There are 35 and ½ million Canadians and counting. And some of them are anti-immigration, it’s true. Despite Canada being a very welcoming country in general, you will find opinions opposing or criticizing immigration among some politicians and academics and others. Here then is a list of ten Canadians over the years who have been anti-immigration.
An Anonymous Seneca Chief
The Battle of Long Sault is clouded by controversy, with revisionist historians casting doubt on the official, Quebec history. In 1660, Adam Dollard des Ormeaux, the 25-year old commander of the garrison of Ville Marie (later renamed Montreal) engaged an Iroquois force of perhaps over 500 warriors for several days on a site on the banks of the Ottawa River. The unknown Seneca commander of the Iroquois forces was killed early on and his head displayed on a pike by the French and their Huron allies. The Iroquois won in the end, however, after a siege lasting several days, and barbecued and tortured the remaining survivors, according to some accounts. Whether Dollard des Ormeaux saved Ville Marie from oblivion by engaging the Iroquois up-river is debated to this day. But the unnamed Seneca chief was clearly not a fan of the recently arrived French settlers. Why? Business, my man, business. The Iroquois nation wanted control of the lucrative fur trade with the Dutch and English to the south, and those French settlers and their Huron allies were cashing in on the trade. So, like many anti-immigration folks, he was against some immigrants and not others, depending on how it affected his economic interests.
Ogle Robert Gowan
Born in Ireland and son of the Grand Master of the Irish Orange Order, Ogle became the Grand Master of the Orange Order Lodge in British North America in 1839. The Orange Order were, in those times of course, defiantly protestant and it is estimated that between 1839 and 1866, the Orange Order were responsible for 29 riots in Toronto, involving confrontations with Irish Catholics, who faced discrimination in the workplace and were forced to live in ghettos in places like Cabbagetown in Toronto.
Arthur Bunster by William James Topley [Public Domain]
Born in Queen’s County (now Laois), Ireland and educated at Trinity College in Dublin, he arrived in British Columbia in 1856 and was soon involved in business, buying a brewery, and in politics, through the local council. In 1878, the by then Liberal member of the House of Commons for Vancouver (as in Vancouver Island) proposed legislation to prohibit the hiring of people to work on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad if their hair was longer than 5.5 inches. This was clearly aimed at restricting Chinese labourers who had the tradition of wearing their hair in long tails. The measure failed to gain enough support at the time, but the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 and the associated Head Tax would soon become law, and set a discriminatory pattern that would last for decades to come. Arthur Bunster himself lost his seat in 1882, sold the brewery, and moved to San Francisco where he dabbled in real estate before drowning in San Francisco Bay in 1891.
Frank Oliver by Alfred Blyth [Public Domains]
Minister of the Interior from 1905 to 1911, he oversaw restrictive immigration legislation that included drafting a law forbidding blacks from migrating to Canada, and favouring immigration policy that favoured certain nationalities over others. He stated that under his term as Minister of the Interior, immigration policy was more “restrictive, exclusive, and selective” than the policy of the previous minister, Clifford Sifton. Needless to say, he was staunchly pro-British. Having been born in Canada West – what Upper Canada was renamed, before it became Ontario – he move west to Edmonton as a 27 year old and became a newspaper owner and fierce supporter of western expansion. He was also a cultural bigot, stating that aside from British, North European, and American immigrants, other immigrants, primarily from Southern and Eastern Europe, could not assimilate into Canadian society. That meant that his primary concern in populating the west, and thus on immigration policy, was ‘cultural’ and not economic like Clifford Sifton’s focus had been. The Immigration Acts of 1906 and 1910 carried out his view and put in place a more restrictive policy “to give the department in control of immigration greater authority to deal with immigrants who, for one reason or another, may be properly subjected to restriction on their landing in Canada or deportation”, as the prelude to the 1906 bill bluntly stated.
