Dalhousie Law Journal


constitution, immigration, reform, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada, courts, legal history


This article examines the impact that the suggested changes would have on the immigration power as presently set forth in sections 95 and 91(25) of the Constitution Act, 1867, and on Canadian immigration policy generally. First, it discusses how the present immigration power is allocated as between the federal government and the provinces, how it has been exercised or attempted to be exercisedby the two levels of government and how it has evolved and been interpreted by the Courts. Secondly, it looks at the problems that could arise as a result of the federal government transferring some of its immigration power to the provinces and as a result of the diminution of the paramountcy of federal over provincial legislation in the area of immigration policy. Since the suggestion first appeared in Meech Lake, fears have been expressed, especially by immigrant organisations, that decentralisation of immigration policy might result in balkanized immigrant services and the provision of adaptation and settlement services thathave provincial, as opposed to national, outlooks., This article examines these fears. In looking at how the immigration power under the Constitution has been exercised by the provinces, I examine the experience of immigrants of colour during the period prior to the First World War, to see how the provinces behaved and to predict how they might behave if and when immigration power is ceded to them in a complete or even substantial way.