3.1 Immigration Act 1910

In this lesson I say that it should be clear that the discourse on nationalism is also about ethnicity and ideologies of “race.” If you trace the historical overview of nationalism in Canada in the CanLit guide, you will find many examples of state legislation and policies that excluded and discriminated against certain peoples based on ideas about racial inferiority and capacities to assimilate. – and in turn, state legislation and policies that worked to try to rectify early policies of exclusion and racial discrimination. As the guide points out, the nation is an imagined community, whereas the state is a “governed group of people.” For this blog assignment, I would like you to research and summarize one of the state or governing activities, such as The Royal Proclamation 1763, the Indian Act 1876, Immigration Act 1910, or the Multiculturalism Act 1989 – you choose the legislation or policy or commission you find most interesting. Write a blog about your findings and in your conclusion comment on whether or not your findings support Coleman’s argument about the project of white civility.

The Immigration Act of 1910 was established by the Canadian government in order to control the influx of people entering the country. It was meant to encourage certain types of people into entering the country, while keeping out people who were deemed a nuisance to the well being of the nation. These undesirables were prostitutes, criminals, people with mental illnesses, and others who posed a threat to the social and political well being of Canada. This act allowed for the government to create a set of rules in order to determine who would be able to enter and exit the country. For example, new immigrants must have at least $25 in their possession in order to be considered for entry into Canada. The government took total control of the process of immigration, and they had final say over any immigration cases. Therefore, the supreme courts and other modes of authority did not have the right to overturn any cases. The executive branch of the Canadian government had complete control over who would be permitted residency into Canada. The Immigration Act also brought forward the notion of domicile, which allowed for permanent residency if an was granted stay in Canada for at least three years. It was all in the control of the government to determine whether or not a person would achieve permanent residency, because they had the authority to deport anybody out of the country if they did not fit the government’s standards of what it meant to be a Canadian citizen.

After conducting research on this topic, I believe that my findings do support Coleman’s argument about the project of white civility. A certain type of whiteness and Canadian ideal is portrayed by the Immigration Act, as the government has the inexplicable authority to deem what type of person is ideal to live in the country. They are building a certain type of Canada using their ideals and notions of what a Canadian should act and look like. Racist overtones were present in all of the articles I consulted while researching for this topic. The fact that a group of government executives were allowed to determine which type of people could enter Canada is a deeply concerning issue for me. This act affected generations of different cultures, and I am glad that the Canada I am living in today is diverse with a variety of different races inhabiting this great nation of ours.


4 thoughts on “3.1 Immigration Act 1910

  1. FlorenceNg

    Hi Rajin,

    As diverse as Canada seems, as neither you nor I are white, do you think this kind of thing might still be going on? I’m certainly not an expert on this topic, but I feel like there is kind of a trend in the “diverse immigrants” that I see. For example, most of the Chinese people who come into Canada now are extremely wealthy. A lot of immigrants who enter Canada seem to need to be relatively well-off.

    Another thing that I’ve seen happen is Canada stripping away professional certifications. On some level, I understand this, but I’ve also seen very talented doctors and professors reduced to assistants and grocery store clerks. Some people, like those from the Philippines, speak very good English as well.

    Would it be possible that the core of the Immigration Act have not changed? Perhaps it’s only that the criteria that have changed?

  2. RajinSidhu Post author

    Hi Florence,

    Thanks for your insight! You bring up some very interesting points, especially what you term “diverse immigrants”. This got me thinking as to what type of people really do immigrate to Canada nowadays. It certainly is not like it was for my family when they came to Canada with literally the clothes on their back and a couple of bucks. Part of the reason why I don’t identify as being “Canadian” is due to these Immigrant Acts that dictated which type of people were allowed to enter the country. I understand that this Immigration Act was put into place in 1910 and times are much different now, but it is hard for me to ignore the history of this country as well as the poor treatment towards First Nations culture.

    I think it is possible that the core of the Immigration Act is still in tact today. I visited the Canadian Immigration website (http://www.canadaimmigrationvisa.com/visatype.html…I still have not figured out how to insert a hyperlink in the comment section, sorry!) and there is still a list of specific criteria that must be met in order to even be considered to call Canada home. I completely understand that this criteria must be in place in order to ensure the well being of our country, but the parallels to the Immigration Act of 1910 are striking. It is unfortunate that we live in a world that is governed by borders and rules that determine whether or not a person can move to another country, but I guess that is just the way it will have to be.

  3. Caitlin Funk

    Hi Rajin,

    For the sake of argument, and argument alone, I wonder what Canada would look like if we said “Anyone who can arrive at our borders can not only enter Canada, but can become a Canadian citizen immediately.” Technically, thats what the Canadian forefathers did – they arrived and made it their own, but what would that look like today? If we had the types of people you mentioned “prostitutes, criminals, people with mental illnesses, and others who posed a threat to the social and political well being of Canada”, become Canadian right off the bat, how would our country be different? First off, prostitution (more specifically the purchase of sexual services) is illegal, so not sure how that person will support themselves without illegal acts. Also, for the argument that “new immigrants must have at least $25 in their possession in order to be considered for entry into Canada”, unless they are arriving here to be with a friend/family, I don’t know how they would expect to survive on less than $100, let alone $25. This also protect our welfare by not having a massive influx, and then leaving either the citizens splitting a set amount too many ways or taxing way more than they already do now to accommodate the influx.

    I’m certainly not defending the Immigration Act of 1910, but I am wondering how we can better it to allow us to maintain what we know Canada to be, but still be open to immigration.


  4. RajinSidhu Post author

    Hi Caitlin! Thank you so much for commenting on my blog post!

    You bring up some very interesting/valid points, thank you for critically thinking about this issue, it’s definitely opened my eyes. I understand that the Immigration Act and polices like this are issued for the benefit of our society because your absolutely right, not just everyone should be allowed to enter the country. If this was the case, I think more chaos would ensue, and there would not be equal opportunities for everybody. It is a much different world that we live in than the ones that generations before us were apart of, and having an “open door policy” to new immigrants would definitely be problematic.
    In regards to the Immigration Act of 1910, I am against it because of its projection of white civility. In my conducting my research I found that Canada was only letting a certain type of people enter the country. I am proud to be apart of a country that does not strictly abide by these racist regulations anymore. I think immigration has definitely changed as there are so many different races and cultures that make their residence in Canada, and this would not have been the case in the 1900’s. It’s not the core of the Immigration Act that bothers me, it’s the closed-mindedness behind it that does.

    Thank you so much for your insight, it really got me to thinking about how I should approach immigration laws in the future 🙂
    Rajin Sidhu

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