Category: Immigration and Multiculturalism


This map shows the movement of immigrants to Upper and Lower Canada between 1831 and 1836. By 1831, Quebec was 45% English speaking.

After the War of 1812, a huge wave of people suddenly immigrated to Upper and Lower Canada; no one every anticipated such a huge number of immigrants. The majority of the English-speaking immigrants settled in Eastern Townships. French-speaking immigrants settled themselves in Lower Canada. They based their society on the seigneurial system, which is the system of landholding in New France; seigneurs were given estates and responsibilities to settle the land and oversee its administration. The French people continued this system as it had for generations before. However, the lack of farmland eventually became a serious problem.

Britain, the United States, and Europe were the 3 dominant countries in which immigrants came from. Attracted by incentives and

Britain, one of the most common nations immigrants to Canada came from

and promises, immigrants became aware of the actual reality and dangers involved in immigrating to Canada. The journey across the Atlantic Ocean was the primary concern of many potential immigrants, considering it being dangerous and quite expensive.

Many who left their home countries were very emotional. Immigrants knew they would never see those they left behind. This type of emotional affect on people is hard to interpret today, due to our technological advancements (i.e. airplanes, which take only hours to travel between Canada and Europe). During this time, immigrants were forced to endure harsh conditions for approximately 1 month, many of whom did not survive. Of these people, the poor were the most affected, for they had to travel in the infamous coffin ships. A coffin ship is essentially a death ship; disease and death were common on cargo vessels used to carry

passengers at this time.

Those hopeful for a new life in British North America pay for their pass at at a busy emigration agent's office in London.

The overpopulated cities and countryside of Britain gave Canada many new immigrants. A large population of poor farmers from Ireland and Scotland were attracted by the possibility to own land in Canada, but only a few could afford to travel in above-deck cabins on well-conditioned ships. Thus, most farmers traveled in steerage (the area below decks on a ship, used to store cargo) in filthy, overpopulated cargo vessels.

Cargo ship owners came to realize that they could make great profit if they transformed their ships to carry passengers when they were traveling without cargo. Steerage holds contained bunks, but no washrooms. Diseases spread rampantly due to the poor food quality, bad hygiene, and crowded conditions. Small pox, cholera, and other diseases killed thousands of immigrants on the ship. Once these immigration ships arrived in North America, the entire ship would be quarantined. In 1832, almost half of all the immigrants who survived the trip to the colonies were horribly ill.

Chart displaying the number of immigrants from Great Britain from 1815-1850

Aboriginal people

The most read and well-known journals describing the life in the colonies of British North America were composed by relatively well-to-do English-speaking people. In Upper Canada, not everyone, however, considered themselves to be English; some were American, Irish, or Scottish. They didn’t just bring themselves, but also brought with them their language, culture, music, values, and traditions.

Lower Canada, previously been considered the French colony of New France, had a large population of Francophone (a French-speaking person), with a very distinctive culture and history.  There wanted very much to remain separated and distinct as much as possible from the English-speaking immigrants, which sometimes led to various conflicts.

History, as we know it today, are written by historians, whom we trust to have the accurate and correct knowledge. However, most historians forget or “neglect” the achievement and histories of Aboriginal peoples and non-English immigrants. They don’t mention much about the contributions women have made either. This type of “negligence” reveals what type of history we prefer to learn and are recorded. If only some group of people’s contributions are recognized, while others aren’t, how can our knowledge of history be correct? Through this discrimination, we can weed out and pay closer attention to those who have been brushed away. We can also educate ourselves about peoples’ values and attitudes in colonial times, especially their belief that European had a duty to “civilize” the world. School and churches around, until the 1950s, were teaching their students such ideologies. The contributions that women and other cultural groups have made are ignored and regarded wit very little detail in history textbooks. However, in this blog you will learn about these interesting contributions that women and other cultural groups have made.

In this graph, "Other" refers to Black people, Aboriginal peoples, other Europeans, and Asians. The majority group shown here are French, Irish, English, Scottish. This displays Canada's ethnic preference.

