 250,000 acres, were “bought” for ten shillings (or $5 in today’s terms)! The Indians’ territorial rights were taken away by unequal treaties, their nomadic life was destroyed, and they were shunted into reserves.

The frequent wars between Indians and settlers are evidence of the strong fight the Indians put up against the theft of their lands. Led by Chiefs Poundmaker and Big Bear, the Plains Indians fought alongside the Métis for their lands in what is now Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Today this terrible history is repeating itself. The Canadian state and the monopolies seize ancestral lands and ignore the legitimate rights of the various Indian national minorities. From the James Bay hydro-electric project in Quebec, to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, to the Athabasca Tar Sands, Indian lands are violated, the Indian way of life is disrupted, Indian hunting and fishing is endangered by polluted rivers and water sources.

This is far from being all the ways Indians are oppressed. Throughout their history they have been forcibly assimilated, forced to renounce their Indian heritage and their rights to ancestral Native lands.

Until 1960 they were refused the right to vote in federal elections; at the same time they were subjected to repression, police brutality and racist attacks.

The Inuit

We have long called them Eskimos. But they call themselves “Inuit,” “the people” in their language.

The Inuit, who today number 22,000, have for centuries lived above the treeline, in the immense northern Canadian tundra and the Arctic. Their communities are scattered across the vast Canadian northland, separated by great distances that make communications difficult.

Yet the Inuit, through the years, have maintained a common language and similar customs. They form a distinct national minority.

With a lifestyle adapted to the harsh northern conditions and closely linked to nature, the Inuit lived – before the arrival of the white man – mainly from hunting (whale, seal and caribou) and trapping. The hunt for food imposed a nomadic lifestyle on them. The basic unit of economic cooperation was the family band. In order to survive the harsh climate they ingeniously developed their skin kayaks, snowhouses and double-skinned fur suits.

But the effects of colonization were felt rapidly by the Inuit people. One community that lived in southern Labrador was completely exterminated, just like the Indians of the Beothuk tribe. The “peace” treaty signed by the Labrador Inuit and the British in 1764 completely deprived the Inuit of their territorial rights and forbade them to return to hunt or fish on their lands along the shores of the Straits of Belle-Isle.

The many whaling boats stopping along the northern shores not only decimated the animal population, but also introduced diseases previously unknown to the Inuit and to which they, therefore, had no resistance.

By 1900, various diseases had reduced the Inuit population, once numbering about 50,000, by one-third. Epidemic followed epidemic: chicken-pox, smallpox, diphtheria and polio. In 1910, there were only 130 Mackenzie Inuit left from a population that had once stood at 2000. Not so long ago, in 1956, one Inuit in five had tuberculosis. Famine, like the Keewatin famine in 1956, also had its effects. Infant mortality among Inuit is seven times higher than the Canadian average. [4]

The arrival of white settlers, fur traders, priests and Hudson’s Bay employers, changed several aspects of Inuit life. The Inuit abandoned part of their traditional activities to take up trading furs, essential for obtaining goods from the whites. It was, however, more like exploitation than trade. In 1906, in exchange for a muskrat pelt worth $750 at that time, an Innuk (singular form of word “Inuit”) received a rifle worth $10, and for a pelt worth $50, he would get about 11 cents worth of ammunition!

When, at the turn of the century, the Canadian state took over Northern affairs, the only service it offered to the Inuit was North West Mounted Police outposts. In 1939 the state spent $17 per Innuk on police costs, and a total of only $12 for education, health and welfare. Of this $12, $5 came from the Inuit themselves, through taxation on the furs they sold.

Confronted by the capitalists’ attempts to take over Inuit lands and their mineral, oil and gas resources, the Inuit are fighting for their rights. In Quebec a large Inuit association thus rejected the James Bay agreement and refused to take part in “celebrations” marking the opening of the LG-2 hydro-electric project, built in violation of their territorial rights. Inuit in Baker Lake, Northwest Territories, have started legal proceedings to stop mining exploration and development on their land.

The Métis

“Justice commands to take up arms.” This is the official declaration of the Council of the Métis, dated March 21, 1885. It was signed by 15 councillors, including Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, two historic Métis leaders.

This is a reflection of the Métis’ iron determination to defend their rights, of the revolt of a people that the capitalist class has deliberately sought to eliminate, a people who have twice risen up for their rights.

