Canada Opens its Door
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A Land of Many Cultures
Canada Opens its Door
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Canada Opens its Door
Canada casts its net wide to lure newcomers from around the world
At the turn of the 20th century, Clifford Sifton knew that in order for the Canada to thrive, it needed immigrants. And the man in charge of Canadian immigration wasnt above using a bit of false advertising to attract them.

Immigration to English-speaking Canada had traditionally meant attracting people from Britain or the U.S. But by the mid-1890s not enough people were coming to fill the vast prairies of Canada. Sifton expanded his list of preferred immigrants to include eastern Europeans with an agricultural background.
Dutch immigrants were part of the flood of Europeans to Canada in early 1900s. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)
Dutch immigrants were part of the flood of Europeans to Canada in early 1900s. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)

"I think a stalwart peasant in a sheep-skin coat, born on the soil whose forefathers have been farmers for ten generations, with a stout wife and a half dozen children is good quality, I am indifferent as to whether or not he is British born."

These were boom times in the Dominion. Canadian wheat was in high demand around the world and the countrys immense prairies needed tilling. At the same time, the countrys flourishing industries demanded a huge working force.

Sifton hired immigration agents to give glowing lectures abroad on Canadas advantages. He arranged for shipping companies to receive a bonus for each newcomer brought to the country.
Clifford Sifton was in charge of immigration for Canada between1896 and 1905. He launched a widespread campaign that attracted thousands of European immigrants to the country. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)
Clifford Sifton was in charge of immigration for Canada between1896 and 1905. He launched a widespread campaign that attracted thousands of European immigrants to the country. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)

Siftons most effective weapon was the immigration pamphlet. Translated into dozens of languages, these pamphlets were distributed throughout Europe. They contained practical information on transportation, soil and climate. And they omitted negative information about things like Canadian winter temperatures.

The pamphlets also had glowing testimonials:

"I was thin and pale, had a cough," wrote a former Chicagoan who moved to Lacombe, Alberta. "When winter came, I found it to be the most pleasant part of the year, as the dry, cold air was bracing and entirely different from the damp, chilly wind I was used to."
Immigration posters were one way the Canadian government attracted European immigrants to Canada's west in the early 1900s. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)
Immigration posters were one way the Canadian government attracted European immigrants to Canada's west in the early 1900s. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)

Siftons widespread campaign was a huge success. More than a million immigrants came to Canada between 1896 and 1905. About 40% moved to the cities and the rest to rural areas. The population of the west swelled from 300,000 to 1.5 million.

In a few short years, Canada began to emerge as a cultural mosaic.


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