Monthly Archives: November 2011
Atwood’s recent self-described work of ‘speculative fiction,’ The Year of the Flood, touches upon a number of themes, but most evident in my view is the “critical dystopia” epitomized in the world Atwood has created. In Scraps of the Untamed Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia, author Tom Moylan identifies the key signifiers of utopia and dystopia in modern science fiction, and suggests that since the time of Phillip K. Dick and Cyberpunk, much of modern science fiction can be defined as “critical dystopia.” Moylan suggests that “dystopian narrative is largely the product of the terrors of the twentieth century,” (xi) as authors reacted to a world increasingly fraught with exploitation, repression, state violence, war, genocide, disease, and the perils of capitalism’s new phase of monopolized production and the extension of the modern imperialist state. We are now in the second decade of the twenty-first century, and such concerns remain at the heart of current fiction, though arguably with a greater emphasis on globalization and its effects on the environment.
It is therefore my intention to identify some key signifiers in Year of the Flood that establish it as a work of “critical dystopia,” and address parallels between this novel and the dystopian novels of earlier authors. In addition, this essay will address an often disputed claim about the Year of the Flood and her earlier novel based in the same universe, Oryx and Crake; that they have adopted the conventions of science fiction and practice a “genre blurring” typical of critical dystopia. Frederic Jameson suggests that dystopia has “…been the one science-fictional sub-genre in which more purely ‘literary’ writers [such as Orwell, Huxley, and Atwood herself] have felt free to indulge.” (7) It is hoped that this examination of Atwood’s work in the conventions of dystopia and science fiction will help to illustrate what is so unique and exemplary about her work.
When interviewed by The Progressive shortly after publication of The Year of the Flood, Atwood was happy to acknowledge the dystopian nature of her novel, yet was insistent that it was a work of speculative fiction, not science fiction. To provide context for this essay’s argument, Atwood’s statement was as follows:The ancestor of science fiction is H. G. Wells with books like The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds. Those books involved things that are very unlikely to happen or are actually impossible, but they are ways of exploring possibilities and human nature and the way people react to certain things. And if you go to another planet, you get to build the whole society and you can draw blueprints and have fun with talking vegetation and other such things. The lineage of speculative fiction traces back to Jules Verne, who wrote about things that he could see coming to pass that were possible on the Earth—this wasn’t about outer space or space invasions—but things that we could actually do. (Rothschild 61)
While I understand Atwood’s reluctance to be lumped in the same category as novels dealing with extraterrestrials and interstellar travel, her statement belittles the work of many authors that identify themselves as science fiction writers but present believable alternate realities. One needs to look no further than Canada’s own Robert J. Sawyer, whose recent work has focused on the potential of quantum physics, genetics and science’s impact on faith in god as a means of altering our destiny in the near future. Jameson supports my claim, positing that “Atwood can now be considered to be a science fiction writer, I’m happy to say, and this is not meant to disparage… at this moment in time, all fiction approaches science fiction, as the future, the various futures, begin to dissolve into ever more porous actuality.” (7)
Atwood’s “ancestor of science fiction,” H.G. Wells, wrote The War of the Worlds when the specter of industrialized conflict, soon realized in World War One, was beginning to haunt the human imagination. (Deresiewicz 25-26) Deresewicz also suggests that “if the twentieth century was the age of physics, it’s been said—the computer, the Bomb—then ours will be the century of biology, and Atwood draws her conclusions accordingly.” (27) Is Atwood not herself informed and motivated by the discourse of environmentalism and globalization, which suggests a looming catastrophe of global impact? Though one cannot simply pigeonhole this novel as strictly science fiction fare, Atwood clearly borrows from speculative fiction, science fiction, and dystopia in The Year of the Flood and practices a form of “genre blurring” typical of critical dystopia. Works of critical dystopia such as The Year of the Flood often intensify the practice of “genre blurring” (Moylan 196) and by self-reflexively “borrowing specific conventions from other genres,” critical dystopias transcend the perceived boundaries of dystopian form and “expand their potential for creative expression.” (Moylan 196)
According to Katarina Labudova, The Year of the Flood includes “elements of science fiction, speculative fiction, cyberpunk, alternate history, dystopia, futuristic thriller, black farce and fantasy,” (136) but arguably science fiction and dystopia trump any other literary convention the novel explores. Many readers, myself included, suggest that Atwood’s novel adopts the conventions of science fiction through her portrayal of an alternate near-future. James Gunn once stated that science fiction is “a literature set in worlds different from our own – and different in ways that invite the reader to interrogate these differences, to ask hard questions about them in terms of what they can tell us about our own world.” (Booker 13) Atwood’s novel is presenting a future of corporate control and genetic manipulation that one hopes to avoid. Her narrative encourages readers to question how to alter our path in order to achieve a sustainable future, though one hopes they would not go so far as Crake did and initiate an apocalypse. As one reviewer stated, “scientists can tell us about the extinction of species…[but] we need stories to help us make sense of these events.” (Bocking 9)
The Year of the Flood operates, in Tom Moylan’s terms, “inside the ambient zone of anti-utopian pessimism with new textual tricks,” exposing the “horror of the present moment.”(196) Atwood’s novel plays these tricks, among other ways, by appropriating the phonetic shorthand and blatant misspelling of text messages with an enthusiasm that borders on the obnoxious, until one remembers that she’s actually toned down the language of the internet at the same time as she has made it more clever, filling it with puns. Examples of these puns are evident in the text, and offer a commentary on the corporatization of science and culture. Toby is employed at a beauty clinic called “AnooYoo,” while the brothel where Ren plies her trade is under the umbrella of a corporation called “SeksMart.” Ren also spends time in the gated compound of the “HelthWyzer,” before leaving its confines to attend college. This use of shorthand is not limited to corporations, and is evident in the products the characters use, with “Sea/H/Ear Candy” being a substitute for “mp3 player”, and the names provided for the corporation-created spliced animals, like the “Rakunk”, “Liobam” and “Mo’hair.”
