Canadian immigration policies were ethnically selective and remained so during the first half of the 20th century. Preference was given to British and American immigrants, followed by northern and then central Europeans. Least desired were Asians, Blacks and Jews. Non-preferred immigrants were usually admitted to perform risky or undesirable jobs, such as farming in remote areas and building the railway.

From 1885 to 1923, an increasingly oppressive head tax was levied on Chinese immigrants under the Chinese Exclusion Act, and then replaced with even more restrictive measures. The "continuous voyage" policy was passed to prevent South Asian immigrants from entering Canada. It stipulated that immigrants had to travel directly to Canada, without stopping, which was impossible from India. Blacks were restricted on the pretext of not being able to tolerate harsh Canadian winters. During World War II, Japanese-Canadians were interned in work camps and many "repatriated" to Japan in 1946.

In 1938, thirty-two nations, including Canada, attended the Evian Conference to discuss the problem of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, but refused f Read More
Canadian immigration policies were ethnically selective and remained so during the first half of the 20th century. Preference was given to British and American immigrants, followed by northern and then central Europeans. Least desired were Asians, Blacks and Jews. Non-preferred immigrants were usually admitted to perform risky or undesirable jobs, such as farming in remote areas and building the railway.

From 1885 to 1923, an increasingly oppressive head tax was levied on Chinese immigrants under the Chinese Exclusion Act, and then replaced with even more restrictive measures. The "continuous voyage" policy was passed to prevent South Asian immigrants from entering Canada. It stipulated that immigrants had to travel directly to Canada, without stopping, which was impossible from India. Blacks were restricted on the pretext of not being able to tolerate harsh Canadian winters. During World War II, Japanese-Canadians were interned in work camps and many "repatriated" to Japan in 1946.

In 1938, thirty-two nations, including Canada, attended the Evian Conference to discuss the problem of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, but refused further Jewish immigration. In 1939, a shipload of German Jewish refugees aboard the S.S. St. Louis, were refused sanctuary in Canada and forced to return to Europe. During the Holocaust, Canada admitted only about 5,000 Jews — one of the worst records of any of the refugee receiving countries.

After the war, Canada was one of the first nations to cautiously open its doors to Jewish displaced persons. In 1947, the Canadian government issued the Order in Council #1647 granting permission for 1,000 Jewish war orphans to enter Canada. In 1948, Canada's immigration policies were liberalized, as workers were needed for the booming post-war economy. Within a decade, almost two million newcomers, including thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors, were admitted.

Canada admitted nearly 40,000 Hungarian refugees in 1956 and 60,000 Vietnamese boat people in 1979. In 1986, Canada was awarded the United Nations' Nansen Medal for its compassionate refugee policies. By the end of the 20th century, Canada became one of the largest immigrant and refugee receiving countries in the world, admitting thousands of refugees from Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo and other places. Following the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York on 11 September 2001, Bill C-11 was passed to tighten refugee admission procedures.

© Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Chinese Head Tax Receipt

Issued by the Canadian Immigration Branch. Vancouver, August 2, 1918.

Chinese immigrants first came to Canada in the late 1850's to work in the mines and build the railway.

Courtesy Vancouver Public Library

Photo #30625.
© Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre 2002. All Rights Reserved.


Chinese immigrants first came to Canada in the late 1850's to work in the mines and build the railway. By the mid 1870's anti-Chinese groups had formed and pressure mounted to curtail Chinese immigration. In 1885, the Canadian government passed the Act to Restrict and Regulate Chinese Immigration into Canada. This law imposed a $50 head tax - a fee charged to those of Chinese origin seeking to enter Canada.

In 1901, the Canadian government raised the tax to $100 and appointed a Royal Commission on Chinese and Japanese Immigration, which concluded that Chinese immigrants were, "obnoxious to a free community and dangerous to the state." In 1904 the tax was increased to $500, a serious financial burden at the time. In 1923, the Chinese Exclusion Act abolished the head tax, replacing it with more restrictive measures. Families of men working in Canada were barred from immigrating, resulting in the long-term separation of families.

By the time the Act was repealed in 1947, it had restricted Chinese immigration so successfully that only 9 Chinese people had entered Canada as legal immigrants. Afterwards, they were placed in the same category as other Asi Read More
Chinese immigrants first came to Canada in the late 1850's to work in the mines and build the railway. By the mid 1870's anti-Chinese groups had formed and pressure mounted to curtail Chinese immigration. In 1885, the Canadian government passed the Act to Restrict and Regulate Chinese Immigration into Canada. This law imposed a $50 head tax - a fee charged to those of Chinese origin seeking to enter Canada.