Timeline of the history of Black Canadians

From the mid-1600s to the 1700s, slavery was very common in New France; a large number of slaves were brought to New France by many loyalists from the American Revolution. Slavery was abolished in 1833 in all of British Empire, but courts in Upper and Lower Canada abolished such a crime long time ago. Interestingly, slavery came to a halt in Upper and Lower Canada sooner than anywhere else in North America. In 1793, Chloe Cooley, an enslaved Black woman, was forced to travel from Upper Canada to the United States to be sold. This incident was used by Governor John Simcoe to back up his arguments against slavery in Upper Canada. The Act to prevent slavery in Upper Canada was passed that July of that year.

Most of the Black Canadians living in Upper and Lower Canada were free; this was one of the major reasons as to why slavery was abolished in Canada. In fact, there were many refugees originated from the slave states in America. A population of free Black Americans came to the British colonies as Loyalists and were promised land in return during the Loyalist wave of immigration. During the Rebellions of 1837, the Black Militia fought against William Lyon Mackenzie and his rebels; the majority of the Black colonists thought if they lost, America would dominate Canada, which would ultimately result in the return of slavery.

Black Americans escaped slavery by immigrating to Upper Canada. They used various routes and safe houses called the “Underground Railway.” These people traveled hundreds of kilometres on foot. The Quaker and Methodist churches supported Black Americans escaping slavery. Their philosophy was that slavery was a sin against God and humankind. A Black activist named Harriet Tubman assisted hundreds of Black Americans escape through the Railway and safely enter Upper Canada. However, the utilization of the Underground Railway was highly dangerous. If one was caught, he/she would be severely punished, if not, killed.

Upper Canada was a refugee area for Black Americans, where slaves could have a new and free life. However, these people didn’t quite escape the racism and discrimination they faced in the States. Many Black immigrants weren’t respected as well as other races, and their descendants were not part of the government for a hundred years. Because of this racism, the black slaves lived in communities within communities, sometimes even just a few families in a miniature town. There were, however, some independent settlements, such as the one developed by Josiah Henson.

The Underground Railway was a network of "safe houses" along travel routes that led from the slave-holding American states to the free northern states and to Canada.

Regardless of the racism they faced, black slaves were located in every colony of British North America. The slaves who came during the Loyalist migration period generally settled in the Maritimes, where many of their descendants still live to this day. Governor James Douglas invited Black colonists to settle in British Columbia. They occupied land on Salt Spring Island and essentially everywhere else.

Some of the Black slaves living in Upper Canada became home sick, and reminisced their life before slavery in their homeland. A Loyalist named Richard Pierpoint, who settled near present-day St. Catharines, Ontario, wrote the following letter. Sadly, his request was rejected, but he was granted land. The community he founded would eventually become part of the Underground Railway.

Most humbly showeth,

That you Excellency’s Petitioner is a native Bondu in Africa: that at the age of Sixteen Years he wsa made a Prisoner and sold as a Slave: that he was conveyed to American about the year1760, and sold to a British office; that he served his Majesty during the American Revolution War in the Corps called Butler’s Rangers… That your Excellency’s Petitioner is now old and without property; that he finds it difficult to obtain a livelihood by his labour; that he is above all things desirous to return to his native Country: that his Majesty’s Government be graciously pleased to grant him any relifef; he wishes it might be affording him the means to proceed to England and from thence to a Settlement near the Gmabia or Senegal Rivers, from whence he could return to Bondu…

-York, Upper Canada, July 21, 1821

A strong and influential women during colonial Canada

In Upper Canada, women colonists considered themselves to be very significant and in large part according to their social class, which recognized their expectations, values, lifestyles, and beliefs. Successes or failures done by their father or husbands were considered also the women’s successes and failures.

The majority of the women in colonial society were married. Women didn’t generally own land or work outside their homes (e.g. physical labour); unmarried women and widows required financial support from relatives for food, clothing, shelter, etc.

The term “divorce” was foreign and unknown during colonial times, so selecting the correct partner was of great significance. It’s difficult to understand today how a good marriage gave woman a status in various ways. Intelligent and resourceful married women, such as Catherine Parr Traill, Marry Ann Shadd, Anna Jameson, and Mary

Marry O’Brien were busy with their husbands’ activities.

