Unit 4 Immigration

Overview Who Gets In? Who Does Not?


Ask yourself:

  • What do stories of how we welcome newcomers tell us about ourselves?
  • Are we “saints” or “sinners” when it comes to helping those who flee their homelands?
  • How is Canada leading the way around the world in welcoming refugees into our country? Are we role models?

Immigration has been important throughout our history. The issues change and the ground shifts constantly when we look at Canadian society today. Immigration and its implications for Canada will be important for the foreseeable future. Canadian immigration policy has been and will be affected by world events: from the coming of the Loyalists, to Syrian refugees, to the aftermath of future crises yet to unfold.

Immigrant youth group discussion

Thank you to the Jewish Immigration Aid Services (JIAS) Toronto for their help in arranging the group discussion.

Did You Know?

Canada is the only country to have won the Nansen Refugee Award awarded annually by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to an individual, group, or organization in recognition of outstanding service to the cause of refugees, displaced or stateless peoples. Canadians are the first and only people to have been honoured collectively with this award. The 1986 award committee cited "the major and sustained contribution of the People of Canada to the cause of refugees".

In this unit, we shall examine Canada’s record and their treatment of new immigrants and refugees in need of safe haven such as the Voyage of the MS St. Louis, the Vietnamese Boat People, Catholics in the 19th Century and Chinese Immigration. An example of the unfair treatment of newcomers is outlined in the chapter on Chinese Head Tax. It looks at the injustices experienced by the Chinese who came to Canada to build our railways, only to be charged a heavy tax to remain here. The discrimination lies in the fact that no other group of new immigrants was charged such a tax, and that the Chinese had already moved, worked and been living in Canada when the tax was introduced. The unit culminates with a global perspective on current refugees and genocides occurring around the world and Canada’s response.

Key concepts › Classification

There are a number of ways to classify immigrants. Which of the following do you think we are examining in this unit? Why do you think so?

Most immigrants are in this category: planning to stay, gain citizenship, raise families and live permanently in Canada. Governments over our history have had criteria for “qualified” immigrants. These criteria have changed over time.

Temporary Workers
These immigrants are here on a contract basis and include a wide variety of people. Seasonal farm workers, students, professional athletes and others who get work permits to fill specific jobs are in this category.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers
These can include people fleeing war, natural disasters, or human oppression based on religion, ethnicity, or identity markers. Some in this category may be considered “economic” refugees: those just looking for better job opportunities. Governments today have a task to sort these out.

Unauthorized Workers /Illegals
We do not know how many immigrants fit this category but they can include: people smuggled in, students or tourists overstaying visa dates, those with false documents, and others. In the United States this has been a hot political issue for decades.

Genocide and Emil Fackenheim’s three stages of Antisemitism

One reason why people who are suffering unthinkable conditions, flee their countries is that their lives are being threatened. Throughout history, the threat of genocide has forced and continues to force marginalized groups of people to leave (emigrate) from their home countries to avoid the violence and murder if they stayed. Genocide seems to follow a pattern of stages. It’s important for us to recognize these patterns so that we can protect people from the fate of genocide such as those who fell victim to the Holocaust.

The hatred which led to the genocide of the Holocaust in Europe followed a three-stage pattern – or in this case, three stages of antisemitism as outlined by philosopher Emil Fackenheim. You can place a number of groups within Fackenheim’s stages – people who have been excluded and unfairly treated in Canada over time. While we cannot compare the extent of the systematic extermination carried out in the Holocaust with that of other genocides and oppression, we can use the stages when thinking about groups who were marginalized, and made to feel unwelcome and unsafe in their own countries.

“You cannot live among us as Jews,” leading to forced conversions;
“You cannot live among us,” leading to mass deportations, and
“You cannot live,” leading to genocide.

Emil Ludwig Fackenheim represents the odyssey of contemporary liberal Jewish theologians both in his thoughts and in his life. He was born in Halle, Germany, on June 22, 1916. Liberal Jews at this time looked to Germany's cultured, middle-class Jewish population as the beacon of enlightenment and progress. Fackenheim shared these views and studied for the Reform Jewish rabbinate in the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, where he was ordained in 1939. He maintained a keen interest in non-Jewish philosophy as well by studying at the University of Halle. Shortly after his ordination he was interned for three months in a concentration camp—a profoundly traumatic experience, but he was one of the few lucky ones to be released. After leaving Germany he studied briefly at the University of Aberdeen and was then called as rabbi to Congregation Anshe Sholom in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where he served from 1943 to 1948.