We are not explicitly informed at what time this book begins, as the book follows the timeline of the God’s Gardeners, opening in year twenty-five, the year of the ‘waterless flood’ that erases most of humanity. Nonetheless, it is clear that the world presented in Atwood’s novel is very near to the present day. Her world is one devoid of the jet-packs, laser guns, and alien races that are typical of many works of science fiction. The advances proposed in the novel, such as CorpSeCorp’s spray guns, the human-hair sprouting Mo’hair sheep hybrids, and the advent of a new BlyssPlus sex-pill that promises countless orgasms, are rooted in present-day technologies and place the novel in the near future, or the present of an alternate dimension. This use of present-day tech reinforces the nature of the decaying society Atwood has created, “where governments are absent and corporations control whatever is profitable – from sex to security,” (Bocking 9) and contrasts it with past dystopian narratives that focus on the all-powerful role of the state.
However, one can see Atwood drawing inspiration from past dystopian narratives, and shows some parallels with the works of her forbearers. According to Moylan, critical dystopias share “a deeply negative portrayal of late-twentieth-century capitalism,” (197) and Atwood is not the only author to reflect upon capitalism’s detrimental effects on the global environment. Kurt Vonnegut, who shares with Atwood a canon most recognized for his dystopian works, also turned towards making more direct commentaries on the environment and humanity’s disregard for planet earth in his later career. In Vonnegut’s final publication, A Man Without A Country, he makes the following statement:Don’t spoil the party, but here’s the truth: We have squandered our planet’s resources, including air and water, as though there were no tomorrow, so now there isn’t going to be one. (Vonnegut 44-45)
Atwood, writing in the voice of Toby, expresses similar sentiments in The Year of the Flood, as Toby illustrates her views on the destruction of the planet and her motivation to become part of the God’s Gardeners:Everybody knew. Nobody admitted to knowing. If other people began to discuss it, you tuned them out, because what they were saying was both so obvious and so unthinkable. We’re using up the Earth. It’s almost gone. You can’t live with such fears and keep on whistling. (Atwood 239)
Let’s turn now to some of the more evident connections of Atwood’s novel to classic works of dystopia. Just as in Orwell’s 1984, where the author distinguished the populace into the upper-class inner party, the middling outer party and the proles that comprised 85% of the population, Atwood divides the society in Year of the Flood along similar lines. Of course, Atwood’s divisions are based on science and capital rather than politics, but one can’t deny the similarity of a world in which elite scientists, protected and funded by corporations in gated compounds, are shut off from the unwashed masses that inhabit pleebland. In Year of the Flood’s world, Geniuses such as Glenn (or Crake) are shuttled off to Watson-Crick to further developments in science and become the pillars of society, while those without scientific capacity like Ren are sent to wither in arts college and accept a life of middling prosperity in the service industry (and I hope this isn’t suggestive of our own futures).
Under Aldous Huxley’s caste system in Brave New World, Glenn would emerge as an Alpha male while Ren would likely struggle to qualify as Gamma. Moving away from literature to the lens of the cinema ,thee consumption of SecretBurgers draws an interesting parallel to the overpopulated world of 1970s genre film Soylent Green, where much of the population must subsist on those namesake wafers that Charleton Heston exposes as being composed of human remains. Of course, the eco-cult of the God’s Gardeners are strongly against the consumption of such food, but one imagines that Adam One and his followers in their desperation would have not been above consuming the secret protein (explicitly stated in the novel to contain human flesh) in the name of survival.
The God’s Gardeners themselves prove to be a typical construction of modern dystopian fiction. According to Moylan, critical dystopia “adopts a militant stance that is informed and empowered by a utopian horizon that appears in the text- or at least shimmers beyond its pages.” (196) The Gardeners are of course a radical religious group organized around ecologically based principles that reject the normality presented in the world of the corporations and the surrounding environs of pleebland. As a “low-tech, low-carbon footprint, recycle-minded commune” (Labudova 137) they are the antithesis of the dominant order represented by the corporations. Throughout the novel Adam One prophesizes the coming of the ‘waterless flood’ that will take down the dominant social order and allow a new beginning for their followers. This prophecy is not presented as an attainable one; the novel presents us events that bring down the majority of the gardeners themselves, and their utopian horizon is yet to be realized.
As well, the splintering of the gardeners and the emergence of Zeb’s MaddAddam sect then presents us with a competing vision, of non-violent resistance vis-à-vis violent radicalism. In Atwood’s universe, the schism between Adam One and Zeb can be seen to parallel the militant stance of Moylan’s critical dystopia, through their ability to take action and perpetuate genetic violence against the established order through acts of “eco-terrorism” These acts, such as re-engineering the bean weevil to destroy HappiCuppa plantations (Atwood 260) end up being blamed on the peaceful Gardeners, precipitating their destruction. Of course, in the end Adam One and the remaining Gardeners return to their Rooftop Garden to die, while the members of MaddAddam persevere. The fact that Atwood presents the radical group as the one that survives the horrors of post-flood existence is perhaps most instructive.
