Canada’s establishment and economic growth are directly attributable to immigration, but the country has always operated a highly selective system with policies changing due to the economic, social, cultural and moral needs of the country at that time. Between 1870 and 1918 was known as the ‘Open Door’ policy. The main need at this moment in time was economic and for infrastructure development, especially a rail network. In the west of Canada the main industry was agriculture and the East was mainly manufacturing. A rail network was then essential to link the two and create an integrated economy.
This stage was called Open Door because there was no restriction on numbers into the country, but there was some cultural considerations underlying this policy as well. The migrants sought were almost exclusively from the USA, UK, NW Europe to reflect Canada’s customs and ideals. Therefore, the government could control racial composition of migrants. From 1919-1929 immigration became more selective and the main focus underlying the migration policy was social. Prospective migrants had to pass a literacy test. Migrants were separated into those from ‘preferred’, such as from the U.
K and were given financial assistance, and ‘non preferred’ countries. ‘Non-preferred’ countries included Russia. Immigrants from here were only admitted in times of need for the lowest-paid jobs, and there were still restrictions. This shows further cultural considerations in the policy. The non-preferred list also had a ‘non-acceptable’ category which included ‘visible minorities’ (e. g Chinese, who worked for the rail companies). The Exclusion Act in 1923 prevented Chinese immigrants bringing family members with them. This is a big example of the cultural considerations being used to change the policies.
Unemployment rose significantly between 1930 and 1945 (The Great Depression). All migration was suspended, except under the family reunion category. The next stage between 1946 and 1960 had the aims of increasing in-migration and both cultural and moral considerations were major parts of the policies created. The immigration Act of 1952 reflected the ethnically selective nature of the Canadian Immigration. Groups could be refused entry on grounds of nationality, citizenship, ethnic group, occupation, class, ‘peculiar’ customs etc. After many years of racist undertones in policies there was a turning point between 1960 and 1986.
An immigration act in 1967 sought to enrich and strengthen the cultural and social fabric of Canada. Attention switched to the skills of the migrant rather than the country of origin. This showed a switch from cultural and moral considerations in the policy to social. Preferred and non-preferred countries were abandoned for a points system which was much fairer. From 1986 to 1993, economic was the main consideration underlying the economic policies. Migration was now seen as a long term demographic solution due to a changing population. In more recent years the points system has been modified with moral considerations for everyone.