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Whence They Came

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Barbara Roberts

3. Incidence and Patterns of Deportation

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  • 1 Department of Immigration and Colonization, Annual Report, 1933-34, p. 85. All calculations in thi (...)

1The obvious place to look for information about the extent and causes of deportation is in the published annual reports of the Department of Immigration (under its various names over the years). Each annual report gives the number of people deported, and the causes for which they were deported. Yet these seemingly straightforward statistics are at best misleading, and at times deliberately deceptive. For example, in the annual report for 1933-34, the Department pointed out that in the thirty years from 1901-02 to 1933-34, deportations amounted to only one per cent of total immigration.1 What the Department was not so eager to discuss was the fact that the rate of deportation was not constant, but rather had shown a consistent increase, from .052 per cent in 1901-02, to 36.47 per cent in 1933-34. Individual years showed a great deal of variation.

2These tedious figures, innocuous at first glance, are puzzling when more closely examined. For instance, the statistics indicate marked increases and decreases in deportation. The first significant peak in the rate of deportation was in the fiscal year 1908-09, when deportation reached the rate of 1.18 per cent of immigration. The rate fell the next year to below 1 per cent, and did not exceed this rate until 1914-15. The following year the rate of deportation rose to 2.5 per cent, then fell until 1921-22, when it rose again to more than 2 per cent. During the mid-1920s, deportation remained above 1 per cent of immigration, and in 1929-30 it climbed again to above 2 per cent. The next few years saw an unprecedented boom in deportation relative to immigration: for every 100 immigrants entering Canada during those years, between 27 and 36 were officially deported. The rate of deportation fell to a still high 9 per cent in 1934-35, the last year considered in this study.

  • 2 Computations by B. Roberts and D. Millar. All calculations are by Roberts and Millar, unless other (...)

TABLE I2

FISCAL YEAR ENDING

NUMBER OF IMMIGRANTS

NUMBER OF DEPORTS

DEPORTS AS % IMMIGRANTS

1903

128,364

67

0.05

1904

130,331

85

0.06

1905

146,266

86

0.05

1906

189,064

137

0.07

1907

124,667

201

0.16

1908

262,469

825

0.31

1909

146,908

1,748

1.18

1910

208,794

734

0.35

1911

311,084

784

0.25

1912

354,237

959

0.27

1913

402,432

1,281

0.31

1914

384,878

1,834

0.47

1915

144,789

1,734

1.19

1916

48,537

1,243

2.56

1917

75,374

605

0.80

1918

79,074

527

0.66

1919

57,702

454

0.78

1920

117,336

655

0.55

1921

148,477

1,044

0.70

1922

89,999

2,046

2.27

1923

72,887

1,632

2.23

1924

148,560

2,106

1.41

1925

111,362

1,686

1.51

1926

96,064

1,716

1.78

1927

143,991

1,585

1.10

1928

151,597

1,866

1.23

1929

167,722

1,964

1.17

1930

163,288

3,963

2.42

1931

88,223

4,376

4.96

1932

25,752

7,025

27.27

1933

19,782

7,131

36.04

1934

13,903

4,474

32.18

1935

12,136

1,128

9.29

3Increased rates of deportation may simply mean that the numbers coming into Canada decreased while the numbers being deported remained the same. Yet the increase in rates of deportation relative to immigration was matched fairly consistently by an increase in the absolute numbers deported, beginning with 67 in 1902-03, and peaking at 7,131 in 1932-33. Generally speaking, deportation was higher in numbers in years when large numbers of immigrants entered.