Action 1  


At times Canada has welcomed or refused entry to immigrants. In small groups discuss the following questions:

  • What are the “push” factors? Why did Canada push people away? Do you think they were right?
  • What are the “pull” factors? What was Canada doing to bring newcomers to the country? Why were they choosing to welcome new citizens? Were they right to do so?
  • How “welcoming” was Canada to the newcomers once they arrived? Why did we react the way we did to those wishing to immigrate to Canada?

Your teacher can print the Reaction Wheel for you to use individually: https://www.voicesintoaction.ca/PDFs/VIA_Teaching_ToolsEN.pdf found in Teaching Tools on pages 6 and 7 to jot down your own opinions prior to discussing them.

Action 2  


What is your position on immigration?

Write a position paper or editorial on Canada’s immigration record, using the graph below as an organizer of the data you collect from a multitude of sources and political positions. There is much to consider when researching about people becoming citizens of a new country. Read and watch as much as possible to determine how you feel about immigration in general, and in Canada. With thorough research, you will be equipped to write this paper from a well-informed standpoint.

Some essay questions to help you form a strong opinion are:

  • Did we deserve the Nansen Award? Looking at the past, or the present, how well are we really welcoming or treating newcomers?
  • Research current groups fleeing persecution (choose one specific group: i.e., Rohingya, Yazidis), and apply Fackenheim’s three stages of antisemitism to your research. Can we save people from a genocide like the Holocaust?

Use the graphic organizer below to better understand your thoughts and reasoning in preparation for writing and/or participating in a class debate (Action 3) or go to Teaching Tools, on pages 10 and 11 of Critical Thinking pages, to find instructions for the Clipping Thesis to gather and organize material data.

Graphic Organizer

Action 3  


Class debate

As a class conduct a debate with reliable research through a variety of media outlets. You should be divided into two opposing sides:

Pro: Canada should open its doors to immigrants. Con: Canada should close its doors to immigrants.

Or, you can decide on ‘pro’ and ‘con’ statements of your own to use for your debate.

After you and your group have conducted the research, written and rehearsed your debate, you can invite a neighbouring class, staff or administration to be the judges. Ask guests to take notes to prepare for the last part of the debate with their own relevant questions.

Each debate will involve the following procedure:

  • Each team will have 15-20 minutes to present its perspective. All team members should present a portion of this "affirmative argument." The team should plan ahead and coordinate their presentations to present a logical case with facts from a variety of sources.
  • If desired, teams may then take a 5-minute break to organize questions and counter arguments to challenge opponents. The audience should also be preparing questions, challenges, untapped arguments, etc. to raise during open discussion.
  • Each team will have 5 minutes to present counter arguments.
  • The remaining time will entail questions and discussion involving the invited guests.

Each student presenting in a debate can earn up to 30 points. Evaluation of your team will be based on:

  • the clarity, collaboration, organization and cohesiveness of the presentation
  • the quantity and quality of supporting evidence clearly presented
  • the quality of the arguments presented and challenges (to opponents) raised.

Action 4  


Studies on Canadians’ views about immigrants and refugees.

Read this article about a study on Canadians views about immigration and refugees with five surveys in red: 
Canadian views on immigration 2017

“There are some good things going on in Canada and there are some potential problems,” Donnelly said. “There’s room there for growth of serious intolerance if people aren’t careful.”
Michael J. Donnelly is an assistant professor of political science and public policy at the University of Toronto. Peter Loewen is the Director of the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto.

Everyone in your class should answer the five surveys in the article anonymously. Then hand in your answers to be presented. Do your class findings correspond to the numbers in the studies? Discuss.

Did you know?

A. Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen is Canada’s first Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship who was himself a refugee.

B. Former Immigration Minister Jason Kenney created a new reform Bill C-31 called the “protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act” which allows Canada to detain and incarcerate refugees who don’t arrive legally, including children.
(This blog explains it: Trudeau's new immigration minister must tackle Harper's nasty refugee reforms)

Action 5  


Looking at numbers then and now

Numbers of immigrants and refugees allowed in Canada and actual number per year:

In November 2017, Immigration and Refugee Minister Ahmed Hussen provided these numbers of immigrants and refugees to be admitted in future years:

  • 2018 – 310,000
  • 2019 – 330,000
  • 2020 - 340,000

Compare with numbers of immigrants and refugees per year admitted by PM Harper’s government:

  • 2004-2014 –total in 10 years of about 250,000
  • 2013 – 23,968 refugees

Compare and contrast reasons given for immigration policies by PM Harper and his Conservative government with those of the current government.

Source: https://www.immigration.ca/canada-immigration-2018-2020-levels-plan-important-step-economic-growth