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Canadian Govt. & Politics: Immigration — Clarifying

Immigration Policy: Clarification and Direction: Finding the Facts

The following are sources that are specific to immigration policy and related issues in contemporary Canadian government and politics. These sources should be consulted in addition to those listed in the main sections of this guide.


Government of Canada Immigration and Citizenship Glossary of Terms.

Over 300 definitions of terms used by the federal government online (not legal definitions).

Glossary on Migration. Geneva: International Organization for Migration (IOM), 2019. 248 p.

The terms in this massive, periodically updated resource relate to conceptual, legal, theoretical, and practical aspects of migration, and are in global usage. The terms are defined, with scope notes, source information, and references.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Vocabulary. Terminology Bulletin 258. By Mario Drolet. Ottawa, ON: Translation Bureau, Government of Canada, 2004. 389 p.

This is a collection of about 850 terms with definitions and/or examples of use from the 2001 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the 2002 Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

IRB Glossary. (English-French) Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 2004, Revised and Expanded. 267 p.

This official IRB glossary provides the English/French equivalents of terms used; no definitions.

Refugees & Forced Migration: The Canadian Perspective: An A-Z Guide. By Catherine Baillie Abidi and Shiva Nourpanah. Halifax, NS: Nimbus Publishing, 2019. 144 p.

Defines key concepts with Canadian historical context.

Talking About Refugees and Immigrants. Canadian Council for Refugees. 2010. 2 p.

A very brief, but helpful glossary providing definitions and context for terms used widely (and sometimes incorrectly) for refugees and immigrants.

Facts & Figures

General | Dates | People | Statistics


Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

This official website of the federal department responsible for immigration provides information about the department, a brief introduction to Canada's immigration system, services for newcomers, laws, policies and program manuals, and information for applicants. The Citizenship section provides information on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. The site also includes news releases, research publications, Discover Canada, the study guide for people applying for Canadian citizenship, as well as several years of annual plans, reports and statistics.

History of Departments Responsible for Immigration: Departments and Roles, 1867 - Today. ParlInfo. Library of Parliament.

This site provides the Department's name changes over the years, the Ministers responsible, Deputy Ministers, Opposition Critics, and some other positions, with their terms of office. Linked names also lead to brief biographical profiles.

General | Dates | People | Statistics

Canada: A History of Refuge. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Defines "Refugee" and describes the major waves of refugees from the 1700s to the present. The timeline lists more individual events:  Timeline:

Chronology of Federal Policy on Multiculturalism. Part 3 in Canadian Multiculturalism. Background Paper 2009-20-E By Laurence Brosseau and Michael Dewing, Rev. Jan. 2018. 32 p.

A Hundred Years of Immigration to Canada, 1900-1999: A Chronology Focusing on Refugees and Discrimination. By Janet Dench. Canadian Council for Refugees.

Immigration Timeline. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada.

Timeline covers major events in Canadian immigration and policy from 1753  to the present.

General | Dates | People | Statistics

Canadian Representatives Abroad. By Global Affairs Canada.


The website and previous print directory list individuals at diplomatic or consular missions outside of Canada. Information provided includes: address, email, phone, fax and names of the Higher Commissioner and other top personnel including those who deal specifically with immigration issues.

Departments and Roles, 1867 to Today. Parlinfo. Library of Parliament.

Allows you to trace the changes in departmental responsibility for Immigration, listing the Ministers responsible, Deputy Ministers, Opposition Critics, and others,  with their terms of office. Linked names also have a brief biographical profile.

See also the Note on Major Biographies in the Facts & Figures section of the main part of this guide.

General | Dates | People | Statistics


Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Statistics and Open Data

This section of the IRCC website leads to several sources that include immigration statistics, including:

Monthly IRCC Data, etc. Datasets available through the Open Government Portal.

Facts & Figures: Immigration Overview. Print: 1994 - . Online: 1998-2014.

Immigration Statistics. Annual Print: 1956-1996. (1966-1996 archived online.)

Annual Departmental Report. (aka Annual Report to Parliament.) 1945-1950: Mines & Resources, Immigration Branch; 1950-1966: Citizenship & Immigration; 1966-1977: Manpower & Immigration; 1977- 1991: Employment & Immigration; 1991- 1994: Multiculturalism & Citizenship; 1994-2015: Citizenship & Immigration; 2015 - present:  IRCC. Reports available online:
2004 to present:

Note: From 1956 - 1996, "Immigration Statistics" published separately.

