History of immigration to Canada

History of immigration to Canada


"Come to Stay", printed in 1880 in the Canadian Illustrated News, which refers to immigration to the "Dominion". Today, there is a debate about immigrants who do not stay, but instead leave soon after securing citizenship. They are becoming known as "Canadians of convenience".] :"See related articles, History of Canada and Immigration to Canada"

The history of immigration to Canada extends back thousands of years. Anthropologists continue to argue over various possible models of migration to modern day Canada, as well as their pre-contact populations. The Inuit are believed to have arrived entirely separately from other indigenous peoples around 1200. Indigenous peoples contributed significantly to the culture and economy of the early European colonies and as such have played an important role in fostering a unique Canadian cultural identity.

Statistics Canada has tabulated the effect of immigration on population growth in Canada from 1851 to 2001. [ [http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/demo03.htm?sdi=immigration Statistics Canada] - immigration from 1851 to 2001] On average censeii are taken every 10 years, which is how Canadian censeii were first incremented between 1871 and 1901. Beginning in 1901, the Dominion Government changed its policy so that census-taking occurred every 5 years subsequently. This was to document the effects of the advertising campaign initiated by Clifford Sifton.

History of immigration law

In 1828, Britain passed the first legislative recognition that it was responsible for the safety and well-being of emigrants leaving the British Isles. It was called "An Act to Regulate the Carrying of Passengers in Merchant Vessels". The "Act" limited the number of passengers that could be carried on a ship, regulated the amount of space allocated to them, and required that passengers be supplied with adequate sustenance on the voyage. The 1828 "Act" is now recognized as the foundation of British colonial emigration legislation. [ [http://www.collectionscanada.ca/immigrants/021017-2111.01-e.html Moving Here, Staying Here: The Canadian Immigrant Experience] - "Right of Passage" at Library and Archives Canada]

Canadian citizenship was originally created under the Immigration Act, 1910, to designate those British subjects who were domiciled in Canada. All other British subjects required permission to land. A separate status of "Canadian national" was created under the Canadian Nationals Act, 1921, which was defined as being a Canadian citizen as defined above, their wives, and any children (fathered by such citizens) that had not yet landed in Canada. After the passage of the Statute of Westminster in 1931, the monarchy thus ceased to be an exclusively British institution. Because of this Canadians, and others living in countries that became known as Commonwealth Realms, were known as "subjects of the Crown". However in legal documents the term "British subject" continued to be used.

Canada was the second nation in the then British Commonwealth to establish its own nationality law in 1946, with the enactment of the Canadian Citizenship Act 1946. This took effect on January 1, 1947. In order to acquire Canadian citizenship on 1 January 1947 one generally had to be a British subject on that date, an Indian or Eskimo, or had been admitted to Canada as landed immigrants before that date. The phrase "British subject" refers in general to anyone from the UK, its colonies at the time, or a Commonwealth country. Acquisition and loss of British subject status before 1947 was determined by United Kingdom law (see History of British nationality law).

On February 15, 1977, Canada removed restrictions on dual citizenship. Many of the provisions to acquire or lose Canadian citizenship that existed under the 1946 legislation were repealed. Canadian citizens are in general no longer subject to involuntary loss of citizenship, barring revocation on the grounds of immigration fraud.

Regional history

Atlantic Canada

There are a number of reports of contact made before Columbus between the first peoples and those from other continents. The case of Viking contact is supported by the remains of a Viking settlement in L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, although there is no direct proof this was the place Icelandic Norseman Leifur Eiríksson, referred to as Vinland around the year 1000.

The presence of Basque cod fishermen and whalers, just a few years after Columbus, has also been cited, with at least nine fishing outposts having been established on Labrador and Newfoundland. The largest of these settlements was the Red Bay station, with an estimated 900 people. Basque whalers may have begun fishing the Grand Banks as early as the 15th century.

The next European explorer acknowledged as landing in what is now Canada was John Cabot, who landed somewhere on the coast of North America (probably Newfoundland or Cape Breton Island) in 1497 and claimed it for King Henry VII of England. Portuguese and Spanish explorers also visited Canada, but it was the French who first began to explore further inland and set up colonies, beginning with Jacques Cartier in 1534. Under Samuel de Champlain, the first French settlement was made in 1608, which would later grow to be Quebec City. The French claimed Canada as their own and 6,000 settlers arrived, settling along the St. Lawrence and in the Maritimes. Britain also had a presence in Newfoundland and with the advent of settlements, claimed the south of Nova Scotia as well as the areas around the Hudson Bay.

The first contact with the Europeans was disastrous for the first peoples. Explorers and traders brought European diseases, such as smallpox, which killed off entire villages. Relations varied between the settlers and the Natives. The French befriended the Huron peoples and entered into a mutually beneficial trading relationship with them. The Iroquois, however, became dedicated opponents of the French and warfare between the two was unrelenting, especially as the British armed the Iroquois in an effort to weaken the French.


After Champlain's founding of Quebec City in 1608 it became the capital of New France. While the coastal communities were based upon the cod fishery, the economy of the interior revolved around beaver fur which was the rage in Europe. French "voyageurs" would travel into the hinterlands and trade with the natives. The voyageurs ranged throughout what is today Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba trading guns, gun powder, textiles and other European manufacturing goods with the natives for furs. The fur trade only encouraged a small population, however, as minimal labour was required. Encouraging settlement was always difficult, and while some immigration did occur, by 1759 New France only had a population of some 60,000.

New France had other problems besides low immigration. The French government had little interest or ability in supporting their colony and it was mostly left to its own devices. The economy was primitive and much of the population was involved in little more than subsistence agriculture. The colonists also engaged in a long running series of wars with the Iroquois.


