By Anu Sahota
During the 30th Parliament in 1974, the Trudeau government presented a Green Paper outlining revisions to the Immigration Act - the first major overhaul of the Act since 1952. The new Act was enacted in 1976 and came into practice in April 1978. It would replace a long-standing policy of discrimination that, in 1952, gave the Citizenship and Immigration Minister and officials considerable powers over selection, inarguably with the aim of limiting non-white immigration. The 1952 Immigration Act allowed Cabinet to restrict "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." As if these prohibitions weren't exhaustive enough, homosexuals and epileptics were added to this list. When the Green Paper was tabled in 1975 it touched off debates across the country on immigration. By 1979, as thousands of Vietnamese arrived in Canada under the refugee sponsorship program, many Canadians expressed concern that these refugees (along with the relatives they might sponsor) could not be suitably assimilated into Canadian society.
An anti-boat people contingent of the conservative lobby group, National Citizen's Coalition, campaigned for a caesura on sponsorships. In this September 1979 interview from CBC Radio's Sunday Morning, the Coalition's Director of Research questioned the government's refugee policy and seemed to echo the claims made by another critic that the country would soon be suffered from "ethnic indigestion."
The Immigration Act of 1978 resolved to correct these entry barriers in harmony with social and cultural goals which emphasized "family reunification, the fulfillment of Canada's international obligations in relation to the United Nations Convention (1951) and its 1967 Protocol relating to refugees." You can read more about the history of Canada's immigration policy at the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website (from which I've taken these quotes).
On October 21, 1975, following public hearings across the country, a Special Joint Senate House of Commons Committee produced its response to the Green Paper. The working committee gave the Trudeau government the backing it needed to rewrite the Immigration Act. In this clip from the evening news, Brian Stewart provides a stand-up on the committee's report. Now Senior Correspondent on The National, Stewart was a national reporter in Ottawa in 1975 and the network's foreign affairs and military specialist.