Citizenship, Immigration, and Racialization in Colonial Canada

Essay by NorthieUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, October 2006

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Canada is known throughout the world as a country that is multi-cultural, diverse, and welcoming of immigrants from all other nations. It is a source of national pride, one that compliments our peaceful and polite reputation. However, only one hundred years ago, Canadians, white European settlers in particular, had very different views on the subject of immigration and citizenship. Laws were created and legal loopholes found that assisted Canadian governments in deporting and denying access and citizenship to certain groups of individuals. This essay will rely on two specific academic works in regards to these issues. The first is Renisa Manwani's article entitled, "The Island of the Unclean: Race, Colonialism and 'Chinese Leprosy' in British Columbia, 1891 - 1924" from 2003. The other is called, "Towards Theorizing the Connections Between Governmentality, Imperialism, Race, and Citizenship: Indian Migrants and Racialization of Canadian Citizenship" by Enkashi Dua, found in the textbook Making Normal: Social Regulation in Canada.

Both of these works discuss how and why different tactics of racialization were used in colonial Canada. This essay will summarize both articles and analyze them based on the themes of the course SOC 3490: Law and Society.


Mawani's article focused mainly on the discriminatory practices used against Chinese people in British Columbia in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Not all of these people were immigrants, as some were official subjects of the British Empire and others were legal labourers brought in by the Canadian federal government or private businesses. The main avenue of discrimination used was to associate Chinese people with the disease leprosy. Although there were other more dangerous, and contagious, conditions, leprosy was associated with being unclean and foreign. It was also incurable. These public opinions, wrong as they may be, caused the public concern for leprosy to far outweigh...