** Canadian immigration

Canadian Immigration

Figure 1.--The Scotts are one of the many immigrant groups that have made an important contribution to Canada. The back of the photograp hear reads, "Winners at the dance Clan MacClan, Bowen Island, Vancouver, BC Jully 22 - 1922".

Canada like America is a nation of immigrants. Unfortunately I do not yet have much information on Canadian immigration. There are people from every European country, but also many from the Middle East, India, China, Vietnam, etc. Many of the groups that came to America also went to Canada. There are, however, differences in the ethnic mix. The most substantial difference is the French who founded Canada, but never emigrated in large numbers to America. The most important groups after the French are the English and Scotts. Other European groups greatly expanded the ethnic mix in the late 19th century. We do not yet have detailed information on the Canadian pattern, but this is a topic we hope to persue.

Dominion Lands Act (1872)

Canada had legislation like the American Homsteading Act. It was the Dominion Lands Act (1872). THe Act granted a quarter section of free land (160 acres or 64.7 hectares) to a settler of at least 21 years of age. All that was required was a $0 registration fee. The homesteader had to live on his quarter section for 3 years during which time he cultivated at least 30 acres (12.1 hectares) and built a permanent home.

Sir Clifford Sifton

Sir Clifford Sifton was the single most important individual in shaping Canadoan immigrtion policy. He served as Minister of Interior (1896-1905). It was Sifton who organized an Immigration Branch within the Ministry of Interior. Before Sifton Canada had no real immigration policy. The Dominion basically just accepted or rejected who arrived at Canadian ports. Sifton took it as his mission to begin filling the still largely empty western prarie provinces. He promoted the massive massive immigration to Canada which occurred during the first decade of the 20th century. His theory was to encourage the immigration of farmers. He reasoned that once agriculture was developed than industry and commerce would follow without further immigration. Sifton wanted farmers from the United States, Britain and — controversially — east-central Europe. English-speaking natavists saw eastern and central Europeans as a cultural threat. There were similar views in America. Sifton defended his policies with comments like the 'stalwart peasants in sheep-skin coats' converting areas of the West into productive farms. Huge numbers were onvolved given Canada's small population. The annual number of immigrants entering Canada rose from 16,835 to 141,465 (1896-1905). Groups considered to be a non-agricultural immigrants (southern Europeans, Blacks, British urbanites, East Asians) was discouraged. There was also a racial element here. A complication here was British Empire policy. All members of the British Empires had the right to travel to and live in any country of the Empire, which included Canada.

Orders in Council (1908)

The Canadian Government was primarily interested in attracting white European immigrants. As apart of the British Empire, it was legally mandated to allow other members of the Empire to enter. The Government issued two orders-in-council to restrict immigration from non-European countries, most colonies at the time (1908). the primary concern at the time was Asians meanning Indians who as members of the British Empire were legally entitled to enter Canada. One of the Orders required that Indian immigrants begin their journey in India and come directly to Canada. The Government accompoanied this Oerder with efforts to discouraged shipping companies from offering direct fares from India to Canada. The second Order mandated that immigrants possess $200. This was a substantial sum and effectively excluded many potential immigrants. The imapct of these Orders effectively put an end to Indian immigration.

Native People

The native people in Canada are called the First Nations. Native people were denied the right to vote by the British Columbia Qualifications of Voters Act.

National Groups

Canada like America is a nation of immigrants. Unfortunately, we do not yet have much information on Canadian immigration. Many of the groups that came to America also went to Canada. There are, however, differences in the ethnic mix. And of course America did not have a substantial French base. We do not yet have detailed information on the Canadian pattern, but this is a topic we hope to persue. Hopefully our Canadian readers will provide insights to add to our understanding of the Canadian ethnic mix.


We note Orthodox Christians emigrating to Canada in the late 19th and early 20th century from the eastern part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was a multiethnic empire. As a result many ethnic grops before Wiorld War I migrated from the Empire.


Chinese immigration to America began with the discovery of gold in California and fr many yeas was cnfined to that state. The Chinese played a major role in building the Western railroads. They were subjected to discriminatory legislation. We know lottle about Chinese immigration in Canada. We believe that as in America it was primarily concentrated in the west coast, meaning British Colombia. Chinese immigration followed the same pattern in Canada as in America. It was also gold that attracted Chinese immigrants to Canada. After gold feaver hd abated in California, some Chinese miners traveled from San Francisco to British Cololbia (1858). The joined the trek northwood along the Fraser River. Chinese people also arrived directly from Canada, especially Guangdong province (southern China). These Chinese miners established the first continuous Chinese community in Canada. The Chinese were denied the right to vote British Columbia Qualifications of Voters Act (1872). The British Columbia provincial government banned Chinese in construction projects financed by the provincial government (1878). Chinese laborors played a major role in the construction of the western section of the Canadian Pacific Railway (1880-85).