4There were certain important exceptions to this trend. In 1907-08 there were 262,469 entrants, and 825 deports. In 1908-09, however, there were slightly more than half the number of entrants (146, 908), but more than twice the number of deports (1,748). In 1913-14, there were 384,878 immigrants admitted, and 1,834 deported. The following year, entrants dropped to 144,789, while deportations remained at 1,734. In 1918-19, immigration remained low at 57,702, with deportation correspondingly low at 454. But in 1919-20, the number of immigrants more than doubled to 117,336, while the number of deportations increased by not quite a third to 655. For 1920-21, immigration was 148,477, and deportation 1,044, while the next year immigration fell to 89,999 while deportation almost doubled to reach 2,046. Similarly, a striking disjuncture between the numbers of immigrants versus deportations appeared in 1928-29 and 1929-30, with 167,722 and 163,288 immigrants respectively, compared to 1,964 and 3,963 deportations. The following year immigrants dwindled to 88,224 while deportations rose to 4,376. The sharpest contrast was between the 19, 782 immigrants and the 7,131 deportations of 1933-34. This year represents the high and the low points of the deportation-immigration work of the Department. These relationships are clear in the following graphic.

  • 3 Domicile was no absolute bar against deportation; immigrants who could be shown to belong to the p (...)

5We cannot trace a simple direct relationship between large numbers of immigrants and large numbers of deports by fiscal year. Months or years may have elapsed between the entrance and deportation of an individual. In order to take this into account, it is useful to recalculate the numbers entering over longer periods than the fiscal year in question. Table II shows this recalculation. It gives the percentage of those deported in relation to a moving average of those admitted. For the years before 1919-20, a three-year moving average has been used (because three years was the length of time necessary to establish domicile, after which most immigrants could not be deported). For 1909, then, the calculation represents the numbers actually entering in 1908-09, 1907-08, and 1906-07, divided by three. The figures used for the years after 1919-20 are based on a five-year moving average (the time to establish domicile having been increased to five years by the amendments to the Immigration Act in 1919), so the rate for 1927-28, for instance, is based on the average of that year and the four previous fiscal years, including 1923-24.3

6This smoothing out of irregularities is clearer in Graph II.

7The rates of deportation measured against the moving averages of immigration differ in some respects from the rates of deportation compared to crude immigration figures by individual fiscal year. For example, Table II shows that the rate of deportation did not exceed 1 per cent until fiscal 1920-21, although it did rise near to 1 per cent in 1908-09. Yet the rates of deportation for the 1920s remain as high as, and sometimes exceed, the crude rates shown in Table I. Table II deportation rates for the 1930s, however, are as much as five times lower than the crude rates for those years.

  • 4 Computer graphs were produced with the assistance of David Millar and Greg Smith.

GRAPH I4. Immigration and Deportation By Fiscal Year

GRAPH I4. Immigration and Deportation By Fiscal Year

TABLE II

FISCAL YEAR ENDING

DEPORTS % BY IMMIGRANTS (MOVING AVERAGES)

1903

0.08

1904

0.07

1905

0.06

1906

0.08

1907

0.13

1908

0.42

1909

0.98

1910

0.35

1911

0.35

1912

0.32

1913

0.35

1914

0.48

1915

0.55

1916

0.64

1917

0.67

1918

0.77

1919

0.64

1920

0.86

1921

1.09

1922

2.07

1923

1.67

1924

1.82

1925

1.47

1926

1.65

1927

1.38

1928

1.43

1929

1.46

1930

2.74

1931

3.06

1332

5.88

1933

7.67

1934

7.19

1935

3.52

8These tables show the proportion of deportations to immigration (crude numbers or moving averages), while the graph below compares the numbers of people deported to the moving averages of immigration. This permits other comparisons. For example, the increase in deportation in 1907-08 is far sharper than the increase in immigration. Deportations fall after 1908-09, hit a low in 1909-10, and then climb again to the level of 1908-09; but during that period, immigration was increasing (moving-averaged). Here again, there seem to be anomalies in the relationship between the numbers of people coming in and the numbers being deported. There is a tremendous decline in entrants during the First World War, together with a decline in numbers deported, but it was immigration that declined more sharply. After the fiscal year 1917-18, the number of entrants rose gradually for two years, and then climbed to the postwar normal flow. During this same period, deportation fell gradually for a year, then climbed far more sharply than immigration, reaching a peak in 1921-22. During the 1920s, moving-averaged immigration increased steadily, while deportation showed more peaks and valleys. In 1928-29, the two streams diverged sharply: deportation soared while moving-averaged immigration plummetted after 1930-31.