The Métis originated from the intermarriage between Indian women and white men: coureurs de bois, French employees and English agents of the fur companies, and Scottish settlers.

A distinct people born out of colonization, they proudly possessed a culture of Indian and white roots. The Métis in the West were for the most part bilingual, speaking Cree and either English or French.

With the development of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the Northwest, also called Rupert’s Land, a permanent Métis community was established along the Red River (in what is today Manitoba). Their estimated number at that time was over 5,000 French-speaking Métis and over 4,000 English-speaking Métis. Other communities were set up along the fur routes, from northern Alberta to Manitoba, Ontario and the American border. [5]

Between 1750 and 1850 a division of labour developed within the Métis communities. Most Métis were employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company as bison hunters, trappers or ox-cart drivers. The development of capitalism made its appearance with the birth of a petty-bourgeois class, confined to small handicraft businesses along the Red River. Some petty-bourgeois elements among the Métis sought greater political power.

One event set things off: the transfer of ownership of Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company to the Dominion of Canada. The transaction was carried out without consultation with the Red River settlement, and with no recognition of the rights of the Métis, whites and Indians of the region. In 1869 the first Métis uprising broke out. Led by Louis Riel, it resulted in the formation of a Provisional Government whose “List of Rights” demanded Métis land rights, the ratification of Indian treaties and the recognition of both English and French as official languages.

For the Canadian capitalist class, the Métis resistance and their demands for territorial and political rights were an obstacle to the economic development they had planned for the West. They had to crush the movement. John A. MacDonald, Conservative Prime Minister at the time wrote: “If these miserable half-breeds don’t disperse, we will have to crush them.” “These impulsive half-breeds were spoiled by the riot and it will take a strong hand to restrain them until they are flooded by new settlers.”

MacDonald’s policy was successful. The new province of Manitoba, recognized in 1870, accorded its inhabitants a representational government and recognized language rights for francophone Métis, but repression and a strong wave of new settlers was to provoke dispersion and an exodus from the Métis communities. The Métis nation forming along the Red River had its development blocked by a deliberate policy of the Canadian bourgeoisie.

Many Manitoba Métis therefore moved further west, to join the Métis communities already established in today’s Saskatchewan and Alberta. But a massive influx of new settlers, promoted by the government in order to populate the vast area in the West and consolidate Confederation, once again threatened Métis existence. The second uprising of the Métis and Indians took place in 1885, for the same reasons as 16 years earlier.

Ottawa brutally crushed the rebellion. Riel and eight Indians were hung. The Métis were once again dispersed.

The political rights they had won under the government of Manitoba were taken away. French as an official language was abolished. The School Act of 1890 forbade French education in Manitoba schools. The rights of the Indians and Métis were ilquidated.

The province of Saskatchewan was not created until 1905, when the number of settlers far exceeded the number of Métis.

Today the Métis are still without any special status. They are not covered by any treaties and have no jurisdiction or rights over their lands. Métis communities are for the most part extremely poor, victims of racism and discrimination.

But the Métis have never abandoned their fighting tradition. An example of this are the Norway House Métis in northern Manitoba, who twice in August of this year occupied the Winnipeg legislature in their fight to ensure the economic survival of their comunity.


With the explicit aim of driving the Native peoples off their lands, the North West Mounted Police was set up in the spring of 1873. Today, its successor, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), continues the repression of the Native peoples, cold bloodedly brutalizing them and shooting them down.

Forty-four per cent of the inmates in Canadian prisons are Native people. They have the highest incarceration rate of any people in the world. In the Pinegrove, Saskatchewan women’s prison, Native women account for 80% of the prisoners.

On Indian reserves living conditions are the worst in Canada. 64% of the houses have no running water, and often the existing water sources are contaminated. On some reservations, 95% of the Indians are unemployed seven months a year. Many are forced to live on welfare.

The life expectancy for Indians and Métis is 42 years, while the Canadian average is 72 years. The infant mortality rate is three times the Canadian average because of the lack of proper health services. Recent studies have also revealed the practice of forced sterilization of Native women. This genocide must stop!

The Native peoples have always fought valiantly for their rights, often with weapons in hand.

With the intensification of the capitalists’ reactionary policies over the last few years, there has been an upsurge in Native peoples struggles.

