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Canadian Govt. & Politics: Immigration — Primary Sources

Immigration Policy: Selected Primary Sources and their Finding Aids

The following are selected key primary sources and examples of the kinds of primary sources available for the study of immigration policy in Canada since 1945. They supplement the general sources listed in the main parts of this guide.

What Was Said: (Quotations, speeches, interviews, hearings, in Parliament)

After the War. Compiled by Jean Bruce. Toronto: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Secretary of State and Supply and Services Canada, 1982. 192 p.

This is a collection of quotes from immigrants who came to Canada after World War II, government officials, and from newspapers, giving a good sense of the experiences of and attitudes to immigration at the time. There are also many photographs and an excellent explanatory text providing background and context.

Ahmed Hussen: From Somali Refugee to Canada's Immigration Minister. CBC Interview with Anna Maria Tremonti. 2017. streaming audio file collection. 24 min. 17 sec.

Canada 2017 -- Serving Canada's Multicultural Population for the Future -- Policy Forum. Canadian Heritage, Multiculturalism. March 2005. 62, 69 p.

Speeches and presentations from this government forum on the policy implications of Canada's diverse and changing population.

Canada's Postwar Immigration Policy. Speech by William Lyon Mackenzie King. House of Commons Debates, May 1, 1947, pp. 2644-6. From Alberta Online Encyclopedia

A brief speech that lays out the government's views and policy on immigration, namely allowing immigrants from more European countries, but still reserving the right to restrict others.

See also Recorded Images for interviews and speeches on film and tape.

Debates in Parliament.

Use the Index to the Debates or search the Debates by keyword (see Selected Primary Sources in the main part of this guide for details) to find the discussions related to immigration.

Speeches, Statements, Press Releases by federal and provincial Ministers responsible for immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism.

Search library catalogues for years predating the material available on their websites. See Immigration - Finding & Evaluating - Government Information for links to the key websites.

What Was Written:

Political Party Publications | Government Publications | Law and Court Reports

Political Party Publications: (Campaign literature, special collections)

Some political parties have developed policies regarding immigration or multiculturalism. Although rarely printed, these may be found in their platform or related campaign material, briefs to committees, or other reports. For example:

Communist Party Speaks on Immigration: On the Green Paper and Immigration Policy. Submission to the Special Joint Committee on Immigration Policy, by the Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada, 1975. 4 p.

Making Immigration Work for Canadians: Straight Talk on Canada's Immigration System. By the Reform Party of Canada. Ottawa: Office of the Leader of the Opposition, 1998. 11 p.

A Comprehensive Overhaul of Our Immigration and Refugee Protection System. Green Party of Canada. GPC 2015 platform background papers. June 24, 2015.

See the main part of this guide: Primary Sources -- What was Written - Political Party Publications for tips on finding more.

Political Party Publications | Government Publications | Law and Court Reports

Government Publications: (Royal Commission reports, task force reports, government department and agency reports, policy papers, Parliamentary documents, law and court reports)

Royal Commission Reports | Task Force Reports | Government Department and Agency Reports | Policy Papers | Parliamentary Documents | Law and Court Reports

Royal Commissions, Commissions of Inquiry, and Related Reports:

Some Aspects of Canada's Immigration Policy: Report for the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. No. 16. Ottawa: 1966.

Report of the Commission of Inquiry Relating to the Department of Manpower and Immigration in Montreal. Commissioner: Claire L'Heureux-Dubé. Ottawa: Information Canada, 1976.

Report Part 1: Public: Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals. Commissioner: Jules Deschênes. Ottawa: The Commission, 1986. 966 p.

Royal Commission Reports | Task Force Reports | Government Department and Agency Reports | Policy Papers | Parliamentary Documents | Law and Court Reports

Task Force Reports:

Not Just Numbers: A Canadian Framework for Future Immigration. By the Immigration Legislative Review Advisory Group, Robert Tempe, Chair. Ottawa: Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 1998. 168 p.