GRAPH II. Immigration Moving Averages

GRAPH II. Immigration Moving Averages

GRAPH III. Immigration (moving average) and Deportation

GRAPH III. Immigration (moving average) and Deportation

9Clearly, deportation did not depend directly on the rate of immigration. It is insufficient to look at rates of deportation, or at absolute numbers deported. Causes of deportation need to be considered.

10The Department of Immigration included information on the causes of deportation in its statistical reports each year. The five categories under which causes were listed were: “medical causes”, “public charge”, “criminality”, “other civil causes”, and “accompanying” (nondeportable members of deports’ families, such as Canadian-born children). Table III shows deportations reported by cause for each fiscal year. The same information is depicted in Graph IV.

11Table IV shows causes of deportation as a percentage of all deportations within a given year. For instance, in 1923-24 the Department listed 36 per cent of all deportations under the category of public charge.

12According to statistics published by the Department, the single most important cause of deportation for the whole period was becoming a public charge. Their figures show a peak in public charge deportations in 1908-09, a plateau from 1913-14 to 1915-16 and, in 1921-22, another peak nearly as high as that resulting from the 1908 depression. From 1928-29 to 1929-30, public charge deportations increased five-fold (more than twice the total in the 1908 depression), and doubled in the following year. Public charge deportations peaked in 1932-33, and fell to pre-Great Depression levels two years later. More than 50 per cent of all of the deportations in the entire thirty-three-year period were listed under the heading “public charge”.

TABLE III. NUMBERS DEPORTED, BY CAUSE

TABLE III. NUMBERS DEPORTED, BY CAUSE

GRAPH IV. Numbers Deported, By Cause

GRAPH IV. Numbers Deported, By Cause

TABLE IV. CAUSES AS A PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL DEPORTATION BY FISCAL YEAR (rounded nearest per cent)

TABLE IV. CAUSES AS A PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL DEPORTATION BY FISCAL YEAR (rounded nearest per cent)

13By contrast, over the entire period criminality accounted for 21 per cent of total deportations, medical causes for 18 per cent, accompanying for 7 per cent, and other civil causes for 6 per cent. In the early years, nearly all of the reported deportations were for medical causes, until 1907-08 when public charge was invoked to deport more than one-third of the cases of that year. Medical deportations did not again exceed those for public charge until 1926-27; for the three years following that date medical deportations increased.

14Criminality did not emerge as an important cause for deportation until 1908-09, when it almost doubled and then continued to increase sharply for the next seven years. In the four years leading up to 1920-21, criminality accounted for more than half of all deportations. By 1920-21, it was the most significant single cause for deportation. Thereafter it was superseded by other categories, although it continued to account for substantial numbers of deportations. Less important, but waxing and waning in small percentages that reflected the general intensity of all deportation, were the categories, other civil causes, and accompanying. All of the causes of deportation show gradual increases over the period, and in a number of cases they rise even when the level of immigration is falling.

15The Department’s statistics raise a number of troublesome questions. For instance, the Department’s published claim, that it had deported only 1 per cent of the total number of immigrants entering Canada, came at a very strange time. The Department was expelling immigrants (by no means all of them recently arrived) at an embarrassing rate, and being lambasted on that account in the Canadian and British press and elsewhere. The Department’s 1 per cent figure was a weak attempt to distract attention from the unprecedented high rate of deportation of the unemployed during the Great Depression. Furthermore, this figure concealed, behind an innocuous average, several previous heights in deportation – each one of which was followed by a plateau higher than the previous norm, even in the relatively prosperous 1920s. In this sense, the Department’s use of the average was a classic example of lying with statistics.