Business Immigration Program Statistics. 1989 - .

The department name and report titles vary, but the above reports have the official immigration statistics collected by the department. With slight variations, they include characteristics of landed immigrants and temporary residents for that year: port of entry, class of immigrant, country of birth and last residence, age, gender, language, level of education, year of landing, intended occupation, city of destination, etc. Some also include historical tables.

The Monitor. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Quarterly. 2003 - 2006.

CIC's online newsletter providing statistics updated quarterly on new immigrants and citizens, foreign workers and foreign students. Each issue includes an in-depth analysis of one of the main immigrant types (permanent resident, foreign workers, etc. and historical tables.)

Canada Border Services Agency. Detention Statistics.

The CBSA's quarterly and annual statistics posted here cover 2012 to the present showing the number of people detained at the border, length of detention, grounds for detention, and more, including details on minors detained.

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. Statistics.

The "Statistics" page on the IRBC website has several years of the most recent statistics on refugee protection claims, appeal, detention reviews, and admissibility hearings.

Migration Policy Institute. International Migration Statistics (aka Migration Data Hub).

This non-profit group provides migration statistics from around the world allowing you to compare Canada's annual statistics with those of other countries. Maps and charts show long-term trends (from the 1950s and 1960s on) of immigrant and emigrant populations, refugees, and remittance trends.

Statistics Canada. Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity Statistics.

This "Subject" page brings together Statistics Canada's immigration-related statistics available on the website: Census tables, analytical studies, news releases, special surveys, etc.

150 Years of Immigration in Canada. By  René Houle and Hélène Maheux. Canadian Megatrends issue 2016006. 2016. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 11-630-X.

An 8-page summary of immigration statistics since Confederation.

Historical Statistics of Canada. Statistics Canada No. 11-516-X. 1983. 2nd ed.

This compendium of historical statistics, Section A: "Population and Migration" includes a series of tables on Interprovincial and International Migration, and on Immigration, to the 1970s.

Provincial and Territorial Immigration Statistics:

Most of the above statistical sources provide a breakdown by province/territory. Some provinces also compile immigration statistics for their provinces using data from these sources as well as from their own nominee programs, where applicable. For example: Manitoba Immigration Facts. Annual Statistical Reports. 2000 - 2011, or more recent online sources, e.g. BC - Mobility.


Finding Aids:

Data Sources on Immigrant Women. By Marcia Almey, Ottawa: Statistics Canada and Status of Women Canada, 1998. 37 p.

This guide summarizes the Census and other large, ongoing Statistics Canada surveys that identify immigrants as a significant sample group and describes the variables available.
NOTE: Data from these surveys may be available to university researchers through the Data Liberation Initiative. Contact your data librarian for access.

Overview & Background Information

Canada was one of the founding members of the International Organization for Migration in 1951, which is now a United Nations organization with over 170 member countries. The IOM biennial flagship publication since 2010: World Migration Report provides a good overview of global immigration and migration statistics and issues:

World Migration Report 2020. Geneva: IOM. 496 p.

Encyclopedias | Annual Reviews | Textbooks | Parliamentary and Legislative Research Papers


The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Articles summarizing Canada's refugee, immigration and multiculturalism policies:

"Canadian Refugee Policy" Updated by Clayton Ma. 2020.

"Immigration Policy in Canada" By Gerald Dirks; updated by Richard Foot, 2020.

"Multiculturalism" By Jack Jedwab. 2011; edited 2020.

Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples. Ed. by Paul Robert Magocsi. Toronto: U. of Toronto Press, 1999. 1334 p.

This encyclopedia produced by the Multicultural History Society of Ontario has a brief overview of Immigration Policy by Robert Perin and Harold Troper. The rest of the encyclopedia covers ethnic histories.

Encyclopedia of North American Immigration. Ed. by John Powell. Facts on File, Inc., 2005. 464 p.

Over 300 hundred articles in this work cover the historical context of immigration in North America (excluding Mexico and Central America) over the past 500 years. Articles are in alphabetical order by subject but there is also a detailed subject/name index in the back. Each article includes a bibliography of further readings on the topic (mostly English, some French). Statistics on ethnic groups in Canada are based on the 2001 Census.

