*Immigration history and experiences are often studied as problems of race and
ethnicity, but the gender of the immigrant has been overlooked
*Even in very early immigration history, the white (British and French) female immigrant
was explicitly recruited for her childbearing capacity, the white male (British)
immigrant was recruited for his nation-building capacity
*relatively few women have been able to immigrate to Canada as immigrants in their
*racial minority women (including immigrant women) in Canada are clustered in job
*Few government resources are allocated to female immigrants. This means reduced
access to language acquisition, education resources, and job programs, which
leaves her in marginal work, at the mercy of her employer
Building a “white” and British Canada
*Canadian immigration history is marked by preference for the white, English-speaking,
Protestant, and middle class immigrant.
*Yet Canadian women workers, their corporate employers, and the Can government
itself have all relied on poor immigrant women from underprivileged areas to take
on underpaid work as skilled and quality nannies and domestics. These women
are highly regulated, and largely been dependant on their willingness to be strictly
regulated but not eligible for the same citizenship rights that have applied to most
other classes of immigrant workers.
*white and European (even British) women have been recruited for immigration to
Canada as domestics, and have been subject to as many regulations, restrictions
and efforts to monitor their morality and employment in Canada as have non-White
immigrant domestics. However, most of these women were expected to marry and
have children. For most non-White immigrant women, any transition into
citizenship or marriage has been interpreted as problematic and a detriment to
*After WWII, Canada shifted into a period of mass immigration
*Then, during the Cold War era after WWII, there was an opposite shift to an intense
focus in Canadian society and government on normality.
Immigrant women and the white ideal
*For many of the “less desireable” immigrant groups of women, this resulted in an intense focus on their Canadianness in terms of food preparation, nutrition, and the
surrounding family and domestic gender ideals
*failure of any immigrant woman to abide by mainstream manners and morality could
result in immediate deportation, which again, required vigilant monitoring of the
immigrants as they passed from their home country into their employers’ home.
Canadian immigration policy in the 20 century
*Canada has welcomed 13.4 million immigrants over the 20 century.h
*At Confederation, over 60% of Canadian immigrants were British.
* In the mid century, most immigrants were from the UK, Germany, Italy and
*Chinese, South Asian and African immigrants (respectively) are now the three
largest immigrant groups, and account for 2/3 of the visible minority
population in Canada.
*Classism and racism are evident in 20 century immigration law. The 1910 Canadian
Immigration Act specifically allowed the prohibition of immigrants of “any race
deemed unsuited to the climate or requirements of Canada, or of immigrants of
any specified class, occupation, or character.”
*Post-WWII mass immigration of Displaced Persons, Jews, and other refugees was
motivated by humanitarian concerns as well as labour shortages, and Canadian
immigration policy retained its overtly racist character until the 1960s.
*by 1950, Canadian immigration was closed to all who were not
*a) English speaking British or American citizens,
*b) French speaking from France, and
*c) Canadian Armed Forces men and their families.
*The Immigration Act of 1952 continued to ban immigrants on racist assumptions about
nationality, custom, or geographic origin, or simply an assumed inability to adapt to
climate or to assimilate.
The points system
*The introduction of the “points system” in the 1960s means that factors such as race
and sex have been replaced by requirement which focus on capital investment,
age, language/educational/occupational skills, etc. However, it has still worked to
exclude women or immigrants from undesired regions. *Today, immigration is permitted for three purposes: to benefit the Canadian economy
(61%), to reunite families (27%), and to offer safe haven to refugees (11%).
*Women were underrepresented in all categories, especially as refugees. Because
these women suffer many gender-based discriminations in their countries of origin
(responsibility for dependant children, limited access to education, health care,
family resources, employment, etc) they are less likely than men to meet Canadian
standards for immigrant or refugee status. Moreover, gender-based discrimination
is not counted as a legitimate claim for refugee status!