16Another question is raised by the discrepancy between the peaks in numbers expelled and numbers entering. There were four periods of tremendous increases in deportation: 1908-09, 1913-14, 1921-24, and 1929-30. These peaks in deportation do not correlate to peaks in immigration. For instance, from 1907-08, deportation more than doubled while immigration was almost halved. The discrepancy between these rates widened in the later periods. It is necessary to look beyond the sheer numbers of immigrants, and the “bad apples in the barrel” theory for an explanation of the marked fluctuations in deportation. What is striking about these four periods is that they coincide with periods of severe economic depression in Canada. Moreover, the Department’s own statistics show that the high numbers expelled at these times were largely composed of those who had become public charges. In other words, those immigrants who were deported in the peak depression periods were those who had become pauperized in Canada as a result of general economic depression. This conjuncture reveals as nonsense another common sense assumption: that deportation was the result of individual failure for which the immigrants themselves were responsible. In fact, during the Great Depression, deportation was an officially sanctioned alternative to unemployment relief for immigrants. In times of low demand, Canada was able to export, by legal and other forms of deportation, some of its surplus labour force.

17Economic factors alone lie behind the majority of deportations as reported by the Department. Ostensibly non-economic causes are more difficult to explain when they show sudden rises or declines. Medical deportations, for example, also show fluctuations different from those of the immigrant stream itself. How can we explain the high numbers deported for medical causes during the 1920s, when the rates were up to three times those of prewar medical deportations? It is absurd to assume that the state of health or physical condition of immigrants admitted to Canada in the 1920s was much worse than in earlier decades, especially when we recall that medical inspection became ever more stringent and restrictive. This too suggests that deportation cannot be ascribed solely or chiefly to the qualities of the immigrants themselves.

18Perhaps the most perplexing and provoking questions are raised by the criminality category. On the surface, it seems clear cut: conviction for a criminal offence was grounds for deportation. Yet in the nine-year period after 1916, criminality accounted for one-third to one-half of all deportations. There are marked variations in a rate that, by common sense standards, should remain fairly constant. The statistics suggest recurring crime waves among immigrants. Or is the apparent crime wave a creation of the reporting procedure? Instead of an increasing propensity on the part of immigrants to commit criminal acts, there may well have been an increasing propensity on the part of the authorities to convict immigrants of crimes such as vagrancy, watching and besetting (picketing), being a nuisance or obstruction to the police, as well as a number of “enemy alien” infractions invented during the First World War.

  • 5 See Colin Sumner, “The Ideological Nature of Law,” in Piers Beirne and Richard Quinney, eds., Marx (...)
  • 6 Elizabeth Comack, “The Origins of Canadian Drug Legislation,” in Thomas Fleming, ed., The New Crim (...)
  • 7 Donald Avery, Dangerous Foreigners, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1979; for a U.S. example see (...)

19The use of the criminality category to effect deportation for “crimes” that were essentially political in nature, was a form of political repression that continued for many years. Crime is not merely a legal, but a socio-economic and political category.5 Criminality deportations rose sharply in periods of political repression, for instance during the official crackdown against the Industrial Workers of the World and other radical industrial unionists around the First World War, and against political protestors of the early 1930s. The Department’s public statistics do not specify the type of criminal activity for which immigrants were deported: political crimes are lumped in with theft and assault. Moreover, ostensibly clear cut violations of law may have political implications. The drug laws are an example: supposedly intended to combat the drug traffic, the laws were concerned with the consumption of opium by Chinese workers in British Columbia, while ignoring the far more significant consumption of opium by the white population (in pharmaceutical products). The Chinese at that time were welcomed by employers as a cheap labour force; hated by white workers who saw them as competitors; and a political hot potato for the provincial government. Singling out the Chinese as drug offenders made it easy to dispose of them, and to define labour issues in racial rather than class terms. The racist focus of the drug laws also supported the view that outsiders and aliens caused unrest6 – a claim which underlay the use of the law to control and deport immigrants.7

  • 8 Jason Ditton, Controlology. Beyond the New Criminology, London, Macmillan, 1979. See chapter two o (...)
  • 9 John Kitsuse and Aaran Cicorel, “A Note on the Uses of Official Statistics,” Social Problems, Fall (...)
  • 10 For an early modern European example, the development of the poor laws and the use of “vagrancy” s (...)
  • 11 John McMullan, “Law, Order and Power; Theory, Questions, and Some Limits to Social History of Crim (...)
  • 12 Richard Quinney, Class, State, and Crime. On the Theory and Practice of Criminal Justice, New York (...)

