Wednesday, October 5, 2016

WS3330F Blog Post #2: Mariam Ahmad - A History of Canadian Immigration

A History of Canadian Immigration
“Gender and Race in ‘Non-discriminatory’ Immigration Policies in Canada: 1960s to the Present

Similar to the United States, Canada is one of a handful of countries where immigration has traditionally been a major shaping factor in society and culture. With its historically small population and vast untapped acres of unsettled land, Canada's immigration policy was initially fueled by a desire for expansion, with most immigrants settling in rural, frontier areas. However, this desire did not come without discrimination. In the early twentieth century, Canada began to control the flow of immigrants, adopting policies that excluded applicants whose ethnic origins were not European. There was a need for the “desirable” immigrant, in other words, those of European heritage were welcomed with open arms, while others were not.

Until 1966s, Canadian immigration policy was extremely racist. There were clear efforts to develop Canada into a white settler place, based on British traditions. However, change came when Canadians realized that skilled, professional and technical labour was needed and the explicitly racist criteria was eradicated and swapped for a points system. This system in particular was based on objective criteria and focused on education, occupational skills, occupational experience and knowledge of Canadian national languages (French & English). The idea was implemented in hopes that this would generate immigration from other parts of the world, and for the first time in Canadian history, the majority of those immigrating into Canada were of non-European ancestry.

However, this did not come without its own share of issues. Although the points system was supposedly non biased, it definitely favoured those who could bring the most use to the Canadian market. The point system essentially led to the commodification of immigrants, peoples value is based on their place in the labour market, and essentially on how much capital they could generate for the Canadian market, and not much else. 

Around the early 70s into the 80s is around the time Canadian immigration policy started to give special consideration to refugees and family class immigrants, in other words, immigrants who did not have to go through with the points system. Family class immigrants are defined as being close family members, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 18. Unlike independent immigrants however, they are not given some rights and benefits. They are admitted to Canada on a 10-year basis, under the dependence of their sponsor family who will partake in the accommodation, care and maintenance of the family. Family class immigrants however, emerged to be a very gendered category. Females are extremely overrepresented (59% compared to 41% male). One of the major reasons for this was that until 1974, women who were married were not allowed to enter Canada as the principle immigrant, they were always the dependent. In addition to this, there were two major reasons women were more likely to be classified under family immigrants rather than independent. Firstly, worldwide gender inequalities meant women have less access to opportunities for education and employment, Secondly, often times women’s domestic responsibilities interrupted their ability to contribute to the labour market.

Many women and immigrants in general did not have language proficiency in both English and French, which meant that they could not get access to jobs. To tackle this, the Canadian government introduced learning programs that also offered a small living allowance. However, entrance was heavily restricted and there was shortage of seats along with huge waiting lists, so many immigrants did not gain the adequate access to language learning that they required. By the 1990s however, the language program that had a living allowance was cut altogether. In replacement, the LINC was introduced – providing basic communication skills, and the LMLT – providing specialized training for those whose market skills were in demand. 

By 1994, measures were being taken against family immigration. While overall immigration numbers were being reduced, there was a decrease in the number of family immigrants and an increase in independent immigrants under the argument that family class immigrants were costing more money than they were contributing back into the economy.  The Canadian government managed to cut family class immigrants down from 51% to 30% and increase independent immigration to 52% from 43%.

Immigration from the late 90’s till now, as claimed by government officials, has been to reduce the deficit, saying all they have done is shift cost from the tax payer to the beneficiaries. The beneficiary meaning the immigrant or their sponsor family. Today, Liberal governments have claimed they want to reconfigure an immigrant-selection system in a rapidly changing labour market where a growing number of jobs are temporary and there’s “increasing mismatch” of available skills and the skills in demand.

(Immigration Today)


  1. Well, Canadian Immigration is not a big deal anymore if you have certain set of skills. New Zealand skilled immigration is a perfect way to get immigration. They are offering it for free because they need a lot of men to boost their economy.

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