A hundred years of immigration to Canada 1900 - 1999 (Part 2)


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1950 The Department of Citizenship and Immigration was formed.
June 1950 Order in council issued replacing previous measures on immigration selection. The preference was maintained for British, Irish, French and U.S. immigrants. The categories of admissible European immigrants were expanded to include healthy applicants of good character with skills and who could readily integrate. The order gave wide discretion for refusals and Blacks continued to be for the most part excluded.
1950 Germans were removed from the categories of "enemy aliens".
1951 Census. Of the population of 14,009,429, 14.7% were immigrants (i.e. born outside Canada). 47% of immigrants were female, 80% had been in Canada for more than 10 years and 29% lived in rural localities. 44% of immigrants were born in the United Kingdom, 13.7% in the U.S., 9% in the USSR and 8% in Ireland. There were 37,145 immigrants from "Asiatic countries", of whom 24,166 were from China. In terms of origins, of the total population, 48% had origins in the British Isles, 31% in France and 4% in Germany. There were 18,020 "Negroes" reported (fewer than in the 1921, 1931 and 1941 censuses). 97% of the population was of European origin.
Feb. 1951 An interest-free Assisted Passage Loan Scheme was created, restricted to immigrants from Europe.
1951 Agreements were signed with the governments of India, Pakistan and Ceylon by which Canada agreed to allow in certain numbers of their citizens (over and above those eligible under the rules for "Asiatics").
1951 The Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was adopted. Canada did not become a signatory because the RCMP feared that it would restrict Canada's ability to deport refugees on security grounds.
1952 A new Immigration Act was passed, less than a month after it was introduced in the House (it came into effect 1 June 1953). This Act, which did not make substantial changes to immigration policy, gave the Minister and officials substantial powers over selection, admission and deportation. It provided for the refusal of admission on the grounds of nationality, ethnic group, geographical area of origin, peculiar customs, habits and modes of life, unsuitability with regard to the climate, probable inability to become readily assimilated, etc. Homosexuals, drug addicts and drug traffickers were added to the prohibited classes. The Act provided for immigration appeal boards, made up of department officials, to hear appeals from deportation.
1953 The Approved Church Program was set up, giving four groups power to select and process immigrants. Tensions ensued, partly because the groups favoured the most desperate refugees, while the Department was looking for labourers. The groups' privileged status was revoked in 1958 through a departmental directive.
1954 Report of a Canadian Bar Association sub-committee criticized the arbitrary exercise of power by immigration officials and called for a quasi-judicial Immigration Appeals Board.
1956 The Supreme Court ruled in Brent that the discretion given immigration officials under the regulations exceeded the provisions of the Immigration Act. As a result, an Order in Council was issued dividing countries into categories of preferred status.
Nov. 1956 The crushing of the Hungarian uprising led to over 200,000 Hungarians fleeing to Austria. In response to public pressure, the Canadian government implemented a special program with free passage. Thousands of Hungarians arrived in the early months of 1957 on over 200 chartered flights. More than 37,000 Hungarians were admitted in less than a year.
1957 In the federal election campaign, John Diefenbaker promised his government would develop a vigorous immigration policy and overhaul the Immigration Act.
1957 The backlog of sponsored cases in the Rome office had reached 52,000.
1958 It was decided that prospective immigrants must apply from their own country.
March 1959 The government restricted admission of family members, in a measure particularly aimed at curbing immigration of Italian family members. The measure met with loud protests and was rescinded a month later.
Fall 1959 In the Speech from the Throne, the government promised a new immigration act. However, plans were changed due to fears that getting the act through Parliament would be difficult.
1959-60 World Refugee Year. Canada admitted 325 tubercular refugees and their families (the first time that Canada had waived its health requirements for refugees).
1960 Prime Minister John Diefenbaker introduced the Bill of Rights.
1 July 1960 The Chinese Adjustment Statement Program was announced. The program included measures to curtail illegal entry of Chinese and to land Chinese in Canada without legal status. The initiative followed on the crackdown of a large-scale illegal immigration scheme, involving "paper families". The amnesty program continued throughout the 1960s - by July 1970, 11,569 Chinese had normalized their status.
