History of Immigration Policy in Canada

Free essayNowadays population of Canada is 34,88 million people (Waldman, 2013). This country is one of the most ethnically-diverse countries in the world. People with different cultures live there. Immigration is one of the main instruments of Canadian population growth and economic development.

People have been immigrating to Canada for a very long time. However, Canadian government established various immigration policies in different historical periods. Among these policies are: explicit discrimination against immigrants, approach focused on economic development and open boarder policies. Below will be described Canadian immigration processes and immigration acts passed by the government in the 19th and 20th century.

Canadian government has been paying attention to the immigration policy of since 1867, when it tried to attract numerous people from other countries (Kohli, 2003). Canadian government thought that immigrants would stipulate development of Canadian economy. New people had to bolster national demand for commodities produced inside the country. This had to stipulate Canadian manufacturing sector. Canadian government intended to settle immigrants on free lands in the western part of the country to secure boarders and occupy lands.

The basic framework of immigration policy was stated in the Immigration Act. Canadian government passed this Act in 1869. It became easy to immigrate into Canada. Numerous people could immigrate to this country.

Canadian government also opened numerous immigration offices in the United Kingdom. These offices were aimed at facilitating immigration and spreading positive information about Canada.

Moreover, Canadian government intended to inhabit unsettled lands in the west of the country. The Dominion Land Act was passed, according to which, if a male had promised to build a permanent dwelling within three years and to cultivate unsettled land, he received that land.

However, the government tried to protect the society. That is why criminals could not immigrate into Canada. Also, Canadian government placed certain barriers to ill and poor people and individuals with different disabilities. The Immigration Act was aimed at increasing labor force and social development of Canada by arrival of strong, perspective and healthy people. A person was required to pay a $ 300 bond when crossing Canadian boarders in case if he or she could pose a threat to the society (Kohli, 2003).

Moreover it should be mentioned, that immigration offices focused on attraction of laborers and farmers, while artists, tradesmen and urban workers had lower possibilities to immigrate to Canada.

Also, racial discrimination existed. Immigration offices directed their efforts on attraction of people of European and American nationalities. Among the sharpest examples of such discrimination was the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act passed in 1885. However, in the 1980s thousands of Chinese workers took an active part in economic development of the country. These people constructed the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). Canadian government, however, increased barriers to immigrants from China after completion of the construction of this railway; people employed in construction did not receive Canadian citizenship either. Moreover, the government imposed large taxes on each immigrant from China. These restrictions were declined only in 1947 (Kohli, 2003). It should be mentioned that no other ethnic group faced such discrimination in Canada through the whole history of this country.

Restrictions to immigrants became sharper during World War I. Canadian Government tried to protect its nation. So, people from enemy nations, like Germany, Hungary and Austria could not immigrate into Canada. Moreover, the special War Measure Act was adopted in 1914. According to this act, representatives of the enemy nations who lived in Canada became the enemy aliens. These people were obliged to register in governmental institutions and carry special identification cards. These immigrants could not take part in any movements and associations. Some of these people were placed into internment camps and even departed from the country.

The immigration policy became stricter in 1917. Canadian government passed the Wartime Elections Act. From that time alien immigrants, which had been citizens of the country since 1902, lost their right to vote.

The immigration policy of Canada remained to be rather strict even after the completion of the First World War. This is connected with the change of role of immigrants in the country. Before the First World War immigrants had been recognized as the stimulus to the economic development of Canada. During the First World War Canada faced considerable political and social issues, for example, organized labor movements, rise of communism and the Great Depression. All these issues forced Canadian government to change its vision on immigration. Politics tried to control flow of people into the country, support and encourage social harmony inside Canada. People with certain religious, ideologist and ethnic backgrounds faced considerable challenges when trying to immigrate to Canada. Moreover, the Great Depression and the crisis inside the country forced the government to create barriers to entering to Canada. These barriers were created to protect Canadian employers from losing their working places because of arrival of ‘cheap foreign labor’.

All these intents of the government were reflected in the new Immigration Act, introduced in 1919, providing the federal government with new powers to exclude specific groups from immigrating into the country. Politics could place some limitations on immigration of people of certain races and nationalities according to the Section 38. The government used this right. People from Turkey, Hungary, Bulgaria and Austria, which fought against Canadian and British troops during the First World War, were not allowed to immigrate into the country. Also, Hutterites, Doukhobers and Mennonites could not immigrate to Canada because of their religious practices.