The importance of selecting the correct spouse was so high to families, that many social events included matchmaking. Romantic love was idealistic, but was considered of less important compared to friendship and duty. In the upper classes, the match between a man and a women had to be arranged with an “equal” or better. A man had the option of “marrying down,” but a woman was not allowed to do so because a wife receives the status of her husband.

No one in colonial Canada had time to “nothing;” there was too much work to be done. Even Mary O’Brien, an upper-class women, had many friends and in the government and spent time visiting them. Not only that, but she also helped run the farm, as can be seen by her diary recording:

In colonial society, work came first. This woman is baking bread in an outdoor oven.

It was very busy again til twelve o’clock, first in directing my old Yorkshire man how to cut up a fat pig which was slaughtered last night and then in assisting the old Irishwomen to salt and pack away the same. I value myself on being able to put more in a barrel then anyone else except Southby, though this part fo the business is usually province of a man.

Here is another quote by Mary O’Brien, demonstrating how busy colonial Canada was:

I had just finished the first stage of my cooking and was about to shift my character from cook to gentlewomen…

-Mary O’Brien, a colonist in York, Upper Canada

People don’t just want to leave their country and travel hundred of kilometres in harsh conditions for fun. At times, they are forced to, due to economical reasons, physical reasons (major storms), or other reasons that makes living in that particular nation difficult. Reasons as to why people left their nation and immigrate to another nation are known as push factors.

There were various countries in which people were leaving to immigrate to Canada. The following are the countries and their push factors:

A map of Europe, showing various countries where immigrants came from, such as Greece

Greece

  • Greece, at this time, was experiencing a civil war, and thus people wished to leave and settle elsewhere
  • Not only a civil war, but Greece went to war against Cypress, and once again, people seekedrefuge and immigrated to Canada
  • Diseases were rampant in this nation, particular the disease tuberculosis

Philippines

  • Economy was very poor at this nation, and jobs became very hard to keep or find
  • The Philippines were under the martial law of Marcos Government in 1965
  • This nation did now have any civil liberties (civil liberties are rights and freedoms that gives an individual specific rights, such as the right to live)
  • At this time, there was no freedom of press
  • There was a huge curfew in the Philippines
  • This nation lacked various rights and freedoms, which many hated very much, and thus wanted to leave and immigrate to Canada
  • Potential Philippino immigrants could not immigrate to Malaysia, the United States of America, Spain, or Indonesia due tovarious reasons, including: being at war with these countries or the fact that European countries are eurocentric

Honk Kong

  • The population in Hong Kong was booming and eventually this nation became very overpopulated so people decided to immigrate to a new country: Canada.
  • There were British tensions in this nation
  • The Honk Kong government was communist, and many didn’t like this, so they moved elsewhere (i.e. Canada)

Jamaica

  • The new political leader/regime they had was disliked by many

Austria

  • The conditions left after the Second World War was devastating; economy as well as the physical structure of this nation was left unrecognizable
  • Some believe people left this nation to escape the Soviet Union
  • There was political persecution in Austria
  • The amount of taxes that were demanded by Austrians became unbelievable after the Second World War; aggressive taxes
  • Trade unions in this nation became extremely powerful

Yugoslavia

  • There were violent protests in 1968
  • This nation became from rural to industrialized in a quick period of time, resulting in land that was used for farming to disappear
  • Yugoslavians were permitted to leave their nation, whereas the other Soviet Union nations couldn’t

Italy

  • The economy went downhill and became unrest
  • Italians believed their government didn’t represent them well and wished to move to another nation
  • It took a great period of time before all the states of Italy united to become one country (i.e. there were Northern Italians, Southern Italians, etc.)
  • Southern Italians immigrated to Canada because they had little wealth and believed with the land and the economic situation in Canada, they could start a new life

Portugal

  • This country faced much political trouble in the 1950s
  • There was a fascist government from 1932 to 1968; many disliked this form of government because of its unorganized form , as well as the fact that people got beat up

United States of America

  • Slavery was dominant in almost all the states, and thus Black Africans wanted to immigrate to Canada, where they could be free

    A map of the United States of America

Nations must make itself “attractive” if it wants to bring in more immigrants. Qualities that attract new immigrants to settle in a nation are referred to as pull factors.