In 1974 Ojibways occupied their lands at Anishinabe, rifles in hand. The land had been illegally sold to the town of Kenora, Ontario. In August 1978 Saskatchewan Métis blocked roads to be used by Canada’s first ministers. In March of the same year a group of Native people awaited then-Prime Minister Trudeau outside the Saskatchewan parliament in Regina in order to press for their rights.

Native peoples’ land claims, which the Canadian government refuses to recognize, are a burning issue, raising a storm of protest from one end of the country to the other, especially among the James Bay Inuit in Quebec, the Baker Lake Inuit in the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon and Mackenzie Valley Indians.

Quebec: a nation demanding its rights

There are five million Quebecois: five million people who live on a common territory, where they have developed, establishing economic links among themselves and sharing a common language, culture and customs. Nevertheless, the Quebec nation has never been able to exercise its political rights.

They were but a small group in the early days of the French colony of New France. These farmers and craftsmen who cleared the land and built the first homes of the colony after 1608, near Cape Diamond at Quebec City, were the ancestors of the distinct people which put down roots in Quebec and grew and developed. The names of these original settlers, Hebert, Couillard, Boivin, are still found today among hundreds of Quebec families.

Since the 1760 conquest of New France by the British, the Quebec people have been dominated. But they have always put up staunch resistance to the constant attempts to assimilate them (the notorious Durham Report is but one example) and the national oppression they were subjected to, first by the British colonialists and later by the Canadian ruling class. They continued their economic and social development and from the middle of the 19th century acquired the distinctive characteristics of a nation.

The Patriotes Rebellion of 1837-1838 (waged as well in the province of Upper Canada, today Ontario) was the political manifestation of the young Quebec nation’s struggle against British colonialism and national oppression. [6]

But Quebec as a nation was never able to exercise its most fundamental political right – the right to decide its own political future, the right to self-determination.

At the time of Confederation in 1867, the Quebec nation was integrated into the Canadian state without any consultation.

Since that time the oppression of the Quebec nation has continued, with discrimination in hiring and wages, linguistic oppression, an inferior quality of education, less developed health care services, annexation of Quebec territory in the Hull region without prior consultation, and so on.

The Canadian monopoly bourgeoisie is unanimous in the view that Quebec must be kept in a dominated position, thus providing the bourgeoisie with a profitable source of cheap labour.

In Quebec itself the movement to resist this oppression has always been very strong.

From the anti-conscription fight in 1918 right up till the present period, this movement has grown continuously. In the sixties, for instance, recognition of Quebecois national rights, the status of Quebec in the Canadian constitution, and French as the language of work and education were the demands around which the Quebecois people mobilized.

The PQ rode to power in 1976 by taking advantage of the anger of the Quebec people. Its strongly anti-labour and pro-capitalist nature was soon to appear. Its new economic policy document, made public in September, reveals even more clearly its intentions to help Quebec capitalists rise to the ranks of the monopolies with the aid of large subsidies. They are thus laying the necessary economic base for their political plan for a separate Quebec, where Quebec capitalists will rule and profit from the exploitation of Quebec workers.

The PQ’s reactionary policies are sparking strong resistance from Quebec workers. Public and private sector workers are uniting across union barriers in the fight against the Parti Quebecois’ occupational health and safety Bill 17. The inter-union Common Front in the public sector is heading for a major confrontation with the PQ. An important aspect of this struggle is the deterioration in health care, which the PQ has only worsened since being in power. This is an issue around which the entire the population can be united.

(Our position on the Quebec national question has already been presented in several of our publications. We refer the reader to October no. 2-3, and to the brochure (in French only), La question nationale quebecoise, le point de vue de la classe ouvriere.)

The Acadians: from the turlute to the tintamarre

The Acadian people have always refused to remain silent. Over 200 years ago, when the British raided each Acadian home, they seized and smashed the fiddles in the hope of destroying Acadian culture. So Acadians took up mouth music, the turlute, reproducing their music without instruments.

August 15 of this year, the traditional “tintamarre” resounded in the Acadian regions of the Maritimes, as the people took to the streets, banging on pots and honking their horns. This was the joyous celebration of a people commemorating 375 years of existence and struggle against oppression.

About 350,000 Acadians live in the Maritime provinces. They are mainly concentrated in the northeast, northwest and southeast of New Brunswick, a province where they make up over one-third of the population. Other concentrations of Acadians live in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Acadians are the descendents of the first French settlers who came to what is now Nova Scotia. Today they constitute an oppressed national minority, distinct from the Quebecois because of the different conditions in which the two communities developed.