Canada was first settled by the French as New Canada. As far as we know, Canada is the only country outside of Algeria and to a lesser extent Tunisia where large numbers of French collonists settled. Britain seized Canad during the French and Indian War (1759). Canada after the English victory was largely cut off from France. Most French Candians today can trace their ancestry back to New France. While many Europeand emigrated to Canada during the 19h and early-20th centuries, very few were French.


After the British and French the Germans are the largest ethnic group in Canada. They started coming to Canada in 1750 where they founded Lunenburg in Nova Scotia. Many German-speaking immigrants from Pennsylvania followed and settled in Ontario. In the 19th century waves of German immigrants arrived from Germany. One German community was Berlin, southwest of Toronto,aboyt 80 percent of the residents were German. The name was changed to Kitchener during World War I. When the prairie provinces opened up to the settlers scores of German-speaking Mennonites bought land in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. as a result, for a giomecin the 1880s, most 'Germans' in Manitoba were actually born in Russia and Poland.

Indians (Asians)

The Canadian population was almost entirely white European and a small Native American population. Asians began arriving (late-19th century). The first arricals were Chinese, related to the American California Gold rush. They came in realatively small numbers and the Canadian Giovernment had a legal right to exclude them. Indians also began arriving (early-1900s). And as members of the British Empire had a legal right to enter other Empire countries, includung Canada. The Canadian Government at the time did not have a legal right to excludde them. This mostly occurred in Canada's Pacific coast province--British Colombia. This was an economic migration. The Indians wanted to improve their circumstamce beyomd what was possible in India at the time. These immigrants were almost entirely young men, in some cases married men. They found jobs in agriculture, fishing, and forestry. Their plans were both to earn a bankroll and return to India or to settle in Canada and then bring their families over when they had sufficient funds to support them. There were jobs for these men. Employers in the resource industries were anxious to find hard-working, cheap labor. The general public and the labor unions did not want these workers in Canada, both racial and labor competition issues were involved. The Asiatic Exclusion League was organized in Vancouver (1907). There were some attacks on Indian workers. The Government reacted with two Orders in Council which effectively stopped Indian immigration (1908). One Gurdit Singh, an Indian businessman, decided to challenge the Canadian Orders-inCouncil. He chartered the Komagata Mary and sailed from Hong Kong to Vancouver with 375 Indians, mostly Sikhs (1914). The ship arrived in Vancouver ( May 23, 1914). Immigration officials refused the Indians entry and they were essenyially prisoners on the ship for 2 months. Lawyers, politicians, and immigration officials argued the the case. The ship was forced to return to India. All of this was closely followed in India, adding to the ferment for Indian independence. There was violence when the ship reached India. They were met by British police. The British tried to send them directly to the Punjab, where the Sikhs were concentrated. A riot ensued. Some 20 Indians were killed and more injured. The police arrested hundreds. Canada would not grant Indo-Canadaians the right to vote until (1947). Tht was the same vyear that India achieved indeoendence. The Indian government created a memorial to the Komagata Maru 'martyrs' near the Budge Budge (1952). Canada made fundamental changes to its immigration policy (1967). And Indian immigrants again became coming to Canada. The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia unanimously passed a resolution declaring 'that this Legislature apologizes for the events of May 23, 1914, when 376 passengers of the Komagata Maru, stationed off Vancouver harbour, were denied entry by Canada. The House deeply regrets that the passengers, who sought refuge in our country and our province, were turned away without benefit of the fair and impartial treatment befitting a society where people of all cultures are welcomed and accepted." (May 23, 2008).


There was Irish immogration to Canada, but we believe that it was less important than to America. We believe this was in part beause of animosity to the British and Canada was a British Dominion. br>



We know little about Jews in Canada. We believe that they were less important than in America, but this is a topic we need to explore. We are not positive if this was the case or if so why. The Jews that did emigrate to Canada, as in America, came primarily from Tsarist Russia and Russian controlled Poland. Ukranian immigration ws especially important in Canada We note one Jewish immigrant family in the 1910s. Canada like most other countries restricted Jewish immgration after the rise of the NAZIs. Canada like 31 other countries participated in the Evian Conference which was held to address the problem of Jews attempting to find refuge from NAZI oppression (1938). Canada, a huge lightly populsted country, refused to offere any additional level of Jewish immigration. Just before the War, both Canada and Amrica refused to allow Jewish refugees aboard the SS St. Louis to land (1939). The ship was fiorced back to the Netherlands which was soon overrun by the Germans (May 1940). Canada during the War accepted only about 5,000 Jews. A very small number given the country's ability to accimodate refugees. Canada played a very important part in the Allied Workd War II victory, loyally supporting Britain during the War and assiting in the liberation of France and the Low Countries. This of course saved countless Jewish lives. A Canadian reader tells us that during the War, German Jewish civilians were interned in the same camps as Axis POWs. There are report that after the War, the Canadian Government made it difficult for Jewish refugees who survived the Holocaust to enter Canada. Some Jewish refugees were admotted. The Canadian government issued the Order in Council #1647 granting permission for 1,000 Jewish war orphans to enter Canada (1947).


