Immigrant Experience

Moving Here and Staying Here: The Canadian immigrant Experience
"When people come to Canada and are transformed, we as the country that welcomes them are also transformed. That is the transational quality of Canadian life." This transactional quality__of changing and being changed by the immigrant experience..." Adrienne Clarkson

Library and Archives of Canada, under vitual exhibition, reflects on immigrant experiences. The historic website  illustrates records of  how immigrant's quality of life transformed when they settled in Western Canada. Canadian government transformed with the immigrants expereinces because they had to not only accommodate them but also integrate them in Canadian way of life. The purpose of the online exhibition, Moving here and staying here: The Canadian Immigrant Experience: is to provide Canadians with a unique history of Canadian immigration for the past 1800-1939. The exhibition has divided into three sections: The Documentary Trail, Traces of the Past, and Finding an Immigrants. Documentary trail reflects on impact of advertisement, land grants, and photography  had in attracting new immigrant: the Traces of the Past reflects on government policies for new  immigrants; and the Finding an Immigrant helps individual  find their ethnic origin and or ancestor. The researchers have chosen the main events that had greater impact on Canadian immigrates and have contributed to Canadian immigration experiences.  These key events and period have laid foundation of Canada's multicultural society.
Documentary Trail:

This section has a great deal of information on developing technology and its role in attracting immigrants to settle in Western Canada. The articles are written by researchers and LAC's staff. The introduction inquires about the reasons of how and why Europeans wanted to settle in Canada and what was government's role. The reasons were simple, Canada wanted to prosper economically and their goal was to attarct farmer and make Prairie West its Breadbasket which was linked through Grand Trunk Pacific. Therefore, the government start the initiative to change the image of Canadian West. Murray, Jeffrey (LAC staff)  states that in the late 19th century, a massive advertising campaign to change people's perceptions of the West took place. Their motto was “Canada West. The best West.”  In order to accomplish their goal, they used modern technology such as printed advertisement to attaract immigrates. The two popular printed advertisement were Pamplets and Posters in order to attract and get their message across immigrants.

The posters were the size of paper panel and were everywhere. These posters did use limited colors and would use well-worded text to get their message across. For instance, in the below poster, it is clearly in big text print it states that Western Canada offers better quality of life by providing families with prosperious land and offers wealth. As the technology progressed these immigration posters advertisement got more image-based.  By 1897, the government took full advantage of the technology. According to a report to high commissioner in London, England 23,000 posters made in all the post offices of the United Kingdom. (Canada, Dept. of the Interior, Annual Report, 1897, part iv, p.12).  these posters were manipulated in order to attract new immigrants to the land. The government would show farmers happy and land full of vegetation; furthermore, they would be shown happy in the company of bountiful harvests.


Pamphlets were another form of printed advertisement which was popular in that period. Pamphlets were printed on both sides and folded into individual panels. For instance, in 1897, , Canada's High Commissioner in London distributed a specially prepared pamphlet "through the post to every farmer in the United Kingdom, and to every blacksmith." (Canada, Dept. of the Interior, Annual Report, 1897, part iv, p. 15). In another distribution, pamphlets were sent to "the free libraries, reading rooms, farmers' and workmen's clubs and institutions, hotels, etc...." (Canada, Dept. of the Interior, Annual Report, 1897, part iv, p. 14). The purpose of these pamphlets were to encourage immigrants about moving in Canada and to contact agent for further information. Again, The goal of the  pamphlets was to show West as the best place thus they portrait the land as productive and cold and snow were banned because they wanted to show more positive terms “invigorating” and “bracing.” These pamplets were colorful and did have attaractive photos. Furthermore, it portray Prairie West as a land of prosperity and happiness.
What did the government offer to new settlers?
In the province of Quebec, the land distribution was based on seigneurial sytem. The land grants which were  based on the seigneurial system was established from1627 until 1854. The immigrants needed to meet certain criteria before the government would grant them land.

 Murry, Jeffrey (LAC's staff), explaines that a land grant is a general term referring to the Crown's transfer of public lands to a subordinate government, a corporation or an individual. The Dominion Lands Act did offered such grants to the Hudson's Bay Company,municipalities, individual homesteaders, and or religious organizations. According to records, from 1870-to about 1932, the federal government did issue 625,000 patents on homestead lands in Western Canada. Furthermore, Murry, Jeffrey, states that only certain individual can have these lands. According to Dominon Lands Act, "title to a 160-acre (65 hectares) western homestead could be issued to any male over the age of 24. Two years later, the age limit was dropped to 18 years to allow younger families to make an entry (37 Vic., c. 19, s. 8.1, 1874). After 1876, women over the age of 18 also became eligible, but only if they were the sole head of a family (39 Vic., c. 19, s. 4, 1876). After 1919, this provision was extended to widows of veterans (9-10 George V, c. 13, s. 1, 1919). In 1908, patentees were expected to be a British subject or to declare their intention to become one (7-8 Edward, c. 20, s. 9, 1908)."
It is these adverstiment tactics that attracted mostly Europeans to immigrate to Canada. Furthermore, Library and Archives Canada has a whole records of photographs that document the immigrate experience. These photographs has been taken from the following branches such as The National Film board of Canada, The Canadian Government Motion Picture Bureau and others. The two famous photographers of that time were Horatio N.Topley and woodruff. These two photographers would capture the daily life of new settlers in Prairie West. The Ottawa firm of Topley Studio supplied two of the most well-known photographers working on behalf of the federal government, Horatio N. Topley, who was a paid employee of the Department of the Interior with John Woodruff. These two photographers undertook a number of cross-country journeys to document the growth and settlement of different parts of the Dominion, but most particularly of the Canadian West. These photographs would be used for advertisement purposes, calenders, for world exhibits, also for lectures. Photos such as below one, It illustrates the fashion of that period and the attitude of that particular time.

