Continuous Journey Regulation, 1908


The continuous journey regulation required prospective immigrants to travel to Canada by continuous journey from the country of which they were natives or citizens on a through ticket purchased in that country. Since there was no direct steamship service between India and Canada at this time, the regulation effectively blocked Indian immigration. It also led to a decline in Japanese immigration to Canada by closing off the primary immigration route through Hawaii.

The “continuous journey regulation” was as an amendment to the Immigration Act in 1908, prohibiting the landing of any immigrant that did not come to Canada by continuous journey from the country of which they were natives or citizens. Immigrants were required to purchase a through ticket to Canada from their country of origin or otherwise be denied entry. In practice, this regulation primarily affected immigrants from India and Japan since the main immigration routes from those countries did not offer direct passage to Canada.

The government enacted this legislation in response to a report submitted by Deputy Minister of Labour William Lyon Mackenzie King investigating an influx of Asian labourers in Canada. In 1907, a large number of Japanese immigrants arrived in Canada to work as contract labourers for Canadian corporations. The increase in Japanese immigration intensified anti-Asian sentiment on Canada’s West Coast. A rally organized by the Asiatic Exclusion League in Vancouver in 1907 escalated into a riot as thousands of people began to terrorize Chinese and Japanese residents of the city and destroy their property.[1] Following the Vancouver Riot, the Canadian government negotiated an agreement with Japan to limit the number of Japanese immigrants arriving in Canada. However, this arrangement did not apply to Japanese immigrants travelling to Canada via Hawaii; at this time, more than 50% of permanent Japanese immigrants to Canada arrived through Hawaii.[2] Mackenzie King recommended that the government ban immigration by way of Hawaii in order to pacify growing anti-Asian sentiment.[3]

Mackenzie King’s report additionally recommended restricting immigration from India. King noted that many East Indians in Canada were unemployed and impoverished, attributing their circumstances to an incompatibility with the Canadian climate and way of life. However, specific exclusion of Indian immigrants based on their citizenship was impracticable because of their status as British subjects.[4]

The continuous journey regulation allowed the government to restrict both Indian and Japanese immigration without specifying exclusion on the basis of race, nationality or ethnic origins. Canadian Pacific was the only shipping company offering direct steamship service from India to Canada, but following the passage of the regulation, the government prohibited the sale of through tickets to Canada.[5] The regulation also successfully closed off the Hawaiian route for Japanese immigration.

The regulation was challenged on a number of occasions, most significantly in 1914 when wealthy Sikh merchant Gurdit Singh chartered the Komagata Maru to sail to Vancouver with 376 prospective East Indian immigrants. The ship arrived at the Vancouver harbour on May 23 and remained there for two months while the legality of the continuous journey regulation was challenged in provincial court. The Supreme Court of British Columbia upheld the legislation and the Komagata Maru was escorted out of the harbour on 23 July 1914.[6] Between 1910 and 1920, only 112 Indian immigrants gained entry into Canada.[7]

Library and Archives Canada. Statutes of Canada. An Act to Amend the Immigration Act, 1908. Ottawa: SC 7-8 Edward VII, Chapter 33

  1. Peter Ward, White Canada Forever: Popular Attitudes and Public Policy Toward Orientals in British Columbia (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1978), 65-70.
  2. Ninette Kelley and Michael Trebilcock, The Making of the Mosaic: A History of Canadian Immigration Policy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998), 147-148.
  3. Kelley and Trebilcock, 145-146.
  4. Kelley and Trebilcock, 147.
  5. Kelley and Trebilcock, 148.
  6. Valerie Knowles, Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-1997 (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1997), 93.
  7. Hugh Johnston, The East Indians in Canada (Ottawa: Canadian Historical Association, 1984), 7.