Canadian Congress of Labour, Canadian Labour Reports, n.d., pamphlet, BC Labour Heritage Centre files.

During World War II, with the desperate fight against fascism intensifying, workplace harmony was required as never before. The labour movement ramped up its call to fight racism.

“The struggle against the purveyors of race and religious hatred…is still being fought. Every working man and woman in this country, every Canadian, regardless of sex, racial or religious origin must join in the struggle to counteract the dangerous plot to undermine our democracy and destroy the trade union movement.”[1]


“You Belong to a Minority”, Canadian Congress of Labour, Canadian Labour Reports, n.d., pamphlet.

Before the right to union recognition became law in 1944, most strikes centred on getting employers to negotiate with the union. It was a tumultuous period in the Canadian labour movement, and once unions had the law in place, they used it.

For example, a major IWA strike took place in the summer of 1946, which is also when the movement for independence in India was at its peak. Darshan Singh Sangha described how the people he would initially approach in the sawmills to join the union were those known to be “conscious” – progressive, talking about nationalism for India and keeping an eye on the news. [2]

Other unions had already started to question the connection between race and capitalism. The Fishermen’s Union sought to clarify its stance in a 1938 article on “The Oriental Question” as the fishing industry was particularly concerned with Japanese competition in trade and the perceived threat of Japanese imperialism:

“Japanese, Chinese, Hindoos, Phillipinos, Negroes – well, where would you draw the line? We would still have unemployment, because the solution to the “Oriental” and the Unemployment problems goes deeper than that. It involves the solution of our entire problem of production and distribution. From the trade union standpoint, our course lies in making allies, and not enemies…”[3]

  1. A.R. Mosher, President, Canadian Congress of Labour , "It is Labour's Fight!" Canadian Labour Reports, n.d., BC Labour Heritage Centre files.
  2. Darshan Singh Sangha, interviews by Hari Sharma, March 11 -  26, 1985, Indo-Canadian Oral History Collection, Simon Fraser University Archives. https://atom.archives.sfu.ca/f-77-1-0-0-0-18
  3. "Japanese Competition in Trade and Industry", editorial. The Fisherman, February 10, 1938, 5-6. https://newspapers.lib.sfu.ca/fishermannewspaper-19499/fisherman-february-10-1938


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