Avery, Don H(oward) 1938-

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AVERY, Don H(oward) 1938-


Born 1938.


Office—Department of History, Social Science Center, Room 4328, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario N6A 5C2, Canada. E-mail—[email protected].


University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada, professor emeritus.


"Dangerous Foreigners": European Immigrant Workers and Labour Radicalism in Canada, 1896-1932 ("Canadian Social History" series), McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1979.

Reluctant Host: Canada's Response to Immigrant Workers, 1896-1994, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.

The Science of War: Canadian Scientists and Allied Military Technology during the Second World War, University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.

Also author, with J. K. Fedorowicz, The Poles in Canada (paper), Canadian Historical Society, 1982; contributor to journals, including American Historical Review.


Don H. Avery is a specialist in modern Canadian social history, particularly labor history, ethnic relations, military technology, and Canadian society during World War II. His "Dangerous Foreigners": European Immigrant Workers and Labour Radicalism in Canada, 1896-1932 examines the influx of tens of thousands into Canada at the turn of the century. Avery describes how the new immigrants, who included Poles, Greeks, Russians, Ukrainians, Finns, and Italians, suffered horrific living conditions and very low wages—when they found work at all. Immigrants' fear—and often hatred—of the Anglo-Canadians, frequently resulted in their imprisonment, and sometimes deportation.

Many of the Europeans worked in construction, and for some unskilled laborers this was the first step in a path to independence in agriculture. But not all were so fortunate. Many worked in similarly low-paying jobs in mining, logging, and for the railway. Paul Craven wrote in Canadian Forum that this volume "provides an excellent account of the proletarian experience of European immigrants to Canada and of their participation in radical politics." Because the workers were concentrated in resource industries, their participation in unions and the Communist Party of Canada was a natural progression.

Reluctant Host: Canada's Response to Immigrant Workers, 1896-1994 studies Canadian immigration in two parts, one that examines the first half of the century, and in which Avery discusses the labor-intensive extractive industries that employed immigrant labor, including mining, lumbering, agriculture, and fishing; and the second part that takes the subject six decades forward. Carmela Patrias commented in Labour/Le Travail that "the ambitious scope of Reluctant Host is best illustrated by the impressive range of sources on which Avery relies." Avery has drawn on records of the Canadian Departments of Justice, Immigration, and External Affairs, the papers of civil servants and politicians who were involved with immigration policy, and those of such organizations as the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, Canadian Congress of Labour, Canadian Medical Association, and other religious, professional, and ethnic associations.

Avery notes the competition between the Canadian government and the American South for low-wage immigrant workers. Similarly, pressures in Canada paralleled those in the United States as pro-immigration advocates encouraged the growing supply of cheap help, while organized labor opposed immigration, which it saw as a threat to their wage structure. The opposition cited racial differences in an attempt to stem the tide of foreign workers; this was a significant problem in Western Canada, where Asians were attacked, and subsequently restricted from immigrating into Canada. Canadian policy also placed Jews at the bottom of the preferential scale, and as a result Canada was among the least accepting of Jewish refugees from Nazi-dominated Europe. Avery notes that following World War II, Canada, then a major economic power, revamped its policies regarding human rights and changed its immigration policy in response to its growing need for workers to fill the growing number of technical, professional, and management positions, and because of the increasing emigration of Canadians to the United States.

"Of special interest to American readers," commented Harold Troper in the Journal of American Ethnic History, "is the degree to which there has been and remains formal or informal cooperation between the United States and Canada on matters of immigration, immigration policy, immigration control, and restriction. Indeed, one of the reasons that Canada and the United States have been able to maintain so open a border is that, with some notable exceptions, each country has granted the other's nationals special dispensation with regard to entry while, at the same time, depended on the other's immigration watchdogs."



Canadian Forum, February, 1980, Paul Craven, review of "Dangerous Foreigners": European Immigrant Workers and Labour Radicalism in Canada, 1896-1932, p. 38.

Canadian Historical Review, Volume 80, number 2, Enrico Carlson Cumbo, review of Reluctant Host: Canada's Response to Immigrant Workers, 1896-1994, pp. 335-337.

Choice, November, 1994, "The Polish Presence in North America," pp. 399, 402.

Journal of American Ethnic History, winter, 1999, Harold Troper, review of Reluctant Host, p. 135.

Labour/Le Travail, spring, 1997, Carmela Patrias, review of Reluctant Host, pp. 306-308.*