For Canada Day, A Description Of The Mother Of All Our Historical Immigration Events


For Canadians who like to wear rose-coloured glasses, Globe and Mail Reporter Hugh Winsor's description of a historic immigration decision made in late October 1990 will be too damning to take. Mr. Winsor was reporting on the decision of Canada's Immigration Minister, Barbara McDougall, to increase immigration levels to 250,000 in order for her party to get a larger percentage of the immigrant vote. Even Canadians who are more realistic will probably be bothered by the brazen shamelessness of the decision.

We say these things because most people like to assume that government has the greater good in mind when it makes important decisions. But when this historic decision was made, the emphasis was on using immigration almost solely to improve the performance of Ms. McDougall's party at the ballot box.

Because subsequent Liberal Party governments merely repeated the shamelessness, we do not offer this description to criticize one government or one party. And, obviously, we think other political parties who have not been in government have committed the same historic sin because they have participated in the same shamelessness. The big question that all elected officials at all levels of government have to answer is this: Who has any respect for sycophants?

As readers will note, the decision Barbara McDougall made is even more damning because she ignored the cautionary advice given to her even by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Immigration.

Those who are familiar with today's House of Commons Standing Committee on Immigration will find it incredible that in 1990 the Committee actually solicited the opinions of experts who tried to provide unbiased immigration advice. Today, that committee makes no pretence at balance or caution. Its general attitude is that Canada should be bringing in more people more quickly.

Readers should particularly note that immigration levels previous to 1990 had risen and fallen in response to economic realities. The historic decision made by Canada's Immigration Minister, Barbara McDougall, to raise immigration levels to 250,000 has remained uninterrupted up to and including this year, 2008. As we have noted before, the last 18 years are an abnormality in Canada's immigration history.

The following is a list of most of the major points made by Globe and Mail Reporter Hugh Winsor in his historic Globe and Mail article published on October 24, 1990.

(1) Canada's Immigration Minister Barbara McDougall stated she had “won a major cabinet battle by convincing her colleagues that increased immigration will be good for Canada economically and provide the Conservatives with a new source of voters”.

(2) Ms. McDougall was to announce on October 25, 1990 that Canada would begin accepting 250,000 immigrants a year.This would mean a tripling of immigration levels in 1984, when the Conservative government took office.

(3) Ms. McDougall had to convince Finance Minister Michael Wilson who was concerned about provincial complaints that they would be stuck with additional education and social costs. Wilson was also concerned about costs to the Canadian treasury.

(4) Ms. McDougall “carried the day” in Cabinet by stressing the election day benefits to the Conservative Party, especially in Southern Ontario. Ms. McDougall's own riding of St. Paul was “extremely sensitive to immigration issues”, that is, higher immigration levels would, the Immigration Minister believed, improve her chances of re-election. .

(5) Ruth Archibald, Ms. McDougall's Chief Policy Adviser on immigration issues, used to be a national Tory organizer and is believed to have strongly influenced the Minister's decision.

(6) At the previous Tory convention, Gerry Weiner, the Minister responsible for Multiculturalism, had raised the possibility of the Tories making inroads with ethnic groups (who had long voted for the Liberals).

(7) As required by legislation, the new immigration targets would be in effect for five years. The new levels did not include the 30,000 to 40,000 refugee claimants who had been arriving every year.

(8) After consultations with both sides of the immigration issue, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Immigration had recommended that immigration levels not be raised until services were in place, but Ms. McDougall decided to over-ride their recommendation.

(9) “Ms McDougall said in an interview that 'the day is long gone when immigrants or any particular group are captive of any one political party,' and she acknowledged that in the cabinet discussions she talked about an immigration increase in those terms.”

(10) The practical aspects of Canada accommodating immigrants from non-traditional source countries (dealing with Sikh demands re turbans and kirpans) was already causing much controversy.

(11) Although the government argued that Canada would benefit economically, “a major study of immigration by the Economic Council of Canada questions the over-all impact. ECC economist Neil Swan told the Commons committee that his tentative results suggested that “the economic impacts of immigration are not nearly as large as the public generally perceives them to be, whether positive or negative.” He said decisions about immigration should be made on non-economic grounds.”

(12) Shirley Seward, director of research for the Institute for Research on Public Policy, cautioned that because of the shift from independent class to family class, many immigrants were having difficulty.

(13) “Donald DeVoretz, an economist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, has developed statistics that question the traditional assumption that immigration is an engine for economic growth.”


The complete Globe and Mail article, “McDougall Wins Battle To Increase Immigration”, is available on the Immigration Watch web site at :