1961 Census. Of the Canadian population of 18,238,247, 15.6% (2,844,263) were immigrants (i.e. born outside Canada). 48% of the immigrant population was female (but 52% of immigrants from the UK, 54% of those from the U.S. and only 38% of those from "Asiatic countries"). 58% of immigrants had been in Canada for 10 years or more. 34% of immigrants were from the UK, 51% from other European countries (Italy by itself represented 9%), 10% from the U.S., 2% from "Asiatic countries", 0.6% from "other countries" (which includes all of Africa apart from South Africa). 63% of immigrants were Canadian citizens. In terms of "ethnic origins", 43.8% were from the British Isles, 30.4% French, 5.8% German, 2.6% Ukrainian and 2.5% Italian. There were 121,753 "Asiatics" (0.7%). 96.8% of the population was European.
1961 71,689 immigrants arrived - the lowest level since 1947, and a reflection of the economic recession.
Feb. 1962 Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Ellen Fairclough implemented new Immigration Regulations that removed most racial discrimination, although Europeans retained the right to sponsor a wider range of relatives than others.
Nov. 1962 Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Richard Bell suggested that immigration should be at the rate of 1% of the population. Despite high levels of unemployment, immigration was increased.
1966 The Assisted Passage Loan Scheme, originally for immigrants from Europe only, was extended to Caribbeans.
Oct. 1966 A white paper was tabled, recommending an immigration policy that was "expansionist, non-discriminatory, and balanced in reconciling the claims of family relationship with the economic interest of Canada". The paper began: "There is a general awareness among Canadians that the present Immigration Act no longer serves national needs adequately, but there is no consensus on the remedy". Evidently no consensus was found, since the white paper did not lead to a new Act.
1967 Interest began to be charged on loans under the Assisted Passage Loan Scheme.
Oct. 1967 The points system was incorporated into the Immigration Regulations. The last element of racial discrimination was eliminated. The sponsored family class was reduced. Visitors were given the right to apply for immigrant status while in Canada.
Nov. 1967 The Immigration Appeal Board Act was passed, giving anyone ordered deported the right to appeal to the Immigration Appeal Board, on grounds of law or compassion.
1967 8 provincial governments agreed to participate in bringing 50 handicapped refugees into Canada, largely tubercular cases.
August 1968 Warsaw Pact troops enter Czechoslovakia. 10,975 Czechs entered Canada between August 20, 1968 and March 1, 1969. According to the departmental annual report, "[m]any Canadian organizations, universities and provincial and municipal agencies assisted in the settlement of the refugees. Without this surge of public and private cooperation, the task would have been immeasurably more difficult".
1968 Biafrans in Canada were allowed to extend their stay.
4 June 1969 Canada acceded to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol.
1969 A hostel for draft dodgers and deserters from the U.S. was raided 10 times - possibly the result of RCMP-FBI cooperation in the return of deserters to the U.S.
1 April 1970 The Assisted Passage Loan Scheme, previously restricted to Europeans and then Caribbeans, became available worldwide. The interest rate was 6% annually.
1970 The number of people applying for immigration status after entering Canada had "exceeded expectations" and led to a backlog. There were about 8,000 applications in 1967, 28,000 in 1969 and 31,000 in 1970. Delays in processing caused problems for the individuals as they did not have the right to work while awaiting processing. Those refused could apply to the Immigration Appeals Board, leading to the development of a three-year backlog.
1970 Immigration from Asia and the Caribbean represented over 23% of the total, compared with 10% four years previously.
1970 Following Canada's signing of the Refugee Convention, refugee selection became an issue. According the immigration department's annual report: "under our resettlement program, refugees considered capable of successful establishment may be selected regardless of their inability to meet immigration assessment norms". Visa officers took into account resources available from the department and from Canadian organizations and citizens.
1970 First 92 of a group of Tibetan refugees settled in Alberta, Ontario and Québec.
