The Search for a New National Identity

The Rise of Multiculturalism in Canada and Australia, 1890s–1970s

by Jatinder Mann (Author)
Monographs XVI, 340 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Content
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Canada
  • 1 Assimilation Policy in Canada, 1890s–1953
  • Britishness, the French-Canadians, and Whiteness during the 1890s and 1940s
  • Immigration and Assimilation Policy during the 1890s and 1940s
  • Britishness, the French-Canadians, and the White Canada Policy during the 1950s
  • Immigration and Assimilation Policy during the 1950s
  • 2 Integration Policy in Canada, 1953–1963
  • The Demise of Britishness, the French-Canadians, and the Unravelling of the White Canada Policy
  • Immigration and Integration Policy during the 1950s and 1960s
  • 3 The Introduction of a Multicultural Policy in Canada, 1963–1971
  • The “New Nationalism,” the French-Canadians, and a Non-discriminatory Immigration Policy
  • Multiculturalism, the French-Canadians, and a Post–White Canada Immigration Policy
  • Immigration, Integration, and Multicultural Policy during the 1960s and 1970s
  • Australia
  • 4 Assimilation Policy in Australia, 1890s–1962
  • Britishness and Whiteness during the 1890s and 1950s
  • Immigration and Assimilation Policy during the 1940s and 1950s
  • Britishness and the White Australia Policy during the 1950s and 1960s
  • Immigration and Assimilation Policy during the 1950s and 1960s
  • 5 Integration Policy in Australia, 1962–1972
  • The Demise of Britishness and the Unravelling of the White Australia Policy during the 1960s and 1970s
  • Immigration and Integration Policy during the 1960s and 1970s
  • 6 The Introduction of a Multicultural Policy in Australia, 1972–1978
  • The “New Nationalism” and a Non-discriminatory Immigration Policy
  • Multiculturalism and a Post–White Australia Immigration Policy
  • Immigration, Integration, and Multicultural Policy during the 1970s
  • Canada and Australia: Comparisons
  • 7 “Anglo-conformity” and “Incorporation into the Anglo-Celtic Culture”: A Comparison of Assimilation Policies in Canada and Australia, 1890s–1960s
  • Britishness and Whiteness
  • Immigration and Assimilation Policy
  • 8 “Retaining Migrant Cultures” and “Leavening British Traditions”: A Comparison of Integration Policies in Canada and Australia, 1950s–1970s
  • The Demise of Britishness and the Unravelling of Whiteness
  • Immigration and Integration Policy
  • 9 “Multiculturalism within a Bilingual Framework” and “A Cohesive, United, Multicultural Nation”: A Comparison of the Introduction of Multicultural Policies in Canada and Australia, 1960s–1970s
  • The “New Nationalism” and Non-discriminatory Immigration Policies; Multiculturalism and Post–White Canada and Post–White Australia Policies
  • Integration and Multicultural Policies
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix A: Immigration to Canada, 1890–1971
  • Appendix B: Immigration to Australia, 1890–1978
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

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The writing of this book has been a journey that has taken place in different countries and continents, and I would like to thank those who have supported me throughout this venture. This book grew out of my doctoral thesis, which extended into further research on the themes explored herein. I thank Peter Lang Publishing for agreeing to publish my monograph, and in particular I acknowledge the support received from Michelle Salyga as well as Jackie Pavlovic. Additionally, I thank the editors of the series, “Interdisciplinary Studies in Diaspora,” Professors Irene Maria F. Blayer and Dulce Maria Scott, for their guidance and inclusion of this book in the series. I also thank the Foundation for Canadian Studies in the UK for their generous subvention, which contributed to the publication of this monograph.

An article based on Chapter One entitled “‘Anglo-Conformity’: Assimilation policy in Canada, 1890s–1950s” was published in the International Journal of Canadian Studies. An article based on Chapter Five entitled “‘Leaving British Traditions’: Integration Policy in Australia, 1962–1972” was published in the Australian Journal of Politics and History. An article based on parts of Chapters Three, Six and Nine entitled “The Introduction of Multiculturalism in Canada and Australia, 1960s–1970s” was published in Nations and Nationalism. I would ← xi | xii → like to thank the publishers of these three journals for their permission to publish these sections of the book.

I owe thanks to many people and institutions for their assistance during the process leading to the completion of this manuscript. In particular, I recognize King’s College London, University College London, the University of Alberta, the Australian National University, Carleton University and the Victoria University of Wellington. I thank all my friends and colleagues in these institutions for their constant encouragement and support in the writing of this book. I would especially like to mention my mentors, Professors Carl Bridge, Janine Brodie, and Rick Halpern.

