Masaryk University



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Masaryk University

Faculty of Arts
Department of English
and American Studies

English Language and Literature




The Caribbean Immigration to Canada

B.A. Major Thesis


Petra Chmelová

Supervisor: PhDr. Thomas Donaldson Sparling, B.A.


Brno 2006


I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,
using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.



CONTENTS

Introduction…………………………………………………………………...…………….4

The Caribbean………………………………………………………………………….…...5

Historical background………………………………………………………………….…...7

Immigration post-war boom…….…………………………………………………….…...13

New initiatives………………………………………………………………………….….16

The year 1962………………………...……………………………………………………17

White paper of 1966………………...……………………………………………………..20

1970s-1990s………………………………………………….…………………...….…….22

Caribbean immigrants in Ontario.……………………………………................................24

Reasons for leaving the Caribbean…………………………………………..…………….26

Racism…………………………………………….…………………...…………………..28

Caribana……………………………………………………………………………………32

Summary………………………………………..………………………………....………35

Table 1…………………………………………………………………..…………………37

Table 2…………..…………..……………………………………………………..………38

Bibliography……………..…………..……………………………………………….……39

Introduction

Canada is a major receiving country in international migration with a liberal immigration policy and a long record of assistance to refugees. The immigration policy has experienced many significant changes to become what it is nowadays. Every period has its special requirements and specific difficulties that the society has to deal with. The atmosphere of the era and the public opinion are certainly reflected in policy-making and in immigration policy as well.

The history of Black Canadians can be traced to the seventeenth century but it was only after the introduction of the point system in 1967 that Blacks began to arrive in Canada in significant numbers. The vast majority of them reside in metropolitan centres such as Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, and Vancouver. Once the Caribbean arrived to Canada they got in touch with racism. In an effort to overcome the discrepancies in the “White society”, the Caribbean peoples have developed many different ways to deal with their uneasy situation.

The Caribbean

The Caribbean region has for long been known as the West Indies. This term derives from the mistaken belief of Columbus who in the late fifteenth century, during his attempt to find a shorter way to the East Indies, found the “West.” In an effort to overcome this Eurocentric view it is preferable to replace the term West Indies with the geographic description Caribbean region. (Magosci 214)

Frances Henry in Caribbean Diaspora in Toronto describes the Caribbean region as one of the most complex areas of the world that despite its relatively small size played a very important role in earlier centuries in the political struggles between Spain, England, France, and other European countries. (3)

The Caribbean region includes some fifty distinct territories, for the most part islands, which were introduced to Europeans in the sixteenth century. Today, majority of the countries in the Caribbean are politically independent. Only a few are still dependencies of Great Britain, the United States, the Netherlands, and France. Many of the Caribbean territories were originally inhabited by Amerindian peoples but in the early sixteenth century it became home to people of European, African, and Asian origin. Currently, the inhabitants of the Caribbean region are primarily of African and mixed origin. Asian Indians, brought as indentured labourers in the nineteenth century, are found in significant numbers in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. Chinese, Portuguese, and Syrians are among the others who make up the diverse population of the region. (Magosci 215) Anderson claims that the Caribbean must be understood as an entity in its own multicultural right. Caribbean peoples came from many different cultural backgrounds and that is what gives the Caribbean culture its uniqueness and multicultural character. The racial, linguistic and ideological plurality of these people is in contrast to western society and Canada itself. (14)

From a geographical point of view, the Caribbean region includes island territories stretching from Florida on the southern tip of North America to Venezuela and the Guyanas on the northern coast of South America. It includes the islands of the Greater Antilles and those of the Windward and Leeward parts of the Lesser Antilles. This chain of islands separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea. (Anderson 26)

According to Anderson for the Canadian Immigration Statistics the category “Caribbean” is even more specific and consistent after 1973. It includes 4 linguistic groups and 25 territories. The English speaking group consists of 18 territories: Bahamas Islands, Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, British Virgin Islands, and others; the French speaking territories are Guadeloupe, Haiti, and Martinique; Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico form the Spanish speaking group; and finally the Dutch speaking group if formed by the Netherlands Antilles. (27)



Historical background

The Caribbean islands have been seen by many writers as a flowering paradise; they were fascinated particularly by its sunny weather and diverse flora. But as colonies of European states they were seen primarily as sources of raw materials and markets for manufactured goods. In this sense have the Caribbean islands and Canada much in common; both being colonies to be exploited by European countries, and both being strongly influenced by the phenomenon of immigration.