Of the 30 million Canadians 0.8 milliom are of Dutch descend. Most of them ware relatively recent immigrants, migrating to Canada after World War II. A factor here was thst lsrge areas of the Netherlands were liberated by the Canadians at the end of World War II. At the time the Dutch beyond the Rhine were starving as a result of what the Dutch refer to as the Hunger Winter. Many of the Dutch immigrants were farmers with large families, who were afraid of over-population in the Netherlands, leading to unemployment and not enough farmland. In 1952 alone 30.000 Dutch immigrants arrived in Canada.




A few Scotts arrived in what is now Canada when the English granted a charter for Nova Scotia (1621). The original colony was not very succesful and it was turned over to the French (1632). France had a long tradition as a Scottish ally. A few Scotts emigrated to what became New France, but not very many. A small group of Orkney Islanders were recruited by Hudson Bay Company which was heavily involved in the fur trade (1720s). The Scotts began arriving in Canada after the British seized the province from France in the French and Indian Wars, defeating the French at Montreal (1759). As a result of the Highland Clearances and the suppression of the Highland Clans after Culloden (1746), large numbers of destitute Scotts emmigrated to America and Canada. One province is even nammed for Scotland--Novascotia. An interesting observation here is that the Scotts who emigrated to America were staunchly anti-English (as were the Irish who came in the 19th century). The Scotts in Canada, however, do not seem to have had this same anti-English sentiment. A factor here was The anti-British Scotts-Irish from Ulster mostly emigrated at a time at which Canada was still a French colony and thus went mostly to the English colonies, many settling in the bacwoods. The American Revolution was another factor (1776-83). Not only did Scotts who supported the Crown seek refuge in Canada, but there was a natural division of sunsequent immigration. The more pro-British Scotts went to Canada while the more anti-British Scotts went to America. Almost all Canafdian Scotts arrived after Canada became British, most after tge american Revolution.


The Scotts-Irish (Ulster Scotts) are not as important in Canada as they were in America. A factor here is that Canada was still a French colony during the time that many of the Scotts-Irish emigrated to America (18th century). Many settled in the backwoods areas which became Patriot strongholds during the Revolutionary War. They played a major role in the defeat of Britain's southern army. We have noty yet found much informationbout the Scotts Irish in Canada.

(The) Ukraians

The Ukrainians are the fourth largest ethnic group in Canada. They arrived at the end of the 19th century, the largest wave in 1905. Many settled in Saskatchewan, perhaps because of the similarities with the Ukraine. Most were Christians. Ghere was a large Jewish population on the Ukraine. Relatively few Ukranian Jews emigrated, however, for reasons we do not fully understand. A Canadian reader tells us how his grandfather reached Canada. "It is an incredible story of my grandfather's trip to Canada. He was from the Ukraine and he was in the Russian Tsarist army stationed in Crimea. When he and some close fellow soldiers realized that a war was probably going to involve them, they deserted not wanting to die for the Tsar who was controlling Ukraine like it was a part of Russia. He and seven other soldiers built a raft and swam and paddled across part of the Black Sea to get to Turkey where he was first imprisoned. The Turks thought that they were Russian spies. After a few months he got released and with the little bit of cash he had he found the first boat to the Americas which ended up here in Canada. The ship landed them at a town called Three Rivers now known by it's French name, Trois Rivieres, which is a bit east of Montreal but that is where the Canadian Immigration office was at that time for immigrants arriving by ship. Grandfather only spoke a few words of English and when the immigration officer asked him his name, my grandfather thought he was being asked what he did as work before coming to Canada. He was an apprentice at the time and with his bad English and thick accent our name became based on his trade. So that is what we have used ever since. Even though he died when I was young, before teenager life I remembered that story because I thought it was so incredible that it should have been a movie."


South Vietnam fell to the North Vietnamese Army (1975). Thousands and South Vietnamese, especially Catholics, attempted to escape Communists rule after the North Vietnamese victory. The Boat People became an international crisis. Many died at sea in rickity, over crowded craft. Pirates preyed upon them. Neighboring countries refused them entry or interned them in squalid refugee camps. ThecCanadians gave sanctuary to the Vietnmese Boat People as well as other Indichina refugees (Laotians and Cambodians). Many settled in Montreal because they spoke French.


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Created: 4:17 AM 5/21/2005
Last updated: 2:11 AM 10/27/2012