This is a critical and comprehensive examination of Canada's immigration and refugee system, including 172 recommendations. The 3-member advisory group took a year to write the report, consulting widely. Hearings followed across the country with many groups responding.

The Refugee Status Determination Process: A Report of the Task Force on Immigration Practices and Procedures. Final Report to the Minister of Employment and Immigration. Chair: W. G. Robinson. Ottawa: Government of Canada, 1981. 132 p.

Report of the Advisory Committee on Regulating Immigration Consultants. Presented to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Ottawa: Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2003. 67 p.

Royal Commission Reports | Task Force Reports | Government Department and Agency Reports | Policy Papers | Parliamentary Documents | Law and Court Reports

Government Department and Agency Reports:

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Publications. IRCC is the main federal department currently responsible for immigration. Available on their website are many of their key publications:

Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration. (2002- ) Gives an overview of the department's activities that year; other details vary over the years, but generally include: information on programs, gender-based analysis, statistical overview of new immigrants and refugees accepted over the past five years, and the immigration plan for the coming years.

Immigration Plans. (1997-2002) Provided estimates of the total number of immigrants and refugees to be admitted.

Immigration Manuals. (2006 - ). These provide the detailed procedural rules that guide processing and enforcement of the relevant acts and regulations.

Facts and Figures: Immigration Overview - Permanent and Temporary Residents. (2005- ) Statistical tables and charts of the numbers admitted that year and over the last 10 years and characteristics of these people.

Departmental Results Reports. (2007 - ). (Formerly Departmental Performance Reports 2000-2006). Provide a detailed description of the department's performance, its operating context, how it spent its budget, organizational chart, etc.

Departmental Plans. (2017/18 - ). (Formerly Report on Plans and Priorities 2001/02- 2016/17). The department's in-depth 3-year budget plan covering strategic outcomes, programs and activities and their expected results, and links to more information.

The IRCC site also has operational manuals and bulletins, research reports, statistics and data sets, audits, program evaluations, and many other current publications on IRCC programs and services, refugee, immigration and citizenship issues.

Search library catalogues, the government of Canada catalogue:, and the Internet Archive for older versions of these documents and others. This department, and others, have also authored and commissioned research reports and studies over the years which may not be available on their websites. Some examples:

Canadian immigration and Population Study: Green Paper on Immigration and Population. By Dept. of Manpower and Immigration. Ottawa: Information Canada, 1974. 4 vols. (A major review of Canada's immigration and population policies, with over 1,400 briefs submitted in hearings across Canada. Includes: Vol.1 Immigration Policy Perspectives, Vol. 2 The Immigration Program, Vol. 3 Immigration and Population Statistics, Vol. 4 Three Years in Canada: First Report of the Longitudinal Survey on the Economic and Social Adaptation of Immigrants.

Canadian Views on Immigration and Population: An Analysis of Post-War Gallup Polls. By Nancy Tienhaara. (One of many studies in the "Canadian Immigration and Population Study" Green Paper series.) Ottawa: Dept. of Manpower and Immigration, 1974. 102 p.

Current Research Compendium on Francophone Immigration in Canada. Canadian Heritage, 2010. 65 p.

Gendering Canada's Refugee Process. By Catherine Dauvergne, Leonora Angeles, and Agnes Huang. Status of Women Canada. 135 p. (Includes 79 recommendations for improving the process.)

Not Just Numbers: A Canadian Framework for Future Immigration. Report of the Legislative Review Advisory Group. Robert Trempe, Chair. Ottawa: Public Works and Government Services, 1997 168 p. (Commissioned by the government to advise on changes to immigration policy. Included 172 recommendations.)

The Quality of Mercy: A Study of the Processes Available to Persons who are Determined not to be Refugees and who Seek Humanitarian and Compassionate Treatment. A report commissioned by CIC. By Susan Davis and Lorne Waldman. Ottawa: CIC, 1994. 101 p.

