The topic of refugees has commanded a great deal of attention in recent years. Refugees, however, represent only one category of newcomers admitted to Canada. Lacking has been an informed debate in Parliament and a sustained discussion in the press about the overall role that immigration should play in this country’s development.

The significance of this role is underscored by an observation made by William Scott. In or around 1913, the superintendent of immigration from 1903 to 1924, observed, “More important than the drilling of armies, more important than the construction of navies, more important than the fiscal policy of this country is the question of who shall come to Canada and become part and parcel of the Canadian people.”

Closer to the present day, Richard Tait, chairman of the Canadian Immigration and Population Study, which issued the Green Paper of 1975, echoed these sentiments when he remarked, “A hundred years from now, I don’t suppose people will care all that much whether we legalized marijuana or not. But decisions about who you let into Canada will decide the kind of country we have 100 years from now.”

This is why it is so important for we Canadians to know something about the history of immigration to our country and the realities of present-day immigration policy. Only if we are informed about such vital questions can we be truly prepared to participate actively and intelligently in a debate on the direction of Canadian immigration policy, a debate that will have important consequences for Canada’s future.