Étienne Brûlé explored Ontario from 1610 to 1612. In 1615, Samuel de Champlain visits Lake Huron, after which French missionaries establish outposts in the region.

Western Canada

Some early explorers who made inroads to the west are: :* Samuel Hearne:* Anthony Henday:* Henry Kelsey:* Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye:* Peter Pond:* John Palliser:* Alexander Mackenzie:* David Thompson :* Philip Turnor [http://www.sasked.gov.sk.ca/docs/elemsoc/g4u22ess.html Grade Four Social Studies - Heritage (Explorers, fur traders, the Métis peoples, early immigrants, and treaties)] , URL accessed 26 November 2006]

In the 1700s to 1800s the only minuscule immigration western Canada or Rupert's Land saw were early French Canadian North West Company fur traders from eastern Canada and the English Adventurers and Explorers representing the Hudson's Bay Company who arrived via Hudson Bay. Canada became a nation in 1867, Rupert's Land became absorbed into the North-West Territories. To encourage British Columbia to join confederation, a transcontinental railway was proposed. The railway companies felt it was not feasible to lay track over land where there was no settlement. The fur trading era was declining as the buffalo population disappeared, so too did the nomadic buffalo hunters, which presented a possibility to increase agricultural settlement. Agricultural possibilities were first expounded by Henry Youle Hind. The Dominion government with the guidance of Clifford Sifton, Minister of the Interior in charge of immigration, (1896–1905) [http://www.collectionscanada.ca/2/10/h10-218-e.html Impressions: 250 Years of Printing in the Lives of Canadians] , URL accessed 26 November 2006] enacted Canada's homesteading act, the Dominion Lands Act, in 1872. An extensive advertising campaign throughout western Europe and Scandinavia brought in a huge wave of immigrants to "The Last, Best West". (1763 Catherine the Great Czar of Russia issues Manifesto inviting foreigners to settle in Russia, [http://www.lib.ndsu.nodak.edu/grhc/history_culture/history/index.html Impressions: The NDSU Libraries: Germans From Russia] , URL accessed 26 November 2006] and in 1862 the United States enacted a Homestead Act inviting immigration to America. [http://www.nps.gov/archive/home/Homestead%20Act%20of%201862.htm Imp Homestead Act of 1862] , URL accessed 26 November 2006] ) Ethnic or religious groups seeking assylum or independence no longer traveled to Russia or the United States where lands were taken or homestead acts were canceled. The Red River Colony population of Manitoba allowed it to become a province in 1870. In the 1880s less than 1000 non-Aboriginal people resided out west. The government's immigration policy was a huge success, the North-West Territories grew to a population of 56,446 in 1881 and almost doubled to 98,967 in 1891, and exponentially jumped to 211,649 by 1901. [http://www.townofdavidson.com/main/main_history.html Home Page - Town of Davidson] , URL accessed 26 November 2006] Ethnic Bloc Settlements [http://www.rootsweb.com/~cansk/Saskatchewan/history.html Saskatchewan Gen Web Project - SGW - Saskatchewan Genealogy Roots] , URL accessed 26 November 2006] dotted the prairies, as language groupings settled together on soil types of the Canadian western prairie similar to agricultural land of their homeland. In this way immigration was successful; new settlements could grow because of common communication and learned agricultural methods. Canada's CPR transcontinental railway was finished in 1885. Immigration briefly ceased to the West during the North West Rebellion of 1885. Various investors and companies were involved in the sale of railway (and some non railway) lands. Sifton himself may have been involved as an investor in some of these ventures. [ [http://www.indianclaims.ca/pdf/FNLS_Chapter%202_eng.pdf First Nation Land Surrenders on the Prairies 1896-1911] Peggy Martin-McGuire, Ch 2, Land and Colonization Companies, Indian Claims Commission, URL accessed January 11, 2007.] Populations of Saskatchewan and Alberta were eligible for provincial status in 1905. Immigration continued to increase through to the roaring twenties. A mass exodus invaded the prairies during the dirty thirties depression years and the prairies have never again regained the impetus of the immigration wave as seen in the early 1900s.

Head Tax and Chinese Immigration Act of 1885.

The first immigrants from China to Canada came from California to the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush in British Columbia, beginning in 1858; immigrants directly from China did not arrive until 1859. The Chinese were a significant part of nearly all the British Columbia gold rushes and most towns in BC had large Chinese populations, often a third of the total or more. Chinese labourers were hired to help with the construction of the Cariboo Wagon Road and Alexandra Bridge as well as the Douglas Road and other routes. Chinese miners, merchants and ranchers enjoyed full rights to mineral tenure and land alienation and in some areas became the mainstay of the local economy for decades. Chinese, for instance, owned 60% of the land in the Lillooet Land District in the 1870s and 1880s and held the majority of working claims on the Fraser River and in other areas. The next wave of immigrants from China were labourers brought in to help build the C.P.R. transcontinental railway but many defected to the goldfields of the Cariboo and other mining districts. In the year the railway was completed the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 was enacted, and a head tax was levied to control the ongoing influx of labour, although immigration continued as corporate interests in BC preferred to hire the cheaper labour made available to them by Chinese labour contractors ; Chinese labour was brought in by the Dunsmuir coal interests used to break the back of strikers at Cumberland in the Comox Valley, which then became one of BC's largest Chinatowns as white workers formerly resident there had been displaced by armed force.

ee also

* Immigration to Canada
* History of Canada
* Petworth Emigration Scheme



* [http://www.civilisations.ca/hist/advertis/adindexe.html The Canadian Museum of Civilization - Advertising for immigrants to Western Canada 1870 to 1930]
* [http://www.collectionscanada.ca/immigrants/ Moving Here, Staying Here: The Canadian Immigrant Experience] at Library and Archives Canada

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