It was a strange scene in Dawson City in the summer of 1897. Amidst the ramshackle wooden buildings, the muddy streets, and the grime covered prospectors, a large white circus tent covered the space of a city block. Inside were such luxuries as a portable bowling alley, a soda machine, two dozen pigeons, and fine silver and china. The owners of the tent were two wealthy American ladies, Mary Hitchcock and Edith Van Buren, who had come to Dawson City not to make their fortune, but to experience first-hand the excitement of the Klondike Gold Rush.

The experiences of Hitchcock and Van Buren were far from common, however they illustrate the fervor of excitement that came with the discovery of gold in the Canadian West. When news broke of gold in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia in 1858, and again in the Klondike region of the Yukon in 1897, thousands of hopeful adventurers rushed to these remote corners of the Empire. Due to the close proximity of the United States, many of these people were Americans, representing such diverse backgrounds as farmers, merchants, and even some experienced miners from the California Gold Rush of 1849. The people who came, the life they made in the gold fields, and their impact on Aboriginal peoples all shaped the region for years to come.

In the 1920s, a large influx of immigrants from Czechoslovakia came to Canada in search of industrial work and available land for agriculture. Interwar ethnic associations were predominantly led by individuals of Slovak origin. Czechoslovakia maintained contact with its nationals in Canada through its diplomatic officials. Their consular offices promoted loyalty to Czechoslovakia’s policies in the hopes that Slovaks and Czechs would adopt their home government’s pro-“Czechoslovak” ideology, and eventually defend their homeland in the event of a war. The Czechoslovak Consulate General in Montreal oversaw all diplomatic activity between Prague and its nationals in Canada. With Slovakia’s declaration of independence and Germany’s occupation of the Czech lands in March 1939, the Czechoslovak Consulate General in Montreal used its local diplomatic discretion in an attempt to unite Slovaks and Czechs as a “Czechoslovak” national community. However, although nationalist Slovaks supported Canada’s war effort, they opposed the Czechoslovak Consulate General’s pro-Czechoslovak agenda. Czechoslovak diplomats lobbied the Canadian government for political recognition of the Edvard Beneš-led Czechoslovak government-in-exile in London to legitimize their efforts to re-establish a postwar Czechoslovak Republic. After British recognition, Canada became the last Dominion to recognize the London government-in-exile.

The history of immigration facilities at the port of Victoria, British Columbia, extends from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. However, Victoria’s role was marginalized by the emergence of Vancouver as a key port of entry in the 1920s. The development, operation, and diminution of the city’s immigration facilities reflected changing immigration policies and practices. First, Victoria’s economic and social role in British Columbia and in Canada changed substantially, which also changed the nature and scope of immigration to the city. Second, public health interests often overwhelmed - and sometimes completely displaced - the implementation of civil immigration policy. Finally, Victoria’s immigration facility history reflects periods of cooperation and conflict between the provincial and federal governments. In addition to shedding light on Victoria’s role in immigration history, an examination of these three factors provides some useful information on the development of Canada’s early national immigration structures.

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