I would also like to express my immense gratitude to Associate Professors Neville Meaney and James Curran for their guidance and constructive criticism throughout my doctoral research. A special thank you goes to Neville for taking me under his wing when I first arrived in Australia. In particular, the dinner seminars held at his home always provided an encouraging and supportive academic environment in Sydney. His influence on my academic work will be quite obvious to readers, and I thank him for steering me in the right direction. I am grateful to James for kindly assuming a supervisory role after Neville’s retirement. James’s influence on my work will also be quite clear to the reader.

I express gratitude to the Australian Department of Education, Science and Training (now the Department of Education, Employment and Work Relations) for awarding me an Endeavour International Postgraduate Research Scholarship, which contributed to financing my studies in Australia. I also thank the University of Sydney for giving me an International Postgraduate Award, without which my graduate studies in Australia would not have been possible. Gratitude is also due to the Faculty of Arts at the University of Sydney for awarding me a Research Travel Grant Scheme and a Postgraduate Research Support Scheme for my research in Australia and Canada.

The staff members at the National Archives of Australia (NAA) and the National Library of Australia (NLA) in Canberra were always very helpful, and I would especially like to thank Kerri Ward at the NAA and the Manuscripts Division at the NLA for their assistance. My research in Canada took place at the Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, and I thank all the staff in both the Library and Archives divisions for their assistance. In particular I acknowledge Neysa McLeod. I am also very grateful to the late Professor George ‘Jerzy’ Zubryzcki for giving me permission to look at some of his unpublished research materials. Dr. Mary Elizabeth Calwell deserves thanks for allowing me to consult sections of Arthur Calwell’s papers that are not available to the public. Additionally, ← xii | xiii → the Honourable Marc Lalonde gave me permission to consult some restricted parts of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau fonds.

Gratitude is also due to the staff at Fisher Library at the University of Sydney. Additionally, I express my thanks to International House, University of Sydney, which became my home while I lived in Australia. I also received support from the Women’s Committee Bursary and Ian Hudson Scholarship. The staff members at the International Student Support Unit at the University of Sydney were also a great help, especially Maria Pirrello. I thank the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King’s College London, for their seminar series, which enabled me to continue to be a part of the academic world when I returned to the United Kingdom. To all of my friends in Australia, Canada, and the UK, thank you for your encouragement throughout this journey.

Lastly, I thank my family for their financial and emotional support over the course of my studies and the writing of this book. It would not be an exaggeration to say that without you I would not have been able to complete this project. I would especially like to mention my mother, Charn Kaur Mann, for her unwavering and unconditional support. My eldest sister, Dr. Parminder Mann, instilled in me, from a very young age, a love of history, and for this I will forever be grateful. Both she and my other sister, Inderjit, were a constant source of encouragement. My nephews and nieces, Amrit, Sabrina, Nanaki, Sahib, and Mansukh, deserve thanks for always making me laugh and, thus, put things into perspective.

Jatinder Mann
Wellington, New Zealand, January 2016 ← xiii | xiv →

← xiv | xv →



Countries and Geographic Groupings

EEC – European Economic Community

UK – United Kingdom

UN – United Nations

US – United States

USSR – Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

Institutions and Government Departments

AGPS – Australian Government Publishing Service

ANU – Australian National University

DFAT – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

OMA – Office of Multicultural Affairs


AFAR – Australian Foreign Affairs Record

AHS – Australian Historical Studies

AJPH – Australian Journal of Politics and History ← xv | xvi →

ANZJS – Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology

CCP – Commonwealth & Comparative Politics

CES – Canadian Ethnic Studies

CHR – Canadian Historical Review

IJCS – International Journal of Canadian Studies

JCS – Journal of Canadian Studies

JICH – Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History


AEAC – Australian Ethnic Affairs Council

AIMA – Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs

ALP – Australian Labor Party

CAQ – Coalition Avenir Quebéc

CIAC – Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council

IODE – Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire

NMAC – National Multicultural Advisory Council

PQ – Parti-Québécois

TLC – Trades and Labour Congress

YMCA – Young Men’s Christian Association

YWCA – Young Women’s Christian Association


MP – Member of Parliament

NSW – New South Wales

← xvi | 1 →



This book explores the profound social, cultural, and political changes that affected the way in which Canadians and Australians defined themselves as a “people” from the late nineteenth century to the 1970s. Taking as its central theme the way each country responded to the introduction of new migrants, this book asks a key historical question: why and how did multiculturalism replace Britishness as the defining idea of community for English-speaking Canada and Australia, and what does this say about their respective experiences of nationalism in the twentieth century?

