Jan 11, 2012
1. Segue From Aboriginal Peoples to Immigration
a. White Paper (1969)
• It was a federal government document, and came out in 1969, and Pierre
Trudeau was the prime minister at the time.
• This paper proposed the rejection of all land claims, and basically gave the
Aboriginal people the status of any other ethnic or cultural minority.
• However, the Indian Act was never abolished, and the recommendations of
the White Paper were never taken up
• The White Paper is ridiculous, because Aboriginal people are the only people
who are not immigrants of Canada, therefore it’s very problematic to treat
them as such
• The Indian Act was, and continues to be the cornerstone of colonial
b. "Sixties Scoop"
• During the 60s, Aboriginal children were taken from their families, and put
with non-Aboriginal families.
• There were two class-action law suits – article on Moodle about one of the
children having lost his heritage and had to relearn everything
c. Welcome letter from Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration
• The wording in his letter is very interesting, both what is said in the letter,
and what’s not said. For example he writes, “…Hundreds of years ago,
French and British pioneers partnered with the First Nations and laid the
foundation of Canada…”. His wording here is problematic. He is sort of
embracing the conquest, that everyone was on friendly terms, and that there
was no power differentiation, which we know wasn’t the case. It doesn’t say
anything about colonialization or the “civilizing” project known as the Indian
• It then goes on to say that Sir John A. MacDonald, the first prime minister
himself, was an immigrant from Scotland.
• This letter is participating in a particular myth around how we have always
treated our immigrants (i.e., “liberty, prosperity and freedom”).
• Canadian immigration laws are often an example of Canada’s tolerant,
progressive, and humanitarian nature. We often see leaders in the
government and industries celebrate the contribution of immigrants to
Canadian society. But the reality sharply contrasts with the widely held
impression (i.e., immigrant lives, occupation struggle etc.)
2. Immigration and the Social/Legal Construction of “White
1 • When we look at the history of immigration, and immigration laws, we see the
assumptions as to who is a “desirable” immigrant, and who is not. These
assumptions have reflected two things:
1. The idea that Canada is a white nation – in theory, we no longer have anti-
racist immigration laws.
2. The demands of the state for labor – separating immigration law from the
labor needs of Canadian society is almost impossible, because that’s really
the only reason we have immigration. Canadians have never really
reproduced at high enough rates to fill the labor market needs so we’ve
always had to rely on immigration as a way of satisfying the certain needs.
Immigration still remains a federal employment strategy. Immigration has
been used, and continues to be used to fill jobs that Canadians don’t want
(i.e., live-in caregivers)
a. British North America (BNA) Act (1867)
• According to this Act, a citizen was “a male, British subject, aged 21 years or
upwards, named a householder”. Someone who was not born in Canada, but
in British territory (i.e., not only in Britain, but also British colonies) were
automatically considered a citizen. Women were not considered citizens in
this particular law.
b. Naturalisation Act (1881)
• This Act discussed who was, and was not qualified for citizenship.
• British subjects who were “disabled” did not qualify. By disabled, this means
“the status of an infant, lunatic, idiot, or married woman”. Women living in
Canada were not citizens technically, if they were married, even if their
husband was a citizen. They were only granted citizenship if they were not
married or not infants etc. It’s interesting that women are grouped with idiots
• The Persons Case changed all of this
c. Chinese Immigration Act (aka "Chinese head tax") (1885)
• Chinese men began to arrive to Canada in the latter half of the 1800s. The
only motivation for these men to immigrate was because of the poor
economy in China at the time.
• 17,000 Chinese male workers were employed in the building of the CPR. But
they were paid only half the wages of the white workers, many of them died
as a result of their working conditions (i.e., there were dangerous tasks given
to the Chinese men instead of the white men, because they were easily
disposable). Organizations such as the Asiatic Exclusion League were formed
to try and aid the conditions.
• There was worry that more Chinese were going to come to Canada, and that
they would bring their wives and children with them so they put a head tax
on every Chinese immigrant. This made it virtually impossible for the women
to accompany the men. The tax was originally $50, and rose to $100 in
1900, and $500 in 1903. Essentially, it was impossible to bring your family
d. Chinese Exclusion Act (1923)
• The Chinese head tax was not enough to infringe Chinese people to come, so
this federal Act was passed to prohibit Chinese immigrants from coming to
2 • It was repealed in 1947
e. Gentlemen's Agreement (1907)
• This was an agreement between the Canadian, and Japanese governments.