Removals: Processes and People in Transition A Report. By Roger Tasse for CIC. Ottawa: CIC, 1996. 65 p.

Summary Report: Consultations and Public Opinion Research on the Future of Immigration in Canada. IRCC, 2016. (Summarizes the response to a broad consultation effort that included round-table sessions with stakeholders, webinars, and a call for submissions.)

Archival Records of the federal departments involved in immigration can be found at the Library and Archives Canada. Use the Collection Search engine. There are also several helpful finding aids and thematic guides. Examples that include records from the post-war period:

Canadian Immigration Since Confederation and the Department of External Affairs.

Deportation From Canada, 1893 - 1977.

Immigration Instructions: A Chart of Circulars, Directives and Operations Memoranda, 1909-1978.

Most Frequently Used Immigration Records.

Other Digitized Collections:

Documents on Canadian External Relations. Global Affairs Canada.

Keyword searchable, digitized collection of selected diplomatic documents of the Dept of External Affairs (now Global Affairs Canada) from 1908 to 1963. Includes correspondence, memoranda, minutes of Cabinet meetings, etc. Some of the topics include immigration and refugee issues in which the Department was involved.


Provinces / Territories. Each province and territory has a Minister responsible for immigration. See their websites for recent information and provincial/territorial legislative libraries for older documents.

The federal government (IRCC) also has agreements with each of the provinces and territories on how they share responsibility for immigration. Each agreement is negotiated separately: Federal-Provincial/Territorial Immigration Agreements.

Cities and other Municipalities. The major cities that receive most immigrants to Canada have also published information on immigration issues. Some examples:


Integration in Diversity: Understanding the Immigrant Population in Edmonton, Alberta. Report prepared for the Edmonton Social Planning Council. By Reva Joshee, Navjot Lamba and Lori Wilkinson, 1997.

Refugee Housing Study. By Hemson Consulting Ltd. Toronto: City of Toronto Housing Department, 1992.

Report from the Mayor's Working Group on Immigration. City of Vancouver. Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Big City Mayor's Caucus, Working Group on Immigration. 2005. 11 p.

Royal Commission Reports | Task Force Reports | Government Department and Agency Reports | Policy Papers | Parliamentary Documents | Law and Court Reports

Policy Papers: (Note: Policy statements can appear in government press releases, speeches, and various kinds of documents.) Some examples:

Building on a Strong Foundation for the 21st Century: New Directions for Immigration and Refugee Policy and Legislation. Ottawa: Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 1998. 60,58 p.

This document presents proposed changes to immigration and refugee policy based on the task force report Not Just Numbers and public consultations.

Canadian Immigration and Population Study. Robert Andras, Commissioner. Ottawa: Manpower and Immigration, 1974. 4 vols.

Also called: "Green Paper on Immigration and Population", the volumes of this consultation document were intended to stimulate debate and thinking on how to formulate new immigration policy. Vol. 1: Immigration Policy Perspectives, vol. 2: The Immigration Program, vol. 3: Immigration and Population Statistics, vol. 4: Three Years in Canada: First Report of the Longitudinal Survey on the Economic and Social Adaptation of Immigrants.

Strategic Plan to Foster Immigration to Francophone Minority Communities. Ottawa: Citizenship & Immigration Canada, 2006. 20 p.

Outlines the government's long-term plan for achieving the objectives of the Strategic Framework released in 2003.

White Paper on Immigration: Canadian Immigration Policy, 1966. By Jean Marchand. Ottawa: Dept. of Manpower and Immigration, 1966, 42,45 p.

States the principles and policies upon which the government intends to base new immigration legislation.

Royal Commission Reports | Task Force Reports | Government Department and Agency Reports | Policy Papers | Parliamentary Documents | Law and Court Reports

Parliamentary Documents:

Committee Reports: Standing parliamentary committees exist on important topics of ongoing concern such as the environment, finance, etc. They are independent of the related ministries and include members of both the governing party and others. Their studies and reports can be very useful research material.

