Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-2006

By Royle, Stephen A. | British Journal of Canadian Studies, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-2006


Royle, Stephen A., British Journal of Canadian Studies


Valerie Knowles, Strangers at our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-2006, 3rd revised edition (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2007), 310pp. Paper. £14.99. ISBN 9781550026986.

This is the third edition of this book, its long life indicating the need for such a volume and the success of the various editions in meeting this need. It starts with a quote from William Scott, superintendent of immigration in the early twentieth century: 'More important than the drilling of armies; more important than the construction of navies, more important than the fiscal policy of this country is who shall come to Canada and be part and parcel of the Canadian people' (p. 9). The mission building from this thought is 'to describe briefly the different kinds of immigrants who have settled in this country over the centuries and the immigration policies that have helped to define the character of immigration in various periods' (p. 9). The author's emphasis is well made, for, given the scope, this has to be brief description based on secondary sources. If anything the project remains over-ambitious (there could be one volume on the history of migration and another on current debates), but considering the range of material, Knowles has carried out an excellent job, especially on the recent situation.

Strangers at our Gates presents the basic strands of Canada's migration set in historical and policy context. Within each chapter there are short, headed passages with, on occasion, text boxes, line drawings and photographs adding interest. Take Chapter 3, 'British Immigration Transforms the Colonies', as an example. The headings are 'Factors underlying British emigration', 'Government-assisted emigration', 'Military settlement', 'Peter Robinson and Irish settlement', 'Charity-assisted emigration', 'Lord Selkirk's colonizing schemes', 'Land companies', 'Establishment of a Canadian immigration service', 'Immigration in the 1830s', 'The cholera epidemic of 1832', 'French Canada and immigration', 'The Durham report and immigration', 'The 1840s: a decade of contrast', 'Black 1847', 'The Irish' and 'Immigrant promotion'.

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