1971 Census. Of the population of 21,568,310, 15.3% (3,295,530) were immigrants (i.e. born outside Canada). 68% of immigrants had been in Canada for 10 years or more. 49.7% of immigrants were female. 12% of immigrants lived in rural areas (compared to 26% of people born in Canada). 79% of immigrants were born in Europe (28% in the UK, 12% in Italy, 6% in Germany, 5% each in Poland and the USSR). "Asiatic countries" were the birthplace for under 4% of immigrants. All African countries are grouped under "other countries" (2% of immigrants). In terms of "ethnic group", 44.6% were from the British Isles, 28.7% French, 6% German, 3.4% Italian, and 2.7% Ukrainian. There were 118,815 Chinese, 67,925 "East Indian", 37,260 Japanese, 34,445 "Negro", 28,025 West Indian and 26,665 "Syrian-Lebanese". 97% of the population was of European origin.
1971-72 The U.S. was the largest source country of immigration, in part because of the large numbers (possibly 30,000-40,000) of draft dodgers and deserters unwilling to fight in Vietnam who found refuge in Canada.
1971 The federal government announced its policy of multiculturalism.
1972 The 10 millionth immigrant since Confederation was celebrated. It was reportedly British psychiatrist Dr Richard Swinson "and his family".
June 1972 An administrative program was announced to reduce the Immigration Appeal Board backlog. By March 1973, 18,500 cases had been reviewed, and nearly 12,000 received a positive response.
August 1972 The Ugandan president announced his intention of expelling Ugandan Asians by November 8, 1972. Canada responded swiftly to an appeal from the UK to take some of these Ugandans (by September 5, a Canadian team of officers had set up office in Kampala), but initially insisted that the applicants meet the usual immigration criteria. However, as the deadline approached, they did allow some relaxation of requirements. By the end of 1973, more than 7,000 Ugandan Asians had arrived, of whom 4,420 came in specially chartered flights.
Nov. 1972 The right to apply for immigrant status while in Canada was revoked.
1973 A Settlement Branch was created within the Department of Manpower and Immigration.
July 1973 Assent was given to amendments to the Immigration Appeal Board Act. The universal right of appeal from a deportation order was abolished and provisions were made to clear up the backlog. Appeals from deportation orders were limited to landed immigrants, people arriving at the border who had been issued a visa overseas and "bona fide refugees". Persons in Canada since 30 November 1972 were given 60 days to apply for adjustment of status. More than 39,000 people from over 150 countries obtained immigrant status.
Sept. 1973 Overthrow of Allende government in Chile. Groups in Canada, particularly the churches, urged the government to offer protection to those being persecuted. In contrast to the rapid processing of Czechs and Ugandan Asians, the Canadian government response to the Chileans was slow and reluctant (long delays in security screenings were a particular problem). Critics charged that the lukewarm Canadian response was ideologically driven. By February 1975, 1188 refugees from Chile had arrived in Canada.
Sept. 1973 The government formed a special task force to study all policy options in immigration.
Oct. 1973 Following a visit by Prime Minister Trudeau to China, an agreement was reached allowing Canada to process applications for family reunification within China.
1974 The federal government launched the Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program (ISAP) through which funding for settlement services is provided.
1975 A Green Paper was released and a Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons created to study it. It conducted consultations over 35 weeks and held nearly 50 public hearings in 21 cities.
1976 To respond to the civil war in Lebanon, special measures were announced for Lebanese. By 1979, 11,010 immigrant visas had been issued. Additional measures were introduced in 1982 following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
Nov. 1976 New Immigration Bill tabled.
Feb. 1977 First meeting of the Standing Conference of Canadian Organizations Concerned for Refugees which became in 1986 the Canadian Council for Refugees.
Feb. 1978 Immigration agreements were signed between the federal government and Québec and Nova Scotia. The former, the Cullen-Couture agreement, gave Québec the power to select its own independent immigrants (subject to medical, criminality and security screening by the federal government).
