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The railway agreement In 1919, the framers of Canadian immigration policy believed that, to meet the country’s economic needs, sufficient numbers of white English-speaking agriculturalists and industrial workers could be obtained either in Canada or from the United States and Great Britain. In arriving at this conclusion, however, they failed to take into account the sweeping changes in American immigration legislation that had sharply reduced the number of immigrants from continental Europe allowed to enter the United States. Nor did they take into account the absence of quotas on the entry to the United States of native-born Canadians and the inevitable outcome of such a policy—an increase in the numbers of Canadian agricultural and industrial workers flowing southward and a corresponding decrease in the Canadian labour pool. When the exodus of Canadian workers assumed alarming proportions, Canadian industrialists and farmers joined transportation and mining interests in lobbying the federal government for a more liberal immigration policy. Clifford Sifton set the tone for the new immigration campaign when he declared in 1922 that 500,000 “stalwart peasants” were required in Western Canada. These people, he urged, should be brought immediately from “Central Europe, particularly from Hungary and Galicia.” In response to this pressure, the Mackenzie King government gradually removed most of the barriers erected against large-scale European immigration, starting in 1923 with the repeal of the regulation that restricted the entry of immigrants from Germany and its wartime allies. The real breakthrough came two years later when Ottawa signed an agreement with the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Canadian National Railways, allowing them to recruit cheap foreign workers under the guise of bona fide European agriculturalists. This paved the way for Canada to receive immigrants from countries previously designated “non-preferred” by immigration authorities, countries such as Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Russia, Yugoslavia, Germany, Austria, and Romania.

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