Margaret Atwood has published works influenced by many different literary conventions in her long and prolific career, and it is unfair to pigeonhole her as a writer of a specific genre. However, it is clear that in the first decade of the twenty-first century, Atwood’s knowledge of science and her commitment to environmentalism and eco-criticism has been a major factor on her writing. As such, The Year of the Flood shows signs of both the “critical dystopia” analyzed by Moylan in Scraps of the Untamed Sky, and the conventions of science fiction in general. Atwood has no need to defend her work against claims it is “science fiction,” as her past works ensure that she will be remembered as a writer of many persuasions, and likely as Canada’s premier author of the last thirty years. Indeed, The Year of the Flood and its “genre blurring” are simply reflective of the state of humanity in the twenty-first century, as globalization dismantles our previous notions of race, class, gender and nation.
Atwood, Margaret. The Year of the Flood. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2009. Print.
Bocking, Stephen. “Science Friction,” Alternatives Journal, Vol. 36, No. 3 (June 2010), pp. 8-10. Print.
Booker, M. Keith. The Science Fiction Handbook. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Print.
Deresiewicz, William. “Honey and Salt.” Nation 289.14 (2009): 25-32. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 23 Mar. 2011.
Jameson, Frederic. “Then You Are Them,” London Review of Books, Vol. 31, No. 17 (September 10 2009), pp. 7-8. Web. 16 Feb 2011. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n17/fredric-jameson/then-you-are-them
Labudova, Katarina. “Power, Pain and Manipulation in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and the Year of the Flood.” Brno Studies in English, Vol. 36, No. 1 (2010), pp. 134-146. Web. 15 Feb 2011. http://www.phil.muni.cz/plonedata/wkaa/BSE/BSE%202010-36-1/BSE%202010-36-1%20(135-146)%20Labudova.pdf
Moylan, Tom. Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia. Oxford: Westview Press, 2000. Print.
Rothschild, Matthew. “Margaret Atwood.” Progressive 74/75.12/1 (2010): 61-62. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 23 Mar. 2011.
Vonnegut, Kurt. A Man Without A Country. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005. Print.
 The works of Sawyer I am referring to are: Flashforward (Tor Books, 1999), Rollbacki (Tor Books, 2007) and Calculating God (Tor Books, 2000).
The Convergence of Knowledge Management and Technical Communication
“Knowledge Management is a collection of business practices that promote an integrated approach to the creation, capture, organization, access and use of enterprise knowledge—knowledge about products, processes, systems.” Patti Anklam
“Knowledge management is concerned with identifying, sharing and leveraging organizational knowledge for competitive advantage.” Steffen Raub and Charles-Clemens Ruling
“Knowledge management is the transfer of experience.” Managing Partner of KPMG–Canada
Knowledge management emerged as a recognized discipline in the early 1990s, and has steadily increased in the years since to become a “hot topic” in communication that is in high demand for corporations. Effective knowledge management is a corollary to success and profit. Many agree that as technical communication and knowledge management evolve over time, the two disciplines have increasingly converged. Essentially, an effective technical communicator must be well versed in knowledge management, and vice-versa. Knowledge management is about making the right knowledge available to the right people. It is about making sure that an organization can learn, and retrieve and use its knowledge assets as they are needed. When a technical communicator works with intranets, knowledge bases, and user guides, are they not performing knowledge management?
Knowledge management is a field that requires accuracy and clarity when storing information, and therefore technical communicators are contenders for leadership roles. According to Corey Wick, technical communicators possess three core competencies.
- They have a thorough understanding of the complexities of knowledge, language, and communication.
- They are exceptionally talented in working across functions, departments, and all disciplines.
- They are expert communicators.
Knowledge management (especially in the early to mid 2000s) was, and continues to be, a “hot topic” in business. The development of knowledge management over the past two decades has caused organizations to focus on knowledge as a valuable asset that must be protected, rather than something intangible and disposable. By becoming experts in knowledge management, technical communicators can expect greater recognition, and increase the perceived value of their work. This also provides broader employment opportunities for technical communicators that can sell themselves as knowledge management experts.
However, technical communication has traditionally been under-valued in organizations, and re-defining yourself as a knowledge management expert may devalue your contributions as a technical communicator. Corey Wick has stated an effective way to combat being swallowed by this “paradigm shift”:
“If knowledge management represents a paradigm shift in the way business is perceived and conducted, then technical communicators must also change paradigms to meet the needs of an evolving business climate. We must move beyond demanding adequate recognition and compensation for our contributions”… In other words, we must evolve beyond the narrowly-defined roles of “technical writers,” and actively prove to our superiors that technical communication encompasses knowledge management, among other skills.
Created in collaboration with Seth Irvine and Nikki Gentles.
I wrote a brief overview of localization and the use of language technologies. You can view it here at my Seneca College web space, or read the full text below.
Localization is an important concept for technical communicators to understand. Localization is not just theory, it’s big business! This webpage provides an overview of the practice of localization and the use of language technologies.
What is Localization?
According to LISA (Localization Industry Standards Association), localization is “the process of modifying products or services to account for differences in distinct markets.” In order to accomplish this process, three main categories of issues need to be addressed:
Linguistic Issues: Lingustic issues are the focus for technical communicators concerned with localization. Primarily, linguistic issues pertain to the translation of a product’s user interface and documentation. Linguistic issues also extend to the translation and re-engineering of linguistic-dependent applications such as applications programming interfaces (APIs), search engines, or wizards.
Content and Cultural Issues: A key content and cultural issue is the presentation of information (icons, graphics, colours, forms of address, etc). For example, Mexican audiences prefer more graphics in their documentation. It is also important to consider the localization of functionality. As in, a car sold in Britain should not be left-hand drive, and accounting software must be modified to conform to locally accepted accounting principles.
Technical Issues: Supporting local languages, especially those that don’t use roman script, may require re-design and re-engineering. For example, Arabic script is bi-directional (numbers and foreign-language words run from left to right, but everything else is right to left). Also, some east Asian languages require twice the disk space per character compared to English. Therefore, adapting products to local scripts requires changes to the code (for software), product design, packaging, etc.
