Mental Hygiene

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“The Foreign Invasion of Canada”:
Representations of Race,
Immigration, and Foreignness in
Canadian Mental Hygiene
Movement Literature from
1918 - 1921
Research Problem
Mental hygiene is “the prevention of mental
disorders and the promotion of mental health
for the enrichment of human life” (Fitzgerald &
Fleming, 1932, p. 15).
Research Problem
This study aims to examine discourses of race,
foreignness, and immigration that underlie early
Canadian mental hygiene movement (CMHM)
literature from 1918-1921 and its connection to
contemporary practices.
Research Problem
Rushing to practice is “a refusal to engage with
learning about social violence, such as
colonialism, racism and slavery” (Pon, 2009, p.
69)
Research Design
- Critical Discourse Analysis
- discourse as a text
- discourse as discursive practice
- discourse as social practice
Research Findings
• Purpose of CJMH
• Nationalism, Colonialism and Canadian Identity
• Representation of Immigrants and Racialized People
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–
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Fundamentally Foreign
Prone to Mental Illness and Pathology
Criminality
Burden to Society
• Eugenics and Immigration
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–
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Eugenics
Immigration and ‘Reverse Eugenics’
Concerns Around Racial Mixing
Immigration Policy
Purpose of CJMH
• “in order to give impetus to the mental hygiene
movement and bring it before the public”
(Foreword, 1919).
• “The CJMH hopes to interest the general public,
as well as the medical professional, in all the
mental problems confronting the community, in
their bearing upon the welfare of the individual
and of society, and in the work which is being
done towards their clearer definition and more
adequate solution.” (p. 3)
Nationalism, Colonialism and Canadian
Identity
• In The Scope and Aims of the Mental Hygiene
Movement, Hincks (1919) stated,
“the brains of a nation constitute its most
important asset. No country can be truly great,
and remain so, with a population possessed of
mediocre mentality. Natural resources may be
necessary for the success of a country, but alone
they are not sufficient, and perforce must take
second place to human resources” (p. 20)
Nationalism, Colonialism and Canadian
Identity
• This idea can be seen in Sir James Barr’s
statement, quoted by Page (1919), “You have,
here, a virgin soil and you should see that is
peopled with a vigorous and an intellectual
race. You should shut out all degenerate
foreigners as you would exclude a mad dog”
(p. 59).
• Violence of colonialism made invisible
Nationalism, Colonialism and Canadian
Identity
• Smith (1920) for the purpose of examining
immigration statistics, “group[ed] the Canadian,
British and American (because of “Springing from
Common Stock”) [together and] add[ed] the
Scandinavian and French (who are “quickly
Canadianized”)” (p. 76).
• Fauman (1920) explained, “In return for the
privileges of citizenship granted the immigrant,
his complete and rapid Canadianization is
desired” (p. 323).
Immigrants and Racialized People
Represented as Fundamentally Foreign
• the native of India was not regarded as “a person
suited to this country; that accustomed as many of
them are to the conditions of a tropical climate, and
possessing manners and customs so unlike those of
our own people, their inability to readily adapt
themselves to surroundings entirely different could
not be other than entail an amount of privation and
suffering which render a discontinuance of such
immigration most desirable in the interest of the
Indians themselves” (p. 215)
• “And the first outstanding feature is that [the
Chinese] do not assimilate rapidly or easily.” (p. 219)
Immigrants and Racialized People
Represented as Prone to Mental Illness
and Pathology
• Smith (1920) stated,
“the river of our national life has been polluted by
the turbid streams from immigrant sources. The
causes for this are sometimes declared to lie in the
degenerate character of the immigrants,
sometimes in the defects of immigration laws and
regulations, sometimes in the inadequacy of the
sifting process on the part of immigration officials,
and sometimes in all three.” (p. 73)
Immigrants and Racialized People
Represented as Prone to Criminality
• In the Mental Hygiene Survey – Province of
British Columbia (1920), the following is stated:
It was her opinion that the Chinese contributed to
immoral practices through the sale of drugs and
the enticing of white women. […] Immorality is
apparently practised extensively by lower grades of
the Greeks, who do a large restaurant business in
the city. It is the belief of the Police staff that the
Greeks seek out girls for employment, with
immoral purposes in view. (p. 39-40)
Immigrants and Racialized People
Represented as Burdens to Society
• Often stated in economic terms, looking at the ‘cost’ of
immigration
• The blame is placed squarely on the immigrants
themselves,
“On his arrival in the province he is generally either with
nothing or with a very small sum in his pocket;
entertaining the most erroneous ideas as to his prospects
here; expecting immediate and constant employment, at
ample wages; entirely ignorant of the nature of the
country; and of the place where labour is most in
demand, and of the best means by which to obtain
employment” (Smith, 1919a, p. 54)
Eugenics
• Hincks (1919) stated a need “to insure the nation, that
Canadians will be well born, and well nurtured” (p. 20).
