Skip to the Content

Canadian Immigration Acts and Legislation

Since 1869, Canada has had laws and regulations governing the admission of immigrants. Immigration legislation has evolved and changed over time, shaped by the shifting social, political and economic climate, as well as dominant beliefs about race, desirability and integration. The open-door approach of the late nineteenth century gradually gave way to more restrictive measures that discriminated on the basis of race, ethnicity and national origin. Overt discrimination remained a part of Canadian immigration policy until the latter half of the twentieth century, when skill and education became the main criteria for determining entrance into Canada. Since Canada’s adoption of multiculturalism as an official policy in 1971, the cultural diversity of Canadian immigrants has been promoted as a key component of Canadian identity. Immigration legislation is ultimately a reflection of society’s beliefs and attitudes, revealing Canada’s history of inclusion and exclusion.

Shaping a Community: Black Refugees in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has been home to people of African descent for over 300 years. Some individuals came as slaves in the service of white masters, but many others arrived as free migrants seeking a new homeland. During and following the War of 1812, approximately 2,000 escaped slaves arrived in Nova Scotia, having attained freedom in the course of the conflict. An estimated 400 of this number journeyed onward to New Brunswick. This group collectively became known as the Black Refugees.