History of Immigration
Canada’s history, post-colonization by the French
and the British, is one of continuous immigration.
Canada: A History of Immigration
• By the 1880’s, the rate of immigration to Canada
began to increase. The Canadian Pacific Railway had
been completed and world wheat prices were high,
which suggested that there would be profitable
farming available on the Prairies. All that was needed
• Beginning in 1896 Clifford Sifton (minister of the
interior in Laurier’s government) launched an
aggressive campaign to encourage immigration to
Sifton’s Immigration Policy Continued
• Each white European immigrant family was offered 160 acres
of free land.
• Sifton sought immigrants from across the U.S., Britain and
• His efforts attracted large numbers of European farmers
including Ukrainians, Scandinavians, Poles, Germans and
• Sifton’s policy excluded: Africans, Jews, Asians, East Indians
and Southern Europeans.
• Between 1891 and 1911 more than 2 million immigrants
came to Canada.
• In 1905 the growing population led to the creation of 2 new
provinces: Saskatchewan and Alberta.
• By 1911 over 80% of people in the Western provinces had
been born outside of Canada.
History of Immigration Continued
• The Immigration Act of 1910 gave the federal cabinet the
power to regulate immigration and to establish the
qualifications necessary to immigrate to Canada.
• The policy established was governed by 2 main factors: the
country’s economic need and what the government called the
“fundamental character” of Canadian society. For many years
Canada’s immigration policy attempted to control the racial
composition of the Canadian population.
• The Immigration Act of 1946 defined acceptable immigrants
as British subjects from Britain, Ireland, Newfoundland (not a
part of Canada until 1949,) Australia, New Zealand, and South
Africa (excluding non-whites); US citizens; and the wife and
unmarried children under 18, or the fiancé, of a legal resident
History of Immigration Continued
• The Act also created 3 special categories of
immigrants: Polish ex-servicemen, Dutch farm
workers and qualified residents from Malta.
• Also, in 1946 King introduce emergency
measures that would bring some of the
refugees of WWII to Canada. Between 194752 almost 170 000 refugees were resettled in
History of Immigration Continued
(race related policies)
• However, while almost 380 000 immigrants came to
Canada between 1945 and 1950, the admission of
Asians was limited to the wife, husband and
unmarried children under the age of 21 of Canadian
citizens living in Canada.
• The annual quotas for all Asian immigrants were
• For Example: 150 from India, 100 from Pakistan, and
50 from Sri Lanka.
On Chinatown and the treatment of the Chinese thro
The response of Canada to Immigration
(race related policies)
• Many Canadians in the early part of the 20th Century were extremely
racist. Canada’s early response to immigration reflects this both in
government policy and in the response of Canadian citizens to the
immigration of racial minorities.
• Canada encouraged Chinese immigration because of the
construction of the trans-continental railway, and a need for cheap
• Once the railway was finished the white Canadians felt a need to
limit and eventually abolish all Asian immigration to Canada.
• Racist groups begin to form in Canada, including; the Anti-Asiatic
league, which urged the government to end Asian immigration
• These racist sentiments led to a riot in Vancouver on September 7,
1907, and would lead to laws which made it virtually impossible for
anyone from Asia to immigrate to Canada (including people of
Japanese, Indian and Chinese origin)
An Example of a Canadian response to immigration, a case
study: The Komagata Maru
• The amended Immigration Act of 1906 required that Indian
Immigrants sail on a direct passage from India to Canada. This was
• However, Gurdit Singh an Indian business man hired a ship called
the Komagata Maru to do just that. After 7 weeks at sea on May
21, 1914, the ship arrived at Victoria’s quarantine station, carrying
375 passengers including women and children.
• The Sikh community was being heavily persecuted by Muslims and
Hindus in India at this time and wanted to start new lives in Canada.
• Two days later the ship pulled into Vancouver, but the government
denied them entry. The Sikh passengers became prisoners on the
• Vancouver's Sikh community launched a court challenge. The
Komagata Maru had followed all of the immigration laws applicable
for Indian immigrants. A month went by, the ship was not allowed
to take on food or water. The court case did not succeed in forcing
officials to allow the passengers to leave the ship.
An Example of a Canadian response to immigration, a
case study: The Komagata Maru
• Immigration officials then served passengers
deportation papers and ordered the captain to leave.
However the Sikhs refused.
• Finally the government called on the Navy to escort
the Komagata Maru out of Canadian waters.
• The message from the government was clear, East
Indians were not welcome in Canada, and the
government of Canada would break its own laws to
keep them out.
Racist immigration policies, a case study:
The St Louis
• Immigration director Fred Blair’s
infamous quote regarding Jewish
refugees from Nazi Germany “None
is too many” pretty much sums up
Canada’s acceptance of Jewish
refugees during WWII
• In 1939 when the Ocean Liner the
St. Louis, with over 900 Jewish
refugees on board appeared off the
east coast of Canada, it was
refused permission to dock.