April 1978 The new Immigration Act came into effect. It identified objectives for the immigration program and forced the government to plan for the future, in consultation with the provinces. Immigrants were divided into four categories: independents, family, assisted relatives and humanitarian. The Refugee Status Advisory Committee was created. The "prohibited" categories were replaced with "inadmissible" categories, among which were no longer to be found epileptics, imbeciles, persons guilty of crimes of moral turpitude, homosexuals and people with tuberculosis. Deputy Minister Allan Gotlieb described the legislation as "a beautiful piece of work - logical, well-constructed, liberal, and workable". The accompanying Immigration Regulations revised the points system and created the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.
Jan. 1979 Three designated classes were created by regulation: the Indochinese, the Latin American Political Prisoners and Oppressed Persons and the East European Self-Exiled Persons. The classes facilitated the resettlement to Canada of people who met the criteria.
1979-80 60,000 refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were resettled in Canada. Responding to media reports of the "boatpeople", thousands of Canadians came forward, giving a dramatic launch to the new refugee private sponsorship program. Popular pressure forced the government to adjust upwards its initial commitment to resettling the refugees. For the years 1978-81, refugees made up 25% of all immigrants to Canada.
1981 Census. Of the total population of 24,083,500, 16% were immigrants (i.e. born outside Canada). 51% of immigrants were female. 67% of immigrants were born in Europe, 14% in Asia, 8.5% in North or Central America, 4.5% in the Caribbean, and 2.7% in Africa. Females made up 47% of those born in Italy, 48% of those born in Africa, 51% of those born in China, 53% of those born in North or Central America, 55% of those born in the Caribbean, and 58% of those born in the Philippines. 66% of immigrants had been in Canada for at least 11 years. 11% of immigrants lived in rural areas (compared to 27% of the total Canadian population). 69% of immigrants were Canadian citizens. In terms of ethnic origins, 92% of the population declared a single ethnic origin. 86% of population had a single European ethnic origin (40% British, 27% French). "Asia and Africa" (listed as a single entry) accounted for 3%, "Far East Asia" 1.7%, "North and South America" 2%.
1981 The Foreign Domestic Workers Program was introduced. Those admitted came on a temporary contract, but could apply for permanent residence after 2 years in Canada.
March 1981 Special measures were created for Salvadorans (expanded in 1982 to include Salvadorans in the U.S.)
Nov. 1981 The report of the Task Force on Immigration Practices and Procedures, Refugee Status Determination Process, (the "Robinson Report") was submitted to the Minister of Employment and Immigration. This was the first in a series of such reports on the refugee determination system: the "Ratushny Report" followed in 1984 and the "Plaut Report" in 1985.
Nov. 1982 Poland was added to the countries for the Political Prisoners and Oppressed Persons class, in response to the suppression of the Solidarity movement.
1983 Following the Colombo riots, Canada imposed a visa requirement on Sri Lankans and relaxed landing requirements for some in Canada.
1984 The Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act transferred responsibility for security aspects of immigration from RCMP to the newly created CSIS.
4 April 1985 The Supreme Court of Canada rendered the Singh decision, in which it recognized that refugee claimants are entitled to fundamental justice. The court ruled that this would normally require an oral hearing in the refugee status determination process.
1985 Extra positions on the Immigration Appeal Board were created to adjudicate refugee claims, now that refugee claimants had to be given an oral hearing.
1986 The people of Canada were awarded the Nansen medal by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in "recognition of their major and sustained contribution to the cause of refugees".
1986 An administrative review program was instituted for all refugee claimants in Canada before 21 May 1986, to address the backlog in the refugee determination system. 85% of the 28,000 applicants were accepted.
Feb. 1987 Measures were instituted turning back refugee claimants arriving from the U.S. They were made to wait for processing in the U.S.
May 1987 Bill C-55 was tabled. The bill completely revised the refugee determination system, creating the Immigration and Refugee Board. It proposed a two-stage process, with a "credible basis" screening. It also provided for refugee claimants to be excluded from the process if they had passed through a "safe third country". The credible basis test and the safe third country rule were among the aspects of the bill that were vigorously opposed by refugee advocates.
July 1987 A group of Sikhs landed in Nova Scotia and claimed refugee status. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney issued an emergency recall of Parliament for the tabling of Bill C-84, the Refugee Deterrents and Detention Bill. Despite the so-called emergency, the draconian bill was not passed for a full year.