Thus in 1881, when the first Acadian National Convention was held, the 5000 participants declared the existence of the Acadians as a people, distinct from the Quebecois, and adopted August 15 as their national holiday.

The fierce repression by the British colonialists, which led to the dispersion of Acadian communities to several provinces, and the Acadian capitalists’ inability to impose their control over the Acadian market were also factors that blocked the Acadian people’s development into a nation.

The year 1713 marks a turning point in the history of the Acadians: French Acadia was then taken over by the British. Proud of their Acadian identity, the Acadians refused to swear allegiance to the British monarchy. [7]

To crush this resistance and “anglicize” Acadia, the colonialists resorted to extreme brutality: the Grande Deportation (great deportation), or le Grand Derangement (great upheaval) as the Acadians call it, began in 1755.

Of the 8,000 to 10,000 Acadians, three-quarters were deported to British colonies in the United States (especially Maryland and Massachusetts), or imprisoned in London or Halifax. [8]

A number of them, escaping the pursuing British soldiers, resettled in northeastern and southeastern New Brunswick, where they lived hidden in the woods.

In 1764, Acadians were granted permission to settle once again in the Maritimes.

Acadian communities were thus established in the regions where they are still concentrated today.

After the British conquered New France, they were joined by settlers from Lower Canada and a few French who had escaped the final battles, as well as Irish and Scottish inhabitants who were to blend into the Acadian community.

Historically the Acadian people have never been permitted to exercise their political rights, especially their right to regional autonomy. When the province of New Brunswick was formed in 1784, for example, the very existence of the Acadians was ignored. They were not recognized as a distinct people at the Charlottetown conference or the Quebec conference in 1864. They had only been granted the vote in New Brunswick in 1830; up till that point they were not even recognized as full citizens.

Fishing, farming and lumber were the foundations of the Acadian economy. Merchants from Jersey (an island south-west of England) totally controlled the fishing industry and fiercely exploited the Acadian fishermen. As for agriculture, it was subsistence farming.

But the turn of the century brought changes to the Acadian economy. Central Canadian capitalist interests replaced the British in the wood industry and Americans supplanted the Jersey merchants in fishing.

At the same time an Acadian bourgeoisie developed, represented by Finn, Landry and Robichaud, as well as a few commercial capitalists. The main centre for Acadian capitalists is the Societe mutuelle de l’Assomption, an insurance company tightly linked to the Acadian cooperative sector.

But the interests of the Acadian bourgeoisie are either limited to these sectors or blend in with those of the Canadian bourgeoisie. Gilbert Finn, president of l’Assomption, is a director of the Acadian business Mother’s Own Bakery and the Provincial Bank. He also sits on the board of Brunswick Mining and Smelting (a Noranda subsidiary).

The Acadian working people have never stopped fighting for their rights. The Grande Deportation didn’t wipe them out. The capitalists’ assimilation policies haven’t succeeded in assimilating the Acadians into the English-Canadian nation. Their language and culture are precious to the Acadians and they will protect them at any price.

In 1870 the Common School Act eliminated Acadian schools. In protest, Acadians in several regions refused to pay school taxes.

Five years later the population of Caraquet, New Brunswick, rose up to fight for an Acadian school, confonting the militia that the government had sent to “quell the riot.” One Acadian, Louis Mailloux, was killed in the confrontation; nine others were arrested and charged with the murder of a militia man. They were later released as a result of public pressure, and the school act was amended to allow Acadian schools.

Today the Acadian people are still fighting for French-language education, demanding in particular homogeneous school districts, instead of bilingual ones. A television and radio network answering the needs of Acadians are still important demands of the Acadian people.

Residing in economically underdeveloped regions, like north-eastern New Brunswick, where the unemployment rate is more than double what it is in the mainly English-speaking southwestern part of the province, the Acadian communities are also demanding the right to jobs and an end to discrimination in hiring.

The question of Acadian lands is also an important issue in their struggle. The 1969 expropriation of 230 families from Kouchibouguac in Kent County still arouses much anger. “I’ll fight for my land as long as I live,” Jackie Vautour, one of the expropriated residents, stated recently.

