In 1966, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) lobbied the Canadian government to accept a small number of Tibetan refugees for permanent resettlement. Federal officials informed the UNHCR that Canadian immigration policy discouraged group settlement. Initially, efforts to permanently resettle the Tibetan refugees were stifled as Canadian immigration officials disagreed over the resettlement of “self-described nomads.” As the Canadian government strengthened relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC), federal officials resettled an experimental wave of 228 Tibetan refugees in an effort to meet their international humanitarian obligations and to find a permanent solution to the plight of Tibetan refugees in northern India. The resettlement program demonstrated that refugees from a non-European ethnocultural and linguistic background who did not qualify under normal immigration criteria could be successfully re-established in Canada in a short period of time and at a relatively low cost to the federal government. The special program for Tibetan refugees illustrated to federal officials that future refugee programs had to be coordinated with individuals and families themselves in order to effectively meet their needs and governmental requirements during resettlement.

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.

In the summer of 1955, the Canadian government took the “bold step” of admitting displaced Palestinian refugees from the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. The government approved the resettlement of 100 skilled workers and their families. Canadian officials believed that alleviating the refugee problem in the Middle East would help in furthering regional stability. The resettlement scheme remained a politically sensitive issue as Arab governments protested against what they perceived as a Zionist plot to remove Palestinians from their ancestral land. For Canada, the admission of Palestinian refugees in 1956 served as an important “experiment” for the future selection and resettlement of non-European refugees.

Pages