Designing for Flexibility and Translatability
In order to achieve successful localization of a product, flexibility and translatability must be considered from the beginning.
Designing for flexibility ensures that the basic product can be easily adapted to local variations (making sure bi-directional characters and Asian scripts are supported from the beginning).
Designing for translatability ensures that language components of a product are clearly written, clearly identified, and easily accessible, and that they are kept physically separate from other aspects of the product. For example, a software product designed for translatability will ensure that items containing text (buttons and menus) are large enough to accommodate for the fact that words are of different lengths in different languages.
Factors Influencing Localization
Factors influencing the extent of localization include:
- The nature and scope of the product.
- The size of the target market and audience.
- The length of the product lifecycle.
- Anticipated frequency of updates.
- Competitor behavior.
- Market acceptance (as in “is there a sustainable market for this?”).
- National or international legislation.
Canada provides a great example of localization due to legislation, as by law all products must be fully translated into French. For more information, consult the English FAQ at the Office québécois de la langue française.
Language technologies (also called “linguistic tools”) are designed to improve the speed and accuracy of translation, therefore making the translator’s job easier. Rather than replace humans as the masters of language, language technologies enable people to better deal with one of humanity’s most complex inventions—language—and improve human-computer interaction. As such, language technologies are the key tools used by localization experts.
Terminology management systems (TMS)
Terminology refers to the specialist vocabularies associated with specific sectors and applications—they are the foundation on which good translation is built. Terminology management systems are databases of terms that are translated into different languages. A good TMS is concept-based rather than word-based, allows effective synonym management, and can be integrated with word processors to enhance translator productivity. Popular TMSpackages (according to Google) include AnyLexic, Lingo, and TermWeb.
Translation Memory (TM)
TM refers to a database of previous translations in which the source and the target language texts have been broken down into segments that are aligned with each other. When a subsequent version of the source text is compared with the original, translation memory identifies the equivalent translated segments and inserts them into the new target text. Efficient use of translation memory depends on the quality of the original translation (since errors will be consistently replicated), the accuracy of alignment, and how updates to the original source text are handled. Translation memory is not perfect: editing is required to identify subtle changes of context, and to adapt texts to local markets. For example, in a car’s user manual you would write “open the hood” for a US audience, and “open the bonnet” for a UK audience.
Globalization Management Systems (GMS)
GMS are an extension of Content Management Systems, and allow for the translation of large, constantly-changing websites (such as that of an international technology corporation like Hewlett-Packard or Apple). GMS typically have an engine that monitors site content for change, and a component that passes content to translators or other linguistic tools for further processing. GMS also manage the workflow and synchronization of translated content with the source-language website.
Machine Translation (MT)
Machine translation is similar to translation memory, but differs in that it also performs linguistic analysis, using rules and statistics, on the texts submitted to it. MT systems break down the source text into its constituent parts before translating them and reassembling them in the relevant target language. The results do not compare to high-quality human translation, and require substantial post-editing. Even so, MT can still offer substantial productivity gains. A good, publicly available example of a MT system is Google translate.
Guidelines for the Use of Language Technologies
Avoid false expectations: Language technologies enable people, but do not replace them. Human intervention in the form of post-editing will always be required.
Match technology to your needs: The use of inappropriate tools will lead to substandard and/or unusable results. For example, machine translation is generally unsuitable for advertising or marketing texts, since these texts demand a high degree or originality and style.
Garbage in, garbage out: The quality of results produced by language technologies is crucially dependent on the quality of the original text.
Invest for the long term: Localization requires careful planning and implementation to produce the best results. Remember: language technologies are continually-expanding repositories of knowledge and are improved by building up over time.
For more information on localization and the localization industry, consult the Localization Industry Primer.
‘Chinese Crimes’ in Canada: 1858-1923
It is evident that ‘white’ Canadians and the Chinese had innate cultural differences at the time of the development of the Canadian west in the early twentieth century. Contemporary accounts of the ‘heathen Chinee’ or ‘Oriental’ reflect both the exotic view of a nation and culture that was worlds away from the Franco-British and later Pan-European character of ‘white’ Canadians, and ignorance of the storied and distinctive history of Asian peoples in general. Racially-charged legislation and police practices have largely dissipated in our increasingly multicultural society, though contemporary observers admit that Canada today is not yet free of racial discrimination and cultural stereotypes. When reviewing the available historiography it is clear that a multitude of legislation passed in early twentieth-century Canada was targeted directly at Chinese immigrants. These ‘Chinese crimes’ were introduced to the Canadian legal system due to economic as well as cultural practices that those with influence found abhorrent, and reflected both racial stereotypes and a reaction to the increasing visibility of Asians in the Canadian labour market. Though the most concrete examples of anti-Chinese legislation came to pass in the first two decades of the twentieth century, their creation was rooted in stereotypes that manifested as early as the 1860s.
This essay will identify what were perceived as ‘Chinese crimes’ by addressing three key questions about the new wave of Asian immigration that coincided with the development of the west. First, it is important to address exactly why Chinese chose to emigrate, and where they staked their claim in the labour market. Also, we must identify how and why ‘white’ Canadians reacted to the increasing presence of the Chinese, through discriminatory practices and the introduction of codified legislation directed specifically at their race. Finally, we must consider the perceptions of our southern neighbours. A general theme in the historiography is that, odious as they were, the anti-Chinese laws as introduced and enforced in Canada paled in comparison with American counterparts such as the Chinese Exclusion Act. We will examine these questions chronologically, from the first arrival of Chinese prospectors in 1858 to the passage of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1923. As Canada is country that prides itself on being less racist than her neighbour to the south, the examination of the historical background of racism has not been widespread. By examining issues such as racism and the law, historians are not dismantling the pride of their nation but merely contributing to the greater understanding of an increasingly diverse and multicultural society.