The French Canadians: a long history of resistance to assimilation

Aside from the Quebec and Acadian peoples, there are one million French Canadians living in Canada. They make up isolated enclaves in provinces where the overwhelming majority of the population is English Canadian, but they have nonetheless succeeded in maintaining their language and their culture.

The largest concentration of French Canadians is found in Ontario. It has never stopped growing and has doubled in the last hundred years. French Canadians make up almost half the population in the Ottawa-Carleton region and 32% in Sudbury in northern Ontario.

In southwest Ontario, in Essex and Kent counties, there are 70,000 Franco-Ontarians, and in Metropolitan Toronto there are 91,000 of French origin.

Next comes Manitoba, where in 1971, 8.8% of the population was French Canadian, with the largest communities being in St. Boniface and Winnipeg.

In Saskatchewan the French Canadians are grouped together in various communities, while in Alberta they are found in the northern Peace River district and around Edmonton. In both provinces they make up about 6% of the population.

In British Columbia they are concentrated mainly in Vancouver; their numbers have doubled in the last fifty years.

Finally, French Canadians form 6% of the population of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

These French-Canadian communities were established by Quebec people forced into exile in search of land and work from the middle of the 19th century. They went through their own specific development and came to constitute a national minority in Canada.

Just like the Acadians, French Canadians have faced harsh national oppression. They are denied their right to work or study in their native language, or even to speak it. They are refused access to government services in French.

Isolated in the midst of the English-Canadian nation, they are constantly endangered by assimilation. [9] According to the 1971 census, close to half a million Canadians of French-speaking origin – no longer have French as their mother tongue. 250,000 more no longer speak French at home.

The French-Canadian minority has survived one hundred years of oppression thanks to their long-standing militant spirit. “Today they are organized in the “Federation des Francophones hors Quebec,” and are continuing the struggle for their rights, especially their language rights.

The demand for French schools is a key issue. The history of French-Canadian communities has been marked by battles for the right to education in French.

Until 1927, Franco-Ontarians waged a determined fight to get rid of Regulation 17, which had banned the use of French in schools since 1913. Even though the law was repealed, the conditions and regulations in the new law set up more roadblocks preventing the establishment of French schools in the province. This fight is still being waged today, as for example, in Sturgeon Falls in 1971, in Cornwall in 1973 and in Windsor in 1976.

In Manitoba, where French is now also officially recognized as a language of education (it was banned in 1890 by the School Act), the situation is much the same as in Ontario. The only way Franco-Manitobans are able to win French schooling for their children is at the cost of bitter struggles.

In the other provinces, French language education is not even provided for by provincial law. As a result, the only choice for French-Canadian communities is to fight, as the Fransaskois did, winning a grade school in Vonda-Prud’homme in 1977.

Generations of Black-Canadian fighters

Black Canadians have lived in Canada since the first days of European colonization. Their lives as pioneers were filled with discrimination and brutal racism. But they were also distinguished by a long fighting tradition.

United by their common language, English, Black Canadians share a culture born out of their Afro-American and Caribbean origins. They are spread over several provinces with the largest communities being concentrated in Nova Scotia, southern Ontario and the major cities across the country. Today they constitute a national minority harshly oppressed by the Canadian capitalist class.

The first Blacks who came to Canada bore the burden of slavery, coming to the colony of New France with their masters and remaining slaves under the British rule. A law passed in 1793 forbade the bringing in of new slaves, but it wasn’t until 1833 that slavery was officially abolished in Canada. [10]

A large community of Black Canadians also settled in the Maritimes after the British conquest of Acadia. Whether they were slaves of Loyalist masters who had fled the American revolution in 1755 or free men, the Blacks had to work day and night in order to grow some thing on the poorest-quality lands that they were given.

In the same period and for the same reasons, groups of Blacks settled in Upper and Lower Canada.

In 1796 another group of Blacks came to Nova Scotia, but not voluntarily; they had been deported from their native Jamaica. They were the Maroons, rebels who had risen against the British rulers of their island. Many later left Nova Scotia to settle in Sierra Leone in Africa. Others stayed. Their descendants remain proud of never having accepted the colonial yoke.

The War of 1812 with the United States brought a second large wave of Blacks, who immigrated to Canada to escape slavery.

