Sunday, January 6, 2019

Things We Would Like To Forget

One of the benefits of receiving the print edition of the Toronto Star seven days a week is the Sunday edition. While not necessarily replete with news, the Sunday paper frequently embraces the opportunity to explore issues in depth. Today, Mitch Potter looks at an aspect of Canada's bigoted past, something, I suspect, we would all like to forget.

Unfortunately, I cannot provide a link, as it is not on the Star website, but here are some excerpts:
Let’s start with the seemingly benign but in fact casually racist phrase “Restricted Clientele” — a phrase that appears in a wide range of old advertisements for jobs, apartments and resorts in and around Toronto.

It wasn’t just Toronto advertisers that employed the words. “Restricted Clientele” can be found in old newspaper ads from Vermont to Miami. Unpack the phrase and it bleeds blatant anti-Semitism and white supremacy.

A few examples: a mid-’30s ad for the now-defunct Beaumaris Hotel and Yacht Club in Muskoka offering sumptuous accommodation and “cuisine par excellent” with the glaring caveat, “Restricted Clientele.” Nearer to home, a 1935 classified ad for “attractive, newly decorated rooms with screened verandas” on Centre Island in Toronto Harbour, “Restricted Clientele.”

A cluster of ads for ski resorts in the Laurentian Mountains entices Torontonians to make the journey “90 miles north of Montreal” to sample the best runs this side of the Rockies. A majority of those ads include the phrase “Restricted Clientele” but one in particular, a1941 ad for Mont Tremblant Lodge, juxtaposes that small-type condition beneath a much larger banner message proclaiming, “Skiing For All.” What they are really saying is “Skiing for all white people, excluding Jews.”
Of course, "restrictive clientele" is a euphemism, a phrase that sounds innocent but obscures an ugly truth. Oftentimes, such niceties were disposed of entirely, and the prejudice was quite blatant:
... far more direct — is the phrase “Gentiles Only,” which recurs in Star classified ads throughout the first third of the 20th century. Here’s a typical example from the mid’30s: “A fast-growing factory has a good opportunity for two neat, quiet women to fill good permanent positions. Gentiles only.”
Or how about this one?
... the Toronto-based Independent Order of Foresters, a fraternal benefit society that was among the first to offer not just friendship but to extend insurance benefits to average working families... in 1937 — Foresters launched a series of ads championing the organization ... All seven of the ads include these three toxic words: “White race only.”
Uncomfortably, racist exclusions were relatively common in the last century, and they extended into home ownership. In 1944, a Toronto labour group, The Workers’ Education Association (WEA)
announced it had developed plans for “ideal workingman’s home.”...The price: just $4,700.
But there was a catch:
... when WEA officials purchased the property, they discovered an unwelcome surprise on the deed: a so-called “restrictive covenant” preventing the land from being sold to “Jews or persons of objectionable nationality.”
While such covenants on new developments were ultimately struck down, old ones were allowed to remain. Consider the section of Hamilton, Ontario known as Westdale:
Westdale was envisioned as an exclusive white Protestant neighbourhood. Specific groups such as blacks, Asians, Slavs, and Jews were unable to purchase homes; near the end of the Second World War restrictions upon Jewish home ownership were lifted whereupon many relocated from the central part of the city. However, legal loopholes allowed for discrimination to persist into the 1950s.
The lessons of history are often ignored. However, with bigotry increasingly rearing its ugly head worldwide, now would be a good time to make an effort to remember our recent past, lest we make the same mistakes again.

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