What is the difference between immigration then and now in Canada?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the very early days of immigration to Canada, the main reason for coming was religious. During the 16th and 17th century, members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France (Calvinists) fled religious persecution and relocated to various Protestant nations. After Louis XIV became king of France, and in 1685, he revoked the Edict of Nantes in which Henry IV had given Protestants equal rights. Louis XIV declared Protestantism illegal; consequently, the Huguenots emigrated to Britain, Holland, Prussia, and South Africa, as well as the North American colonies.

At first, Huguenots became fisherman in Newfoundland and fur traders in Acadia. Some, such as the "Filles du Roi," women under Louis XIV were sent to become Catholics, observed the rituals of the Church. But, clandestinely, the nearly 1450 remained Protestant. Then, Catholic missionaries arrived in order to convert the natives.

After the Industrial Revolution and in the 1900s, record numbers of immigrants came to Canada because of displacement of people after World War I, changes in immigration laws, economic "booms," Canada's having acquired membership in the Commonwealth, and the growth of communication and transportation. Many more immigrants--nearly 42,000 in 1900, spiking in the 1910s--were men as manual labor jobs were available on the railroads, on farmland, and in the burgeoning factories and transportation of manufactured goods. Many settled in Ontario and in other big cities. However, as the century progressed, men went to the western provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia where there were ranches and such. Most of these immigrants were British or American, with Scotland and Wales as the largest sources. Women who came found themselves working as "domestics."

Immigration from European countries rose to its highest levels in 1961 and 1971, but immigration from Asia was very low, even though Chinese had been recruited for the construction of the railroads. In fact, as far back as 1885 there was a tax of $50 imposed upon anyone of Chinese origin entering Canada. This "head tax" was increased to $100 in 1900, then to $500 in 1903. Furthermore, others were prohibited who were "feeble-minded," those having "loathsome, or contagious diseases," "likely to become public charges," or criminals and "those of undesirable morality." Moreover, immigrants had to arrive directly to Canada; this rule eliminated people from India since there were no direct sailings from Calcutta to Vancouver. In addition, the Canadian government made restrictions upon Japanese immigration in accord with the government of Japan.

Because of the World Wars, between 1931 and 1941 there was a reduced number of immigrants to Canada. However, during this period, the number of female immigration increased, altering the gender ratio. More and more, new people settled in the cities. At this time, too, people from Eastern Europe began to arrive, many from the Ukraine. With World War II, female immigration increased again, and nationals were prohibited from entering if Canada was at war with their countries.

However, in 1962, regulations were effected that eliminated national origins as a criterion of admission into Canada, thus allowing persons born outside Europe and the U.S. to emigrate to Canada; also, residents could sponsor their relatives to enter Canada. Thus, population growth and diversity increased. In the last two decades, the minority population has dramatically increased, settling in the metropolitan areas. About 7 in 10 minorities are immigrants now coming to Canada. For instance, they compose 42% of Toronto's population. These recent immigrants do not, on the whole, earn as much as other immigrants since they have not moved into higher paying jobs. It may be that Canada now suffers from the same loss of better jobs that the U.S. and Britain do.

By the end of the 20th century, the net migration has accounted for over one-half of Canada's growth in population. It differs greatly from previous immigration in terms of the reasons for emigration being more economic than religious, and of the nationalities and location of settlement. For, the majority are from Eastern Europe and Asia, and many have chosen not to live in the city as was customary, instead choosing the agrarian areas. Also, many more women have arrived than in former times.