The laissez faire approach to immigration that Canada had inherited over its lifetime began to fade away in 1884. British Columbia had become very concerned with the number of single male Chinese that had emigrated to the province since the 1860’s when the American gold fields dried up. Thus, the provincial government took political action over the next year to finally impose a head tax of $50, on each Chinese immigrant who flocked to the region.
In addition, Clifford Sifton, “a struggling young lawyer from Winnipeg and the youngest member of the Cabinet of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, was obsessed by a dream of promoting Canada’s prosperity by developing the prairies with pioneer farmers”. Sifton’s plans when unveiled were daring, unorthodox, and in many ways ruthless. He had a vision of the ideal farmer for the Canadian prairies and he thought, “that a stalwart peasant in a sheepskin coat, born on the soil, whose forebears have been farmers for ten generations, with a stout wife and a half dozen children, is good quality”.
But, not everyone in Canada was as quick to welcome the Ukrainian newcomers in sheepskin coats as Sifton was. So, to add to the crisis of trying to develop western Canada the, “new settlers were not welcomed warmly by established Canadians, who derisively referred to the Ukrainians as Sifton’s Sheepskins and Scum of the Empire” . These events were the birth of racial discrimination within the context of Canada’s immigration policy and the immigrant fiasco it fueled from 1896 to 1914.
But, there were three other forthcoming events that would create and shape the Canadian immigration and discrimination fiasco. The White Canada policy and the ignorant racial discrimination of Chinese immigrants were the heart and soul of racial discrimination in regards to Canada’s immigration policy.
“The White Canada immigration policy, abandoned only in 1962, has its roots in the mid-nineteenth century.” This so-called White Canada policy and its origin were exonerated in deep silence throughout its timeline. Discrimination against non-white immigrants including a strong determination to keep them out began during the early gold rushes. “To the white diggers and to a growing section of public opinion in these pioneering communities in North America, the Chinese were not only alien, they were often seen as evil and dangerous as well.”
In addition, Chinese were seen as the main carriers of killer terminal diseases such as smallpox, cholera, leprosy, and venereal diseases and were thought to be on the verge of infecting the entire populations. As was mentioned earlier, the people in the sheepskin coats were people of another race that was discriminated against and in some cases even sent back to their homelands due to refusal into Canada.
The reputation of these stalwart peasants with stout wives was a bad one, and journalists went as far as to describe the Ukrainian immigrants as, “ignorant creatures of the mud who must be made over in the superior British pattern.” But, despite the harsh negative perception of the Ukrainians their Canadian settlement consequences were nowhere near what the Orientals were forced to endure. Through the period from 1896-1914 there was one immigration act that stands alone from all others and that act was the power to exclude would-be immigrants in certain categories and of certain origins, on which the White Canada policy was based, being laid down in 1910.
In around this time there were protesters getting together to protest the harsh treatment of these people with regards to their settlement here, but it still does not justify the acts. The immigration act of 1910 alone clearly identifies the motives of the federal government with respect to Canada’s immigration policy, motives to create a “White Canada”.
The continuing fear of Chinese immigrants continued on through many decades of Canadian history. There was an increasing fear of the “yellow peril” amongst Canadians in around the 1900’s, and thus “British Columbia was still concerned about the number of Chinese entering the province and the result was a doubling of the head tax to $100 in 1900, and a further increase to $500 three years later”.This stiff increase in the head tax on the Chinese, which was no doubt a race discriminating act, affected not only the Chinese but the Japanese as well. This was because if Canada had the opportunity the federal government “would have liked to have imposed the same head tax on the Japanese, but was prevented from doing so for diplomatic reasons”.
The Chinese were the main race to fall at the hands of the racially discriminant Canadian immigration policy. In fact, the Chinese were usually the first people sent in to use dynamite to blow up paths for the railroad, and killed more often than not doing so. But, another big factor in those times was the national belief that the Chinese were a threat to the country and were going to attempt to invade Canada eventually.
One local paper went as far as to say, “No one know when the hour will strike, which will give the signal for an oriental advance nor can anyone tell in what direction that will be”. This belief was the also the early foreshadowing of the future concentration camp internment that the Chinese experienced during the World Wars for the same fear. Through those evasive settlement taxes and social degradation, it was clearly seen, there was undoubted racial discrimination practices enacted by the Federal government of Canada.
It would be expected that after all the racial discrimination that one would have to endure to immigrate to Canada and become a citizen in that time period there would be no immigration at all. But, in fact “there were nearly three million immigrants that came to settle in Canada during the period between 1896-1914.”
This is solid proof that Canada is of great value in the international spectrum and that immigrants are willing to sacrifice and endure a lot of things to build a life for themselves as Canadian citizens. If you might, you could say that in this day in age Canada has a fairly diverse portfolio of cultures and in fact has the most diverse culture base in the entire world. This country has come along way in protecting the human rights of all of the people residing within its borders, not just the white race.
The struggle for Canadian settlement was a positive factor in economic terms. Each culture contributed to their own part of the Canadian economy and business and industry advanced greatly, while each person created their place in the developing natural resource giant that we call home.