In 1901, the Canadian government raised the tax to $100 and appointed a Royal Commission on Chinese and Japanese Immigration, which concluded that Chinese immigrants were, "obnoxious to a free community and dangerous to the state." In 1904 the tax was increased to $500, a serious financial burden at the time. In 1923, the Chinese Exclusion Act abolished the head tax, replacing it with more restrictive measures. Families of men working in Canada were barred from immigrating, resulting in the long-term separation of families.

By the time the Act was repealed in 1947, it had restricted Chinese immigration so successfully that only 9 Chinese people had entered Canada as legal immigrants. Afterwards, they were placed in the same category as other Asians and only the wives and minor children of Canadian citizens were permitted entry. By 1949, the long awaited unification of families was underway. A new immigration act of 1952 gave the Governor-in-Council unlimited power to exclude people based on their ethnic group, or on their assumed inability to assimilate.

© Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Komagata Maru

Docked at Burrard Inlet. Vancouver, May 1914.

Immigrants from India began to arrive in British Columbia during the early 1900's.

Courtesy Vancouver Public Library

Photo #119
© Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre 2002. All Rights Reserved.


Immigrants from India began to arrive in British Columbia during the early 1900’s. In 1907, the government of British Columbia disenfranchised East Indians, even though they were British subjects. In 1908 the Canadian government passed a policy requiring immigrants to come to Canada by a continuous journey from their country of origin, which effectively stopped immigration from India. In 1910, the order was extended to the wives and children of those already in Canada.

In 1914, after a two-month voyage, 376 Indians, mostly Sikhs, sailed into Vancouver harbour on the steamer, Komagata Maru. The ship had been chartered by Gurdit Singh to test the government ruling. Vancouver and Victoria newspapers of the time described the group of mostly adult male immigrants as "undesirable," "sick," "hungry" and "a menace to women and children."

Upon arrival, they were refused the right to disembark. The steamer sat in detention, under deteriorating conditions and diminishing supplies, for two months. Following attempts to intimidate and force passengers off the steamer for immediate deportation, the Komagata Maru was finally a Read More
Immigrants from India began to arrive in British Columbia during the early 1900’s. In 1907, the government of British Columbia disenfranchised East Indians, even though they were British subjects. In 1908 the Canadian government passed a policy requiring immigrants to come to Canada by a continuous journey from their country of origin, which effectively stopped immigration from India. In 1910, the order was extended to the wives and children of those already in Canada.

In 1914, after a two-month voyage, 376 Indians, mostly Sikhs, sailed into Vancouver harbour on the steamer, Komagata Maru. The ship had been chartered by Gurdit Singh to test the government ruling. Vancouver and Victoria newspapers of the time described the group of mostly adult male immigrants as "undesirable," "sick," "hungry" and "a menace to women and children."

Upon arrival, they were refused the right to disembark. The steamer sat in detention, under deteriorating conditions and diminishing supplies, for two months. Following attempts to intimidate and force passengers off the steamer for immediate deportation, the Komagata Maru was finally able to obtain provisions for a return trip to India and was escorted out of the harbour by the  HMS Rainbow. With the exception of twenty returning residents and the ship’s doctor, none of the passengers were permitted to disembark.

© Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Telegram

Telegram from prominent Christian citizens of Toronto to Mackenzie King, June 7 1939, asking that Canada offer sanctuary to the 907 homeless exiles on board the S.S. St. Louis.

A translated transcript of the letter is available by following this link

Courtesy National Archives of Canada.

© Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre 2002. All Rights Reserved.


Following Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, on November 9-10, 1938, German and Austrian Jews became increasingly desperate to flee Europe. On May 15, 1939 nine hundred and seven German Jews with visas for Cuba, sailed from Hamburg aboard the ship S.S. St. Louis. When the ship reached Havana on May 27, the Cuban government refused to honour their landing permits. Panama, Argentina, Columbia, Chile and Paraguay all denied the ship permission to land. The U.S. and Canada were the St. Louis’ last hope. The United States’ coast guard was sent to escort the St. Louis away from the American coast.

The plight of the St. Louis touched some influential Canadians who sent a telegram to Prime Minister Mackenzie King asking that Canada offer sanctuary to the exiles. King did not think that this was a Canadian problem. The Director of Immigration F. C. Blair replied that the refugees were not qualified to enter Canada and that "No country could open its doors wide enough to take in the hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who want to leave Europe: the line must be drawn somewhere."

The St. Louis had exhausted its last hope and returned to E Read More
Following Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, on November 9-10, 1938, German and Austrian Jews became increasingly desperate to flee Europe. On May 15, 1939 nine hundred and seven German Jews with visas for Cuba, sailed from Hamburg aboard the ship S.S. St. Louis. When the ship reached Havana on May 27, the Cuban government refused to honour their landing permits. Panama, Argentina, Columbia, Chile and Paraguay all denied the ship permission to land. The U.S. and Canada were the St. Louis’ last hope. The United States’ coast guard was sent to escort the St. Louis away from the American coast.