• The ship was forced to return to
Europe, where many of the
passengers died in concentration
Chinese Immigration to Canada
• 1858: The first Chinese immigrants came to Canada to look for gold
on the Frazer River
• 1875: The Chinese loose the right to vote in Federal elections (don’t
get it back until 1947)
• 1880-85: Male Chinese are encouraged to immigrate to provide labor
for the construction of the railway (thousands of immigrants arrive)
• 1885: First head tax is imposed on Chinese immigrants (starts at $50
but eventually goes up to $500)
• 1911: Chinese population in BC at around 20 000
• 1923: On July 1st the head tax is abolished. New restrictions are
passed that stop virtually all Chinese immigration to Canada (known
as “Humiliation Day” by Chinese Canadians)
• 1939-45: 500 Chinese Canadian soldiers fight for Canada in WWII
• 1947: Chinese Canadians regain the vote and some of the
immigration restrictions are lifted
• 1967: Restrictions on Chinese immigration are removed entirely
• The Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 placed a head tax on all
Chinese immigrants coming to Canada.
• Forcing them to pay a fifty dollar fee to enter the country. In 1900,
the fee was raised to one hundred dollars. In 1903, the amount was
raised to five hundred dollars, the equivalency of two years' wages.
• Later, another law was passed, declaring that only one Chinese
immigrant could come to Canada for every fifty tons of the ship
they were travelling on, for that one voyage. That meant that only
ten immigrants could come to Canada on a ship weighing five
• This act was eventually replaced in 1923 by the Chinese
Immigration Act of 1923, also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act,
which banned Chinese immigration entirely.
History of Immigration Cont.
• Until 1947, there was no such thing as a Canadian citizen.
Canadians were British subjects.
• The Canadian Citizenship Act established Canadians as citizens of
Canada rather than subjects of Britain.
• Under this Act all those born in Canada or who had become
naturalized British subjects automatically became Canadian
• New immigrants could gain citizenship if they had legally entered
the country and had lived in Canada for 4 of the last 6 years, had a
good knowledge of French or English and were of “good character”
• Children who were born to a Canadian father living outside Canada
were citizens, however if the mother was a Canadian citizen and
the father was not, the child was not considered a citizen. This
would not change until the new Citizenship Act of 1976.
New Immigration Policies
• The Immigration Act passed in 1952 allowed Cabinet to
control immigration through Orders-in-council, so they could
admit, limit or prohibit immigration for almost any reason
they wanted. This led to a significant amount of racial
discrimination regarding new immigrants to Canada.
• Public opinion regarding race was changing in the 50’s and
60’s and the portions of Canada’s population began to protest
the discriminatory nature of Canada’s immigration policies.
• The idea that Canada should be a “cultural mosaic” began to
• In 1962 a new set of immigration regulations was suggested
in Parliament. However, it still set different criteria for those
people trying to immigrate from Asian and African countries.
• In the late 60’s a point system was introduced in an attempt
to create a more color blind system.
• In 1978 a new Immigration Act was introduced that outlined
the new goals of Canada’s immigration policy
Mosaic or Melting Pot?
• Canada prides itself at home and abroad as a country
made up of a cultural mosaic.
• The mosaic is based on our belief that Canada as a
whole becomes stronger by having immigrants bring
with them their cultural diversity for all Canadians to
• The cultural melting pot, as adopted in the United
States, tells immigrants that no matter who they
have been in the past, upon landing on American
shores, they are Americans and are expected to
adopt and follow the American way.
New Immigration Policies Continued
• The focus of the Department of Immigration is supposed to
be attracting immigrants to Canada who have the education,
training and skills to become contributing members of the
labor force, or who have the financial resources to establish
their own business in Canada.
• In order to help focus the immigration department in that
direction a points system was introduced to the criteria for
immigration to Canada.
• Now immigration officers could now award a number of
points for such factors as education, training and experience,
occupational demand, perceived adaptability of the
immigrant, age and knowledge of French or English. If the
points awarded to the immigrant added up to 50 or more, the
individual was eligible for admission.
The Points System
• Education: Generally one point for each year of primary and
secondary education successfully completed
• Vocational training: Points for vocational or on-the-job
• Experience : Points for relevant job experience
• Occupational demand: Points based on the need in Canada
for the type of work the applicant is qualified and willing to do
• Arranged employment: Points if the applicant has arranged a
job, as long as this employment does not take a job away
from Canadian workers
• Location: Points if the immigrant is willing to move to an area
where his or her particular skills are needed
New Policies in Immigration
A shift in Policy
Because of its wealth and stability, Canada is an attractive destination for
The federal government, under Pierre Trudeau, declared that Canada
would adopt multicultural policy in 1971. Canada would recognize and
respect its society included diversity in languages, customs, religions, and
so on. In 1982 multiculturalism was recognized by section 27 of the
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Official multiculturalism
Each year, there are more people applying to immigrate to Canada than
we are able to accept, therefore in the 1970’s the government set up
guidelines based on three broad objectives: Humanitarian to unite
families and provide a safe haven for those who are persecuted,
Economic to provide skilled labor for Canada and encourage economic
growth and investment, Demographic considerations to maintain steady
The Canadian government no longer gives preference to people from
specific countries. Instead, it has established criteria that all applicants
have to meet, regardless of their country of origin.
1. What is the difference between a melting pot and a cultural
2. Why did the government forbid the Sikhs on board the
Komagata Maru to talk to other members of the Sikh
community in Vancouver?
3. What do you think the strengths and drawbacks of the new
immigration system are?
4. Do you think countries such as Canada have an obligation to
accept refugees, regardless of their countries of origin?
5. What do you think the government meant by “fundamental
6. Why would some Canadians feel threatened by shifting
patterns of immigration? Do you believe this fear is wellfounded or misguided? Why?