by Lindsay Van Dyk, Former Junior Researcher
What do immigration rules tell us about Canada?
Since 1869, Canada has had laws and regulations governing the admission of immigrants. Immigration legislation has evolved and changed over time, shaped by the shifting social, political and economic climate, as well as dominant beliefs about race, desirability and integration. The open-door approach of the late nineteenth century gradually gave way to more restrictive measures that discriminated on the basis of race, ethnicity, and national origin. Overt discrimination remained a part of Canadian immigration policy until the latter half of the twentieth century, when skill and education became the main criteria for determining entrance into Canada, leaving some elements of discrimination still in place. Since Canada’s adoption of multiculturalism as an official policy in 1971, the cultural diversity of Canadian immigrants has been promoted as a key component of Canadian identity. Immigration legislation is ultimately a reflection of society’s beliefs and attitudes, but also reveals Canada’s history of inclusion and exclusion.