In post-war times, a standing committee in the House of Commons has always existed for immigration issues although the name has changed over the years. Sub-committees have also tackled specific immigration-related issues, as have Senate and Joint committees.

In 1994 the current House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) was created with the new department name. The committee's website includes information on the committee, its members, meeting schedule, contact information, its studies, reports, news releases, a list of the witnesses who appeared before the committee, and the transcripts of the meetings, called "Evidence". You can also sign up for email notification of any new committee information to appear on the site.

Sample committee reports:

Adapting Canada's Immigration Policies to Today's Realities. Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Nick Whalen Chair. June 2019. 105 p.

Building an Inclusive Canada: Bringing the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in Step with Modern Values. Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Robert Oliphant, Chair. Dec. 2017. 66 p.

Canadian Citizenship: Sharing the Responsibilities. Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. Noel Kinsella, Chair. May 1993.

Immigration as a Tool for Enhancing the Vitality and Supporting the Development of Francophone Minority Communities. Report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages. Michael Chong, Chair. June 2015. 24 p.

Refugees, Immigration and Gender. Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Eleni Bakopanos, Chair. 1995. 62,66 p.

Report to Parliament. Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on Immigration Policy. Maurice Riel and Martin O'Connell, Joint Chairmen. Nov. 1975. 111 p.

Safeguarding Asylum: Sustaining Canada's Commitment to Refugees, 15th Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Norman Doyle, Chair. May 2007. 72, 74 p.

See Primary Sources - Government Information in the main part of this guide for details on how to find more committee reports.

Briefs to Committees: Immigration advocacy groups, government bodies and others submit briefs to committees informing them of the impact of proposed legislation under review. These may be found as part of the committee Evidence, on the group's or committee's website, or in library catalogues by authoring body. Examples:

Brief on the Proposed Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Bill C-11). By Sharryn Aiken et al. Presented to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration by the National Association of Women and the Law, with five other women's groups, 2001. 40 p.

Provides 37 recommendations to address the concern of these groups that the proposed bill does little to improve conditions for immigrant and refugee women.

Brief to the Special Joint Committee on Immigration in the Senate and House of Commons. By the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto, 1967 7 p.

Brief to the Standing Committee on Immigration and Labour. By the Canadian National Committee on Refugees, 1946.

Auditor General of Canada Reports: The Auditor General is an officer of Parliament providing it with fact-based information on government programs and activities through audits, including 25-30 performance audits per year, reported twice a year. Examples of immigration-related audit reports:

Immigration Removals. Report 1. Spring 2020. 19 p.
Processing of Asylum Claims. Report 2. Spring 2019. 23 p.
Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Report 5. Spring 2017. 28 p.

Other Parliamentary Documents: Use the main part of this guide: Finding & Evaluating Government Information and Selected Primary Sources to see how to search the Debates, Parliamentary Journals, etc. for bills, questions asked in Parliament, etc.

Royal Commission Reports | Task Force Reports | Government Department and Agency Reports | Policy Papers | Parliamentary Documents | Law and Court Reports

Law & Legislation and Court Reports:

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (formerly Immigration Act) has been updated since 1945, but major changes in policy have also been implemented through regulations, orders in council, and other administrative practices. The major immigration-related acts and regulations are available at the Justice Laws website:

Links to the acts, program manuals, recent changes to practices, and agreements with the provinces are available at the IRCC site: Acts and Regulations page:

When bills are proposed to amend an act, see the bill and related discussion in Parliament, committee reports, etc., on the Parliamentary site. Legislative Summaries by the Parliamentary Information and Research Service are very helpful guides to proposed legislation, explaining their context, purpose, controversies and related issues. See LegisInfo for legislative summaries.

See Selected Primary Sources in the main part of this guide for tips on accessing Supreme Court decisions and other case law. A summary of some of the most significant cases is available in the periodically updated Library of Parliament Background Paper: Canada's Immigration Program. BP-190E by Penny Becklumb. Revised Sept. 2008. 54 p. See Appendix 5: Immigration and Refugee Protection Case Law.