The book begins from a simple premise—namely, that the path towards the adoption of multiculturalism as the orthodox way of defining national community in English-speaking Canada and Australia in the latter half of the twentieth century was both uncertain and unsteady. It followed a period in which both nations had looked first and foremost to Britain to define their national self-image. In both nations, however, following the breakdown of their more formal and institutional ties to the “mother-country” in the post-war period there was a crisis of national meaning, and policy makers and politicians moved quickly to fill the void with a new idea of the nation—one that was the very antithesis to the White, monolithic idea of Britishness. ← 1 | 2 →

At the core of this study is a broader argument about the problem of nationalism and Britishness in both nations, and in particular the difficulties that both have had in adjusting to the post-imperial era. Although there has been considerable disagreement among scholars on the question of nationalism and its meaning, in nearly all cases, two core ingredients are foregrounded here: firstly that nationalism emerged in the nineteenth century and was primarily associated with Europe and the US; and secondly that there is a fundamental connection between nationalism and history. This connection is most often found in the myth or story of the nation, which holds that from time immemorial the “people” have been engaged in struggles against an alien “other” in order to achieve their national destiny.

This book draws on Benedict Anderson’s definition of the nation as an “imagined community,” one which is imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.1 As Anderson elaborates, “It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their family-members, meet them or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.” He argues that “The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them, encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic, boundaries, beyond which lie other nations.” It is imagined as sovereign since the idea itself came to prominence in an era in which revolution and enlightenment were tearing down the authority of the “divinely-ordained, hierarchical dynastic realm.” Finally, it is imagined as a community because, in spite of the real exploitation and inequality that may occur in each, the nation is always regarded as a “deep, horizontal comradeship.”2

Anderson’s definition of nationalism draws much from Ernest Gellner’s Nations and Nationalism,3 Hugh Seton-Watson’s Nations and States,4 and especially Hans Kohn’s The Idea of Nationalism.5 Seton-Watson makes a distinction between states and nations. He claims that while “A state is a legal and political organisation, with the power to require obedience and loyalty from its citizens,” in contrast “A nation is a community of people, whose members are bound together by a sense of solidarity, a common culture, a national consciousness.” In Seton-Watson’s view “nationalism” is a term to be approached with even more uncertainty, being usually employed to designate any kind of collective self-interest or aggression that the speaker or writer disagrees with. Indeed he argues that it has turned into a derogatory word, employed instead of the reputable term “patriotism.” Seton-Watson asserts that nationalism has two basic meanings: “One of these meanings is a doctrine about the character, interests, rights and duties of nations…The second meaning is an organised political movement, ← 2 | 3 → designed to further the alleged aims and interests of nations.” He argues that a nation exists when a large number of people in a community consider themselves to form a nation, or act as if they form one. It is not a prerequisite that all of the group should feel like this, or behave like this, and it is not possible to specifically establish a minimum proportion of a population that must be this way inclined.6

Britishness was a broad nationalism, which originated in the late nineteenth century in the UK and its white settler communities. The core of the identity was a belief that all the peoples of these different countries were “British” and an integral part of a wider British world. Duncan Bell in his The Idea of Greater Britain studies the relationship between the idea of “Greater Britain” and imperial federation in the late nineteenth century. He asserts that “The relationship between Greater Britain and imperial federation was complex and often confused…While virtually all federalists employed the language of Greater Britain, not all of the proponents of Greater Britain were federalists.” Bell draws attention to Britishness in the British Isles, which is a hitherto little studied dimension of the concept. There have been various studies on the rise of British race patriotism in the settler societies but not many that have looked at the opposite side of the coin. Ultimately the proponents for imperial federation failed, but the study of their efforts is not a worthless one as they illustrate the broader political issues prevalent at the time in Britain and its settler societies.7

James Belich’s Replenishing the Earth explores the settler revolution and the emergence of an Anglo-World from the end of the eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. He links the rise of Britishness with “changes in attitudes to empire, or at least to the white empire.”8 Belich attributes the rise of the term “Greater Britain” to writers such as Charles Dilke9 and J. R. Seeley10 in the mid-to late nineteenth century. He also discusses the problem of outlining the histories of the former white Dominions as independent nations due to their identity being based on Britishness for such a long period:

The histories of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada as independent nations share a curious characteristic: nobody knows when they began…‘If asked when and how their country became independent, most Australians can only cough and stammer…some will point to the federation of the Australian colonies in 1901, some to Gallipoli in 1915, some to Australia’s turn to the United States for protection in 1941.”11