Canada agreed not to restrict Japanese people from immigrating, but the
Japanese government restricted the people to come to Canada. So there
wasn’t an explicit discriminatory law here, it was sort of a way around it.
f. Japanese internment during WW II
• 80% of the Japanese were placed in interment camps. Although they were
told that they would get their property back after the war, it was auctioned
off. Some Canadians were interned as well.
g. Continuous Journey Stipulation (1908)
• There was always ambiguity, from the Naturalisation Act, and the BNA Act,
which said that anybody within the British Empire could be a citizen.
However, Canada was not necessarily OK with the British becoming citizens,
because people from all the British colonies would be granted citizenship
(i.e., Indians). Therefore, the Continuous Journey Stipulation was passed
which wasn’t explicitly racist, but its effects were racist.
• It stated that immigrants who came to Canada must come by direct journey,
without stopping en route. This meant that it’s possible to come with the
technology from Atlantic Britain to Canada, but it wasn’t possible to come
from places like India because you had to stop over.
h. Gurdit Singh and Komagata Maru
• In 1914, Gurdit Singh, an Indian anti-colonial activist, chartered a steam ship
to bring more than 300 potential Indian migrants to Canada. He had heard of
the Continuous Journey Stipulation, and believed that it could actually be
challenged in court effectively and wanted to do so.
• When it arrived to Canadian waters, it was prevented from landing. Some
people on board had previously entered Canada and were therefore allowed
to come off, but most people were not.
• B.C Court of Appeal declared that the Canadian government had the
authority to declare who was granted Canadian citizenship, even if it was
racist. The court rejected the claim that Indian subjects, while part of the
British Empire, had the right to enter Canada.
i. "Voyage of the Damned" (1939)
• In the 30s, Europeans were desperately fleeing Europe, as a result of the
Nazi movement, but Canada refused to open its doors.
• Frederick Charles Blair was particularly worried/determined to keep Jewish
refugees out of Canada, and maintain the Christian, white character of
• The SS Saint Lewis came to Canada carrying 507 Jewish refugees, who were
rejected by several other countries, and Canada was their last hope. But
Canada sent them back, and many of them suffered in the concentration
camps, and died in the gas chambers.
3. Contemporary “Points System” and Supposed Gender/Race
• Some of the factors that led to the changing of immigration laws:
3 o The growing of an international refugee community (i.e., survivors of the
Holocaust). Canadian immigration law overall had become an
embarrassment internationally. There was the sense that immigration law
was undermining Canada’s standing within the UN, and Canada prides itself
on being signatory to the various human rights documents of the UN. The Bill
of Rights (1960), this was a useless document, it wasn’t an ordinary piece of
legislature. However, it kind of paved the way for anti-discriminatory laws,
and the immigration laws were at odds.
o The economy of Western Europe in the post-war era was beginning to
flourish, and the main motivation to immigrate was because you were at a
loss of opportunity, so nobody was really coming. Because of the USSR,
mobility was restricted for people in eastern Europe, therefore there was
nobody to fill the labor gaps, and labor shortages. Because Canada couldn’t
get “desirable” people (i.e., white), they had to change their immigration
laws in order to let non-white people in.
• The upside of all of this is that 1962, the existing system of the preferred
immigration from Europe to Canada was abandoned, and replaced in 1967 with the
• “Points System” – a number of points are given for certain things, and with a
certain number of points you were seen as “desirable”. You could come from
anywhere in theory. This represented an effort to apply non-discriminatory criteria
to determine eligibility for immigration.
• Points were distributed according to the following categories: occupation,
education, language (i.e., English or French), skills (i.e., skills of a career that could
be useful to Canada) and age (i.e., younger was preferred).
• The Points System was ostensibly gender and race neutral, but it does have racist
and sexist effects (i.e., the highest points on skills and education, tended to be jobs
and careers associated with men). Although there were well-educated women,