The Chinese were present on the west coast of Canada as early as 1788, when ex-Royal Navy Captain John Meares contracted a group from Macau of around 70 Chinese carpenters, metalworkers, shipbuilders and sailors to assist in the construction of a settlement at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island. Shortly after constructing the North West America, the first ship built on the Pacific Northwest coast, the settlement was overrun by Spanish ships; the fate of the Chinese workers is not clear, but some are believed to have married native women and remained in the new world. However, the general consensus among historians is to begin the narrative of the Chinese in Canada with the discovery of gold in the Fraser River in 1858.
By the 1850s, South China was a volatile region, suffering greatly from the consequences of the Opium War and the decline of the Qing dynasty. The violence and chaos of the Opium War spawned a surge of peasant rebellions that ultimately created a vast human reservoir of unemployed peasants and labourers. Land ownership sharply declined due to deteriorating farming conditions, whereby 1888 70 percent of all farm families were landless tenants. As well, the population of Guangdong province almost doubled from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, and without a concurrent increase in agricultural capacity the vast majority became mired in poverty. Undoubtedly, poor economic conditions and the unstable political climate were the key push factors that caused so many Chinese to leave their homes for a laborious life overseas.
Before the 1960s, most Chinese immigrants to Canada were from a small and distinct region of Guangdong province in South China. Except for a small number of merchants, the majority of emigrants came from the lower ranks of Chinese society. As with many nineteenth settlers of the North American frontier regardless of creed or color, the initial Chinese settlers flocked to Western Canada in search of gold and fortune. North America became known to the Chinese as Gum Shan (Gold Mountain), a term still used today amongst Cantonese speakers. These initial settlers were largely sojourners, hoping to earn sufficient savings to retire in comfort as respected elders in their native villages. Despite their intentions, it is estimated that only 40 percent of early Chinese immigrants ever returned to China. The Guangdong region was of course the only region of China open to Westerners during the Qing dynasty, and Wang suggests that this factor made these Chinese “more ready to adopt Western commercial ideas and a spirit of Adventure.”
It is clear that gold lured the Chinese to British Columbia, just as it had to California a decade earlier. By 1860 the Chinese presence in Vancouver Island and British Columbia stood at about 4,000, making them a large and visible segment of the frontier population. Chinese settlements arose in both Victoria and Vancouver, and consequently the first Chinese-owned laundries and general stores opened to accommodate the new arrivals. Furthermore, many Chinese remained in the region after the depletion of gold deposits in the late 1860s, finding jobs as labourers, domestic servants, coal miners, gardeners and business owners. These settlers can be identified as the first wave of Chinese-Canadians. Since many white prospectors had previously been in contact with the Chinese in California, they carried their prejudices with them. However, though there was some harassment and anti-Chinese agitation, this period did not see the enactment of discriminatory legislation.
In addition, press coverage of the “dirty and deplorable” practice of opium smoking emerged in the 1860s, though its use was generally tolerated as long as the practice was kept to the Chinese. Media coverage and reactions to drug use would be more heated after the passage of strict drug laws in the early twentieth century, with provocative by-lines such as “Chinks Pay Heavily for Hitting Pipe.” From the days of the gold rush, gambling was an important part of Chinese life on the Western frontier, with Victoria’s “Fantan Alley” achieving particular notoriety. However, Chinese gambling did not register as a social problem until the turn of the century. On the whole, few whites in the 1850s or 1860s perceived the Chinese as a threat to their well-being. This contrasted with the American mid-west, where “racial insults dotted editors’ perorations and politicans’ speeches, [and] vigilante actions resulted in shootings and lootings, lynchings and massacres.”
From their arrival the real nature of the “Chinese question” in Canada, as in the United States, was essentially one of how to maintain a cheap source of labour when the supply of white workers reflected the erratic “boom and bust” cycles characteristic of frontier societies. There was a gradual shift from acceptance to hostility that was firmly entrenched by the time of the second wave of Chinese immigration; there emerged a perception of the Chinese in Canada, like those in the United States, as “indispensable enemies of the state.” One observer in Victoria Colonist made the following statement:[The Chinese are]… a class of immigrants that we cannot at present afford to dispense with. They may be inferior to Europeans and Americans in energy and ability, hostile to us in race, language and habits, and may remain among us a pariah race; still they are patient, easily governed, and invariably industrious, and their presence at this juncture would benefit trade everywhere in the two colonies. We are disposed to accept them as a choice between two evils- no white immigration or a Chinese immigration.
These immigrants were perceived as temporary labourers and were undesirable citizens. Legislation was enacted in the early 1870s prohibiting the enfranchisement of Chinese settlers, as well as exempting the Chinese from registering vital statistics with provincial officials.  However, during the early 1880s Sir John A. MacDonald was content to fend off repeated requests for anti-Chinese legislation, as the Prime Minister was well aware that the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) required the recruitment of Chinese labour, and did not wish to handicap the completion of an important symbol of confederation. This policy was a marked contrast with what was occurring south of the border. The U.S. congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which hindered Chinese immigration to the United States but did not serve as the total barriers that exclusionists had hoped for.