• Russel (1920) similarly expressed, “One great cause of
feeblemindedness . . . Is heredity. […]The birth rate
among the mentally deficient is approximately twice
that of the normal population” (p. 95).
• Baragar (1921) stated, “Faulty or tainted heredity has
been variously regarded as bearing an important causal
relationship to mental disease” (p. 194)
• Meyer (1919) expressed concern about “letting them
out-marry the marriageable and out-multiply the fit”
(p. 152).
Eugenics
• “Health officers will do well to ponder the following
paragraph taken from this manual . . . “ . . . Physical
disability may give rise to dependency, but with the
death of the individual the nation is relieved of the
burden. In the case of the insane or mentally defective
there is imposed a burden which tends to perpetuate
itself.” (Notes and News, 1919, p. 285)
• In the decades following the publishing of these
journals, these ideas would give rise to policies of
forced sterilization in Alberta and British Columbia
(Withers, 2012, p. 21).
Eugenics
• Taft (1919) also suggested that “Sterilization of the
feebleminded is logically the solution for the problem of
prevention of propagation of the mentally unfit where
feeblemindedness is due to heredity” (p. 166)
• Taft (1919) stated, “Segregation much more than
sterilization offers a practical solution to part of our
problem at least and may eventually be the final, most
practical solution” (p. 166).
• Family planning is another eugenicist policy advocated in
the CJMH. Meyer (1919) stated, “Love is very justly nature’s
and mankind’s ablest matrimonial agent. Love plays many
pranks and is said to be blind; but love, like any other
capacity, can be made to grow better or worse” (p. 153).
Immigration and ‘Reverse Eugenics’
• “Immigration tends to sterilize the people on the
higher social and economic levels who are
already in the country. […] The low-class
immigrants have not only diminished the
numbers of the natives, but have also dissipated
the energies of the latter by introducing elements
of conflict into the nation, and thus, prevented
the development of many of those kinds of ability
which are most worth cultivation”. (Abstract,
1919, p. 245)
Racial Mixing
• With regards to people of Asian descent,
Smith (1919c) stated, “And if assimilation is so
backward what indication is there that
amalgamation, or blending of races, is
practicable or even advisable? This question
becomes more and more difficult to answer
the more closely it is analyzed” (p. 219).
Immigration Policy
• It is expressed that
“it was discovered that the feebleminded, insane, and
psychopathic of that province were recruited out of all
reasonable proportion from the immigrant class, and it
was also found that these individuals were playing a
major role in such conditions as crime, juvenile
delinquency, prostitution, illegitimacy, spread of venereal
disease, pauperism, certain phases of industrial unrest,
and primary school inefficiency.” (The First Year of the
Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene, 1919,
p.74)
Immigration Policy
• Baragar (1921) explained, “From a national
and social standpoint the prevention of
mental disease involves the exclusion of
immigrants whose capacity for mental
adjustment is low. . . . The conclusions are
obvious. Stringent regulations are required to
prevent those physically and mentally unfit
from entering or becoming citizens of Canada”
(p. 196).
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