The plight of the St. Louis touched some influential Canadians who sent a telegram to Prime Minister Mackenzie King asking that Canada offer sanctuary to the exiles. King did not think that this was a Canadian problem. The Director of Immigration F. C. Blair replied that the refugees were not qualified to enter Canada and that "No country could open its doors wide enough to take in the hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who want to leave Europe: the line must be drawn somewhere."

The St. Louis had exhausted its last hope and returned to Europe. Great Britain admitted 287 of the refugees, Belgium 214, France 224 and the Netherlands 181. Only those who disembarked in England were safe. The rest were later caught up in the Holocaust and few survived.

© Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Japanese Canadian Identity Card

Long standing anti-Japanese sentiment in Canada was heightened by Japan's entry into World War II. On February 27, 1942, the Canadian government decreed the removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the coast of British Columbia.

Courtesy Royal British Columbia Museum.

© Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre 2002. All Rights Reserved.


Long standing anti-Japanese sentiment in Canada was heightened by Japan’s entry into World War II. On February 27, 1942, the Canadian government decreed the removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the coast of British Columbia. Japanese people, many of them Canadian citizens, were forced to abandon their homes, businesses and possessions and relocate to the interior for the duration of the war. Many men were separated from their families and sent to work camps. As part of the Japanese Internment, Japanese Canadians were forced to carry identity cards like this one.

Prime Minister Mackenzie King opposed Japanese immigration to Canada, even after the war: "... the government is of the view that, having regard to the strong feeling that has been aroused against the Japanese during the war and to the extreme difficulty of assimilating Japanese persons in Canada, no immigration of Japanese into this country should be allowed after the war." (Excerpts from a statement by Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King, House of Commons, August 4, 1944.)

In April 1945, the Canadian government began a campaign of intimidation against Japanese Canadians l Read More
Long standing anti-Japanese sentiment in Canada was heightened by Japan’s entry into World War II. On February 27, 1942, the Canadian government decreed the removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the coast of British Columbia. Japanese people, many of them Canadian citizens, were forced to abandon their homes, businesses and possessions and relocate to the interior for the duration of the war. Many men were separated from their families and sent to work camps. As part of the Japanese Internment, Japanese Canadians were forced to carry identity cards like this one.

Prime Minister Mackenzie King opposed Japanese immigration to Canada, even after the war: "... the government is of the view that, having regard to the strong feeling that has been aroused against the Japanese during the war and to the extreme difficulty of assimilating Japanese persons in Canada, no immigration of Japanese into this country should be allowed after the war." (Excerpts from a statement by Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King, House of Commons, August 4, 1944.)

In April 1945, the Canadian government began a campaign of intimidation against Japanese Canadians living in British Columbia to force them to move to eastern Canada or be deported to Japan. This policy continued despite the war’s end. In 1946, 3,964 people, many of them Canadian citizens, were "repatriated" to Japan. This was described by the government as a "final solution" to the Japanese problem. The order was repealed in January 24, 1947 but the movement of Japanese Canadians continued to be restricted until 1949.

© Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Vietnamese Child Refugee

Taken at a refugee reception centre, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 1997.

The American war in Vietnam ended in 1975. After the Americans withdrew from Vietnam, the Saigon government of South Vietnam fell to the Communists.

Courtesy United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees.

© Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre 2002. All Rights Reserved.


The American war in Vietnam ended in 1975. After the Americans withdrew from Vietnam, the Saigon government of South Vietnam fell to the Communists. This sparked a massive exodus of Vietnamese people to Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Media attention and fear that these countries would push the "boat people" back to sea compelled the world's wealthier nations to offer asylum to the refugees.

Between 1975 and 1995, over 840,000 refugees left Vietnam, often on small unseaworthy boats. The efforts of individual Canadians and community groups led to the arrival of 30,000 boat people in 1979. The following year, the Canadian government sponsored another 30,000. Over seven hundred thousand Vietnamese "boat people" resettled in other parts of the world including the United States, England, France and Germany.
The American war in Vietnam ended in 1975. After the Americans withdrew from Vietnam, the Saigon government of South Vietnam fell to the Communists. This sparked a massive exodus of Vietnamese people to Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Media attention and fear that these countries would push the "boat people" back to sea compelled the world's wealthier nations to offer asylum to the refugees.

Between 1975 and 1995, over 840,000 refugees left Vietnam, often on small unseaworthy boats. The efforts of individual Canadians and community groups led to the arrival of 30,000 boat people in 1979. The following year, the Canadian government sponsored another 30,000. Over seven hundred thousand Vietnamese "boat people" resettled in other parts of the world including the United States, England, France and Germany.

© Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Bosnian Refugees

Taken in the Crnomelj Camp/Shelter, 1992.