During the 1880s the common stereotypes towards the Chinese became entrenched in the minds of white Canadians, regardless of the value attributed to their labour. The fear of the “yellow peril” overrunning the country was a central, self-perpetuating image that was exacerbated by squalid conditions in the makeshift Chinatowns, and instances where white employers used the Chinese as strike-breakers and low-cost alternatives to organized labour unions. As Anthony B. Chan posits, opium use continued to affect few white Canadians and was not considered a social problem; that it ruined the lives of Chinese immigrants was of little consequence.” Furthermore, as early as the 1870s there was evidence of whites and Chinese expressing a general moral outrage over Chinese girls being used as prostitutes and virtual slaves in “houses of ill-repute”, and local authorities were called upon to suppress the brothels. This perception persisted even though women fluctuated from one to three percent of the total Chinese in the nineteenth century. Ward argues that in the 1870s and 1880s there was a common assumption that most Chinese women were prostitutes, of a sort even more depraved than their white counterparts. As well, the idea of gambling being a distinctly “Chinese problem” was a common perception of white observers, and one early twentieth-century sociologist suggested that “buying a lottery ticket is for the Chinese like buying a theater ticket for the American, and gambling is similar to a game of bridge.”
Unfortunately, the Chinese in Canada were largely “bachelor workers” until well into the twentieth century. Restrictive immigration laws, “the hostile treatment accorded the newcomers in Canada, and gendered cultural mores had all combined to retard the arrival of Chinese women.” This prompted early twentieth century sociologists to make ill-advised conclusions such as “the extent of criminality of Orientals in America seems to vary inversely with the extent to which they are incorporated in closely integrated family and community groups.” In addition, the fact that most didn’t bring along their families suggested the Chinese refused to shoulder any community responsibilities. These claims simply reinforced common perceptions of the time, since Chinese families were the exception rather than the norm until after the Second World War. Peter S. Li sums up the attitudes of white British Columbians quite succinctly:Anti-Orientalism was strong among white British Columbians, despite the indispensable contribution made by the Chinese in developing the province’s pioneer industries. Virtually every social evil was blamed on them, including epidemics, overcrowding, prostitution, opium smoking, and corruption.
The second wave of Chinese immigration to Canada occurred during the 1880s, when Chinese labourers arrived to build the Western section of the CPR. The virtual slavery of the coolie labour system in the West Indies and South America never prevailed in North America, so the Chinese that arrived as railroad workers were free emigrants signed to a fixed contract. This contract labour system differed considerably from the “coolie labour” system it replaced, and allowed the Chinese to choose their own destination and term of debt repayment.The CPR’s main contractor, Andrew Onderdonk, arranged for more than 15,000 Chinese to come to Canada. Some came from the United States and some directly joined the CPR, but the majority arrived directly from Guangdong province aboard chartered vessels provided by Onderdonk. They were to be admitted as cheap, temporary workers without the right to citizenship, “living machines” in the words of Judge Gray of the 1884 Royal Commission on Chinese Immigration. 1883 was the peak year of railway construction, and there were approximately 6,000 to 7,500 Chinese working on various sections of track at any one time. Some also went to construction campsites to open small businesses, such as laundries, restaurants, groceries, and even bars.
However, conditions were not as promised for those that made their living in the rail camps. Work conditions for the Chinese ended up being less than ideal, and there was a clear dichotomy in wages, diet and housing conditions between Chinese and white workers. According to Chan, “the Chinese labourers usually lived on a monotonous diet of rice and stale ground salmon while his white counterpart ate fresh meat and vegetables.” Disregard for standards of safety gave rise to the saying in Canada’s Chinatowns that “for every foot of railroad in the Fraser Canyon, a Chinese worker died.” The lack of contact between whites and Chinese exacerbated racist sentiment and prevented whites and Chinese from unionizing or having any collective bargaining power. Furthermore, when the Chinese workers were dismissed throughout 1884 and 1885, Onderdonk refused to honour his pledge to provide workers a one-way ticket back to China.
Though some had saved enough for passage, most were left destitute and stranded in a foreign land, their hardship complicated by a serious depression in the Pacific Northwest that affected both whites and Chinese. As a result, the majority of Chinese did not return to their homelands; they attempted to find their fortunes in other provinces, often following the Eastward path of the railroad they helped build. Erika Lee suggests that some of the railway workers illegally entered the United States upon their dismissal, and Canada was perceived as a convenient route into the United States from the 1880s until the passage of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1923. However, most of the CPR workers remained, prompting the establishment of Chinese communities throughout Canadian territory. Those that remained in B.C. made valuable contributions to the expanding salmon-canning and coal mining industries, among other ventures. However, by the turn of the century immigration restrictions and better economic conditions elsewhere saw their presence decline in favour of white and other immigrant groups. Increasingly excluded from the core labour market, the Chinese retreated into limited service oriented businesses where they could offer low-cost services to white customers without arousing hostility from the white working class.
Of course, with the completion of the railway “the indispensable enemy” became both dispensable and undesirable for many whites, and pressure by anti-Asiatic groups and violence perpetrated by unemployed white workers on the Chinese led to the passing of the numerous bills in British Columbia restricting their political and social rights. In 1884 Chinese were prohibited from acquiring Crown lands. The Coal Mines Regulation Amendment Act of 1890 excluded them from work underground, and an amendment in 1903 prevented them from performing skilled jobs in coal mines. The B.C. Liquor Licence Act of 1899 barred the Chinese from holding a liquor license in restaurants. As they were barred from provincial voting lists, Chinese were also excluded from nomination for municipal office, serving as school trustees, jury duty, and election to the provincial legislature. Further legislation barred them from the professions of law and pharmacy.