Canada’s relationship with Black societies goes back to the era of slavery. Blacks have been forcibly relocated, traded, and recruited from various African and Caribbean nations to Canada. Due to their high visibility and due to the legacy of slavery, Black immigrants have faced severe race-related problems in Canada. Along with Native Indians, Blacks have occupied the lowest level of social acceptability in the Canadian society. (Mensah, 2002: 40)

The lack of mineral resources in the Caribbean was the reason why the region was soon transformed into a producer of agricultural commodities, such as sugar, rum and molasses. “The demand for sugar in the eighteenth century led to the production and export of sugar. It was a labour-intensive industry that required substantial numbers of labourers, which led to the importation of millions of people from the African continent. Without doubt, the two forces of sugar and slavery shaped the history of the Caribbean region and left indelible marks on all aspects of its socio-economic and cultural development.” (Henry 3)

Nevertheless, the position of the Caribbean peoples working on cane fields was rather different from the position of workers in Canada. The Caribbean peoples were slaves not even considered human. In a slave society there was a caste system where white were at the top, blacks at the bottom and somewhere in between mulattoes, offspring of black female slaves raped by white masters in exercise of their right of property. Any movement among these groups was almost impossible. There was slavery in Canada as well but it was not as widespread and inherent as in the Caribbean. The economic and social situation in a society is deeply influenced by the geography and the character of its products; Canada provided fur, timber and fish; there were no such products as sugar which requires cheap labour all round the year. Anderson points out that “there was always need for labour and, with many entrepreneurs in early Canada, a propensity to exploit labour. But the motivation to monopolize the human body and mind and to make them a part of property was not really there. The agonies and horrors of the Canadian lumber camps have been well documented, but the human degradation of plantation slavery was a phenomenon without parallel within the records of human cruelty.” (12)

There are more similarities between the Canadian and the Caribbean society such as the colonial background, the stratified character of the society based mainly on race and later on wealth and education and the fact that both societies experienced massive waves of immigration. In the nineteenth century Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana and some other Caribbean societies faced a stream of immigration from Portugal, Madeira, China, Hong Kong, India and the Middle East. The result of this was the mingling of ethnicity, language, race, folkways and religion, strongly influenced by the values and the social and political institutions of Britain. “In both cases the examination would reveal a picture in which Anglo Celtic Protestants are at the top of the social pyramid and Blacks and Native Peoples at the bottom. In terms of stratification, Porter’s Vertical Mosaic reveals the a pattern for Canada in the late 1960s which is not that much different Lowenthal’s picture of West Indian Societies in the early 1970s. Where the former identifies race and ethnicity as the class mobility factors, the latter sees them as race and colour.” (Anderson 14) In both societies racism has been widespread and inseparable part of life.

From the early seventeenth century to about the last quarter of the seventeenth century, Black slavery was insignificant in Canada. Most of the slaves then were Native Indians (Mensah 54). Anderson claims that the Black presence in Canada has been increased mainly by four events: the coming of the United Empire Loyalists after 1776, the arrival of batches of Maroons from Jamaica, the operation of the Underground Railroad before and during the American Civil War, and last but not least the immigrants who came in 1960s and after. (16)
Black Loyalists

Despite the best efforts of the Loyalists, black and white, the American Revolutionary War resulted in American independence. Because it was no longer safe for them to remain in the new republic, for Loyalists were being lynched or harassed by vindictive Americans, Britain was required to evacuate them to some territory still under royal control. Many blacks were simply left behind, to be recaptured by their former owners, and some were kept as slaves by white Loyalists and were carried to safety in the West Indies, Bermuda or England, but the largest number was brought to Canada. (Walker 29)

At the beginning of the American Revolution in 1776, there were already some five hundred Black slaves in Nova Scotia, and this figure tripled as White Loyalists, who supported the British, fled during and after the five-year Revolutionary War, taking their slaves with them. Meanwhile some three thousand Blacks, emancipated in the American colonies in exchange for supporting the British, entered Canada. Most of these Black Loyalists settled in Nova Scotia, which became their main centre in Canada (Mensah 43). The largest separate black community was at Birchtown at the southern tip of Nova Scotia. With a population of over 1,500, Birchtown was at that time the largest free black settlement anywhere in the world outside Africa (Walker 31).