Before conflicts broke out, Yugoslavia was comprised of several regions, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. In 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence from Yugoslavia. In March 1992, Bosnia declared its independence from what remained of Yugoslavia, in effect, Serbia.

Courtesy United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees.

© Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre 2002. All Rights Reserved.


Before conflicts broke out, Yugoslavia was comprised of several regions, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. In 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence from Yugoslavia. In March 1992, Bosnia declared its independence from what remained of Yugoslavia, in effect, Serbia. Driven by ethnic loyalties, Serbs, Croats and Muslims became involved in the fighting.

Atrocities and massacres were committed by all sides. Serbs, and to a lesser degree Croatians, were involved in "ethnic cleansing," the forced removal, and sometimes murder, of unwanted groups. A refugee crisis was created as ethnic groups were either driven out or fled in fear. In 1994, there were over 320,000 Bosnian refugees.

In 1995 a cease-fire was established and Bosnia was divided among the three ethnic groups. Canada and other countries provided peacekeeping forces and other assistance. Close to thirteen thousand Bosnian refugees entered Canada between 1992 and 1997.
Before conflicts broke out, Yugoslavia was comprised of several regions, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. In 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence from Yugoslavia. In March 1992, Bosnia declared its independence from what remained of Yugoslavia, in effect, Serbia. Driven by ethnic loyalties, Serbs, Croats and Muslims became involved in the fighting.

Atrocities and massacres were committed by all sides. Serbs, and to a lesser degree Croatians, were involved in "ethnic cleansing," the forced removal, and sometimes murder, of unwanted groups. A refugee crisis was created as ethnic groups were either driven out or fled in fear. In 1994, there were over 320,000 Bosnian refugees.

In 1995 a cease-fire was established and Bosnia was divided among the three ethnic groups. Canada and other countries provided peacekeeping forces and other assistance. Close to thirteen thousand Bosnian refugees entered Canada between 1992 and 1997.

© Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Rwandan Refugees Returning from Tanzania

Belgium controlled Rwanda-Urundi for forty years, during which time it favoured the minority Tutsis over the majority Hutus. This created ethnic tensions between the two groups.

Courtesy United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees

© Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre 2002. All Rights Reserved.


Belgium controlled Rwanda-Urundi for forty years, during which time it favoured the minority Tutsis over the majority Hutus. This created ethnic tensions between the two groups. Belgium opposed the Rwandan monarch's desire for independence and established Parmehutu, a Hutu party to overthrow the monarch and form a republic. In 1959, this political crisis sparked a civil war that forced many Tutsis and Hutu moderates to flee into the neighbouring countries of Uganda and Burundi, where they founded the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF).

Rwanda gained independence in 1962. Fighting between Rwandan Armed Forces (mostly Hutus) and the RPF broke out in October of 1990 along the Ugandan-Rwandan border. The Arusha peace agreement was signed in 1993 and the United Nations sent in peacekeeping forces headed by Canadian, Romeo Dallaire to oversee the transition to multiparty elections.

In April 1994, a plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was allegedly downed by Hutus opposed to the peace accord and power sharing. This sparked the genocide in which militant Hutus killed Tutsis and moderate Hutus. In 100 days more than 800,000 innocent civilians were massacr Read More
Belgium controlled Rwanda-Urundi for forty years, during which time it favoured the minority Tutsis over the majority Hutus. This created ethnic tensions between the two groups. Belgium opposed the Rwandan monarch's desire for independence and established Parmehutu, a Hutu party to overthrow the monarch and form a republic. In 1959, this political crisis sparked a civil war that forced many Tutsis and Hutu moderates to flee into the neighbouring countries of Uganda and Burundi, where they founded the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF).

Rwanda gained independence in 1962. Fighting between Rwandan Armed Forces (mostly Hutus) and the RPF broke out in October of 1990 along the Ugandan-Rwandan border. The Arusha peace agreement was signed in 1993 and the United Nations sent in peacekeeping forces headed by Canadian, Romeo Dallaire to oversee the transition to multiparty elections.

In April 1994, a plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was allegedly downed by Hutus opposed to the peace accord and power sharing. This sparked the genocide in which militant Hutus killed Tutsis and moderate Hutus. In 100 days more than 800,000 innocent civilians were massacred. The genocide ended in July of 1994 when the RPF defeated Hutu extremists. From 1991 to 1997, 609 Rwandan refugees entered Canada.

© Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Identify the causes and consequences of World War II on families, civilians, Europe, Canada, etc.
  • Explain the important elements of the Second World War.
  • Explain the historical significance of the Holocaust and the impact it had on Canada.
  • Evaluate the importance of having immigration policy more flexible or stricter.
  • Assess the impact of WWII on the development of human rights.

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