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“We Wanted to Come to Canada”: Pier 21 and the Arrival of Polish Orphans

In August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union concluded a treaty of non-aggression and neutrality. The Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union – commonly referred to as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – also delineated spheres of interest between both parties. The following month, German and Soviet forces invaded Poland and split the country into two zones according to the terms of their agreement. Between September 1939 and the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Soviet forces – hostile to the Polish population and its culture – imprisoned some 500,000 Polish nationals and deported a further 500,000 individuals in four waves of mass deportations from eastern Poland to labour camps in Siberia.

Humanitarian Gesture: Canada and the Tibetan Resettlement Program, 1971–5

In 1966, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) lobbied the Canadian government to accept a small number of Tibetan refugees for permanent resettlement. Federal officials informed the UNHCR that Canadian immigration policy discouraged group settlement. Initially, efforts to permanently resettle the Tibetan refugees were stifled as Canadian immigration officials disagreed over the resettlement of “self-described nomads.” As the Canadian government strengthened relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC), federal officials resettled an experimental wave of 228 Tibetan refugees in an effort to meet their international humanitarian obligations and to find a permanent solution to the plight of Tibetan refugees in northern India. The resettlement program demonstrated that refugees from a non-European ethnocultural and linguistic background who did not qualify under normal immigration criteria could be successfully re-established in Canada in a short period of time and at a relatively low cost to the federal government. The special program for Tibetan refugees illustrated to federal officials that future refugee programs had to be coordinated with individuals and families themselves in order to effectively meet their needs and governmental requirements during resettlement.

Recreating a homeland: Czechoslovak diplomats in Canada during the Second World War

In the 1920s, a large influx of immigrants from Czechoslovakia came to Canada in search of industrial work and available land for agriculture. Interwar ethnic associations were predominantly led by individuals of Slovak origin. Czechoslovakia maintained contact with its nationals in Canada through its diplomatic officials. Their consular offices promoted loyalty to Czechoslovakia’s policies in the hopes that Slovaks and Czechs would adopt their home government’s pro-“Czechoslovak” ideology, and eventually defend their homeland in the event of a war. The Czechoslovak Consulate General in Montreal oversaw all diplomatic activity between Prague and its nationals in Canada. With Slovakia’s declaration of independence and Germany’s occupation of the Czech lands in March 1939, the Czechoslovak Consulate General in Montreal used its local diplomatic discretion in an attempt to unite Slovaks and Czechs as a “Czechoslovak” national community. However, although nationalist Slovaks supported Canada’s war effort, they opposed the Czechoslovak Consulate General’s pro-Czechoslovak agenda. Czechoslovak diplomats lobbied the Canadian government for political recognition of the Edvard Beneš-led Czechoslovak government-in-exile in London to legitimize their efforts to re-establish a postwar Czechoslovak Republic. After British recognition, Canada became the last Dominion to recognize the London government-in-exile.

Forgotten Experiment: Canada’s Resettlement of Palestinian Refugees, 1955-1956

In the summer of 1955, the Canadian government took the “bold step” of admitting displaced Palestinian refugees from the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. The government approved the resettlement of 100 skilled workers and their families. Canadian officials believed that alleviating the refugee problem in the Middle East would help in furthering regional stability. The resettlement scheme remained a politically sensitive issue as Arab governments protested against what they perceived as a Zionist plot to remove Palestinians from their ancestral land. For Canada, the admission of Palestinian refugees in 1956 served as an important “experiment” for the future selection and resettlement of non-European refugees.

Strategic Winter Port: A History of the Port of Saint John

On 24 June 1604, French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed through the Bay of Fundy to the mouth of the Saint John River. His expedition is considered the earliest written record about the port of Saint John. It was not until the American Revolution that the area became heavily populated with settlers. In May 1783, some 3,500 displaced Loyalists from the United States were offered free land and chose to resettle in the area. Two years later, Saint John became the first incorporated city in British North America (BNA). In the early nineteenth century, lumber and shipping increased significantly due to demand throughout Great Britain. Saint John became the largest shipbuilding city in BNA and the fourth largest in the British Empire. By the 1850s, a wharf was built at Reed’s Point (now a part of Lower Cove Terminal) for a steam ferry service operating between both sides of the harbour. The wharf also served steamships carrying transatlantic passengers. The emergence of steel-hulled shipbuilding – which replaced wooden ships – and the rise of westward expansion across BNA increased railway links while passenger travel brought people and trade to the city’s port area.

Port of Precedence: A History of the Port of Québec Part 2

In the 1920s, the Port of Québec’s primary function became grain export. However, the site continued to be a major point of entry for immigrants to Canada. On 28 May 1921, the Toronto Globe published an article entitled “The Human Inflow into Canada.” Special correspondent Frank Yeigh followed the movement of newcomers through the landing experience. Travellers were first medically examined at Grosse Île Quarantine Station before heading for processing through the immigration hall on the Louise Embankment at the port of Québec. On the second floor of the hall, travellers were sorted into sections: first, returning Canadians, British arrivals or those heading to the United States through Canada, and last, all arrivals from foreign lands. Lines for each of the three categories were formed, and travellers passed single-file before medical doctors appointed by the federal Medical Health Department. It was at this point that travellers were medically examined a second time. Once medically cleared, passengers were visited by a trained corps of inspectors who ascertained the validity of travel documentation, how much money each passenger had in their possession, and whether each traveller had replied truthfully to every question posed. Detained individuals were immediately sent to rooms with cages where they were assessed by a three-member Board of Inquiry from whose decision an appeal could be made to Ottawa.

Port of Precedence: A History of the Port of Québec Part 1

From the eighteenth century onwards, immigration and the “population flottante” profoundly marked the demographic, sociocultural, and economic fibres of Québec. The migrating local populace and incoming European immigrants had a major impact on the development of institutions, trade, and modes of transportation. This report argues that within Québec, one site was shaped by all three aforementioned areas: the port of Québec. In turn, the port later helped to diversify the sociocultural and political composition of the city. By 1850, forty percent of the city’s population was Anglophone with the port of Québec handling two-thirds of all European immigration to British North America.