Crossroads of Culture 200 Years of Canadian Immigration (1800-2000)
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Historical Overview of Immigration to Canada

Global Awakening

After 1900, as Canada became more industrialized and urbanized, it turned its attention increasingly to improving the social and economic conditions of its poorest citizens. In 1927, an Old Age Pensions Act was introduced. Thirteen years later, Parliament passed an Unemployment Insurance Act. Within four more years it also added a Family Allowances Act.

In 1967, all federal parties supported the National Medical Care Insurance Act (Medicare), which was further strengthened in 1984 to ensure comprehensive care, and other benefits to all citizens and those awaiting naturalization. These advances and harsh postwar conditions in other homelands made Canada even more attractive to emigrants in Britain and western Europe.

Several waves of Britons arrived in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s. First there were thousands of war brides, often with infant children. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, tens of thousands of young Americans, avoiding the Vietnam War or in search of alternate or communal lifestyles, migrated north to Canada.

These newcomers had few problems assimilating into mainstream Canadian life, for they spoke English, were well educated and thereby highly employable. Not so fortunate were those in eastern Europe, the Caribbean, the Middle East or East Asia who sought to emigrate to Canada. A major obstacle for Chinese, Indian and Pakistani nationals was removed when a Citizenship Act was passed in 1947. Preference was still given to British subjects, but the head tax on Asians was finally eliminated, as were other constraints. Perhaps even more important for the future of immigration in Canada was the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 (drafted by a Canadian, John Humphreys) because it formalized a breakdown of barriers to immigration in the world's democracies.