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Immigration

Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource.ca and The Famous Five Foundation
 
         
Similar to other members of the Canadian elite, Emily Murphy held some very definite views on the subject of immigration, believing that Canada needed to select immigrants carefully to avoid serious difficulties in the future. Of the two perspectives that prevailed at the time, one was an attitude that supported the exclusion of those who did not fit the preconceived notion of what an acceptable immigrant was (common among the Anglo-Saxon cultural elite), while the other embraced an open-door policy, viewing immigration and population increase as vital to Canada's economic growth.

Emily Murphy's attitude towards immigration leaned towards exclusion for a number of reasons. Developing a distinct sense of "Canadianism" was important to her and other nation-builders who had a vested interest in maintaining the cultural elite. However, her work as a magistrate, as well as her appointment by Order of the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council to report on public institutions operated by the Alberta Government caused her to have special concerns about the type of person who came to Canada.

As a magistrate, Murphy noticed that a disproportionately large number of criminals were immigrants. As a reporter on Alberta Government institutions, such as prisons and mental institutions, she could not help noticing that 70 percent of those house at mental institutions were of foreign birth. So too, her growing concern with the drug trade, caused her to notice the large role Asians played in the traffic of narcotics. As a result, she became convinced that it was necessary to pay close attention to the qualities of immigrants who were allowed to enter Canada.

In a 1929 speech she gave to the Women's Canadian Club, Emily Murphy suggested that the club study 50 races of foreign immigrants. In her speech, she noted that 70 percent of the "insane" in Alberta were foreign born, and stated that "many thinking women" were in favour of an "intelligent quota system" that would impose limitations on immigration—designed to maintain the Anglo-Saxon character of the Canadian culture. A reasonable quota, she suggested, would be to allow one foreign immigrant into Canada for every three Anglo-Saxon immigrants. She also recommended the formation of Canadian Clubs among New Canadian women, in the interests of "Canadianization," since simple acts of kindliness, such as offering a cup of tea or speaking a friendly word to a newcomer were the most effective means of integrating them into the community.

 
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