Lastly, in the years 1850-1865, Blacks continued to flee the brutal slave-system existing in the States, and came to Canada on the “underground railway,” a chain of hiding places established by blacks and whites who wanted slavery abolished. Most of these 75,000 former slaves settled in southern Ontario.

In 1858, there were also 600 Blacks living in British Columbia. Sometime later, the last wave of Black settlers and farmers arrived to set up homesteads in the West.

From 1900 to 1920, immigrants from the West Indies began to come. They were quickly assimilated into the already established Black-Canadian community.

As far as Blacks are concerned, Canada is not the country of “freedom and justice” the capitalists claim it is. What they find here is oppression, discrimination and racism. Their democratic rights are denied, their history of militancy and rebellion against terrible conditions is deformed.

There is no question, however, that the worst form of oppression Canadian Blacks experience is police repression and racist attacks. Shouting, “You are one dead fucking nigger,” a Toronto policeman on August 10, 1978 shot down a 24-year-old Black Canadian named Andrew “Buddy” Evans during a brawl in a tavern. This was a racist murder, which both the government and the capitalists’ courts are trying hard to cover up.

There are organized racist groups which do the capitalists’ dirty work. The Ku Klux Klan has known periods of growth in Canada. Now, in Toronto, the Western Guard specializes in attacking Black homes and physically assaulting the tenants of Regent Park. Protected by the police, these fascists are free to spread their racist venom under the slogan “Keep Canada white.”

One of the more striking manifestations of the oppression of Blacks is discrimination in hiring. Up until 1942 the Department of Manpower permitted employers to include racist restrictions in their hiring practices. Blacks thus found themselves limited to certain jobs, like porters or domestics, and denied access to specialized trades and even to unions.

We have all certainly heard of Black families turned away from a dwelling which the landlord then rents to a white family. Similarly in education, we see segregation and inferior teaching material. Up until at least 1965, Black children in Ontario and Nova Scotia attended separate Black schools, receiving an inferior-quality education.

The Black community in Nova Scotia will not soon forget Africville, a Black neighbourhood in Halifax razed by the city in the mid-’60s to make room for a bridge. The death of Africville signified the destruction of a whole community whose roots went back generations.

The militancy and anger of Canada’s Black communities has resurfaced with new ardour in recent months.

In Halifax at the end of July more than 50 delegates from a dozen Nova Scotia Black communities met to found the Black Youth Organization. With this new weapon, young Black Canadians in Nova Scotia will be able to “fight for jobs and better education, and against racism,” to use the words of one of the organizers. (see The Forge, Vol. 4, No. 26, p. 4)

In Toronto, the August 26 police murder of Jamaican immigrant Albert Johnson sent shock waves through the city’s Black community. Six days later 2000 demonstrated in the streets crying, “We want justice!” Another demonstration was held in Toronto October 14, this time uniting Black Canadians, East Indians, white and immigrant workers, Native people and Palestinians against the growing racism and police brutality in the city.

The Chinese community: over 125 years of struggle in Canada

Chinese Canadians have not been absent from Canada’s history and growth. On the contrary, they have helped build this country with their sweat and toil and, in many cases, with their lives.

Today, numbering over 100,000, Chinese Canadians constitute another distinct national minority, oppressed by capitalism.

Concentrated in several of Canada’s major cities, the Chinese-Canadian minority has kept its characteristic language and culture. It was formed historically through long years of oppression on Canadian soil.

In 1850 the first Chinese immigrants came to British Columbia, attracted by the Fraser River gold rush. They came up from California, where they had gone ten years earlier to escape the grinding poverty of China, a country then crushed under the weight of colonialism and feudal oppression.

What they found in Canada was not the promised streets of gold. Instead, they found naked racism, oppressive working conditions, low wages and the worst jobs.

Joined by fellow countrymen coming from California, the number of Chinese living in British Columbia in 1881 grew to 4,400.

In the years 1881 to 1884, 15,000 Chinese workers were literally imported into Canada to serve as cheap labour in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Living in miserable conditions, paid starvation wages, they built the tracks with their sweat and lifeblood – over 10% died.

The capitalists of the period viewed the Chinese labourers merely as temporary cheap labour, to be deported the minute the line was completed. To cut down the entry of Chinese immigrants, the Canadian government refused all Chinese women, and relations between Chinese men and white women were strictly forbidden.