The first federal anti-Chinese bill was passed in 1885, in the form of a $50 head tax imposed on incoming immigrants. In 1900 the head tax was increased to $100, and in 1903 to $500. The reason for the increase in the head-tax is self-evident; by the beginning of 1904 there were approximately 30,000 Chinese in Canada and of this total 16,007 arrived from June 1900 to the aforementioned date. Paul H. Clements, an American political scientist writing in 1913, expressed the dominant perception of the time as follows:…it was found necessary to impose such restrictions, hitherto none, as would keep the non-assimilative portion of the population within reasonable bounds. The Canadian of the Pacific coast feared, and rightly so, an Asiatic flood that might easily have submerged the few thousand inhabitants that represented the dominant race.
Clements goes on to assert in his article Canada and the Chinese: A Comparison with the United States that the imposition of the head tax was beneficial to the Chinese already present in Canada, as it provided greater demand for their labour. The author also applauds the Canadian government for enacting legislation that is “conciliatory” rather than the “hostile” exclusion policies of the United States. To ask a Chinese-Canadian himself what he thought of the head taxes did not appear to occur to this contemporary commentator.
The third wave of Chinese immigration, or lack thereof, began after 1905 as incoming arrivals slowed to a trickle. Those who remained in Canada adapted to ever-increasing discrimination, violence, and distorted representations in the media. Li suggests that Chinese-Canadians turned to laundries and restaurants as a form of survival adaptation, in order to “develop alternative economic opportunities within a hostile labour market.” Most Chinese who settled in the prairie provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan (or eastward to Newfoundland, for that matter) became owners or employees of small, Chinese-owned businesses. Those that continued to labour for white employers benefited from the perception of Chinese as being cheap to employ and hard-working; most workplace-related anti-Chinese legislation targeted the entrepreneurs rather than the lowly employees. In addition to municipal, provincial, and federal laws that targeted Chinese-owned businesses, sporadic outbreaks of violence upon Chinese businesses were a common feature of early twentieth century Canada.
Among other factors, increased interest in religion and the rise of the temperance movement throughout Canada brought a renewed energy in efforts to “protect the sanctity of white women.” Naturally, the employ of white women in Chinese-owned businesses provoked the ire of organized labour, teetotallers and religious groups, where by 1912 Saskatchewan passed the following legislation:No person shall employ in any capacity any white woman or girl or permit any white woman or girl to reside or lodge in or to work in or, save as a bona fide customer in a public apartment thereof only, to frequent any restaurant, laundry or other place of business or amusement owned, kept or managed by any Japanese, Chinaman or other Oriental person.
Two years later, British Columbia enacted a similar statute prohibiting the hiring of white women in businesses “owned by men of certain races, irrespective of nationality,” and this trend was exported across the country. In Lethbridge, Alberta, one former police chief remarked that “as late as 1930 there was disapproval if a white girl was employed by a Chinese.”
By 1919, the Halifax Herald was debating the “Chinese problem” in articles such as “Why Should Chinamen Do Canadian Laundry,” urging whites to regain control of the laundry trade. Municipal by-laws served as effective checks on the expansion of Chinese business throughout the country, and were used to prevent Chinese from concentrating their ranks in areas where it was undesirable to have Chinatowns and the pestilence, corruption, and social depravity associated with them. In 1905 the Calgary city council passed a by-law “stipulating that no more Chinese laundries were to be allowed on Main Street, Stephen Avenue, and in any business streets in Calgary. Moving east, Hamilton’s Chinatown grew steadily until 1910, the year two by-laws were passed to prevent the establishment of new laundries, and prohibiting a laundry from using its premises for lodging or gambling. By-laws such as these were a common feature of early twentieth century Canada, especially in regions along the CPR’s route.
One cannot conclude a discussion about what were perceived as ‘Chinese crimes’ without mentioning Chinese opium use and its contribution to early prohibition laws. Earlier this essay mentioned that in the nineteenth century Chinese opium use caused little concern to the white majority. This perception changed after the introduction of the Opium Act in 1908, with increasing rates of prosecution in urban areas. Rural regions proved to be relatively tolerant to opium use until the early 1920s, when a deliberate attempt was made to “spread moral panic and stringent policing practices.” Use of opium among the bachelor workers was widespread, and groups like the Chinese Benevolent Association prior to 1908 would offer the drug to its members at their meetings. The Chinese, due to over a century of exposure to opium thanks to British intervention, were partly to blame for white perceptions of opium use, as by the time opium was made illegal, a substantial percentage of the population were already addicts. However, research has shown that public perceptions often ignored the widespread use of the drug among other races, as “Opium use was as common to the Canadian or the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as is aspirin today.” Prkachin suggests that concern about Chinese drug use was exported by middle-class moral reformers, the RCMP, and temperance societies from the cities to rural regions, through the use of media scare tactics and the writings of reformers like Emily Murphy, Canada’s first female judge. Murphy’s the Black Candle described Chinese involvement in drug trafficking in polemic terms and expressed shock at “the amazing phenomenon [of] an educated gentlewoman, reared in a refined atmosphere, consorting with the lowest classes of yellow and black men…[and producing] half-caste infants.”
Canada was particularly vigilant and proactive in its anti-Opium laws, preceding similar regulations in the United States by more than a decade. A summary of the 1920 amendments to the Opium and Narcotic drug act found in the December 10, 1920 edition of the Prince George Citizen shows that racism was virulent in 1920s Canada:Chief of Police Sinclair had been busy of late in the prosecution of the heathen Chinee for dallying with the forbidden opium. Under the new Opium Act it is perilous for an Oriental to be found in possession of this drug either for purposes of smoking, chewing, or snuffing up the Chinese nose. This offense was made more heinous by an amendment to the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act which came into effect on October 15th. The Act is aimed at the stamping out of the Chinese drug habit in all its phases. For being in possession of a narcotic drug without proper authority the minimum fine is not $200 and the maximum $1000.
