February 9, 2005
Open-Door and Prosperity?
At the turn of the 20th Century, immigration in Canada was at its peak. Prime Minister Laurier's dream was coming true: Canada was indeed prospering. But Canada was not true to its word: It did not have an "open door" policy. Canada's "door" was in fact closed to those that the Canadian government deemed unfavorable.
Sir William Laurier was elected in 1896 when he promised that the 20th Century would belong to Canada. His first step towards this goal was attracting immigrants to Canada. Lauriers' cabinet minister, Clifford Sifton, decided on an open door policy, meaning that everyone and anyone could immigrate to Canada. Unfortunately, many cultural groups were not welcomed in Canada as the Canadian government had promised.
Clifford Sifton only wanted certain groups of people to come to Canada; he wanted to keep Canada white and he wanted only those who could farm Canada's land. Therefore, his ideal settler would have been a white farmer. Sifton went to those countries with desirable prospective immigrants such as the United States, Britain, and northern, central and eastern Europe.
As noted by Fieldings and Evan, Canada's population exploded during this time period by two million. Because of the mass of immigrants Canada's economic growth was also immense. Transport systems such as railways were increasing, Canada itself was becoming more industrialized, and our nation had never been more successful.
Many original Canadians however, were not glad of Canada's new found prosperity. The Native peoples were concerned that because of all the new cultures and people arriving in Canada, they would lose their culture, their children and their very way of living. The Natives were often bullied into things they had never agreed on. As noted by Fielding and Evan, "Tragically, the Native peoples historic contributions and achievements were undervalued and overshadowed by the growing and ambitious immigrant population." Needless to say, the Natives were not treated fairly during the immigration boom.
Many other cultures were discriminated against during this time. Certain groups such as Asians and African Americans, Jews, Asiatic Indians, and southern European s were barred entry to Canada because they were not the type of immigrants that Clifford Sifton wanted.
African American people were never encouraged to come to Canada because of Sifton's dream of a "white only" Canada. Black people at this time were "widely regarded as being cursed with the burden of their African ancestry" (Forging Our Legacy). Despite this, many did want to immigrate to Canada but most were rejected.
The Chinese were also at a disadvantage. Sifton wanted to restrict Chinese and Japanese immigration so in 1904, the Chinese had to pay an entry fee of $500, which was an enormous amount at the time. Many Canadian people rioted and attacked the Japanese and Chinese people. They were ultimately shown that they were not welcome in "the free land".
Many jobs became available during the immigration boom and most were difficult and long. The Canadian government did not make it easier for those they did not wish to live in the country. Those immigrants that were considered undesirable, were given the most difficult and dangerous jobs for the least pay. This further proves that many immigrants that were not either white or farmers were encouraged to leave the country or to not come at all.
As stated by Fielding and Evan, "As the Laurier era began, Canada's economy was changing as drastically as its population." Canada's success depended on its cultural diversity and expansion. The hypocrisy involve din Canada's open door policy forever changed the course of our history. None the less, it did not hinder our success as we did prosper and the 20th Century was one of our greatest.
Works Cited List
Forging our Legacy: Canadian Citizenship and Immigration, 1900-77. 8 Feb.2005. http:www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/legacy/chap-2.html
Newman. Garfield. Canada: A Nation Unfolding. Toronto, Ontario. Mcgraw-Hill Ryerson. 2D 00
Fielding, John and Evans, Rosemary. Canada: Our Century Our Story. Scarborough, Ontario. Nelson Thompson Learning. 2000