Canada during 1895-1914 became quite attractive to many eyes of the Europeans. In my opinion, I believe the pull factors significantly outweigh the push factors of Canadian immigration. The first and foremost, the Dominion Lands Act was a powerful incentive for immigrants to come to Canada. Many believed this Act was their dreams come true. Under this Act, the Canadian Government gave free land, a quarter section, to new immigrants. The only catch was to pay a $10 fee and reside within the property for a minimum of 3 years. Europe, as mentioned in the Push Factors Post, became very overpopulated and land became very scarce. Land-wanting Europeans found this Act to be more than a good enough reason to immigrate to Canada.

The social and economic opportunities of Canada were much better than that of Europe’s, which is another pull factor. Canada had no social system that Europeans were required to follow in Europe. Instead, people in Canada had the freedom to move wherever they pleased, in addition to social freedom. In Europe, it was next to impossible to escalate in the social classes. However, in Canada, if you worked hard and had determination, there was a very high chance of you rising economically (i.e. wealth). Essentially, you are given opportunities to excel in Canada, whereas Europe you are given opportunities based on birth (i.e. born in a peasant family vs. born in a noble family). These immigrants had the right to vote (many were not permitted to vote in Europe). There was freedom of religion, in that they could practice their religion and culture.  In essence, Canada had much more freedom, socially and physically, than Europe.

Royal North West Mounted Police

Canadian Pacific Railway helped many to move from west to east and vice versa

Other pull factors were established by the Canadian Government itself. For instance, the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in November 1885 provided a gateway for immigrants from the west to travel to the east much more easily and faster, and vice versa. Not only, the government signed various treaties with the Aboriginal peoples and gave them land up North (reserves). This created much more land for new immigrants to come and settle. To establish a proper a low and order, particularly in the Prairies, in 1870s, Ottawa created the Royal North West Mounted Police.

Canadians, in the 1800s, committed various acts against the Chinese people living in their nation that demonstrated supremacy, racism and injustice; however, in the end, equality, amongst both “races” was established. In 1885, the Canadians government, pressured mostly by British Columbia, issued the Head Tax policy to reduce the number of Chinese immigrating to Canada. This worked, in that Chinese immigrants dropped from 8,000 in 1883 to 124 in 1887. However, in 1908, this tax became less of an obstacle and more and more Chines people started to immigrate, which enraged the white Canadians. During this time (after World War I), the economy turned for the worse, and the white people believed the Chinese were stealing jobs from them. Thus, in 1923, the Chinese Immigration Act was passed, which stopped Chinese immigration. There were strict laws and regulations upon which Chinese people living in Canada had to follow.

After 1871, British Columbia, along with Saskatchewan, became very anti-Chinese. They did not permit the Chinese to vote in their elections (includes the election of MPs); ironically, in some electoral districts, there were more Chinese than white people. Anti-Chinese behaviour and blaming the Chinese when the economy turned bad became ways of organizing migrants from Great Britain and Europe around the idea of “white supremacy.” Because the Chinese came to Canada alone (men who left their families back in China), the white people believed they should receive greater funds; Canadians always thought of the Chinese people of being inferior and less educated than the rest of them.

World War II

White people constantly physically and mentally abused the Chines people whenever and wherever they wished to do so. For instance, a mob of white men, in 1907, came into Chinatown and destroyed every single window there. During the Depression, the Chinese were provided much less funds than the white people, demonstrating both racism and injustice. There were some white people that befriended and saw the Chinese on par, but the majority disliked them heavily.

Nazism

However, things changed during the Second World War when Chinese Canadians fought alongside the Canadians and raised money in public campaigns for Canada’s war effort. After this war, Canadains witnesses the horrors of Nazi racism, and it was demanded in newspapers that the Canadian government treat its Chinese citizens as equals, and eventually, Chinese people were considered on par with white people.

