Canada's first immigration legislation, the Immigration Act of 1869 reflected the laissez-faire philosophy of the time by not saying which classes of immigrants should be admitted but , merely that the "governor" could prohibit the landing of pauper or destitute immigrants at any Canadian port.
The Chinese, who were arriving in large numbers to build the railway, were a special target of fear and suspicion. An act passed in 1885 to "restrict and regulate" Chinese immigration, was later complemented by head taxes designed to discourage Chinese immigration. It wasn't until the 1960's that regulations and restriction to Chinese immigration were completely lifted.
The 19th century closed with a world wide depression and a slow down of immigration to the West. But all that changed in 1895, when Clifford Sifton was appointed as Minister of the Interior at the start of an economic recovery. Sifton believed that "a stalwart peasant in sheep skin coat" made the most desirable immigrant , and set out to attract people suited for farming, In 1896, 16,835 immigrants entered Canada. When Sifton left in 1905, the population was 141,464. It rocketed to 400,970 by 1913. Some three million newcomers arrived between 1896 and the outbreak of World War 1.
But Sifton's policies triggered criticism, despite success in attracting farmers. Immigration from central and southeastern Europe raised a ground swell of hostility on the prairies because residents didn't believe theses newcomers could assimilate readily into the dominant Anglo-Saxon society.
The authorities wanted to keep African-Canadians out of Canada because they thought that they were useless... [continues]
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