Balmy Beach Swastika Club
Christie Pits Riot [Public Domain]
No, this is not a sick joke, this was an actual club formed in the early ‘30s in the Beaches area of Toronto. It was a focal point of violent and virulent anti-Semitism and deliberately used Nazi symbols and assaulted Jewish Canadians, most of them recent immigrants, who happened to head to the Beaches neighbourhood to cool off in the summer of 1933. Toronto Mayor Stewart convinced them to rename themselves ‘The Beaches Protective Society’, whose purpose was the “beautification of the Beaches” neighbourhood, which earns Mayor Stewart an honorary mention on our list, but is also indicative of prejudices in Toronto and Canada at the time. A couple of weeks later, after provocations and rising tensions, supporters of the Anglo team in a baseball game played at Christie Pits against a Jewish team, raised a bedsheet with a Swastika painted on it. The infamous Christie Pit riot ensued and lasted for hours with bats and bricks and fists and many hospitalized. An enormous crowd of thousands witnessed, participated in, and were victims of the rioting. Miraculously, there were no fatalities.
The External Affairs official who stated that in the late 1940s that Canada selected refugees “like good beef cattle, with a preference for strong young men who could do manual labour and would not be encumbered by aging relatives.” It was a case of cherry-picking among the countless post-WW II refugees who were desperately seeking a new home. For those who were not good ‘specimens’, it was not an encouraging policy. To be fair to John Holmes, he was commenting on a policy which he likely implemented rather than designed, but his words certainly reflect what Ottawa’s view was at the time.
Ellen Fairclough Building [Public Domain]
While it may be unfair to the energetic MP and cabinet minister from Hamilton to place her on this list given a full view of her very active years as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration – she was also a chartered accountant who owned her own firm – her failed attempt to restrict family sponsorship in March of 1959 made her a very unpopular figure, especially among the Italian Canadian community. A lingering recession at the end of the ‘50s meant that unskilled labour from the south of Italy migrating under family sponsorship provisions was seen as adding to welfare and municipal costs and needed to be addressed. Somebody forgot to remind the good Minister that a significant portion of her own constituents in Hamilton were Italian Canadians. All this in the UN-sponsored World Refugee Year, 1959-1960. The PCs were unsettled by the uproar and had to rescind the new regulation in April of 1959, but by the early ‘60s similar restrictions were quietly put in place by Minister Fairclough to stem the tide of family-sponsored migration and these stayed in effect until 1964.
John Turner with Trudeau by Robert Cooper [Public Domain]
The long-time Liberal MP, Cabinet Minister and Prime Minister (for a few short months in 1984) goes on this list for his reaction, as Minister of Finance in late 1972 and early 1973, to the sudden refugee crisis precipitated by Uganda’s crazed dictator Idi Amin. Amin’s expulsion of Ugandan Asians (many with South Asian roots) in late 1972 in a short time created close to 30,000 refugees that had to leave the country by a November 6 deadline. Trudeau’s government responded quickly with high-level cabinet meetings even before the UK – the principal destination of Asian Ugandan refugees – asked Canada for help in resettling some of them. Canada was suffering another recession, however, and Turner as Finance Minister worried about their impact on unemployment. He apparently pressured Immigration Minister Bryce Mackasey to keep the number Canada would accept as low as reasonably possible. Mackasey himself thought about 8,000 was appropriate as a ceiling. Canada ended up issuing 6,175 visas to 2,116 families.
Already a central policy advisor to the Quebec government by the ‘60s, the London School of Economics graduate (PhD) became a committed supporter of Quebec sovereignty and was a key part of Renee Leveque’s government in the 1970s. The night of the 1995 Quebec Sovereignty referendum, the veteran war-horse of the PQ, who was now the Premier of Quebec, arrived at the post-referendum event in a feisty mood and lashed out at “money and ethnic votes” as the causes of the very narrow defeat suffered by the sovereignty movement. It was an uncomfortable, not to say frightening, moment for any Quebec immigrant who was not born francophone and a supporter of sovereignty. He later regretted his choice of language and some – like Bob Rae – wondered if he had been drinking beforehand. He resigned in January of the following year, but remains a popular figure with many Quebecers.
No. You must be kidding. The former host of The Nature of Things and greying eminence among ecologists and decent-we-care-about-the-environment folks everywhere? Guess what, in an interview with L’Express in 2013, he stated that “we plunder southern countries by depriving them of future leaders and we want to increase our population to support economic growth. It’s crazy!” Jason Kenney – CIC Minister at the time of course – lashed out at Suzuki and at the mainstream media for not picking up on his comments. But as a committed environmentalist who would love a steady-state economy or perhaps even a declining world population – should we be surprised?
David Suzuki on Australian Immigration in 1989