These discriminatory regulations both hindered and helped immigrant communities. Because of the racist regulations, immigrant communities were less diverse; with less diversity, culture, language, music etc. was based upon only several ethnicities. Not only that, with these regulations in effect, voting was prohibited. In some electoral districts, as mentioned before, Chinese were the dominant population, and if they cant vote, the leaders would be voted through an un-democratic method. The leaders would be voted by white people, and thus, it was quite unlikely that those leaders would assist the Chinese in any possible. In fact, they might make their lives even harder. Lastly, with these racist regulations, Chinese families were separated. Many Chinese people had to leave their loved ones back in China and weren’t allowed to sponsor them until 1947. Families were cut, and some never saw each other again. On the contrary, these regulations forced the little number of Chinese people to rely and work collaboratively to make sustainable immigrant communities. By having stronger bonds with each other, the economy of these communities would be very good.

Jewish people being harassed by officers

Anti-semitism. What does that word mean? It refers to the hatred or racist belief against Jews and their practices and their beliefs. Jews, in the 1940s, were regarded with much disrespect and faced much racism by Canada. Mackenzie King was highly anti-Semitic, along with Frederick, the Immigration Officer. Due to such racist perspectives, Canada received the fewest number of Jews, in comparison to Australia and the United States. There were a number of reasons as to why Canada refused entry of Jews. Firstly, Canada was experiencing the era known as the Great Depression (1930s). During this period of time, Canada’s economy was atrocious. Wages and the availability of jobs were extremely low. People feared immigrants coming to Canada would steal their jobs and lower their wages. Having the anti-Semitic view already in effect, and government official selectively choosing their immigrants, Jews were the least accepted entry into Canada.

The refugee system of Canada, comprises certain rules and regulations that seem unfair and unjust. Someone’s eligibility to be registered under the “refugee status” is judged by officers, who then refer it to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The IRB then reviews the applicant’s request to determine if he/she can be given Convention refugee status or a person in need of protection. There are number of factors that can prevent someone from becoming a refugee. For instance, if another country considers a person a refugee, he/she will not receive a refugee status in Canada. Plus, if a person arrives through the Canada-US border, he/she will not receive refugee status because of the Safe Third Country Agreement. This Agreement describes people must seek asylum in the first safe country they arrive in, which we believe to be quite unfair where people are unable to move and still retain their refugee status.  If you have a criminal record of any sort, you will be rejected refugee status. In addition, if your previous refugee application was rejected, any other ones you will make will be automatically rejected by the officers or the IRB. This refugee system was not established back then during Mackenzie’s rule. Whether you were a Jew fleeing from Germany or a regular immigrant, you had the same requirements to enter Canada.

If any Jewish refugees travel across the US-Canada border, he/she loses her refugee status.

After the Second War II, Canada’s immigration system changed drastically. The first policy that was issued in regards to immigration was by Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s directive of May 1, 1947. This policy described how the Canadian government would regulate immigration by inviting those that wouldn’t alter Canada’s culture. In essence, the government approved of the concept of a melting pot, where all immigrants would have to dispose and discard all their language, religion, culture, music, etc. and become part of the English-speaking or French-speaking. This policy essentially makes it easier for the government to select immigrants from preferred ethnic groups which included British, American, and northwestern European people (the whitest people they can find). The Canadian government believed that these ethnic groups could be easily assimilated, for they were socially, culturally, and physically similar to the English ethnicity.

Canada discouraged the arrival of non-preferred ethnic groups, particularly those coming form oriental and Mediterranean countries. Regardless of the fact that the Chinese and Indians were able to sponsor relatives since January 1, 1947, Asians were highly discourage from immigrating until the 1960s. This “discouragement” can be witnessed by the small number of non-preferred  groups between the late 1940s and early 1960s. Not only Chinese or Indians, but the Canadian Government recognized the French nationals to be “non-preferred” until 1948, when PC 4186 allowed any citizen from France to immigrate to Canada as long as they had sufficient financial support until they found employment.

Germans were one of Canada’s most favorite immigrants, regardless of them being enemy alien after WWII. This displays how Canada was racist and ethnic based in its selection of immigrants. In fact, polls depicted that most Canadians would prefer the immigration of  Germany enemy aliens than Asians or Mediterranean. By 1952, to sustain and keep such racial preferences, the Canadian government essentially the erased the title “enemy aliens” against Italy and Germany.