Some of the Blacks in Canada were used for agricultural, shipbuilding, and mining purposes, but the vast majority performed domestic duties for the elite – the governors, doctors, and the merchant class (Mensah 45). Generally, blacks were located in entirely black settlements but their farms were too small to ensure self-support. Therefore they were forced to seek some other forms of support. Large number became tenant farmers, working the lands of white Loyalists under a sharecropping agreement. Many whites had got farms too big for them to cultivate on their own, so they were happy to have their farms cultivated by blacks in exchange for half the crop. For other blacks only indentured servitude provided a way to avoid starvation. However, indentured servitude was very similar to slavery since the servant could be bought and sold, and was required to work without pay. (Walker 31)


Maroons

For generations Jamaican slaves had been running away to the hills, where they established independent communities. In the Jamaican wilderness the Maroons developed a fiercely independent and military force, and they resisted several military campaigns sent out to re-enslave them. (Walker 37)

According to Mensah the term “maroon” comes from the Spanish-American language and means “runaway.” The Maroons were the descendents of fugitive Jamaican slaves. During the last decade of the eighteenth century some 550 Maroons were sent from Jamaica to Nova Scotia because of constant fear of British that the Maroons would join the French to battle against them. (48) When the Maroons arrived to Halifax they were offered an opportunity to leave their prison ships if they would agree to work on the Halifax fortifications. They naturally did so, and were employed in strengthening the Halifax citadel. When that was completed Nova Scotia officials were convinced that the Maroons were cooperative, and since there was danger of a French attack it was believed that the Maroons’ presence could be helpful. None the less, some attempts were made to convert the Maroons to Christianity and an agricultural way of life, but the Maroons rejected. “They successfully rejected the white man, and they represented the black power and the determination to preserve a distinctive life style.” (Walker 37)
The Underground Railroad

Another massive wave of Blacks to enter Canada during the early 1800s came through the Underground Railroad. The term “Underground Railroad” describes the secret passage of slaves through the free northern states. Early in the nineteenth century a regular network of safe hiding places had been formed through Ohio, and it is estimated that by 1815 one thousand slaves had passed through this Ohio network from the border slave states to Upper Canada. (Walker 48)

In 1793, when the Abolition Act was passed in Upper Canada, runaway slaves who entered the country were considered free. With the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 the northern U.S. states happened to be quite dangerous for runaway slaves. As a result the flow of Blacks to Canada intensified. The majority of black fugitives coming to Canada in the nineteenth century were fleeing directly from slavery. Due to a lack of funds most of the fugitives were forced to settle in Ontario communities near the United States border. While no official data are available on the number of Black fugitives crossing into Canada during this era, it is estimated that about ten thousand fugitives were in Canada prior to 1850 and, between 1850 and 1860, perhaps twenty thousand Blacks entered Canada. (Mensah 50)

Increasing Black immigration put a tremendous stress on the Ontario economy; the immigration was the most considerable source of deepening cultural pluralism and consequently racism that have continued to exist in the society henceforth.



Immigration Post-war Boom

Between 1845 and 1924 some fifty million people, most of them unskilled, emigrated to North and South America. There were no government controls to regulate this huge inflow of people. Since 1945 individual governments have regulated migration considering their own national interests, with very little intergovernmental consultation but with more awareness of the experience and policies of other governments. The major receiving countries have developed very selective immigration policies requiring a complicated apparatus for selection and control. However the refugee problem, whether arising from war, violent change, or natural disaster, has driven governments to take new initiatives. In addition, national economic development and individual professional opportunity have become key factors in international migration. (Hawkins 3)

Valerie Knowles claims that “Canadian immigration policy continued to be highly restrictive in the first couple of years following the Second World War. But in the months following the war’s end proponents of a more liberal immigration policy had good reason to expect that immigration barriers would soon be lowered and that in no time at all Canada would become a land of hope and opportunity for thousands of Europe’s war-weary and oppressed. For one thing, the high unemployment of the Great Depression and the profound feelings of economic insecurity that had haunted Canadians during that harrowing decade were but bitter memories. In their place was an industrial complex in transition from a wartime to a peacetime economy and growing demand for skilled and unskilled workers.” (118)

