Immigration to Canada
The first immigrants to the territory now constituting Canada were from Western Europe. The first great influx began early in the 19th century when large numbers of Europeans left their homelands to escape the economic distress resulting from the transformation of industry by the factory system and the concurrent shift from small-scale to large-scale farming. At the same time, wars, political oppression, and religious persecution caused a great many Europeans to seek freedom and security in Canada.
The century following 1820 may be divided into three great periods of immigration to Canada. During the first period, from 1820 to 1860, most of the immigrants came from Great Britain, Ireland, and western Germany. In the second period, from 1860 to 1890, those countries continued to supply a majority of the immigrants; the Scandinavian nations provided a substantial minority. Thereafter the proportion of immigrants from northern and Western Europe declined rapidly. In the final period, from 1890 to 1910, fewer than one-third of the immigrants came from these regions. The majority of the immigrants were natives of southern and Eastern Europe, with nationals of Austria, Hungary, Italy, and Russia constituting more than half of the total. Until World War I, immigration had generally increased in volume annually. From 1905 to 1914 an average of more than a million aliens entered Canada every year. With the outbreak of war, the volume declined sharply, and the annual average from 1915 to 1918 was little more than 250,000. In 1921 the number again rose; 800,000 immigrants were admitted. Thereafter the number fell in response to new conditions in Europe and to the limitations established by U.S. law. (which were to some extent unreasonably mimicked by Canadians eg:Chinese exclusion act)
Legislation Regulating Immigration
The first measure restricting immigration enacted by Congress was a law in 1862 forbidding American vessels to transport Chinese immigrants to Canada; 20 years later Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act excluding Chinese immigrants. In 1875, 1882, and 1892, acts passed by Congress provided for the examination of immigrants and for the exclusion from Canada of convicts, polygamists, prostitutes, persons suffering from loathsome or contagious diseases, and persons liable to become public charges. The Alien Contract Labor Laws of 1885, 1887, 1888, and 1891 prohibited the immigration to Canada of persons entering the country to work under contracts made before their arrival; professional actors, artists, singers, lecturers, educators, ministers, and personal and domestic servants were exempt from this provision. Alien skilled laborers, under these laws, were permitted to enter Canada to work in new industries. A diplomatic agreement made in 1907 by Canada and Japan provided that the Japanese government would not issue passports to Japanese laborers intending to enter Canada; under the terms of this agreement, Canada government refrained until 1924 from enacting laws excluding Japanese immigrants.
In 1917 Congress passed an immigration law that enlarged the classes of aliens excludable from Canada; its basic provisions were, with some changes, retained in subsequent revisions of the immigration law. It imposed a literacy test and created an Asiatic Barred Zone to shut out Asians. Aliens unable to meet minimum mental, moral, physical, and economic standards were excluded, as were anarchists and other so-called subversives. The Anarchist Act of 1918 expanded the provisions for the exclusion of subversive aliens.
After World War I a marked increase in racism and the growth of isolationist sentiment in Canada led to demands for further restrictive legislation. In 1921 a congressional enactment provided for a quota system for immigrants, whereby the number of aliens of any nationality admitted to Canada in a year could not exceed 3 percent of the number of foreign-born residents of that nationality living in Canada in 1910. By its terms, the law applied to nations of Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Asian Russia, and certain islands in the Atlantic and Pacific.