1988 Regulations were changed to allow the sponsorship of unmarried children of any age (previously only children under 21 years were eligible).
Dec. 1988 Minister of Employment and Immigration Barbara McDougall announced that no countries would be designated "safe third countries". A special program was announced for the over 100,000 refugee claimants in the backlog as of December 31, 1988. The program was supposed to last two years, but took much longer, keeping refugees in limbo and separated from their families for years.
1 Jan. 1989 Bills C-55 and C-84 came into effect, introducing many changes to immigration law, a new refugee determination system and the Immigration and Refugee Board.
June 1989 Following the Tiananmen Square massacre, the government relaxed requirements for Chinese in Canada. About 8,000 acquired permanent residence, but others languished for years in limbo.
1990 The East European Self-Exiled Class was eliminated following the fall of the Iron Curtain. The Indochinese designated class was amended to require screening of newer arrivals, in consequence of the Comprehensive Plan of Action.
1990 The government unveiled its Five Year Plan for immigration, proposing an increase in total immigration from 200,000 in 1990 to 250,000 in 1992. The long-term commitment to planned immigration was new in Canadian history, as was the proposal to increase immigration at a time of economic recession.
1991 Census. Of the total population of 26,994,045, 16% (4,342,890) were immigrants (i.e. born outside Canada). 51% of immigrants were female. (57% of immigrants from U.S., 56% of Caribbean immigrants, but only 46% of African immigrants.) 72% of immigrants had been in Canada more than 10 years. 54% of immigrants were born in Europe, 25% in Asia, 6% in U.S., 5% in the Caribbean and 4% in Africa. While 32% of the total population lived in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver, 57% of the immigrant population did. 81% of immigrants eligible to become Canadian citizens had done so. 71% of the total population declared a single ethnic origin (66% gave a single European origin, while Asian, Arab and African single origins together made up 6%).
1991 A new Québec-Canada Accord came into effect, giving Québec sole responsibility for the selection of independent immigrants and the administration of all settlement services in the province.
1992 Sponsorship of children was restricted to children under 19 or dependent children.
June 1992 Bill C-86 was tabled. The bill proposed revisions to the refugee determination system, mostly restrictive. The first level screening process with the credible basis test was abandoned and "eligibility" determinations transferred in part to immigration officers. Other measures proposed were fingerprinting, harsher detention provisions and making refugee hearings open to the public (these were amended as the bill passed through Parliament). New grounds of inadmissibility were added. The bill also included a provision requiring Convention Refugees applying for landing in Canada to have a passport, valid travel document or "other satisfactory identity document".
Jan. 1993 Amendments to the Immigration Regulations cancelled the sponsorship required for "assisted relatives" and reduced the points awarded them, making it more difficult for family members (other than nuclear family) to immigrate to Canada.
1993 The Post-Determination Refugee Claimant in Canada Class (PDRCC) was created by regulation. It codified a previously existing and rather informal risk review, first instituted in 1989 for refused refugee claimants. The class has been described as a "highly sophisticated, special class designed to apply to almost no one" (Davis/Waldman).
Feb. 1993 Bill C-86 came into effect.
March 1993 The Chairperson of the Immigration and Refugee Board issued Guidelines on Women Refugee Claimants fearing Gender-related Persecution. Canada was the first country in the world to issue such guidelines. Non-governmental organizations including the Canadian Council for Refugees were active in drawing attention to the need for gender sensitivity.
June 1993 Prime Minister Kim Campbell transferred immigration to the newly created Department of Public Security, a move that was widely and bitterly denounced by the Canadian Council for Refugees and many other organizations.
1993 The newly elected Liberal government transferred the immigration department to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
July 1994 The Deferred Removal Orders Class (DROC) was announced, allowing applications for landing from refused refugee claimants who had not been removed after 3 years, subject to certain conditions. The Class was particularly aimed at resolving the situation of over 4,500 Chinese claimants waiting in limbo. At the same time the government announced that it would restart removals to China.
