L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia
Why did Canadian Immigration Policy Change After 1945
Changes in the immigration policy were done progressively. There was no sudden change immediately after 1945. Yet, unmistakably, the policy shifted. Progressively, the discriminatory clauses in the Canadian Immigration Bill were altered, then removed. Important dates to chart these changes are 1947, 1952, 1962, 1967 and 1976.
Reasons given for this change are primarily the following:
- The economic needs of Canada changed. The country now needed highly skilled, educated, immigrants who would make an important contribution to the technological revolution taking place. Immigrants came to the cities and were seen contributing to the well-being of the country in important ways. Post-war prosperity was linked to the coming of this skilled workforce. Many of these immigrants were investing immigrants.
- The Post-War period is one of unprecedented economic growth and increases in the standard of living. Jobs were plentiful and immigrants were not percieved as competing for scarce jobs.
Increases in Canadian family revenue over decades (inflation eliminated)
1951-1961 : 32.8%
1961-1971 : 46%
1971-1981 : 26.1%
1981-1989 : 7.1%
- Greater education among Canadians. Prejudice often feeds on ignorance. New technology (radio, television, cinema) and foreign travel brought Canadians into contact with people from the rest of the world and made them curious, and more open, about other cultures.
- The effect of World War II, the horror of the death camps, etc. made Canadians see what intolerance leads to. The Post-War period, especially the 1960's, was a period of growth in the recognition of Human Rights (Canada adopts its first Bill of Rights in 1960).
- Increasing organization of minority groups to defend their rights. Individual immigrants are not fighting prejudice alone anymore.
- An important element of the Canadian post-war immigration policy, extending to the early 1960's, was a strong anti-communist component. This sentiment was widespread at the height of the Cold War period. Anti-communists, and people fleeing the communist dictatorships, were given asylum in Canada. Such immigrants were popular as they justified the belief of Canadians as to the dangers and evils of Communism. In the immediate postwar period, it was sometimes easier for former fascists to enter Canada than for their victims to do so. What these fascists had in common was their strong anti-communist views.
(See the review by Devin O. Pendas,
"Unauthorized Entry: The Truth about Nazi War Criminals in Canada, 1946-1956" in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Volume 17, Number 3 (Winter 2003): 505-508; the book reviewed by Pendas was Unauthorized Entry: The Truth about Nazi War Criminals in Canada, 1946-1956, by Howard Margolian, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2000, 327p.; another important study to consult is Reginald Whitaker, Double Standard: the Secret History of Canadian Immigration, Toronto, Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1987)
- In the Post-War period, the increasing rise in the standard of living in Europe, especially in Western Europe, meant that European immigrants were less interested in immigrating to Canada. If one considers that the birth rate was rapidly declining in Canada, and that there were shortages of labour in several fields, then the country was forced to look for immigration in other parts of the world and, for that purpose, change its policies.
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