Canadian government changed its immigration policy again in the 1940s. Canada experienced considerable economic growth following World War II. In that time Canadians have alleviated concerns over Canadian employees who lost their working places because of arrival of immigrants (i.e. arrival cheap labor force). Different egalitarian ideas began to take hold in Canada. Society felt bigger toleration towards various ethnic groups, raising concerns over religious and racial discrimination. In that period Canadian government once again considered immigrants as a tool for economic growth of the country. As it was mentioned above, barriers to Chinese immigrants were removed in 1947. Moreover the Senate Standing Committee of Immigration and Labor published numerous reports in 1951. The aim of these reports was to remove barriers for immigrants and establish an open door policy for people who intended to arrive to Canada from abroad. Reports of the Senate Standing Committee of Immigration and Labor changed attitude towards immigrants; however, they were slow to manifest in the immigration policy of Canadian government. In 1952 new Immigration Act was introduced, which continued many of the previous practices. However, some preferred classes of immigrants were created, including citizens of the United Kingdom, citizens of the USA and citizens of France, and Asian immigrants who intended to reunite with their relatives in Canada. However, this new Immigration Act discriminated against immigrants from Asia which had no relatives in Canada. So, Canadian government intended to limit the number of Asian immigrants and Asian cheap labor force in the country. Also, people with different disabilities and gays had no possibility to immigrate to Canada. The government set these barriers to decrease possible ethical issues and to eliminate immigrations, which were not able to work. Moreover, the new Immigration Act granted additional rights to the federal government. Politics received the right to limit or even exclude immigration of some groups of people due to any economic or social reasons.

The immigration policy became milder in the 1960s. Some changes were connected with Canadian economic growth. In 1962 any race and nationality discrimination in the immigration policy was prohibited. The government saw the necessity to increase labor flow into the country for further economic development. The situation became even better in 1966. The government adopted a White Paper on immigration. According to this document, immigrants were considered the main contributors to Canadian population and economic prosperity. However, this paper created considerable threats to Canadian society. Thousands of unskilled workers could enter the country. So, the government made recommendations to grant some preferences to skilled immigrants. This was made to decrease the flow of unskilled people into the country.

Canadian government placed an emphasis on skillful and strong immigrants for a long time. This policy became event stronger in 1967. Canadian politics introduced a Point System. This system eliminated any quotations and restrictions to immigrants. However, there was one requirement: people who intended to immigrate to Canada had to pass a point test. This point test included qualities considering language knowledge (English or French); existence of any relatives living in Canada; availability of proper education or trainings; area of immigration (i.e. existing employment in this area) and etc. Notwithstanding the fact that all barriers and limitations for immigration were eliminated, the government adopted the point system which was some kind of barrier for immigrants. People who did not know English or French, had no any relatives in Canada and had not sufficient professional knowledge and skills had low chances to immigrate into Canada. The government staked on skillful immigrants, which had high possibilities to adapt in a new society and to facilitate economic and social development of the country.

Moreover, people who intended to immigrate to Canada were obliged to have such characteristics: to be not too old or too young to take regular work and to work hard; knowledge of English or French; arranged employment in Canada; proper trainings and education; family members or relatives in Canada. Moreover, these people had to immigrate into regions of high employment. This statement was based on the fact that the government was trying to protect people who lived in Canada from losing their working places due to flow of low cost labor from other countries. Canadian government did not want to destabilize social situation in several regions and in the whole country. At the same time immigrants were obliged to have appropriate education and trainings. The government did not want to increase the amount of legally incapable people inside the country, because these people would receive money benefits from Canadian funds, which meant that Canadian workers had to finance these legally incapable immigrants. Canadian government intended to eliminate such situations and put the above mentioned age limitations and professional barriers.

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Also, people who intended to immigrate into Canada were obliged to know French or English or to have relatives inside the country. According to Canadian government it had to be easier for immigrants to adapt to a new country if they spoke English or French and had relatives inside the country.

People who intended to immigrate into Canada were carefully examined. They were assigned special points based on their qualities. A person could receive points from 0 to 10 (or 20). A person was allowed to immigrate to Canada only if he/she would reach a certain level of points.

Canadian government assigned different points to different factors. The amount of assigned points depended on relevance of these factors. In the table 1 below will be provided the list of factors and points (Simmons, 2010).

Table 1. List of factors and points according to the Point System

Factors Points
Education 20
Vocational preparations 10
Demand for occupation in the country 15
Age 10
Pre-arranged employment offer 10
Personal suitability 15
Relatives and family in Canada who can offer assistance 5
Destination in the country 5
Total amount of points 100

As we can see, Canadian government tried to meet labor market demand that existed in Canada in that time. Immigrants met these demand. The pass mark was rather high. Canadian government established a passed mark on the level of 50 scores. The system was rather efficient and brought numerous benefits to immigrants and to Canada. Immigrants had rather clear limitations. A passing system was simple. There were no any ethnical, religious or racial limitations. Canada received almost unlimited sources of labor force. Moreover, the country set particular and clear demands for satisfaction of its demands. Also, the country received the ability to control knowledge level of immigrants and their professional skills. Canadian government received the ability to select immigrants, because points could be awarded for every year of formal education.

Canadian Government allowed immigration not only to people with PhDs. People, especially tradesmen, with sufficient their education and trainings could also immigrate to Canada. It should be mentioned that Canadian government did not put any limitations on the number of immigrants. That means that Canada was ready to accept any number of new people. The only limitation was the Point System test.

