In 1962, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Ellen Fairclough introduced new immigration regulations that eliminated overt racial discrimination from Canadian immigration policy. Skill became the main criteria for determining admissibility rather than race or national origin.
When the Progressive Conservatives came to power in 1957, they began a thorough review of immigration policy, intending to make extensive modifications to the existing act. Following the Second World War and the Holocaust, there was increased awareness and sensitivity to matters of racial discrimination. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker introduced the Bill of Rights in 1960, which rejected discrimination on the basis of race, colour, national origin, religion or sex. As such, the selection of immigrants on the basis of ethnicity and national origin became difficult to justify. It was also hoped that a new immigration policy would limit the number of unskilled labourers arriving in Canada and encourage the immigration of workers with technical and professional skills. By 1957, unemployment was on the rise and there was growing concern about the influx of immigrants sponsored by relatives in Canada that were unskilled and unemployed.
The new immigration regulations specified that non-sponsored immigrants would be assessed on the basis of their education, training, skills or other special qualifications rather than their race, ethnicity or national origin. Despite concerns about the growth of the sponsorship movement, the classes of sponsored immigrants were also expanded; all Canadian citizens or permanent residents, regardless of their country of origin, could sponsor a parent, grandparent, husband, wife, fiancée or unmarried son or daughter under the age of 21. However, the regulations did maintain an aspect racial discrimination. Only Canadians from preferred nations in Europe, the Americas and select countries in the Middle East were permitted to sponsor children over the age of 21, married children, siblings and their siblings’ families and unmarried orphaned nieces and nephews under the age of 21. This clause was added due to fears of an influx of unskilled sponsored relatives from Asian nations.
While the government originally intended to develop a new immigration act, this policy was introduced as a separate set of regulations. New regulations could be implemented quickly by the authority of cabinet whereas acts had to pass through various stages of approval in Parliament. By drafting these regulations, Fairclough likely introduced a more liberal policy than could have been achieved through a new immigration act. Following the implementation of these provisions, immigration from non-European countries increased substantially.
Library and Archives Canada. “Immigration Act, Immigration Regulations, Part I, Amended” RG2-A-1-a, volume 2269, PC 1962-86, 18 January 1962. “Immigration Act, Immigration Regulations, Part II, Amended” RG2-A-1-a, volume 2269, PC 1962-86, 1 February 1962
- Valerie Knowles, Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-1997 (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1997), 152.
- Ninette Kelley and Michael Trebilcock, The Making of the Mosaic: A History of Canadian Immigration Policy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998), 332.
- Knowles, 147.
- Kelley and Trebilcock, 332-333.
- Knowles, 152.