Fall 1994 Announcement of lowering of immigration levels and shift away from family reunification.
Feb. 1995 As part of the federal budget, the government imposed the Right of Landing Fee, widely known as the Head Tax. The fee of $975 applied to all adults, including refugees, becoming permanent residents. The Canadian Council for Refugees was among the organizations most active in opposing the "head tax" as discriminatory, and as a particular burden on refugees. In February 2000, the government rescinded the Right of Landing Fee for refugees, but maintained it for immigrants.
March 1995 The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Sergio Marchi, announced the creation of an advisory committee to review candidates for appointment to the Immigration and Refugee Board, in response to persistent criticisms about the quality of board members.
July 1995 Bill C-44 (the "Just Desserts" bill) was enacted. It restricted access to appeal for permanent residents facing deportation, among other measures aimed against criminality.
Jan. 1997 The government introduced the Undocumented Convention Refugees in Canada Class (UCRCC), offering a means for some refugees with "unsatisfactory" ID to become permanent residents, but imposing a five year wait from refugee determination. The Class was limited to Somalis and Afghans.
May 1997 The government introduced the Humanitarian Designated Classes, expanding the categories of people eligible for resettlement. The Country of Asylum Class provided a refugee-like definition broader than the Convention Refugee definition (but those resettled must have a private sponsor). The Source Country Class provided for the resettlement of persecuted people who are still in the home country, but only if the country is on a published list (the initial list consisted of El Salvador, Guatemala, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Sudan).
Jan. 1998 The report of the Legislative Review Advisory Group ("Not Just Numbers") was released. The three-person advisory group, chaired by Robert Trempe, had been commissioned by the Minister to come up with proposals for a new Immigration Act. The Minister, Lucienne Robillard, conducted a short but intensive consultation on the report, whose wide-ranging recommendations were generally unpopular. Mme Robillard maintained that she wanted to table legislation by the end of the year.
Feb. 1998 The Canadian government announced that negotiations with the U.S. of a Memorandum of Agreement on refugee claim determination were abandoned. The Agreement would have led to the U.S. being declared a "safe third country", and was vigorously opposed by the Canadian Council for Refugees and other refugee advocates on both sides of the border.
1998 The governments of British Columbia and Manitoba signed agreements with the federal government giving these provinces responsibility for the administration of settlement services.
Jan. 1999 A White Paper, Building on a Strong Foundation for the 21st Century, was released. The Minister again said she planned to table legislation by the end of the year. The White Paper proposals were more modest than the "Trempe report" recommendations, but would nonetheless significantly change Canada's immigration legislation.
April 1999 Canada accepted an appeal from the UNHCR for countries to evacuate Kosovar refugees from Macedonia, offering to take 5,000 (for two years, and with an option for them to apply for permanent residence). On arrival in Canada, the refugees were initially housed in military bases before being resettled throughout the country. The response - from the public, governments, private sponsors, settlement organizations and the community in general - was phenomenal. In addition to the 5,000, the Canadian government moved quickly to resettle refugees with family links in Canada or with special needs.
July 1999 A boat with 123 Chinese passengers arrived off the West Coast - the first of 4 such boats to arrive over the summer. The public response was virulently hostile. Most of the Chinese were kept in long-term detention and some were irregularly prevented from making refugee claims - problems highlighted by the Canadian Council for Refugees.


Researched and written by:

Janet Dench, Executive Director, Canadian Council for Refugees


Canada's Refugee Policy: Indifference or Opportunism?, Gerald Dirks, 1977

Critical Years in Immigration: Canada and Australia Compared, Freda Hawkins, 1989

The Making of the Mosaic: A History of Canadian Immigration Policy, Ninette Kelly and Michael Trebilcock, 1998

Strangers at our Gates, Valerie Knowles, 1992

Whence they came: Deportation from Canada, 1900-1935, Barbara Roberts, 1988

Immigration to Canada: Historical Perspectives, ed. Gerald Tulchinsky, 1994

Government documents

CCR files