Best immigration minister ever? Meet Kenney’s competition.


There’s some loose talk going around about Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney being perhaps the best ever in that job. Kenney’s fans especially like his recent move to speed up the processing of refugee claimants, the better to send the rejected ones packing fast.

Beyond any debate over the merits of Kenney’s policies, it seems a bit strange for today’s Conservatives, who have made something of a idol out of former Tory prime minister John Diefenbaker, to be forgetful of the towering achievement of Dief’s immigration minister, the late Ellen Fairclough.

Fairclough, a trailblazing figure as the very first women to serve as a federal cabinet minister, was the minister who ended the shameful practice of racial discrimination in the selection of immigrants. The reform package she introduced on Jan. 19, 1962, created the points system that rates prospective immigrants on the basis of their skills and education, rather than their colour or national origin.

According to the useful history of immigration policy on Kenney’s own departmental website, Fairclough’s foresight put Canada ahead of the two other big magnet countries for immigrants, the U.S. and Australia, when it came to non-discriminatory immigration policy.

The Canadian Encyclopedia entry on her notes that Fairclough also advocated equal pay for equal work and for the creation of a women’s bureau in the labour department. If memory serves, I believe they were called Progressive Conservatives back then.



Best immigration minister ever? Meet Kenney’s competition.

  1. Jason Kenney and his racist unconstitutional veil policy make me wistful for the Canada we once had, a bastion of equality and human rights the world would have done well to emulate. 

    • Does Que have any role in Canada not being “a bastion of equality and human rights” or is it all Kenney’s fault for pandering to Quebecers? 

      CBC ~ Dec 2011:

      In Quebec, the issue of Muslim headdress is at the centre of the “reasonable accommodation” debate. In the summer of 2011, Quebec’s Lac St. Louis Regional Soccer Association barred Sarah Benkirane, a referee, from the league because she wears a hijab.In March of 2010, a woman born in Egypt complained to the Quebec Human Rights Commission after she was kicked out of a language class for new immigrants at the CÉGEP St-Laurent for refusing to take off her niqab in class.

      A month later, a 25-year-old permanent resident from India known only as Aisha was removed, for the same reason, from a language class at the Centre d’intégration multi-services de l’Ouest de l’Île in the Montreal suburb of Pointe-Claire.

      In 2010, the Quebec government tabled Bill 94, which would prohibit women in front-line government agency jobs from wearing religious face coverings. The bill has not been passed.

      • The soccer match was an ugly incident and I hope the league cleans up its act.  I am also disappointed by the discriminatory policies sometimes proposed in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. 

    • Racist, unconstitutional veil policy? So how do you know who is taking the oath of citizenship if they have a veil on? Or do you believe it doesn’t matter?

      In Canada our tradition is that masked people are outlaws, unless its -40. Citizenship oaths are taken inside heated buildings. I have no problem with the hijab. In fact I think it is quite dignified.

      I have been a vociferous supporter of immigration for 50 years; after all, my family- women wearing headscarves, immigrated here 208 years ago. But they came to adopt  Canadian customs, not throw them out.

      If the veil is really important to someone there are a number of countries where they might feel more at home.

  2. wiki ~ Sir Clifford Sifton (March 10, 1861 – April 17, 1929) was a Canadian politician best known for being Minister of the Interior under Sir Wilfrid Laurier. He was responsible for encouraging the massive amount of immigration in Canada which occurred in the first decade of the 20th century.

    • There’s little question Sifton’s leadership in the settling of the Prairies makes him the most consequential architect of immigration policy in Canadian history. But his title was interior minister and, perhaps too arbitrarily, I limited myself to considering actual immigration ministers. Also, the start of the modern era for policy in this area seems to be marked by the advent of Canadian citizenship (as separate from British) in 1947. If we’re considering the full sweep of Canadian history, though, I wouldn’t propose Fairclough, impressive though she was, over Sifton.

      • I wasn’t sure about rules of contest. 