Personal Photographs

According to historian Elliott, Bruce  in n the 1950s, the federal government, through the National Film Board and the Department of Immigration, began to renew its interest in capturing the immigrant experience from the moment of arrival through to the immigrants' integration into Canadian society, but in a very limited fashion. 
Traces of the Past
Library and Archives Canada's staff and others from across the country were challenged to write on  various themes that reflects key events, periods or legislative decisions in the nation's immigration history in the section as Directives. Furthermore, each theme complements the directive section known as Debate. The Debate reflects on general public's opinion about immigrants and discuss how the role of newspapers on social policies of Western Canada. The Dream section reflects on  immigrate themselves and their personal thoughts and feelings about their experiences. A short summary is provided on how immigrantes came to Western Canada.  
The immigrants came to Canada by ocean voyages and these voyages were dangerous and not safe for passengers because there were reports of abuse, dieases, and many died of hunger since it was long journey to Canada. In 1828, British government took interest into emigration matters and passed regulation for the maximum number of passengers in the ship. Canada was seeking rapid economic growth and population and this was accomplished by having open door policy. The Canadian government did not restrict immigrants instead they were welcomed. The British settlement Scheme was a program that brough 3000 British farm families to Canada. They would receive,assisted passage, training, credit to purchase a farm, and supervision. In addition, British subjects in Canada could nominate people in the United Kingdom for emigration to Canada. Farm workers were encouraged to come to Canada under the Empire Settlement Agreement.
By 1867, thousands of women, men, and childern immigrated to Canada. They all hoped better future and life. These are evident in personal letter of immigrate to their loved once and in their diaries. Library and Archives of Canada shares few of these perosnal diaries and letters that reflects the immigrants trimuphs and difficulties in build a better life for themselves in a new country. The information is taken from the primary sources and it is evident in the reference section.

Finding an Immigrant
This section of the online-exhibition is for those individual whose ancestors were an immigrant in Western Canada. Library and Archvies of Canada holds the passage list that served as official document from 1865-1935. Furthermore, from the years 1925 to 1935, the Immigration Records (1925-1935) database provides passenger names, and volume, page and microfilm reel numbers of archival documents.
Immigrant Experience,
The period from 1800-1939 shows immigrant experiences which have laid the foundation for multicultural soceity in Canada. For instance, The open door policy gave Asian immigrants, Europeans, and others to embrace Canada as their own country and work hard to accomplish their dreams. Settling in a new land not only transforms the immigrants but also the country itself  because it is essential  to accommodate them and need to integrate them in the society. Events such as exclusion of Chiness immigrants after completion of railway illustrates Canadian government's rejection and excluding them from Canadian way of life; but over the centuries, they had to include all the immigrates by creating new policies due to change of international and domestic economic circumstances. Finally, Library and Archives of Canada's online exhibition, Moving Here and Staying Here: The Canadian immigrant experiences does captures the main events and period that had greater impact on new settlers in Wester Canada. The website does meet its goal and it is great resource for researchers, educators, and historic writers for research purposes.



  1. Very interesting, until I read this I had no idea that immigration records and information were so readily available. Using the Immigrant search I was actually able to locate documents pertaining to my own family. I agree that this Library/Archive is a an invaluable resource for historians and everyone else.

  2. The Library and Archives Canada website seems very thorough, and your analysis touched upon so many good points. I look forward to referring to it in future course work.

    The Clarkson quote you use is wonderful: "When people come to Canada and are transformed, we as the country that welcomes them are also transformed. That is the transitional quality of Canadian life." The mosaic analogy often cited is so applicable to Canada and being Canadian today, though the history of immigration was unfortunately fraught with very rocky times early on (to say the least.) Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Similar to kuhcnelysaw, I enjoyed looking up immigration records of my grandfather who immigrated to western Canada in the early 20th century. It would great if the government promoted these resources to a greater extent, as links to family history seem relevant to most Canadians, as most have an immigration background.

  4. I agree with Jason, this seems like a great resource and it could have a uses for all sorts of history national or personal. It is strange that there has not been more to let people know about it. Very interesting article.