Social & Cultural Life: Military service

Political advertisement for Douglas Jung

Political advertisement for Douglas Jung

Like a bushfire, patriotism raged across Gold Mountain . The JOIN UP posters that began to show up on buildings and in hallways stiffened my resolve to see beyond those cheerless faces around Victory Square .

I thought of the thick packages with all our birth documents and travel certificates. On those documents I was designated “Resident Alien.” The rumour was that because of our alien status, our yellow skin, and our slanty eyes, the young men of Chinatown would be discouraged from signing up.

“Won't be home for supper,” I shouted as I entered our front door and threw my school things into the corner.”

from All That Matters, p. 285, by Wayson Choy

Until October 1942, the Canadian government did not allow Chinese Canadians to join the Royal Canadian Airforce and Royal Canadian Navy. Some Chinese Canadians nonetheless volunteered in the Canadian Army. In 1942, even though new laws such as the National Resources Mobilization Act permitted sending conscripted Canadians overseas, they had nevertheless excluded Chinese Canadians. It was not until in 1944 when the British War Office requested Ottawa for Chinese Canadians to work for its Special Operations Executive in Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific that Chinese were allowed to join in the war.

More than five hundred Chinese Canadian soldiers fought for the Allied Forces in Asia in World War II. After the war, the returning veterans established the Chinese Veterans Organization that helped push the government for full citizenship in 1947. These Chinese veterans helped move Chinese Canadians from an isolated inward looking community to one brimming with possibilities. In fact, in 1957, war veteran Douglas Jung was elected to parliament.


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