Ruth Bleasdale, a professor at the department of history at Dalhousie University, wrote the article titled “Class Conflict on the Canals of Upper Canada in the 1840s.” The article discusses the way in which Irish laborers on the St. Lawrence canal system had introduced a way of life guided by class relations. Class conflict, inseparably intertwined with racial detestation and prejudice, had created in the southern Irish people mistrust and disgust of employers, doubt of the regulations and the administration, and a readiness to breach the law to realize their objectives (Johnson & Wilson, 1991). This bitter cultural history influenced the Irish workers’ opposition to circumstances in Canada and gave a unique structure to class tensions on the canals. With exceptional laws, special law enforcement teams, and a military ready to assist, the Canadian government assembled the authoritative power of the state against the laborers. Bleasdale noted that the government was unsuccessful in stifling labor strife and averting strike action. Many officers and contractors embraced this failure as evidence of the Celt’s uncontrollable nature (Johnson & Wilson, 1991).
Bleasdale manages to organize the paper in a proper way using clear and well-structured language. She summarizes the way in which the workers evaluated the labor situation in Canada, the consequent government reaction and final status quo achieved by the resistance. Ruth’s title was informative and offered a wealth of information on the significance of the labor resistance in shaping Canadian history. By illustrating the determined efforts of the Irish workers in the canals, the author was able to bring out the continued struggles and challenges that they faced (MacDowell, & Radforth, 2006). Bleasdale included the experiences of the canallers while they were defending their faith. It was imperative for these struggles to be highlighted in detail as they form the backbone of the account (Johnson, & Wilson, 1991). In Canadian history, foreign workers have been racially labeled, discriminated against, and exposed to discouraging levels of reception in most regions and the proletariat. This category of employees ended up experiencing different levels of suffering when they arrived in Canada (MacDowell & Radforth, 2006). This included being taken advantage of by employers, ignored by industrial representatives, and subjugated as mediocre citizens by the state. While many analysts argue that this reaction was in line with the abrasive reception of foreigners across Europe and the rest of the new world, there is enough evidence that points towards the sluggish pace of embracing and tolerating other races within Canada. This is far from the ideal image that Canada is interested in showing the rest of the international community (Johnson & Wilson, 1991).
The mistreatment of foreigners points towards deeper injustices perpetrated against the Irish immigrants. Bleasdale’s work has a solid place in academic literature particularly for those studying Canadian history and even international relations. The chapter examines the conditions that created the permanent wage labor in Canada and the diverse ways through which that experience has been perpetuated by employing from new groups of labor, restructuring the labor sector, and embracing innovation (MacDowell, & Radforth, 2006). Specific attention should be given to the variety of reactions wage earners experienced after they made a claim concerning paid work, stratification according to ability, gender, and race (Johnson & Wilson, 1991). Other areas that have also intrigued analysts include the concerted efforts of different state machinery to ensure that the middle and lower class uprisings were quashed. The efforts of this particular social class can easily be mentioned in the discussions on class struggle and find a place in the explanation of other social class theories such as Marxism.
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Johnson, J. K., & Wilson, B. G. (1991). Historical essays on Upper Canada: New perspectives. Ottawa, Canada: Carleton University Press.
MacDowell, L. S., & Radforth, I. W. (2006). Canadian working-class history: Selected readings. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
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