Other relevant sites:

Federal Court of Canada. (1875-1970 Exchequer Court of Canada)

This court hears appeals of federal government decisions in many areas including immigration, citizenship, and refugee matters. The website has a section for immigrants and refugees which has a judicial review practice guide, application timelines, forms and related information, and decisions from 1990 on searchable by year, case and keyword.

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

The IRB is an independent administrative tribunal established in 1989 that hears the cases of asylum seekers who apply for refugee status. The website has descriptions of the Board's policies and procedures, many legal references and helpful guides. Selected immigration and refugee protection decisions by the IRB are available on this site: Decisions, and some are in CanLii:

International Agreements:

United Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees

This UNHCR website has the full text of the Convention and Protocol, and related information. Canada is a signatory, agreeing to protect people with a well-founded fear of persecution.

United Nations Global Compact on Refugees and Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

In 2018 Canada joined with close to 200 other countries endorsing these two non-binding international agreements which set out guiding policy principles for dealing with refugees and migrants.

Personal Papers:


Fairclough, Ellen Louks. Saturday's Child: Memoirs of Canada's First Female Cabinet Minister. Ed. & intro. by Margaret Conrad. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995. 179 p. (Includes 23 pages describing her time as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in the late 1950's.)

Moore, Don. Don Moore, an Autobiography. Toronto: Williams-Wallace, 1985. 240 p. (A political activist, Moore successfully fought discriminatory immigration laws and practices in the 1950's.)


David Matas Fonds. Library and Archives Canada. (Includes personal papers, correspondence, case files, clippings, briefs, etc. relating to his work as a lawyer specializing in refugee, immigration and human rights issues since 1979, for example as the President of the Canadian Council for Refugees, and representing the League of Human Rights at the Deschênes Commission.) Finding Aid: David Matas Papers. MG 31, E 109 Finding Aid No. 2053.

Use the Library and Archives Canada Archives Collection Search page to see the descriptions of these and other unpublished collections.

Recorded Images (Film and video footage, photographs):

Film, video footage:

Videos. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

This is the main government body responsible for immigration matters. Their website includes a collection of over 150 short videos explaining immigration policy and procedures for new immigrants, employers and others. Some examples include: How to Host a Citizenship Ceremony, Global Skills Strategy (for employers), Private Sponsorship of Refugees, etc.

Other, individual Films:

Asylum. Dir. by Garry Beitel. National Film Board of Canada, 1998. 1 videocassette (78 min. 12 sec.)

A feature documentary showing the Canadian refugee process, it follows three people as they arrive in Canada and seek refugee status, showing their dealings with government officials, their hearings with the Refugee Board, through the Board's final decision and beyond.

Boat People: A Refugee Crisis. CBC Archives. 20 TV and radio clips.

Documents the story of refugees fleeing Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos after the Vietnam war.

Chinese Immigration to Canada: A Tale of Perseverance. CBC Archives. 7 TV clips, 5 radio clips.

Clips witness the history of Chinese immigration to Canada up to the 2005 televised government announcement to redress the head tax.

Immigration Law: A Delicate Balance. Dir. by Arnie Gelbart. International Cinemedia Centre Ltd, 1978. 1 videocassette (29 min. 24 sec.)

A documentary on immigration laws and their enforcement.

Seeking Sanctuary: Draft Dodgers. CBC Archives. 8 TV clips, 4 radio clips.

A selection of short TV and radio clips includes interviews and television footage of Vietnam war resisters in Canada, those who helped them deal with the immigration application, Trudeau's response, etc.

Spirit of the Dragon. Dir. by Gil Gauvreau. Convergence Productions, 2002. 1 videocassette (26 min.)

A documentary showing the life of Jean Lumb, a Chinese immigrant to Canada who worked much of her life to change the Chinese Exclusion Act and in 1995 became a citizenship judge.

Who Gets In? National Film Board of Canada, 1995. 1 videocassette (52 min. 9 sec.)