20Research has suggested that criminality statistics are a better reflection of social control than of real crime.8 One must question the source for the categories used to develop criminality statistics. One must also ask who is convicted, what are the circumstances, and which actions do, and which do not, lead to convictions.9 Authorities have at times created criminality categories to control certain elements of the population.10 Some social historians suggest that neither the crime statistics nor the historical statistics and other data from which crime indicators are derived can be reliably used for such a purpose.11 Other studies have identified the use of the criminal justice system to control surplus population which cannot be absorbed into the economy (or the polity).12

21The Department’s statistics can be manipulated to reveal as well as conceal. Measuring deportation by cause against three- and five-year moving averages of immigration produces an index with which to measure the use of the various causes to effect and explain deportation.

22These index numbers do not add up to 100 per cent, across each line. They are, however, strictly comparable to each other in a given year, or over the entire period – a comparability which is lacking in the year to-year percentages in the “percentage by causes” table (Table IV). For instance, compare public charge for the years ending 1912 and 1924. The percentage for both years is 9 per cent, but the intensity has increased sixfold from .11 to .67.

23Several striking tendencies appear on this index. Public charge remains the leading factor through most of the period, but its intensity varies from three to almost ten times normal up to the 1920s. In this decade it never falls below its pre-war peak, and in the 1930s it increases eighteenfold, dwarfing all other causes. Nevertheless, during the First World War, criminality rises to unprecedented heights, for a time far exceeding the public charge category as the favoured device for deportation. In four years, from fiscal year 1906-07 to fiscal year 1910-11, deportation changed from a one-cause system to a multiple-category system, in which several lesser-used causes reinforced and occasionally supplanted the favoured devices. The use of a multiple-cause system raised the incidence of deportation as a whole to progressively higher levels, whichever cause predominated.

24This change in complexity reflected not only economic crises and legislative actions, but also increasing bureaucratic sophistication and utilization of the enforcement structures. The result of this was that an increasing proportion of immigrants were expelled before they had completed residency requirements, despite the fact that they had immigrated under higher entrance standards. The intensity of deportation for all causes increased from previous normal levels in the prosperous years, such as 1909-10 to 1913-14, to a still higher level between 1922-23 and 1928-29. Each prosperous, or, rather, “normal” period marks an increased intensity in deportation.

25The conclusion to be drawn is that while deportation was most certainly a means of removing the unemployed and useless, it was something else as well. As the population rose, the flow of immigration (even in the good years) could be filtered more carefully to ensure that the classes Canada kept were the classes Canada wanted. The increasing intensity of deportation suggests that this is not merely a myth: an immigrant of the 1920s was three or four times as likely to be deported for any cause than was his or her predecessor of the 1910s. This meaningful comparison from period to period is only possible with this intensity index.

TABLE V. INDEX OF INTENSITY: % OF DEPORTATION BY CAUSE AGAINST AVERAGED IMMIGRATION

TABLE V. INDEX OF INTENSITY: % OF DEPORTATION BY CAUSE AGAINST AVERAGED IMMIGRATION

26Two other anomalies emerge strongly from this index. First, criminality almost quadruples in intensity in the last three years of the First World War, and becomes more intensely used than medical reasons, for most of the ensuing period. This reflects a change in deportation devices which had important repercussions within the immigration bureaucracy itself. Secondly, the increase in the use of all deportation causes in the early 1930s epitomizes the more sophisticated shell game in which a variety of ostensible causes concealed the real economic functions of deportation. For instance, “other civil causes”, that catch-all category, increased two and a half times above any previous peak of intensity, in the 1930s. By the 1920s, the process for “throwing the book” at potential deports had been well established: any cause that would stick, would do.

27The annual reports of the Department do not suggest the practices revealed by internal documents. Some of the real reasons for deportation were concealed behind the legal causes promulgated by the Department. In order to understand why immigrants were deported, it is necessary to go beyond what the Department told the public, and to examine what the officials said to each other when they were not under scrutiny.

Notes

1 Department of Immigration and Colonization, Annual Report, 1933-34, p. 85. All calculations in this chapter are based on this source.

