Immigration has been an important factor of population growth in Canada. Between the years of 1851 to 1996 over 13.5 million immigrants entered Canada (see Appendix 1), mostly from Western Europe and Great Britain (Grindstaff, 1998:435). The number of immigrants admitted into Canada is regulated by Canadian Immigration Act and its policies, which are, in turn, regulated by federal and provincial governments (Jackson & Jackson, 1998: 86). Historically, early Canadian immigration policies were largely discriminative; thus immigration policies and regulations have changed, mostly to eliminate explicit discrimination on the basis of race or nationality.
The first Immigration Act was established in 1869, when the British North American Act gave the responsibility of immigration to federal and provincial governments. This immigration act did not have any specific rules and regulations about who can or who cannot enter and live in Canada. Thus, between the years of 1869 to 1895 1.5 million people immigrated to Canada (Kubat, 1993:25). These new settlers were mostly British labourers, eastern European peasants, and American farmers (Jackson & Jackson, 1898: 86).
However, between the years of 1881 and 1884 about 15,701 Chinese labourers entered Canada, most of them as a “cheap labourers” for the construction of Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). Knowles (1997:50) also points out that “without these Chinese labourers the construction and completion of the CPR would have been postponed indefinitely.” Yet, because the Canadian federal government favoured “white” British, American, and Northern Europeans immigrants, “non-white” immigrants, Chinese particularly, were no longer welcomed in Canada. Thus, upon the completion of the CPR, a new act was passed in 1885 “to restrict and regulate Chinese immigration” (Knowles, 1997:50). This new policy did not prohibit the Chinese from entering Canada; yet the Chinese immigrants had to pay a $50 head tax in order to be allowed to enter Canada. Yet, “the whites” from British Columbia were not satisfied with $50, and so the tax was raised to $100 per person of Chinese origin entering Canada in 1900, and later to $500 in 1903 (Knowles, 1997: 51).
Moreover, between the years of 1906 and 1907 about 7,000 new immigrants entered British Columbia, mostly of Japanese and east Indian origin. This new wave of “non-white” immigrants created a great deal of unrest in British Columbia’s “white” residents. As a result of this dissatisfaction, Vancouver residents started to rebel against the admission of the Japanese into British Columbia, due to their fear of “a Japanese invasion” (Knowles, 1997:92). Hence, the federal government of Canada passed a bill in the Immigration Act of 1910, known as the “ continuous journey regulation.” This regulation prohibited an entry to Canada to any immigrants, who did not came directly from their country; without any other stops at any other ports along the way (Knowles, 1997:93). Thus, this new regulation made it impossible for the Japanese and east Indians to enter Canada, because there were no direct steamship service from either country into Canada (Knowles, 1997:93).
After a while, the federal government was once again pressured from British Columbia on the issue of Chinese immigration into British Columbia. Therefore, the Immigration Act 1923 was passed, which banned all Chinese from entry to Canada, except “members of the diplomatic corps, children born in Canada to Chinese parents, students, and merchants who had a minimum of $2,500 invested in a business for at least three years and who were prepared to invest at least $2,500 in a business in Canada” (Knowles, 1997:107). Because of this restriction, only twenty five Chinese people entered Canada between the years of 1923 and 1946 (Knowles, 1997:107).
During the years of World War II, Japanese Canadians had to endure another discriminating phase from the federal government of Canada. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the federal government ordered the confiscation of Japanese-Canadians’ properties, and all Japanese aliens had to register with the RCMP (Knowles, 1997:124). Afterward, as many as 22,000 Japanese-Canadians were relocated into various detention camps and unsettled areas in British Columbia. Also, many of the Japanese-Canadians were relocated to work in the sugar beet fields in Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario. The end of WW II, however, did not put an end to these restrictions against Japanese-Canadians. Almost 4,000 Japanese were ordered by the federal government to leave Canada for Japan, even though most of these Japanese were either Canadian-born or new Canadian citizens (Knowles, 1997:124).