The works by Bell and Belich are the most recent in the transnational “British world” field or perspective. This began initially with the work of Phillip Buckner and Carl Bridge in their article “Reinventing the British World” in 2003. They ← 3 | 4 → argued that the vast majority of the histories of Canada and Australia and other former British settler societies focused predominantly on their specific “national” stories, epitomised by their struggle for autonomy within the British Empire. Buckner and Bridge maintained instead that these British settler societies formed part of a wider “British world,” in which each member regarded themselves as essentially a British people, albeit with variations according to local geography and demography. Imperial historians in the UK undertook any study of their broader connection to the British Empire and the metropolis-periphery relationship was the focus of their efforts, not their self-identification as “British.” Therefore, Buckner and Bridge advocated the study of this fascinating but hitherto largely neglected history by historians from the former British settler societies themselves.

Douglas Cole in his “The Crimson Thread of Kinship” established that the national identity of Australia for much of the twentieth century was based on British race patriotism and the belief it was an integral part of a wider British world. According to Cole, “Assuming the unique value of British stock and civilisation, the Britannic ethnocentric strand stressed the kindred nature of Australians and Britons…Commonality of ancestry, heritage, history, language, and literature were used to confirm the common identity of the British race.” Cole also makes a strong link between Britishness and whiteness: “The ethnic consciousness of being British was never sharply distinguished from that of being white…‘Scratch White Australia and you find British Australia,’ wrote W. D. Forsyth.”12

Neville Meaney built upon Cole’s ideas in The Search for Security in the Pacific, 1901–1914, arguing that in order to understand what he called the “riddle of Australian nationalism,” scholars had to differentiate between Australia’s overwhelming sense of cultural identification with Britain—its “community of culture”—and its own political interests arising out of its particular geopolitical circumstances—what Meaney called the “community of interest.”13 Meaney asserts that “In the nationalist era (1870s–1960s) Britishness was the dominant cultural myth in Australia, the dominant social idea giving meaning to ‘the people,’” and he even goes so far as to suggest “Britishness was more pervasive in Australia than in Britain itself.” He demonstrates the prevalence of Britishness in Australia by citing an opinion poll in 1947 in which 65 per cent of Australians opted for being British when asked whether they wanted to have British or Australian nationality.14

Like Meaney, Stuart Ward suggests that British race patriotism not only formed the foundation of Australian national identity, but also provided Australians with a greater sense of importance than any local nationalism could ever provide. By the end of the twentieth century, however, British race patriotism no longer existed as a credible means of defining Australia’s idea of community. Ward ← 4 | 5 → argues that the shift in outlook and assumptions in Australian political culture centred on one single major event: Britain’s decision to seek membership in the EEC from 1961 to 1963. Britain’s difficult choice between joining its European neighbours, which in effect meant abandoning the notion of a wider “British world,” led to a crisis of British race patriotism in Australia and elsewhere. Ward suggests that British race patriotism

promoted a sense that Australia’s long-term interests, and ultimate survival as a nation, were organically tied to the fortunes of the ‘British world’ … It is the fate of this core assumption—that the interests of Australia and Great Britain ought ultimately to be reconciled—that holds the key to understanding the demise of British race patriotism in Australian political culture.15

Therefore, the EEC crisis signalled the final realisation among Australians that the two worlds of sentiment and self-interest could not be reconciled. There was finality to this particular decision and Australians realised once and for all that there could be no rushing back to the protective imperial bosom.

James Curran has also explored the problem of Britishness and Australian national identity. Looking at the intellectual lives and political rhetoric of national leaders, he asserts that Australian national identity pre-1960s was based firmly on the fundamental belief that they were a British people. Loyalty to Britain and a commitment to a white Australia were the two pillars of Australian national identity. From the early 1960s, under the weight of changing domestic and international circumstances, including Britain’s resolution to withdraw militarily from the “East of Suez,” this commitment to Britishness had to be completely revised. Almost overnight Australia was defined as a “multicultural community.”16


XVI, 340
ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2016 (August)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XVI, 340 pp.

Biographical notes

Jatinder Mann (Author)

Jatinder Mann is a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta. He has published numerous articles in front-ranking, interdisciplinary journals and is co-editor of Documents on Australian Foreign Policy on War and Peace, 1914–1919, which will be published in 2017. Mann was awarded his doctorate in history at the University of Sydney. He was also a recipient of the prestigious Endeavour International Postgraduate Research Scholarship by the Australian Government and an International Postgraduate Award by the University of Sydney for his doctoral research.


Title: The Search for a New National Identity