At the end of World War II, European’s war victims were not permitted to immigrate to Canada. There were certain initiatives  introduced by the federal government, which included labour requirement and ethnic prejudices. Canadian government officials were very selective in terms of who to bring into their country. A medical and character examination must be passed before acceptance into Canada. In fact, in London, an RCMP post was issued just for these particular exams. Canadian officials rejected anyone that were suspected to have a communist belief, in addition to having peculiar physical traits, including handicaps, or weird political views.

The Citizenship Act of 1947 was passed by the Canadian government, in order to create Canadian citizenship independent of the British status. To obtain Canadian citizenship, the potential citizen must acquire admission to Canada legally, have 5 years residency in this nation before application, have evidence of a good person (characteristics), sufficient knowledge of either English or French (or 20 years of residence), sufficient knowledge of responsibilities and privileges of Canadian citizenship, and to state an oath-like statement to reside permanently in Canada. Rights and privileges for British subjects was integrated under this new Act. British subjects who had previously completed the 5 year residency mandate at the passage of the Act by default became Canadian citizens, and still had the right to vote and receive old age pensions. Until the 1980s, these rights of the British subjects were retained. Through this Act, receiving Canadian citizenship allowed Canadian citizens to sponsor relatives from Europe. Essentially, any citizen from Canada had the option, under this Act, of sponsoring relatives as long as he/she could ensure employment in mining, agriculture, and lumbering.

Displaced Person Camp

One of the main concern about the Canadian government, along with British, Austrian, and American governments, is what to do with the large population of DisplacedP

persons. Central, southern and eastern Europe and Baltic States were most of the refugees came from, where they were refused to or isn’t able to return to their homeland for political or economical reasons. Conditions in “DP” (displaced persons) camps were atrocious; previous allies and enemies, from ex-Nazis to Jews, had only some parts of “official” documentation to prove who they were, in terms of nationality, and what role they placed in the Second World War.

PC 3112 was passed on July 23, 1946, which was a policy established by the Canadian Orders in Council, supporting refugees and Displaced Persons. Through this policy, various European Displaced Persons were able to enter Canada. Amongst them, the first Displaced Persons to enter Canada were 4,000 single ex-members of the Polish Armed forces. These people were a member of the Allied Forced during World War II, and once they were in Canada, they served under the Canadian agricultural sector. Cheap labour for unskilled work, such as mining, lumber, and construction provided Croatian and Serbian refugees work in Canada. Furthermore, the Prime Minister, on November 7, 1946, announced that the government would commence emergency procedures to help with the settlement of refugees and Displaced Persons by collaborating with the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (IRO). Churches soon joined in this initiative to help these people, in that they organized various recruitment campaigns in European camps. Soon afterwards, in 1947, the Canadian Christian Council for the Resettlement of Refugees (CCCRR) was established through the coalition of six Canadian religious and ethnic organizations. The organization involved in the CCCRR included: the Catholic Immigrant Aid Society, German Baptist Colonization and Immigration Society, Canadian Lutheran Relief, Latvian Relief Fund of Canada, Canadian Mennonite Board of Colonization, and the Sudetan Committee.

Canada, however, did not always accept all the Displaced Persons. For instance, in Ottawa in the year of 1949, 18 Arab families were denied entrance to Canada simply because they seemed too alien and not “Canadian” enough. Not only that, Canada reluctantly

A group of Jewish people

allowed Jews, in that our nation accepted the least number of Jews, in comparison to the United States or Australia. Frederick Blair,

departmental secretary of the Department of Immigration and Colonisation, and Prime Minister Mackenzie King, in office until 1948, both had anti-Semitic views, which partially explains why Jews were rarely admitted to Canada. Less than 10% of immigrants to Canada were Jewish between 1947 and 1952.

Displayed Persons were permitted into Canada under the sponsored labour scheme, which mandated them to sign a contract agreeing that they would work in fields of either farming, mining, domestic service, railway work, or other forms of manual labour for at least 2 years. Another scheme they could come to Canada was the close relative scheme, in that Canadian citizens were able to sponsor their close relative who were in Europe. Female Displaced Persons were only permitted to come to Canada as domestic contract workers between the years 1947 and 1952.