After WW II, there was a large movement of immigrants from Europe to Canada. The government welcomed the new wave of immigrants from Europe, thus the Canadian government introduced its Canadian Citizenship Act of 1946. This new wave of immigrants was aimed to increase the Canadian standard of living. New immigrants were expected to help to develop Canadian resources, which would increase the domestic market and, thus, decrease Canada’s independence on the export of primary products (Hawkins, 1989:37). However, Prime Minister Mackenzie King stated that this new policy would be a selective one, in order to avoid “a large-scale immigration from the Orient,” and the government will not violate the restrictions on Asiatic immigration from previous policies (Hawkins, 1989: 38).
Although the Immigration Act of 1952 was more liberal, it still gave the government of Canada the right to limit or prohibit the entry of immigrants on grounds of their nationality, geographical area of origin, incompatibility with regard to the climate, habits and modes of life, probable inability to become readily assimilated, and other such reasons (Foster, 1998:90). Thus, it was not until the 1960’s when the “White Canada policy” came to an end (Hawkins, 1989: 39).
During the late 1950’s and 1960’s the Canadian government wanted to establish a good relationship with new independent states in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean (Dirks, 1995:10). Therefore, on January 19, 1962 Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Ellen Fairclough, and her Deputy Minister, Dr. George Davidson introduced a new immigration regulation to “eliminate all discrimination based on color, race or creed” (Hawkins, 1989:38). The only privilege it gave the European immigrants over non-Europeans was, that the government could still regulate the sponsoring of a wide range of relatives. It was due to the fear of a large unwanted wave of immigrants from India (Hawkins, 1989: 39).
In the year of 1967 all the race criteria in the Immigration Act were replaced with “ a Point System” regulations (see Appendix 2). By this new system, the would-be immigrants had to gain at least 50 out of 100 possible points on the basis of ten factors, such as age, job experience, knowledge of English or French, training experience, and relationship with persons already in Canada. This new system was mostly directed to attract wealthy businessmen and such people into Canada, regardless of their race (Dirks, 1995:11). However, even this new immigration regulation was not flawless. Because the Act allowed visitors to apply for landed immigrant status while visiting in Canada, increasing numbers of people from the United States, Latin America, Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and other countries made Canada their destination (see Appendix 3). This created a large blockage of cases before the Immigration Appeal Board. The situation became crucial, the federal government was forced to take action, and the Immigration Act of 1976 was being planned (Knowles, 1997:160)
The Immigration Act of 1976 has been described as “a beautiful piece of work-logical, well-constructed, liberal, and workable” (Hawkins, 1989:70). This Act recognizes three categories of persons, who could be eligible for landed immigrant status. First, the family category, which includes the immediate family, such as husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, and dependent children. Second, the refugee category, which include convention refugees or members of a specially designated class of refugees. The third category is the independent category, which is divided into five subcategories: entrepreneurs, investors, self-employed persons, skilled workers, and assisted relatives (Head, Ries & Wagner, 1997:133). The individuals that fall into the independent category are selected on the basis of the point system, and their evaluation is also based on their contribution to the Canadian economy (Hawkins, 1989: 70-72).
The point system was, however, revised in the Immigration Regulations of 1978. It still complemented the Act of 1976; yet it put a great emphasis on practical training and experience as opposed to formal education. Assisted relatives from the independent category only had to be rated on seven of the ten factors, as three did not apply to them. Members of the family and refugee category were not selected by the point system at all(Hawkins, 1989:77).
As a result of these new immigration policies, between the years 1979 to 1994, 39% of all immigrants to Canada were admitted under the family category, 18% refugees, and 43% were independent immigrants (Head, Ries & Wagner, 1997:136). Moreover, the immigration policy also admits those individuals, such as students, visitors, temporary workers on term contract, and domestic workers, who wish to enter Canada for a short period of time and for specific purposes. These individuals must have proper visa and employment authorization (Dirks, 1995:28). Thus, at this point any individual with proper documents can enter Canada, regardless of their race or nationality.
On the whole, Canadian Immigration Acts have changed significantly. In the past, people from various countries wanted to help to build new nation called Canada. Yet, they were refused to enter because of their different skin color. Also, the reason for their refusal was that most of the historical policies were plagued by racism, as a result of fear of losing “the Canadian White Identity.” The new changes of more liberal immigration policies came about as a result of the pressure from non-racist organizations, various religious groups, and the general public. Thus, today’s Canadian immigration policy categorizes people, who want to become permanent residents, by three categories; regardless of their skin color, nationality, or race.
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