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The history of immigration facilities at the port of Victoria, British Columbia, extends from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. However, Victoria’s role was marginalized by the emergence of Vancouver as a key port of entry in the 1920s. The development, operation, and diminution of the city’s immigration facilities reflected changing immigration policies and practices. First, Victoria’s economic and social role in British Columbia and in Canada changed substantially, which also changed the nature and scope of immigration to the city. Second, public health interests often overwhelmed - and sometimes completely displaced - the implementation of civil immigration policy. Finally, Victoria’s immigration facility history reflects periods of cooperation and conflict between the provincial and federal governments. In addition to shedding light on Victoria’s role in immigration history, an examination of these three factors provides some useful information on the development of Canada’s early national immigration structures.

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. Although the resettlement scheme was politically sensitive, it served as an important “experiment” for the future selection and resettlement of non-European refugees.

In the 1880s, Saint John became a strategic port for shipping and transportation interests. In 1931, a fire destroyed the port’s outdated immigration facilities resulting in the rerouting of transatlantic passenger traffic to Halifax. By 1950, a new facility opened to process immigrants, but technological advances in aviation and the establishment of the Saint John Airport in 1952, soon diminished the port’s role as an important point of entry for immigrants into Canada.

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