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Canadian Policy

John DiefenbakerThe 1960s and 1970s were pivotal decades in the evolution of Canadian immigration policy. In 1962 the federal government of John Diefenbaker set in motion the first measures to eliminate the discrimination of un-sponsored immigrants on the basis of national origin, race and colour. Any potential immigrant who was healthy, law-abiding and had a job secured or could support themselves until they found employment was now eligible.

Returning to power in 1963, the Liberal governments of Lester B. Pearson and Pierre Elliott Trudeau took even further steps. With nationality and race now removed as a guideline for un-sponsored immigrants, a new system of assessing immigrants was required. Since 1967 potential immigrants have been ranked on the "points system" based upon factors such as age, education, employment opportunities and level of fluency in French and English.

The Immigration Act of 1952 had established the structure of the immigration process and outlined restrictions but did not define any guiding economic and social principles. When the Immigration Act of 1976 was unveiled, it addressed these shortcomings and defined the fundamental goals and obligations of Canadian immigration policy. Immigrants now fell into one of four classes:
  • immediate family to Canadian citizens;
  • humanitarian considerations such as the case of refugees;
  • independent immigrants weighed on the points system;
  • distant relatives of Canadian citizens who met at least some of the independent class requirements.
With the 1977 Citizenship Act removing the preferential treatment of immigrants from other Commonwealth countries, equality was and remains legally enshrined in Canadian immigration policy. 

The new immigration policies of the 1960s had an almost immediate effect-in 1966, 87 percent of immigrants to Canada arrived from Europe and by 1970 that figure was reduced to 50 percent.

For more information on the evolution of the Canadian Immigration Act, please visit the Government of Canada's website, particularly the section titled Forging our Legacy: Canadian Citizenship and Immigration 1900-1977.

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