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  • Canada after 11 September:Security Measures and “Preferred” Immigrants
  • Erin Kruger, Marlene Mulder, and Bojan Korenic (bio)

Canada has long been known as an immigrant-friendly nation with inviting policies allowing persons into the country. Founded on two distinct cultures of French and English immigrants, the government has developed policies that extend Canadian diversity by welcoming immigrants irrespective of their countries of origin. This tradition has served to shape and strengthen multiculturalism, defining Canada's unique approach in both supporting immigrants' retention of culture and their integration into Canadian life. Two recent events have contributed to changes in the way immigration is viewed in Canada: the smuggling and illegal landing of Fujian Chinese on the coast of British Columbia in 1999, and the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States. These events mark changes that more closely align Canadian and American policies and that have sparked a reversion to an earlier vision of preferred and nonpreferred immigrants. Consequently, there is a stronger focus on security that has far-reaching effects on Canadians and would-be Canadians, particularly immigrants and those in the process of immigrating to Canada. Immigrants from many cultural backgrounds, once viewed as contributors to the Canadian mosaic, are now portrayed negatively because of their race, religion, or both.

The Canadian government's department of immigration—Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)—has strengthened existing and developed new [End Page 72] partnerships with the United States and with other governments, law enforcement agencies, and private sector groups in Canada, leading to broader governing policies and actions related to immigration. To gain an understanding of these changes, we begin by considering highlights of the development of immigration and multiculturalism policies in Canada. Next we examine recent legislative changes that redefine immigrants as potential threats to security, moving coercive forms of control from traditional law-enforcement domains into immigration. This increased focus on security threats broadens the target from the individual to the group while at the same time it trades protection of civil liberties for protection of national security. Finally, we discuss the progression of public responses following 11 September.

The History of Policy Development in Canada Regarding Multiculturalism and Immigration

Reviewing historical decisions related to immigration and integration in Canada provides insight into the uniquely Canadian perspectives on contemporary responses to national security. While Canada's doors have been open to many, they were closed to others as outlined in the 1910 Immigration Act: "The Governor in Council may prohibit . . . the landing in Canada . . . of immigrants belonging to any race deemed unsuited to the climate or requirements of Canada, or of immigrants of any specified class, occupation or character."1 Dividing immigrants on this basis also justified provisions for deportation on the grounds that some immigrants would cause political and moral instability.

The defining policy criterion instigated through the 1910 act was the notion of preferred versus nonpreferred source countries; preferred immigrants were from the United States, the British Isles, and northwestern Europe. Preferred individuals were actively recruited by government agents, while the nonpreferred were deliberately avoided. The forty-five thousand Chinese immigrants who came to Canada between 1886 and 1904 exemplify how nonpreferred were discriminated against, as they had to pay a "head tax" for the privilege [End Page 73] of working in Canada.2 While the repeal of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1948 did not fully open the door to Chinese immigration to Canada, it did allow the spouses and children of earlier immigrants to be reunited with their families in Canada. The Chinese would continue to experience legal discrimination until the 1960s with the passage of the Bill of Rights. Changes to the 1910 Immigration Act in 1952 altered the foundation of discrimination to include "nationality, ethnic group, occupation, lifestyle, unsuitability with regard to Canada's climate, and perceived inability to become readily assimilated into Canadian society."3 Although these changes eradicated race and country of origin as the criteria used to categorize preferred and nonpreferred immigrants, they simply reformulated how discrimination was understood by government officials.

In 1960 Prime Minister John Diefenbaker implemented the Bill of Rights, which would protect equality before the law and ensure protection of the law; protect freedom of...


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Print ISSN
pp. 72-87
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2019
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