Immigration Act (Canada) (1976)


The Immigration Act of 1976 marked a significant shift in Canadian immigration policy in limiting the wide discretionary powers of the minister of manpower and immigration. One of its major provision, in Section 7, required the minister to consult with the provinces regarding demographic factors and levels of immigration. Although the act coordinated the policies established in the 1952 Immigration Act and the various regulations subsequently passed, for the first time it expressly stated the goals of Canadian immigration policy, including family reunion, humanitarian concern for refugees, and targeted economic development. The measure, along with its attending regulations, nevertheless continued to promote a “Canadians first” policy and was designed to “support the attainment of such demographic goals as may be established by the government of Canada from time to time in respect of the size, rate of growth, structure and geographic distribution of the Canadian population.” The act took effect on April 10, 1978. It was amended more than 30 times, including major revisions in 1985 and 1992, before being replaced in 2002 with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
In 1973, the Department of Manpower and Immigration began a review of Canadian immigration policy, but an inadequate green paper led to nationwide public hearings on the matter under a special joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons during 1975. The findings of the committee led directly to the Immigration Act of 1976. The new measure established three categories of immigrant: family class, independent class, and humanitarian class. Priority was given to family class immigrants. Independent immigrants, usually the most prosperous, applied on their own initiative and competed in a points system that suggested their ability to fill an economic need in Canada and to be successful. Within the independent class, skilled workers qualified under a nine-factor points system that assigned numerical values to education (16 points), vocational preparation (18 points), occupation demand (10 points), experience (8 points), arranged employment (10 points), demography (10 points), age (10 points), language (15 points), and personal suitability (10 points). A minimum of 70 points were required to qualify. Entrepreneurs were required to demonstrate that their ownership of a business would provide support for a minimum of six Canadians, exclusive of the entrepreneur’s family, and that they had a personal net worth of at least $300,000 and managerial experience. Investors were required to have a personal net worth of at least $500,000 and agree to invest a minimum of $250,000 in a Canadian company for a minimum of five years. Family-class immigrants, on the other hand, were exempt from the points requirements. Any Canadian citizen over 18 years of age could sponsor parents, grandparents over the age of 60, spouses or fiances, and unmarried children under 21, by guaranteeing 10 years of consecutive support. A subcategory in the family class was the assisted relative, requiring five years of support and subject to certain job-related and language qualifications. Finally, refugees were provided for as a part of the humanitarian obligation of the country, as defined by the 1951 United Nations Convention. The cabinet was given considerable latitude in easing entrance requirements for refugees, including the creation of categories of “displaced and persecuted” peoples who would not be required to meet normal entrance requirements for refugees.
See also Bill C-55; Canada—immigration survey and policy overview.

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