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A History of Oppression

 1850s

Reservation system is put in place throughout Canada, forcing Indigenous communities to live on narrow, segregated tracts of land with contaminated water supplies. This led to mass outbreaks of typhoid fever and other illnesses. Thousands of Indigenous people would later be treated by a racially segregated health care system, in so-called “Indian hospitals” throughout Canada. The last of these hospitals closed in the 1970s.

1876

Canada passes the Indian Act in violation of imperial and constitutional law. The Indian Act, as a policy of cultural genocide, is specifically designed to eradicate native culture and expropriate land and resources for profit and settlement. The Act prohibits Native women from running for Band Council or voting on land surrenders which require 50% agreement by males. The Canadian government gains complete control over who can purchase the Native land, the terms of the sale, and the price paid for surrenders.

 1885

The Chinese Head Tax, meant to discourage the migration of Chinese people to Canada was introduced through the Chinese Immigration Act.  In following years the head tax amount increased from $50 to $500. In total, the federal government collected $23 million dollars from approximately 81,000 Chinese migrants through the head tax.

1891

D’Arcy Island, a leper colony in British Columbia, is established.  Chinese labourers diagnosed with leprosy were denied medical treatment and were instead banished to D’Arcy Island were they awaited deportation.  Due to the long wait times and terrible conditions at D’Arcy Island, most of them died waiting.

 1894

An amendment to the Indian Act authorizes the forced relocation of indigenous children to residential boarding schools where indigenous languages, cultures, traditions, customs, values, and even clothing is forbidden.  Failure to assimilate is punished.

 1930

As the depression took hold, the number of deportations on the grounds of “becoming a public charge” rose. In a four-year span starting with this year, 16,765 immigrants were deported on this ground.

 1939

The The S. S. St. Louis boat with 930 Jewish refugees was denied entry into Canada with an immigration official stating that “None is too many”. The SS.St. Louis was forced to return to Europe where three-quarters of the refugees died at the hands of the Nazis.

 1944-1945

During this time over 2700 migrants were deported for varying medical reasons.

Providing health services and treatment to racialized immigrants was seen as posing an excessive demand on national resources. Deportation were seen as an economically viable alternative to providing health care.

 1952

A new Immigration Act was passed, which provided for the refusal of admission on the grounds of nationality, ethnic group, geographical area of origin, peculiar customs, habits and modes of life, unsuitability with regard to the climate, probable inability to become readily assimilated, etc.  The Act provided for immigration appeal boards, made up of department officials, to hear appeals from deportation.

1955

The government of Canada begins to recruit women of colour, particularly from the Caribbean, as domestic workers. Although, domestic workers were supposed to be granted the right to landed status on arrival, an agreement negotiated between Canada and the Caribbean states where domestic workers were recruited from allowed for the deportation of these women should they be found ‘unsuitable for domestic work’.

 1960

The Canada Elections Act is amended to allow full voting rights to First Nations people. Prior to that, First Nations people could vote in federal elections only if they gave up their treaty rights and Indian status.

1970

The last remaining buildings in Africville, a Black settlement town near Halifax, Nova Scotia, were bulldozed.  Despite having been a home to families who traced their roots in Africville to the 1700s, Africville was denied the basic needs and supports residential communities by the city, such as proper roads, electricity, water and sewage lines. The city of Halifax was much more interested in the development of the area, and began encroaching on the land, building industrial sites around Africville, including night soil disposal pits, an infectious disease hospital, an open city dump and incinerator, and a slaughterhouse.  As a result of impoverished living conditions and environmental toxicity, the residents of Africville were exposed to serious health risks that would have been considered unacceptable for the residents of Halifax.  Eventually, in spite of community protests, the residents of Africville were forced to relocate and town was demolished.

 1981

The Foreign Domestic Worker Program is introduced, allowing for the recruitment of predominantly women of colour from economically marginalized countries. Through this program, the Canadian government has been able to create a captive labour force subjected to exploitative and abusive working and living conditions.

 1984

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act transferred responsibility for security aspects of immigration from RCMP to the newly created CSIS.

1995

As part of the federal budget, the government imposed the Right of Landing Fee, widely known as the Head Tax. The fee of $975 applied to all adults, including refugees, becoming permanent residents. 5 years later, the government rescinded the Right of Landing Fee for refugees, but maintained a Right of Permanent Residence fee for all categories of immigrants.

1996

After over 100 years of existence, the last residential school is closed. The residential school system allowed for indigenous children to forcibly be removed from their families.  At these schools they were frequently inflicted with physical, mental, sexual and spiritual abuse. It is estimated that over 40% of the youth at residential schools died from Tb outbreaks, other diseases, and malnutrition.

 2008

Bill C-50, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act was introduced. Bill C-50 gave discretionary power to the minister of citizenship and immigration to arbitrarily reject immigration applicants, even though those same applicants might have otherwise been admitted under Canada’s point-system criteria. It also allowed the immigration minister to set quotas on the category of persons who can enter Canada, including quotas based on one’s country of origin.

 2009

The MV Ocean Lady boat carrying 76 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka docks in British Columbia. The following year, the MV Sun Sea arrives with 492 Tamil refugees. Passensgers from both ships were detained. In addition, the Conservative government responded to their arrival by releasing a 30 second television ad featuring pictures of the MV Sun Sea claiming that the asylum seekers onboard the ship were “criminals… abusing Canadian generosity.”

 2010

Bill C-11 is passed.  Bill C-11 allows the government to declare any country to be “safe” and therefore deny asylum seekers from that country.

 2011

The government introduces a moratorium on family sponsorship of parents and grandparents. While parents and grandparents can enter the country through the Parent and Grandparent Super Visa, in order to be eligible for the visa, proof needs to be provided that health insurance that provides coverage of $100,000/year has been purchased in their name.

 2011

The Association of Quebec Pharmacy (AQPP) owners issued a statement to its members urging them to cease filling prescriptions under the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), arguing that the wait-time for reimbursement from Citizenship and Immigration Canada was too lengthy. The move left thousands of refugee claimants, resettled refugees and others covered under the IFHP without access to prescription medications. In a parliamentary meeting of the Citizenship and Immigration Committee, with the AQPP, and Dr. Danielle Grondin, director of Health for CIC, Conservative member of parliament Alice Wong raised concerns about the IFH program, “Do you think your Canadian customers will appreciate that they are not subsidizing fake refugees? Because there could be people coming to the pharmacists claiming that. ” and later, “I understand that some refugees actually have dental coverage, whereas regular Canadians do not. Are you aware of that ?” In hindsight, it seems clear that, faced with little public outcry following the dispute with the AQPP and CIC that left refugees across Quebec without access to medicines, the Conservatives were well poised to carry out the complete gutting of the IFH program.

2012

Cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program were introduced, drastically limiting refugee claimants’ access to health services. It is important to note that the IFH cuts did not go through a parliamentary process.

Later this year, Bill C-31 was passed. Although it is separate from the IFH cuts, Bill C-31 created the framework to implement the cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program. Bill C-31 also created new categories of refugee claimants; Designated Foreign Nationals (or Irregular Arrivals – which was triggered by the arrival of Tamil migrants on the MV Ocean Lady and the MV Sun Sea) and Designated Country of Origin.