2 Computations by B. Roberts and D. Millar. All calculations are by Roberts and Millar, unless otherwise noted.

3 Domicile was no absolute bar against deportation; immigrants who could be shown to belong to the prohibited classes, for example, could be deported after many years’ residence. Legal categories were constructed to make it possible to fit immigrants’ circumstances into the necessary configuration. As legal and political criteria changed, so did the likelihood of deportation. See Ernest Cashmore, “The Social Organization of Canadian Immigration Law,” Canadian Journal of Sociology, Fall 1978, p. 427; “those groups controlling Canada’s economic resources, also determine the content and form of immigration law and the implementation of this law reflects the concerns of those groups. On this view it is easy to see how the criminal category of “illegal immigrant” is a creation of law, rather than a cause of it. Additionally, it follows that the same groups affecting the development of law also have a determining influence on the provision of meaning and problems for both criminals and non-criminals and on legislative interpretations of order and popular conceptions of rule-breaking. The category of “illegal immigrant” has become a legislative construction, designed to serve the imperatives of private resource-holding enterprises.” But following the law was less important than being seen to do so: for examples of illegal deportations of Canadian-born children under the accompanying category, for example, see Public Archives of Canada (PAC) Record Group (RG) 76, file 351406, “Statements and lists of deportations 1926-32” passim.

4 Computer graphs were produced with the assistance of David Millar and Greg Smith.

5 See Colin Sumner, “The Ideological Nature of Law,” in Piers Beirne and Richard Quinney, eds., Marxism and Law, New York, John Wiley, 1982.

6 Elizabeth Comack, “The Origins of Canadian Drug Legislation,” in Thomas Fleming, ed., The New Criminologies in Canada. State, Crime, and Control, Toronto, Oxford, 1985, pp. 82-3.

7 Donald Avery, Dangerous Foreigners, Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1979; for a U.S. example see William Preston, Aliens and Dissenters. Federal Suppression of Radicals, 1903-1933, New York, Harper, 1963.

8 Jason Ditton, Controlology. Beyond the New Criminology, London, Macmillan, 1979. See chapter two on statistics.

9 John Kitsuse and Aaran Cicorel, “A Note on the Uses of Official Statistics,” Social Problems, Fall 1963, pp. 136-8.

10 For an early modern European example, the development of the poor laws and the use of “vagrancy” see John Garraty, Unemployment in History. Economic Thought and Public Policy, New York, Harper and Row, 1978, pp. 24-59. On present-day Britain see Stuart Hall et al., Policing the Crisis. Mugging, the State, and Law and Order, London, Macmillan, 1978.

11 John McMullan, “Law, Order and Power; Theory, Questions, and Some Limits to Social History of Crime in Early Modern England,” [np], 1985; Victor Gatrell et al., eds., Crime and the Law Since 1550, London, Europa, 1980.

12 Richard Quinney, Class, State, and Crime. On the Theory and Practice of Criminal Justice, New York, Longmans, 1977, pp. 131-39.

Table des illustrations

Titre GRAPH I4. Immigration and Deportation By Fiscal Year
URL http://books.openedition.org/uop/docannexe/image/2444/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 102k
Titre GRAPH II. Immigration Moving Averages
URL http://books.openedition.org/uop/docannexe/image/2444/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 59k
Titre GRAPH III. Immigration (moving average) and Deportation
URL http://books.openedition.org/uop/docannexe/image/2444/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 102k
Titre TABLE III. NUMBERS DEPORTED, BY CAUSE
URL http://books.openedition.org/uop/docannexe/image/2444/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 178k
Titre GRAPH IV. Numbers Deported, By Cause
URL http://books.openedition.org/uop/docannexe/image/2444/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 92k
Titre TABLE IV. CAUSES AS A PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL DEPORTATION BY FISCAL YEAR (rounded nearest per cent)
URL http://books.openedition.org/uop/docannexe/image/2444/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 167k
Titre TABLE V. INDEX OF INTENSITY: % OF DEPORTATION BY CAUSE AGAINST AVERAGED IMMIGRATION
URL http://books.openedition.org/uop/docannexe/image/2444/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 212k

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