This is a documentary on the immigration process, revealing the nature of Canada's immigration policy. It shows a front-line view of the Canadian immigration process in action, shot in HongKong, Africa and Canada.


Photographs and Cartoons:

The Immigration Program as Perceived by Canada's Leading Cartoonists. Ottawa: Immigration Secretariat, 1987-88. 2 vols.

Immigrant Voices Chinook Multimedia.

A bilingual historical overview of immigration to Canada intended for secondary students, it includes sections on postwar immigration policy and practice with graphs (e.g. showing how immigration levels dropped in times of high unemployment), and digitized photographs and editorial cartoons.

Pier 21: Canada's Immigration Museum.

Run by a non-profit organization, this museum features exhibits showing the stories of the immigrants who passed through this site between 1928 and 1971. They have a large image collection including photographs and film, with oral history interviews, stories and other historical documents relating to this port of entry for many of Canada's immigrants.

See the Primary Sources - Recorded Images section in the main part of this guide for tips on finding more photographs, political cartoons, etc.

What Is Happening Now (in political parties and government, contacting people, getting involved):

Besides all the generic tools to keep up to date with political party and government information, to find contact information and to get involved (covered in the main part of this guide), the following are selected sources and resources specific to immigration, refugee and multiculturalism policy, organized by whether they are created by a political party, a government body, or advocacy groups and other non-governmental organizations:

Political Parties:

Most federal political parties have developed policies regarding immigration issues. Current policy may be found on their websites. See library catalogues, news sources, etc. to find earlier platforms, policy statements and documents. See POLTEXT Electronic Manifestos for digitized provincial and federal party platforms. In Parliament, immigration critics in opposition parties should be especially active in providing their party's views. (See the current opposition party critics by "Portfolio": Enter Immigration in the table provided in the Library of Parliament's ParlInfo site: Departments and Roles: 1867 - Today.) Track their statements in the Parliamentary Debates and relevant committee meetings, as well as any personal blogs or social media posts, or commentaries, interviews, statements, etc. in the news media.


Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

As the main government department responsible for immigration and refugee policy in Canada, this is the site to go to for the latest information. The "Newsroom" page has news releases, media advisories, speeches, statements, backgrounders, notices, a newsletter, videos and many ways to keep up-to-date including RSS feed, email list, and social media options.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Board.

The IRB site has a "News" section for the latest news on the IRB, their press releases and information sheets, and several options for receiving news including email subscription and social media.

Global Affairs Canada.

Immigration applicants outside of Canada are served at Canada's diplomatic and consular missions. For contact information of embassies, consulates, high commissions and trade offices see the list of offices by country: Information by Countries and Territories. (The "Mission website" for most countries will have a "Visas" or "Immigration" page.)

Canadian Heritage.

Responsibility for the Multiculturalism portfolio, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act and related issues, was transferred from IRCC to Canadian Heritage in 2015. The "Multiculturalism" page on the site has information on events, funding, and related announcements. The department also publishes the Annual Report on the Operation of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, which includes details on how federal institutions are meeting the requirements of the act.

Advocacy Groups and Other Organizations:

Canadian Council for Refugees.

This large, nonprofit umbrella organization is a key advocate for refugee and immigrant rights in Canada. Their site links to some of the over 100 member organizations in Canada and others internationally. To keep informed of immigration and refugee rights advocacy you can subscribe to CCRlist, their email distribution list, or to the monthly electronic digest "CCR Chronicle", or read their annual report and annual status report, which rates the government developments on immigration and refugee isses each year. They also provide a long list of what you can do to get involved: welcome refugees to your community, volunteer for CCR or one of its member groups, attend their conference, make a donation, join the Youth Network, use their public education materials, etc.

UNHCR Canada.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established by the UN in 1950 to help refugees after WWII.  It is an authoritative site for the latest news on refugees around the world. The Canada site includes news,  information and statistics on refugees in Canada, and an extensive section on ways to get involved:  How to Help.