A growing number of Canadians spoke in favour of lowering the immigration barriers. Their reasons were obvious; a more generous immigration policy meant a larger population and therefore a larger market and a greater productivity and consequently continuing expansion of Canadian economy. Other reasons were concerning national security because immigrants would occupy uninhibited regions of Canada and thus would make the country less attractive to overcrowded states. Moreover there was the fundamental moral obligation. (Knowles 119)

Soon after the War’s end the Government stated that the policy would act in respect of immigration. Immigration should have fulfilled demands of Canada’s economy and therefore the objectionable discrimination had to be removed. “As a result of these considerations and their embodiment in the Immigration Act of 1952, it became possible for Canada to enter into that kind of agreement with Caribbean territories out of which annual quotas of domestic workers provided the first systematic flow of immigrants after 1955.” (Anderson, 40)

The motive was entirely pragmatic. The immigration was used as an instrument to expand the Canadian population and economy: Canada needed additional workers to serve the requirements of its expanding economy. On the other hand the government claimed that they “cannot afford to expose Canadian workers to the constant threat of having their standards undercut by immigrants who must take any kind of job at any wages and under any conditions to avoid sheer starvation” (Knowles 119).

An individual’s potential value to the Canadian economy was not the only criterion employed by the Canadian immigration teams when making their selection. Ethnic origin was also central to the selection process. A person’s political and ideological views were also taken into account. The racial and national balance of immigration was regulated so as not to alter the fundamental character of the Canadian population. Canada was believed to have the right to discriminate therefore applicants from the “old” Commonwealth countries and the United States continued to be preferred. (Knowles 125) Blacks were still considered unacceptable unless they came under the preferred-class designation or were the partners or children of Canadian residents. Knowles mentions one example of racial discrimination: a prospective black immigrant from Barbados, the granddaughter of a Canadian citizen, was refused admission to Canada in 1952 on the grounds of climate. Justifying his refusal, the minister responsible, declared that newcomers from countries like Barbados “are more apt to break down in health than immigrants from countries where the climate is more akin to that of Canada.” (128)

The new Immigration Act finally came into effect on 1 June 1952. “This Act simplified the administration of immigration and defined the wide-ranging powers of the minister and his officials regarding the selection, admission, and deportation of immigrants. Concerning the selection and admission of prospective immigrants, the act vested all-embracing powers in the cabinet to prohibit or limit the admission of persons by reason of such factors as nationality, ethnic group, occupation, lifestyle, unsuitability with regard to Canada’s climate, and perceived inability to become readily assimilated into Canadian society.” (Knowles 130)

By 1956, the end of post-war boom period in Canadian immigration, Canada, which now included Newfoundland, had a population of over 16 million people and ranked as a major industrial nation, with manufacturing providing its major source of income and employment. The most urbanized and industrialized provinces such as Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia, benefited most from the immigration.

During this period Canada invested more effort in recruiting immigrants in the United Kingdom than in any other country. Although immigration has played a crucial role in Canadian society, Canadians were rather doubtful how to welcome new arrivals. Knowles states as one illustration of this, a 1954 poll that revealed that just 45 percent of Canadians looked favourably on immigration. (135).



Major New Initiatives

A Canadian sociologist, Anthony H. Richmond, in his study Post-War Immigrants in Canada published in 1967, describes the significant change in the class composition of Canadian immigration. He claims that the overall composition in 1960s was very similar to that of the Canadian population as a whole. “Post-war immigrants formed a representative cross-section of the social structure. Unlike some previous waves of migration to North America they were not concentrated in the lowest levels of the social structure.” Clearly migration in the mid-twentieth century has undergone a qualitative change; it is characterized now by a substantial professional and managerial component, better-educated immigrants, wider class representation, and a more equal sex ratio. The modern immigrant is also a better informed, more mobile, and has more resources to call upon, not necessarily of an economic nature. (Hawkins 8) “Unlike the newcomers in the earlier boom period of Canadian immigration, 1900 to 1914, the new arrivals in the late 1940s and the 1950s were a more heterogeneous body, with a greater diversity of skills and training and widely varied intended occupations, which were by a large more urban than rural in character.” (Knowles 135)

