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All immigrants who arrived in British North America from Europe before Confederation shared one common experience: the ocean voyage. Crossing the North Atlantic was a long and perilous undertaking, even though the British government enacted legislation as early as 1803 to protect passengers and ensure their safety. The passage could take several weeks and while hundreds of ships made the crossing without incident, hunger, disease, abuse and shipwreck were constant threats. The steamship, which appeared in the 1850s, was a vast improvement, since it was faster, safer and more predictable than the traditional sailing ship. By 1867, over 80 percent of immigrants arrived in Canada by steamer.