The Canadian ‘War of the Two Sugars’

Homegrown Sugar Beets and the Racial Stratification of Labour

Jane Komori
This paper provides a history of more than a century of efforts to establish and maintain a homegrown Canadian sugar supply – a twentieth century version of what Eric Williams called the ‘war of the two sugars,’ or the global competition between sugar beet and cane. To resolve beet sugar’s so-called ‘labour problem,’ the industry has collaborated with the Canadian state to produce new classes of temporary workers, mobilizing incarcerated Japanese Canadians, migrant indigenous families, and Mexican and Caribbean workers employed through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. At the same time, the sugar industry has sought to refine itself of the racialised workers upon whom it relies by promoting the figure of the white Canadian worker. The Canadian ‘war of the two sugars’ has been fought through the stratification of the labour force along the lines of citizenship, resulting in the production of unique racial forms.