Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
May 2006

Document de l’histoire du Canada / Canadian History Document


Canadian Immigration Policy Statement



Claude Bélanger,

Department of History,

Marianopolis College


Every year, an official publication of the Canadian government called the Canada Year Book published detailed statistics of immigration into the country. In the 1920's, the statement outlined below was published with these statistics. The quote makes it amply clear that the conformity model is what dominated in Canada before the end of the Second World War (1945). It established a pecking order around the ideal immigrant. This immigrant would be WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant). The more one was close to this model (as were the British and the Americans), the more one was likely to be accepted in Canada. Conversely, the more one diverged from this model, the more one would be likely refused entry into Canada or, if in Canada, the more one was likely to be discriminated against. Those who diverted the most from the model were Jews and members of visible minorities.

It should be noted that the text below was written in the early 1920's, immediately after the First World War. This is what explains that Germans were not listed with Scandinavians and the Dutch as highly acceptable immigrants to Canada. In truth, prior to the First World War, Germans would have been welcomed to Canada and, thus, were considered as highly desirable immigrants to Canada.


Immigration Policy Statement

"Immigration, which was at a low ebb during the war period, is again increasing and becoming a chief means of reinforcing our population and filling up the vast waste spaces of Canada. But where any considerable immigration into a democratic country occurs, the racial and linguistic composition of that immigration becomes of paramount importance. Canadians generally prefer that settlers should be of a readily assimilable type, already identified by race or language with one or the other of the two great races now inhabitating this country and thus prepared for the assumption of the duties of democratic Canadian citizenship. Since the French are not to any great extent an emigrating people, this means in practice that the great bulk of the preferable settlers are those who speak the English language - those coming from the United Kingdom or the United States. Next in order of readiness of assimilation are the Scandinavians and the Dutch, who readily learn English and are already acquainted with the workings of free democratic institutions. Settlers from Southern and Eastern Europe, however desirable from a purely economic point of view, are less readily assimilated, and the Canadianizing of the people from these regions who have come to Canada in the present century is a problem both in the agricultural Prairies Provinces and in the cities of the East. Less assimilable still, according to the general opinion of Canadians, are those who come to Canada from the Orient. On the whole the great bulk of Canadian immigration of the past generation has been drawn from the English-speaking countries and from those Continental European countries where the population is ethnically nearly related to the British, though in recent years there has been an increasing immigra­tion of Slavs.”

Source: Canada's Immigration Policy from Canada Year Book, 1930, pp. 165-166

© 2006 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College