        I like Fairclough as well but I will nominate W Harris because he allowed poor unskilled labour immigrants to enter the country, from Europe mainly but also some from Caribbean and South Asia, which meant that my UK grandparents, and young father, could start new life here in Canada in early 1950s. 

        I just did quick reading of Canada’s history of immigration and it’s brutal – my impression is that current generation will always look reactionary or prejudice compared to generations yet to come. Whatever our current immigration policy is I am sure it will sound wildly prejudice to Canadians 75/100 years from now. 

    • Geddes specifically notes Fairclough had a “non-discriminatory immigration policy” and given the extremely biased policies Sifton followed, I believe he is disqualified. 

  3. She isn’t heralded because a) she was a woman and b) she’s the one responsible for allowing non-whites into the country.

    This is why they removed the word ‘progressive’ from the party name. And why I left the party.

  4. She is also from the great city of Hamilton and the Government services building in (what remains of) downtown is the Ellen Fairclough Building.

    • Funnily enough, arguably to two most revered politicans in Hamilton are (were) Progressive Conservatives, Ellen Fairclough and Lincoln Alexander (Canada’s first women cabinet Minister and first black M.P. and cabinet minister respectively).

      There might be some arguments from the Copps family (for Vik the father and former mayor, NOT Sheila) or the Jacksons (former mayor) but I would say Mrs. Fairclough and Linc are the tops.

  5. Kenny will be remembered as the one who kept a British Member of Parliament from entering the country.

  6. I know he wasn’t an immigration minister per se, but Clifford Sifton did far more than anybody since to alter the face of immigration in this country.

  7. Please enlighten the reader as to what is “shameful” about a racially discriminatory immigration policy.

    Nearly every nation on earth recognizes the importance of a naturally cohesive society.  Our ancestors were white and aboriginal. This was straightforward and inherently sound as the building blocks of future generations.  Relative homogeneity from sea to sea.

    It’s self-evident that colonists from other civilizations will add divisions which are unnecessary and unwelcome.  In the 1970’s, polls showed that the majority of Canadians echoed the sentiment of MacKenzie King, who said, “Canadians do not wish, as the result of mass immigration, to have the fundamental character of the nation altered”.

    It is a slander to say that ordinary Canadians had something “shameful” in mind.  Liberals will claim that common ideology trumps race, but as we see in the United States and elsewhere around the world, nothing could be further from the truth. 

    Our racially discriminatory immigration policy was sound political realism.  The indiscriminate immigration policy later adopted was the brainchild of ideologues, and will have lasting unintended negative consequences. 

    • Thanks to Ms. Fairclough’s reforms, my father immigrated to this country in 1967. I’m not sure how he’s contributed to any lack of “natural cohesion” that I can detect, but maybe his presence here has had some “lasting unintended negative consequence” that I’m too thick to apprehend.

      And since we’re seeking Mackenzie King’s guidance on immigration policy in the 21st Century, maybe we should find out what Robert Borden though about copyright in the age of the Internet.


      • No modern Canadian in their right mind could possibly hold Mackenzie “none is too many” King up as a model on immigration policy, even for his own day.

        •  Why not?  Our first priority is to ourselves.

          • Do you even understand the reference to “none is too many”? King was refusing to loosen immigration policies to allow Jews to escape Nazi Germany. Are you really okay with that?

    • “Nearly every nation on earth recognizes the importance of a naturally
      cohesive society.  Our ancestors were white and aboriginal. This was
      straightforward and inherently sound as the building blocks of future
      generations.  Relative homogeneity from sea to sea.”

      This statement reflects a rather limited or conveniently selective knowledge of global migration patterns throughout history. Much of the population of large parts of Europe (as one example) today is the genetic product of “racial” interbreeding of peoples who originated in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

      In USA today, far more people are the genetic descendants of Afro-Americans and Euro-Americans than is realized or acknowledged.

      Your claim to white (or aboriginal) primacy or exceptionalism in Canadian immigration policy has no foundation in fact or science.

  8. re-posted elsewhere

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