“…Until now, Japanese Canadians have not been treated well here. But this [enlistment] will put future provincial governments in a position where they cannot deny Japanese their rights. As we look to the future as Japanese are establishing their place in Canada, we have no choice but to rise and meet the challenge.”
Iku Kumagawa, soldier in the First World War, 1916
Fighting for Recognition
Despite the racism they faced, members of Indigenous, Black, and Asian communities volunteered in large numbers to participate in the First World War. Sadly, these soldiers came back to a country largely unchanged on matters of discrimination.
Frederick O. Loft and the League of Indians of Canada
Returned Indigenous soldiers were not treated like other veterans. Access to the benefits usually given to veterans (doctors, hospitals, pensions and lands) required the consent of a Department of Indian Affairs agent (DIA), which was rarely granted. Many veterans, like Lieutenant Frederick O. Loft fought back, seeking more rights in exchange for their communities’ sacrifices. Loft founded the League of Indians of Canada, which aimed to claim and protect the rights and lands of the First Nations. In 1927, under the pressure of the DIA, the Indian Act was amended to prohibit organizations from raising money for Indigenous legal claims, effectively cutting the organization’s funds. The League of Indians of Canada was dismantled, but its creation showed the Indigenous veterans’ willingness to fight for equality.
Lt. F.O. Loft, ca. 1914-1918, Department of National Defense, Library and Archives Canada 1964-114 NPC 3629837