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Canadian sociologist Forrest La Violette reported in the 1940s that these early sentiments had often been "organized around the fear of an assumed low standard of living [and] out of fear of Oriental cultural and racial differences".
Both Japanese and Chinese immigrants were feared to be taking jobs from white Canadians. Young concluded that many Canadians argued that "Oriental labour lowers the standard of living of White groups".
These ideas were often refuted with the argument that, while Japanese and Chinese immigrants did often have poor living conditions, both groups attempts to assimilate were hindered by the difficulty they had in finding steady work at equal wages.
In reference to Japanese Canadians specifically, human geographer Audrey Kobayashi argues that prior to the war, racism "had defined their communities since the first immigrants arrived in the 1870s." Starting in 1877 with Manzo Nagano, a nineteen-year-old sailor who was the first Japanese person to officially immigrate to Canada, entering the salmon-exporting business, the Japanese were quick to integrate themselves into Canadian industries.
This was exemplified by the growing rate of Japanese fishermen in the early 1900s.
This forced relocation subjected many Japanese Canadians to government-enforced curfews and interrogations, job and property losses, and forced repatriation to Japan.Despite work of organizations like the Japan Society, many groups still opposed Japanese immigration to Canada, especially in BC's fisheries industry during the 1920s and 1930s.Prior to the 1920s, many Japanese labourers were employed as pullers, a job that required them to help the net men row the boats out to fish.In contrast to rival groups' memberships consisting of mostly laborers, farmers, and fishermen, the Japan Society was primarily made up of wealthy white businessmen whose goal was to improve relations between the Japanese and Canadians both at home and abroad.The heads of the organization included a "prominent banker of Vancouver" and a "manager of some of the largest lumbering companies in [British Columbia]." They saw Japanese Canadians as being important partners in helping open up businesses in British Columbia to Japanese markets.