Starting in 1886, a head tax was declared on every new Chinese immigrant coming into British Columbia. In 1901 this tax was $100, and in 1903 it was raised to $500. In 1923, Chinese people were officially denied entry to Canada under the “Chinese Exclusion Act.”

In a series of discriminatory legislation, Chinese people were denied all democratic rights.

For example, in 1878, a law was passed forbidding the hiring of Chinese workers on any BC government project. Every Chinese over the age of 12 had to buy a license for $10 – a large sum at the time – which had to be renewed every three months and without which they could not work and could be fined or jailed.

Chinese Canadians were not allowed to vote, right up until 1947. Not being eligible to vote, they were thus excluded from all the professions. Till very recently, they were kept from joining most unions. Similar discriminatory laws and regulations were applied to all East Asian and Japanese immigrants. In other aspects of daily life, such as housing, Chinese Canadians face constant discrimination and racism.

But opposition is growing among Chinese Canadians to the state’s plans to destroy their communities in the big cities, as in Montreal where the Place Guy Favreau project threatens to dismember Chinatown.


The Program of the Workers Communist Party doesn’t in any way pretend to have examined all the questions concerning the oppressed nationalities nor to have completely exhausted the subject.

The WCP is still young. Our experience in fighting alongside the oppressed nationalities in our country is limited, and consequently so is our understanding of various aspects of the national question.

The constant growth of national struggles brings new tasks to the Party: we must deepen our political line, develop it, clarify the demands of the oppressed nationalities and hence steadily push forward the fight against national oppression.

In this perspective, the WCP would appreciate hearing from readers of October and The Forge, from all friends of the Party, on the history, present-day oppression, struggles and demands of Canada’s nationalities.

Our global demands:

– the right to self-determination, up to and including separation for Quebec and regional autonomy for all the oppressed nationalities.

– full equality for all nationalities, which means:

– the end of discrimination in hiring on the basis of nationality or language.

– equal pay for equal work

– the right to work in their languages in those regions where they are concentrated.

– the right to communicate and be served in their languages at all levels of government, including the right to stand trial in their language and before their peers

– the right to practise and develop their own cultures and written and spoken languages;

– the right to equal quality education in their own language in those areas where they are concentrated;

– the right to decent living and health conditions;

– the full right to join unions at work and to use their own language, with translation made available in the unions;

– the recognition of the Native peoples’ just land claims, an end to government and company pillage of their lands, and recognition of their full rights to fish and hunt on their lands;

– an end to police repression and racist attacks, as well as the right to armed self-defence for the Native peoples and Black Canadians.

Some important dates in the history of Canada’s oppressed nationalities:

Well before the arrival of the white man, the vast regions of our country were inhabited by 300,000 people: the Indian peoples (so named by Christopher Columbus in his mistaken belief that he’d reached India) and the Inuit people (long known as the Eskimos).

1604: Samuel de Champlain establishes the first French colony in North America, Port Royal. This colony in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia gave birth to the Acadian people.

1608: At the foot of the rock of Quebec (Cape Diamond) another French colony is set up. By 1721, the French population in what is today Quebec numbers over 24,000 settlers.

1689: Royal decree allows the possession of Black slaves brought to New France from Africa.

1713: The treaties of Utrecht cede Acadia to Great Britain.

1755: Wanting to eliminate the French “threat” posed by the 8,000 Acadians the British began the Grande Deportation – the great deportation.

1760: September 9, after four years of fighting, the French surrender in Montreal. New France is conquered and becomes an official British colony under the Treaty of Paris of 1763.

1775: US War of Independence begins. The Loyalists, loyal to Britain, flee to Canada. They bring Black slaves with them. Other Blacks, the Maroon rebels from Jamaica, are deported to Nova Scotia in 1796.

1837-1838: Rebellion against British rule breaks out in Upper and Lower Canada. In Lower Canada (Quebec) it also has a distinct national character.

1858: The first Chinese immigrants arrive in British Columbia.

1850-1865: The “underground railroad” brings to Canada nearly 75,000 former black slaves escaping the U.S. Most settle in southern Ontario.

Mid-1800s: French Canadians leave Quebec to look for jobs in northeastern US. They then return to settle in western Canada.

1867: Confederation. Quebec forced to join.

1869-1870: First Metis uprising in Red River, the site of present-day Winnipeg. Led by Louis Riel, it culminated in the formation of a provisional government.