The passage of the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 effectively halted the arrival of Chinese immigrants to Canadian shores, ushering in an era of exclusion and continued discriminatory practices that would continue until after the Second World War. The Chinese population shrank drastically from the 1930s to the 1950s, and remained a predominantly bachelor society. Due to discriminatory legislation affecting immigration, business, and social life, the Chinese were handicapped in the early twentieth century from becoming a significant, contributing sector of Canadian society. These perceptions of ‘Chinese crimes’ and thinly-disguised racist laws were rooted in stereotypes about the Chinese that were largely distorted and unreflective of reality, reflecting both ignorance of Eastern culture and a failure to understand the hardship the Chinese endured both in their homelands and in the Chinatowns of Canada. Far from being unassimilable, Chinese-Canadians are now an important part of Canada’s multicultural mosaic, and have found particular success in white-collar occupations they would have been barred from in previous generations. It is the historian’s responsibility to bring to life the unfortunate past of race relations in our nation, if only to provide context and guidance for those of influence in law, politics, and social mores at present and towards the future.
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 Peter S. Li, The Chinese in Canada: Second Edition. (Toronto & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 8
 Paul H. Clements. “Canada and the Chinese: A Comparison with the United States,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 45 (Jan., 1913).
 Constance Backhouse “The White Women’s Labor Laws: Anti-Chinese Racism in Early Twentieth-Century Canada,” Law and History Review, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Autumn, 1996), p. 318
 J. Brian Dawson, Moon Cakes in Gold Mountain: From China to the Canadian Plains, (Calgary: Detselig Enterprises, 2001), p. 18
 Ibid, p. 19
 Li, p. 19
 Dawson, p. 17
 Li, p. 19
 Jiwu Wang, ”His Dominion” and the “Yellow Peril”: Protestant Missions to Chinese Immigrants in Canada, 1859-1967, (Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2006), p. 9
 Li, p. 23
 Dawson, p. 19
 Paul C.P. Siu, The Chinese Laundryman: A Study of Social Isolation. (New York: New York University Press, 1987), p. 242
 Wang, p. 9
 W. Peter Ward, White Canada Forever: Popular Attitudes and Public Policy Towards Orientals in British Columbia, Third Edition, (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002), p.23
 Anthony B. Chan, Gold Mountain: The Chinese in the New World. (Vancouver: New Star Books, 1983), p. 49
 Dawson, p. 20
 Ward, p. 24
 Yvan Prkachin, “’Chinks Pay Heavily for ‘Hitting Pipe’: The Perception and Enforcement of Canada’s New Drug Laws in Rural and Northern British Columbia, 1908-30,” BC Studies, Issue 153 (Spring 2007), p. 76
 Ibid, p. 72
 Chan, p. 78
 Patricia E. Roy, A White Man’s Province: British Columbia Policians and Chinese and Japanese Immigrants, 1858-1914, (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1969), p. 4
 John R. Wunder, “Chinese in Trouble: Criminal Law and Race on the Trans-Mississippi West Frontier,” The Western Historical Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Jan., 1986), p. 26
 Li, p. 28
 Ibid, p. 6
 Ward, p. 7
 Ibid, p. 32
 Ward, p. 35
 Erika Lee, “Enforcing the Borders: Chinese Exclusion along the U.S. Borders with Canada and Mexico,1882-1924,” The Journal of American History, Vol. 89, No. 1 (Jun., 2002), p. 54
 Ward, p. 6
 Chan, p. 76
 Roy, p. 17
 Chan, p. 50
 Ward, p. 8
 Norman S. Hayner “Social Factors in Oriental Crime,” The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 43, No. 6 (May, 1938), p. 913
 Backhouse, p. 321
 Hayner, p. 908
 Ward, p. 10
 Li, p. 24
 Chan, p. 43
 Dawson, p. 21
 Ibid, p. 21
 Chan, p. 27
 Dawson, p. 21
 Wang, p. 11
 Chan, p. 63
 Ibid, p. 67
 Chan, p. 67
 Dawson, p. 21
 Wang, p. 11
 Erika Lee, “Enforcing the Borders: Chinese Exclusion along the U.S. Borders with Canada and Mexico,1882-1924,” The Journal of American History, Vol. 89, No. 1 (Jun., 2002), p. 58
 According to Roy, p. 62, the 1891 census indicated that only 219 of the 9,129 registered Chinese in Canada lived east of the Rocky Mountains. However, the gradual establishment of Chinese communities East of the Rockies is an undisputed fact, regardless of their insubstantial numbers at the outset.
 Ward, p. 87
 Li, p. 53
 Li, p. 32-33. Of all the current secondary sources on the history of the Chinese in Canada, Li’s monograph offers the most succinct and complete chronological summary of discriminatory legislation.
 Ibid, p. 34
 Clements, p. 101
 Clements, p. 101
 Ibid, p. 110
 Li, p. 53
 Dawson, p. 35
 Backhouse, p. 326-327
 Chan, p. 141
 Dawson, p. 59
 Paul Yee, Chinatown: An Illustrated History of the Chinese Communities of Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax, (Toronto: James Lorimer & Company, 2005), p. 113
 Dawson, p. 45
 Chan, p. 71
 Ibid, p. 71
 Prkachin, p. 75
 Chan, p. 76
 Ibid, p. 77
 Dawson, p. 81
 Prkachin, p. 75
 Backhouse, p. 340
 Prince George Citizen, 10 December 1920, p. 1 as cited in Yvan Prkachin, “’Chinks Pay Heavily for ‘Hitting Pipe’: The Perception and Enforcement of Canada’s New Drug Laws in Rural and Northern British Columbia, 1908-30,” BC Studies, Issue 153 (Spring 2007), p. 74
 Li, p. 7
 Li, p. 7