Immigrate to Canada: We Are Open: True or False?

Over the span of many years, accompanying historical and important events, the Canadian immigration policy has been shaped to satisfy the needs and interests of the country. Canada has experienced different immigration waves, from a liberal period to a restrictive one. There were times when Canada opened its doors with little restrictions. However, most of the time, potential immigrants were required to meet specific conditions to apply for permanent residency.

The immigration policy known as “open doors” was implanted in 1896 by Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s Liberal government to promote the settlement of the West. For that, his Federal Minister of the Interior, Clifford Sifton, developed a program to attract suitable farmers and farm labourers to occupy the empty Prairies quickly. He wanted to populate the Prairies with agricultural immigrants. Most of these immigrants came from Great Britain, the United States and Northwestern Europe. According to this policy, it was believed that “the more immigrants allowed going to Canada, the better it would be”. At this time of openness, there was no restriction concerning the numbers of immigrants that entered into the country.

However, times have changed. The following periods have been considered more restrictive due to the implementation of the Immigration Act of 1906. The main purpose of this immigration Act was to stop undesirable immigrants. This new legislation significantly expanded the number of exclusion categories of immigrants and increased the government’s power to deport no welcome newcomers by providing a means of control. Furthermore, the system became more selective due to the execution of the Immigration Act of 1910. This Act of 1910 provided the power to impede immigrants to enter into Canada who belonged to any race considered inappropriate to the climate or requirements of Canada. It also reinforced the government’s power to deport individuals on the grounds of political and moral instability.

Definitely, immigration has played a considerable role in Canada’s progress over the years, contributing to the build up of a very progressive, diverse and multicultural society. This diversity of people has culturally enriched the country to make it the prosperous nation that it represents in the present time. However, multiculturalism has not always been treated positively by the Canadian immigration policy. Noticeably, before the Canadian Bill of Rights had been enacted in 1960, discrimination by reason of race, colour, national origin, religion or sex was commonly employed to select immigrants to settle in Canada. This approach suffered influence from historical events that occurred around the world, as well as it oscillated according to national and regional interests and daily priorities.

The Canadian immigration policy prior to 1960 evidently favoured certain ethnic groups over others, utilizing a method of selection based on nationality and race rather than individual merit. Noticeably, the newcomers who moved to Canada during the post-war period composed a more heterogeneous group than those who immigrated to Canada during the boom period of 1900–1914. This reveals a slow progressive opening in the Canadian immigration policy, which has constantly been marked by traces of discrimination, before the Canadian Bill of Rights of 1960.

Jumping to 2010, Canada admitted 280,681 permanent residents, which is above average for the past ten years. Among them, 66% were economic immigrants, such as skilled workers, provincial nominees, live-in-caregivers and business immigrants. The rest were family class immigrants (22%) and refugees and humanitarian cases (12%). Concerning temporary residents, the numbers has been also increasing: 218,161 international students and 182,276 foreign workers.

According to the above information, the majority of immigrants who came to Canada in 2010 were from the economic class. To be selected by the federal skilled worker program, applicants must reach a mark of 67 points. The current Canadian immigration point system, which is about to change, is based on education, English or French proficiency, work experience, arranged employment, age and adaptability.

Provincial nominee program does not use the point system, but it chooses potential immigrants in accordance with local needs. These applicants also have to meet rigorous requirement criteria. The same is applied to live-in-caregivers and business immigrant. Each one of these programs has their own requirements. Even through family class program and refugees and humanitarian cases, prospective immigrants are meticulously analysed. All of them have to pass medical exams and security check to be accepted in Canada.

There is a huge dilemma between immigrants’ population growth in Canada and how to integrate them to find job as soon as possible. A good balance is necessary to reach a fair number of immigrants and fair capacity to integrate these new immigrants in the job market. Thus, Canada it is not a country totally open for everybody, but only for those who are able to contribute to its economy. That’s why it is much easier to immigrate to Canada with a job offer. In this case, the country is open, since other requirements are met. Canada is known as a country with a strong health care system, and a place that enjoys one of the highest standards of health and quality of life in the world. To keep this pattern, its immigration system has been controlling the number and quality of people who come to live permanently in it.

In brief, at present, the statement: “We are open” can be true only concerning qualified applicants who meet certain requirements for specific programs such as enough education, English or French proficiency and work experience in professions in need in Canada. Therefore, the current immigration system can be understood as “closed for undesirable immigrants and open for qualified ones”. If the country was really open and there were no requirements to meet to immigrate, its immigration population would probably increase a lot, over the average of close to 250,000 per year for the past 20 years.

Paula De Cassia Pimpão
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku


1. Gaudet, L & Onuschak, K (2012). Immigration Practitioner’s Handbook. Toronto, ON: Carswell.

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