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The Canadian Immigration policy Essay

Between 1880 and 1920, Canada was a popular place for immigrants. “In the first twenty years of the century, the number of people who lived in Canada almost doubled, from 5.4 million to 10.4 million”.1 New immigrants were not encouraged to melt in the pot, but to preserve there own unique identity and culture, which is something still very much encouraged today. Yet Canada’s immigration policy had its negative aspects, most notably taking place around 1917 with the allocation of the Wartime Elections Act and its restrictions on specific pacifist religious sects. During this time Canada’s immigration policy was unfairly rejecting those of specific creed and culture due to an increase in anti-foreigner sentiment. At this time Canada’s immigration policy reflected that of an unjust country interested only in keeping with similar political power and appealing to those uncomfortable with the influx of foreigners.

The Canadian government’s unease with foreigners was nothing new to immigration. Those considered “enemy aliens,” “as all immigrants from enemy countries were called, became the objects of widespread persecution and hostility.”2 When an enemy alien immigrated to Canada, they were “required to register with a local magistrate, to report on a monthly basis, and to turn in all firearms.”3 Issues concerning foreign population again arose in 1917 when the conservative population of Canada felt that these immigrants would not favour conscription and likely vote Liberal.

To secure this problem, the Wartime Elections Act was introduced and those “born in an enemy country, whose mother tongue was the language of an enemy country, and who had not been naturalized before 1902, were disfranchised.”4 This act was completely discriminatory and excluded Canadian citizens from participating in their own countries interests. Those from foreign countries were treated as though they still lived for their prior country and had no interest for the well being of their new home. They were treated like criminals while still being innocent and these actions were more likely to separate fellow Canadians, then join them together as a country.

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While those immigrants from “enemy” countries suffered greatly through this time, so did three specific pacifist religious sects. The Doukhobors, the Mennonites, and the Hutterites, were persecuted for not enlisting in the military among other things. When these groups immigrated to Canada they were given “specific guarantees from the federal government permitting them to maintain the autonomy, educational freedom, and exemption from military service”5, it was easy for the government to permit these requests when they were in need of immigration.

The government was now being pressured by the public who felt that it was unfair to let these people prosper while the rest were forced to go to war. It seemed that everyone had forgotten hat under any other conditions, these people would not have immigrated in the first place, when it was necessary for Canada that they did. About 4,000 “Hutterites immigrated to Alberta from South Dakota, where they were suffering prejudice because they were German-speaking and unwilling to sustain the military efforts”.6 By 1919, public scrutiny and campaigns gave the government enough reason to ban these specific religious sects from immigrating into Canada.

The Canadian Immigration policy helped encourage a common distrust for those entering from foreign countries. Instead of welcoming those expanding Canada’s population, the government created a separation between the different cultures and races. There could be no melting pot theory in Canada, there was little to unionize in Canada at this time. War had made its way into every persons mind and had created a nation full of distrust for its neighbour. If Immigration and the government in general had stood its ground and allowed all immigrants, enemies or not to exist peacefully in one country, they may have been able to ease this distrust. Instead they became essentially responsible for creating a racist anti-foreigner thinking across Canada.

1 Bennet, Jaenen, Brune, Skeoch. Canada: A North American Nation.

Canada. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, 1989.

2 Bennet, Jaenen, Brune, Skeoch. Canada: A North American Nation.

Canada. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, 1989.

3 Bennet, Jaenen, Brune, Skeoch. Canada: A North American Nation.

Canada. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, 1989.

4 Bennet, Jaenen, Brune, Skeoch. Canada: A North American Nation.

Canada. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, 1989.

5 Bennet, Jaenen, Brune, Skeoch. Canada: A North American Nation.

Canada. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, 1989.

6 Brune, Nick. Defining Canada: History, Identity and Culture.

Toronto. McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 2003.

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