1875: In Caraquet, New Brunswick, the people demand Acadian schools. In the confrontation with the militia, one Acadian is killed and nine others charged with the death of one of the militiamen. Public pressure leads to the dropping of charges.

1881: First National Convention of the Acadians in Memrancook, New Brunswick. 5000 attend. The Convention declares August 15 Acadia’s National Day. Two years later, at the second convention held in Miscouche, Prince Edward Island, an Acadian flag and national anthem are chosen.

1885: Second uprising of the western Metis and Indians. The rebellion is bloodily put down by Ottawa.

1890: Manitoba School Act bans the teaching of French.

1913: An Ontario government directive bans the teaching of French and the speaking of French in the schools. This was the infamous Regulation 17.

1917: Conservative Prime Minister Borden sends the army into Quebec to quell wide-spread protest against conscription (forced enrollment into the army). The clash results in four deaths.

1927: Under pressure and battles of the Franco-Ontarians, the provincial government repeals Regulation 17.

1937: 10,000 Quebec textile workers strike against Dominion Textile, Canada’s biggest cotton cloth producer.

1949: The famous Asbestos strike by miners in Asbestos and Thetford Mines, Quebec. Maurice Duplessis, the much-hated Quebec premier of the time, sends in the provincial police and reads the riot act. Numerous miners are arrested.

1952: Duplessis continues his repression of Quebec workers, this time sending in the provincial police against striking textile workers in Louiseville. The riot act is proclaimed once again.

1964: Demolition begins of Black neighbourhood of Africville in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The small community of Black Canadians who had lived there for more than 150 years is dispersed.

1969: Expropriation begins of 230 mainly-Acadian families in Kouchibouguac Park in New Brunswick. The struggle continues today.

1969: Massive demonstrations are held in Quebec to protest Bill 63, which encourages assimilation through “freedom of choice” in the language of education.

October, 1970: Following terrorist actions by the Quebec Liberation Front (FLQ), the federal government invokes the War Measures Act and sends the army into Quebec. Many people are arrested.

April 1971: Then-Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa officially announces the James Bay hydro-electric project. The project, continued by the Parti Quebecois and opened in October, 1979, will be carried out at the expense of land claims by northern Quebec Indians and Inuit.

1971: Franco-Ontarians fight for a French-language school in Sturgeon Falls.

1973: Franco-Ontarians fight for a French-language school in Cornwall.

1974: Armed occupation of Anishinabe Park in Kenora, Ontario by Ojibway Indians. They face RCMP repression.

1976: Franco-Ontarians fight for a French-language school in Windsor.

1977: Saskatchewan francophones win a French-language elementary school in Vonda Prud’Homme.

August 1978: 200 Metis block route of Canada’s first ministers in Waskesin, Saskatchewan.

August 1979: Metis from Norway House in northern Manitoba twice occupy the provincial legislature in Winnipeg.

September and October, 1979: Two large demonstrations held in Toronto to denounce racism and police attacks on Blacks and East Indians.


[1] Some Indian tribes called themselves, and still call themselves, nations, like the Dene people of the Mackenzie Valley. The term has been used for hundreds of years to define themselves as a distinct people, but it should not be confused with the Marxist term “nation” as defined by Stalin.

[2] Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, International Publishers, p. 159.

[3] See The Founding of Canada, Stanley B. Ryerson, Progress Books, 1963.

[4] See A History of the Original Peoples of Northern Canada, Keith J. Crowe, Arctic Institute of North America, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1974.

[5] See The Métis: Canada’s Forgotten People, D. Bruce Sealy and Antoine S. Lussier, Manitoba Métis Federation Press, 1977 and The Life of Louis Riel, Peter Charlebois, NC press, Toronto, 1975.

[6] See Unequal Union, Stanley B. Ryerson, Progress Books, 1968.

[7] See The Acadians: Creation of a People, Naomi Griffiths, McGraw-Hill, and The Acadians: the deportation, deliberate procedure or cruel necessity, by the same author, Copp Clark.

[8] The Acadians who settled shortly after in Louisiana (then a French colony) came from France, after a stay in English prisons, or as emigrants from the US colonies where they had been deported.

[9] See Les heritiers de Lord Durham, La federation des francophones hors Quebec, 1977.

[10] See: Black Canadians: a long line of fighters, Headly Tulloch, NC Press, Toronto 1975.