Encyclopedias | Annual Reviews | Textbooks | Parliamentary and Legislative Research Papers

Annual Reviews:

See the Annual Reports of the government departments responsible, mainly  Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Details under Primary Sources -- Written -- Government.

Annual Status Reports, Year in Review. Canadian Council for Refugees. (title varies) 2003 - .

These reports (also called Annual Report Card on Canada's Refugee and Immigration Programs in the first year) examine how the federal government has addressed refugee and immigration issues each year, with a list of the good and bad developments.

Encyclopedias | Annual Reviews | Textbooks | Parliamentary and Legislative Research Papers

Textbooks (Selected Titles):

Canada and Immigration: Public Policy and Public Concern. By Freda Hawkins. 2nd ed. Kingston, ON: McGill-Queens University Press, 1988. 387 p.

"Immigration and Refugee Policy in Canada: Past, Present, and Future." By Usha George. p. 333-354 In Canadian Social Policy Issues and Perspectives. 5th. ed., Ed. by Anne Westhues and Brian Wharf, Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier Press, 2012. 456 p.

Immigration in the 21st Century: The Comparative Politics of Immigration Policy. By Terri Givens, Rachel Navarre and Pete Mohanty. New York: Routledge, 2020. 208 p.

An introduction to the politics of immigration policy in Canada, the US, Australia, and Europe.

Making of the Mosaic: A History of Canadian Immigration Policy. By Ninette Kelley and Michael Trebilcock. Toronto: U. of Toronto Press, 2nd. ed. 2010. 672 p.

A thorough history with a large bibliography of sources. Chapters 8-11 cover the post-WWII period.

Multiculturalism and Immigration in Canada: An Introductory Reader. Ed. by Elspeth Cameron. Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press, 2004. 450 p.

On the history and development of the ideology of multiculturalism in Canada which began in the early 1970s.

Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-2015. By Valerie Knowles. 4th ed. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2016. 336 p.

Not an academic text, but an introductory survey. Chapters 8 - 14 cover the post-WWII years. 

Encyclopedias | Annual Reviews | Textbooks | Parliamentary and Legislative Research Papers

Parliamentary and Legislative Research Papers:

Canada's Immigration Program. By Penny Becklumb. Background Paper BP-190E. Ottawa: Library of Parliament, Parliamentary Research and Information Service, Rev. Sept. 2008. 54 p.

Canadian Citizenship: Practice and Policy. By Madalina Chesoi and Eleni Kachulis. Background Paper 2020-64-E. Ottawa: Library of Parliament, Parliamentary Research and Information Service. 2020. 27 p.

Canadian Multiculturalism. By Michael Dewing. Background Paper 2009-20-E. Ottawa: Library of Parliament, Parliamentary Research and Information Service, Rev. 2013. 23 p.

An overview covering background and analysis of the main issues, parliamentary action, chronology and selected references.

Climate Change and Forced Migration: Canada's Role. By Penny Becklumb. Background Paper 2010-O4-E. Ottawa: Library of Parliament, Parliamentary Research and Information Service, Rev. 2013. 6 p.

Gender-related Refugee Claims. By Margaret Young. Background Paper BP-370E. Ottawa: Library of Parliament, Research Branch, 1994. 37 p.

Humanitarian Immigration and Canadian Immigration Policy. By Grant Purves. Current Issue Review 80-10E. Ottawa: Library of Parliament, Research Branch, Rev. May 1993. 15 p.

Immigration: The Canada-Quebec Accord. By Julie Béchard. Background Paper 2011-89-E. Ottawa: Library of Parliament, Parliamentary Information and Research Service, Rev. 2015. 6 p.

Immigration to Canada: What Policy for What Purposes?. By Philippe Le Goff. PRB 03-50E. Ottawa: Library of Parliament, Parliamentary information Research Service, Jan. 2004. 18 p.

Primer on the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. By Madalina Chesoi and Brendan Naef. Background Paper 2019-21-E. Ottawa: Library of Parliament, 2019. 12 p.

Resettling Refugees: Canada's Humanitarian Commitments. By Lara Coleman. Background Paper 2020-74-E. 2020. 18 p.