Human Rights History in Alberta

December 10 is Human Rights Day. Ernest Manning, Alberta’s longest serving Premier’s dealing with human rights was significant.

In 1942 Alberta nativists felt it was vital to deport all Japanese Canadians. Premier Manning largely concurred. Manning believed that Japanese Canadians were loyal to Japan, with that loyalty cemented by religious beliefs. "In the majority of cases the Japanese' first allegiance, due primarily to their religious traditions, is to the Emperor of Japan, to whom they regard their tie as spiritual.” said Manning.

Opposing the Alberta nativists were the churches and the press. They condemned Manning's position as "unjust and un-Christian". The Alberta press argued that "if we had the slightest conscience at all we would release them from bondage, restore their full civic rights and recompense them for the economic loss they have suffered."

In the end economic considerations decided the fate of the B.C. Japanese in Alberta. The Japanese beet workers, who had already been credited with saving the sugar beet industry during the Second World War, were virtually the only source of beet labour in 1946. Anxious to retain their reliable Japanese labour, the southern Alberta sugar interests began exerting pressure on Manning to keep the Japanese in Alberta. In March 1946, Manning decided Alberta would take its quota of Japanese, Manning informed the sugar interests privately, if and only if British Columbia also did its part.

In The Galt Museum & online database a search for “human rights” generates the result for the manuscript of The Human Rights Act signed by Ernest Manning. It was donated to the Galt Archives by Central School in 1971. To conduct your search of the Galt Museum & Archives or Collection simply visit and see what pieces of history await you!

ArticleDana InksterComment