Traces of the Past:
Directives, Debates and Dreams
What were Robert Hume's hopes and fears as the Newcastle teenager packed up his belongings and set sail for North America in 1836? Did Eleanora Hallen experience the same trials and tribulations travelling with her parents to Canada from England as young Gyula Iszak did arriving with his family from Hungary? What challenges did immigrants like Midori Iwasaka and Takeo Ujo Nakano face while adapting to life in their adopted country?
These are just a few of the questions raised when delving into Library and Archives Canada's (LAC) rich collection of immigrant diaries, letters and poems. Read in isolation, these sources are powerful and thought-provoking. At the same time, they are just one part of the immigrant story. The history of Canadian immigration is created by nations as well as by individuals; it is reflected in public hopes and fears as well as in private ones; and it is captured in national legislation and in the popular press, as well as in personal diaries and family letters. Many scholarly interpretations of our national immigration history exist, but few Canadians have had an opportunity to see for themselves the various sources on which these interpretations are based. That is, until now.
Drawing on its vast collection of government and private records,
LAC is proud to offer Canadians the unique opportunity to access a selection of
significant national documents providing multiple points of view on various topics
in Canadian immigration history. Starting with the early 1800s, when the first
official legislation affecting immigration to Canada was introduced, and ending
in the 1930s, the most restrictive period in Canadian immigration history, this
website is organized into chronological periods broken down into specific themes
and illustrated with historical documents. These documents, selected by experts
in the field, are organized into three broad categories:
Directives: The Canadian government's official responses
to immigration from various countries and during various periods are explored
through government policies, legislation and publications.
Debates: This category provides insight into the Canadian
public's attitudes towards immigration. Popular pressure, exerted through such
things as demonstrations and newspaper articles, played a significant role in
influencing Canada's official immigration policies.
Dreams: While every immigrant experience was unique, personal
diaries and letters, family photographs and histories reveal that immigrants shared
many hopes and fears. The sources collected here record some common reactions
to the immigrant journey and some collective settlement experiences.