During the boom period, 1947-57, the restrictions for immigrants from a growing number of countries were reduced. Nevertheless, this was done with a view to preserving the fundamental character of the Canadian population. Access from countries other than those that belonged to the “old” Commonwealth, the United States, and Europe was severely restricted, because the Canadian government was not prepared to abolish Canada’s racist immigration policy. In 1957, when the number of unemployed was increasing steadily, the government decided to change the attitude towards the immigration, consequently occupation became the main selection criterion. (Knowles 139)

The year 1962

From the historical point of view Canadian immigration policy has been racist. Until 1960s, various Canadian governments were trying to find how to maintain a White society by preferring White immigrants from places such as the United Kingdom, Western Europe, and the United States. Blacks and other visible minorities were generally considered unwanted, and access to Canada was restricted through a variety of regulations. Broadly speaking it was believed that Blacks were so physically, mentally and morally inferior to Whites that the arrivals of Blacks would inevitably create racial problems in Canada. (Mensah 69)

The year 1962 was a significant one for the development of the pattern of immigration relations between the Caribbean and Canada. In that year, Canada began changing its immigration laws that five years later established the point system of immigration. Before 1962 Britain and the U.S. were the principal emigrant destinations but after 1962 it was Canada that has become the major destination of Caribbean emigration. One of the reasons why Canada became the emigrant destination number one for the Caribbean was that Britain has ended the open-door immigration policy that traditionally existed between the mother country and her commonwealth dependencies. In 1950s the number of immigrants to Britain increased rapidly which produced growing tensions mainly in urban and industrial areas and consequently led to riots and demonstrations. “In the face of these domestic British circumstances and the continuing political winds of change that blustered over the British Commonwealth and Empire, the Commonwealth Immigrants Act was passed in 1962. The effect of this Act was to remove from West Indians the “right” to enter, work and settle in Britain and to replace it with a “privilege” underwritten by a Ministry of Labour employment voucher.” (Anderson 38) As Britain began and continued to tighten its immigration laws, Canada’s system became more liberal. As a result, migrants whose first choice would normally have been Britain began immigrating to Canada.

A second event that makes the year 1962 so significant is the granting of political independence to Jamaica and to Trinidad and Tobago. “The changed status of these two territories was naturally accompanied by number of political and diplomatic ramifications. For example, both these new countries could now confer the status of citizenship on their nationals, issue their own passports and establish diplomatic relations with Canada, including the negotiating of mutually agreed immigration approaches.” (Anderson 38)

And finally, it was the passing of the 1962 Regulations of the Canadian Immigration Act. The two most important aims of this Act were the elimination of racial discrimination in Canadian immigration policy and to establish skill as a main condition in the selection of immigrants. Henceforth any unsponsored immigrants who could satisfy the Department of Citizenship and Immigration that they had the necessary education, skill, or other qualifications were to be considered suitable for admission, irrespective of race, colour, or national origin. (Knowles 143)

With the amendment of the Immigration Act 1962, emphasis on “preferred nationalities” was reduced while that on the perceived economic and occupational needs of Canada was increased. Policy moved significantly away from overt discrimination towards universal applicability of the same admission criteria, namely, “education, training, skills or other special qualification.” (Anderson 40)

When the new regulations were implemented on 1 February 1962, Canada became the first of the three large receiving countries in international migration – the others being the United States and Australia1 – to abolish her discriminatory immigration policy. (Knowles 143) A new era of openness in immigration started to be reflected in immigration statistics in 1963, the year that the economy began to recover. During the first nine months of 1963 immigration from non-European areas – Africa, the Caribbean region, the Middle East and South America – increased substantially compared with the same period in 1962 (Anderson 40). Thanks to the new regulations, the Caribbean began to enter the country in significant numbers after 1962. Their numbers increased from 1,000 in 1962 to between 2,200 and 3,700 from 1963 to 1966, and with the implementation of the points system to almost 8,000 in 1967 and 1968, 14,250 in 1969, and 13,600 in 1970. The Caribbean concentrated for the most part in Toronto and to a lesser extent in Montreal, where they worked chiefly in Canada’s expanding manufacturing, construction, and service sectors. (Knowles 145)



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