Before that period a lot of immigrants came from Europe, especially from the United Kingdom. However, the immigrants` nationality changed after implementation of the Point System test. A lot of people came from Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Asia. These people settled in urban cities, because they had more possibilities to find new job there. Among the most popular cities for immigration were Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Numerous immigrants arrived to the country. These people took numerous working positions. Some Canadians lost their working places. These situations lead to an increase of racism inside the country. Racism was directed against different groups of immigrants but not one particular nation.

On the one hand, Canada started transforming into a developed and prosperous country. Considerable new labor forces were extremely necessary for this transformation. So, Canada decreased limitations to immigrants. On the other hand, Canada needed immigrants for fulfillment of new working positions. For these purposes the Point System was established. This system also helped to limit flow of incapable immigrants to Canada.

Canada also took part in international initiatives concerning immigrants. In 1969 Canadian government signed the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its Protocol (Waldman, 2013). The term “refugees” was used to refer to a special group of people, who were forced to leave their homes because of different reasons, for example, prosecutions, war and natural disasters. Canadian government did not officially recognized refugees as a special class of immigrants until 1969. Even after signing the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its Protocol the government did not fully recognized refugees as immigrants. Special amendments to the Immigration Act were made only in 1978 (Waldman, 2013). Following these amendments the government stated formal procedures concerning refugees and their immigration into Canada.

Canada continued to grow and its economy continued to develop. The country needed new labor force. In the 1970s Canadian government reviewed its immigration policy. In 1975 a Green Paper on immigration was passed, which proposed to decrease discrimination practices supported by the 1952 Immigration Act and the 1966 White Paper. The Green Paper eliminated any ethnical issues in regard to immigrants. Moreover, in that period Canadian government searched not only for labor force. The country needed people, who were willing to live in remote areas. A Special Joint Senate-House of Commons Committee was established following the Green Paper. This committee was created to provide recommendations on immigration issues and to stage public hearings concerning the immigration policy. It should be mentioned, that from that time Canadian government started to pay attention to opinion of local authorities concerning immigration issues.

In 1976 a new Immigration act was passed, according to which flow of immigration had to be carefully planned. The country started to regulate the number of immigrants. This regulation was necessary because of several reasons. Canada still needed labor force for its growth and development. At the same time the country protected Canadian employers from losing their working places because of a considerable flow of cheap labor form abroad. Special consultations with provinces concerning immigration were made. Local authorities took part in planning and management of immigration in provinces (Beyond boarder: a shared vision for perimeter security and economic competitiveness).

The new Immigration Act also contained innovations concerning classification of immigrants. People, who intended to immigrate into Canada, were classified into four different classes: independent class; family class; humanitarian class and assisted relatives class. Independent class included people, who applied for landed-immigrant status on their own initiative. Family class contained the immediate family, parents, and grandparents of individuals living in Canada. People with had distant relatives who were sponsored by a family member in Canada and covered under some criteria of independent class were referred to as assisted relatives class. Humanitarian class contained refugees covered under the Convention of Refugees and its Protocol and other displaced and persecuted individuals not covered under this convention.

The new Immigration Act decreased barrier to people who intended to immigrate into Canada. The Point System, introduced in 1967, was applicable to the assisted relatives class of immigrants and to the independent class of immigrants. Moreover, Canadian government formally recognized refugees as legitimate immigrants.

World immigration of businessmen also introduced some changes into the immigration system of Canada. In the 1980s a fifth class was added to the existing immigration classes. This class included people, who were allowed to immigrate if they were willing to bring some significant financial capital to Canada to invest in Canadian economy or to start a business in Canada. The government had attracted numerous businessmen who brought considerable capital to the country. About 700,000 businessmen from Hong Kong and China immigrated into Canada in 1983-1986 (Walker, 2008). These people facilitated the economic development and financial growth of the country.

It should be mentioned that nationality of immigrants also changed. The main source of immigrants was the United Kingdom in the time period from 1900 to 1965. However, changes in the immigration policy ‘opened Canadian doors’ to people from China and Hong Kong. Also, the immigration policy facilitated the flow of immigrants from South and Central America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Canadian government introduced several changes into the existing point system. These changes came into effect in May, 2013(Waldman, 2013). New system is oriented on skillful immigrants with a great potential. Also, politics noted that the main criterion for potential immigrants to Canada was language. So, points for official language proficiency were considerably increased. Young immigrants received higher opportunities to enter the country. This is connected with the fact that young people adapt to a new culture and working places better. They are more likely to obtain working experience in Canada and to spend more years of their life working for Canadian economy. Educational points became valuable after the implementation of the Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). One more innovation is represented by changes in the employment process. Employees spend less time hiring people if Canadian labor market has high demand for these workers. Also people received additional points for previous work experience in Canada and spousal language ability.

Canadian immigration policies were considerably changed during the 19th century. The country adopted policies of free boarders, implemented discrimination policies (in the period of First World War), adopted a special point system for limitation of labor force and divided potential immigrants into special classes. Also some changes were introduced by the implementation of the point system in 1967 and introduction of changes to it in 2013. The immigration policy of Canada has been aimed at attraction of labor force to Canada and, at the same time, protection of Canadian workers from losing their working places.

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