DSQ > Winter 2008, Volume 28, No.1

This paper examines the history and language of Canadian immigration statues and House of Commons debates regarding immigrants with mental disabilities from the time of Confederation to the 1920s. This paper posits that a study of the historical language and legal frameworks regarding immigrants with mental "disorders" illuminates the myriad of social prejudices about mental disability that have persisted in Canada. The early 20th century laws and House of Commons debates indicate that the exclusion of immigrants with mental disabilities was a deliberate decision on the part of legislators to ensure the proper "character" of immigrants coming to Canada. This paper argues that the representation of mental disability in early immigration legislation, particularly in the context of the growing influence of the field of psychiatry, reveals the historical pervasiveness of social misunderstandings of mental disability.


Since Confederation, Canada's immigration laws have engendered and reinforced an appalling legacy of social prejudice against persons with mental disabilities. Compared even to physically disabled immigrants, persons with mental disabilities encountered harsher legal rules and were systematically excluded under Canada's discriminatory immigration system. A review of early immigration statutes reveals that, as far back as 1859, Canadian immigration laws have consistently targeted classes of persons who, on the basis of their perceived mental health were automatically denied entry into Canada. For over half a century, notwithstanding the use of assorted vocabulary, Canadian immigration legislation explicitly emphasized that "lunatics," "the insane," "the feebleminded," and others of a similar ilk, were not welcome to Canada.

While there is a diverse body of research confirming that long-standing, institutionalized racial discrimination was the bedrock of Canada's immigration system, there has been less study and literature about the legal history of disability in immigration policy.1 This paper seeks to provide insight on a similarly forgotten area of immigration history, namely the regulation of mental disability. Guided by the words of one author that "[d]isability is a complicated, overlooked factor in the history of immigration,"2 this paper explores how statutory language historically constructed and classified persons with mental disabilities who sought to immigrate to Canada. In its survey of the evolving language of Canadian immigration laws, this paper draws on primary source materials, such as turn of the century statutes and House of Commons debates that targeted for exclusion any immigrant perceived to be mentally disabled.3 This paper argues that the representation of mental disability in early immigration legislation, particularly against the backdrop of growing influence of the field of psychiatry, reveals the historical fears and prejudices towards mental disability that have endured in Canada since the time of Confederation.

Methods and Sources

This paper chronologically reviews Canadian immigration legislation from the time Canada was born as a nation to the 1920s, and examines how the various statutory instruments identified and classified persons with mental disabilities. It is not my intent to offer a definitive examination of the myriad and complex historical forces influencing Canada's immigration policy at the turn of the century. Rather, my purpose is to analyze statutory immigration provisions pertaining to mental disability in comparison to how the relevant legislation treated immigrants with physical disabilities. Beginning with a brief look at the history and language of immigration law at the time of Confederation, I will trace the prejudicial roots of statutory provisions barring immigrants with mental disabilities. Next I highlight early 20th century House of Commons debates contemporaneous with the proposed statutory enactments. These Parliamentary debates indicate that the prohibition of persons with mental disabilities was a deliberate decision on the part of lawmakers preoccupied with ensuring the proper "character" of immigrants entering Canada. The active role of psychiatry in creating and sustaining mental disability as a 'social evil' and forever condemning those "afflicted" as an inadmissible class is also revealed. I conclude that the discriminatory heritage of Canadian immigration legislation remained entrenched for over 50 years and perpetuated a legacy of exclusionary attitudes and negative treatment towards immigrants with mental disabilities.

Discriminatory Heritage of Canadian Immigration Law

Early Immigration Related Statutes

Immigration laws regulating entry into Upper and Lower Canada and the Atlantic colonies existed long before the Dominion of Canada came into existence in 1867. Discriminatory treatment of persons with mental disabilities in the immigration process is as old, if not older, than the Dominion itself. Legal scholar Rose Voyvodic describes an 1859 British statute entitled An Act Respecting Emigrants and Quarantine, which required "the quarantining of emigrants suffering from typhoid and smallpox."4 Voyvodic suggests that "the earliest Canadian legislative attempts to create medically inadmissible classes focussed upon threats posed by 'unhealthy' immigrants."5 While ships were quarantined for infectious diseases, a review of the 1859 Quarantine Act reveals that the focus on 'unhealthy' threats also concerned excluding mentally disabled immigrants. Pursuant to this pre-Confederation statute, medical officers were required to inspect the condition of all passengers. If "any Lunatic, Idiotic, Deaf and Dumb, Blind or Infirm Person, not belonging to any Emigrant family" was discovered, who was "likely to become permanently a public charge." Immigration authorities were empowered to make arrangements to send such persons back to the port from where they departed.6 Another similarly titled pre-Confederation statute enacted in 1866 again required the Master of a vessel to report in writing the names and ages of all passengers "who are lunatic, idiotic, deaf or dumb, blind or infirm, stating also whether they are accompanied by relatives able to support them."7

With Confederation, section 95 of the British North America Act proclaimed immigration to fall under concurrent federal and provincial jurisdiction.8 Canada's first immigration statute, entitled An Act respecting Immigration and Immigrants, was passed in 1869 ("1869 Act").9 Although the key objects of this legislation were to promote immigration by establishing immigration offices abroad and regulating vessels entering Canadian territory, a closer reading of the statute indicates that many provisions were also devoted to proscribing restrictions on the entry of the destitute, and the physically and mentally infirm. The 1869 Act mirrors the statutory provisions of the 1859 legislation by requiring the inspection of a vessel for the "presence of any lunatic or idiotic person" not belonging to an immigrant family and the "reconveyance of such person to the port from which he was carried to Canada."10

It is important to note that even these early forms of immigration laws distinguished between two categories of mental 'deficiencies.' At this time, the terms "lunatics" and "idiotics" were not synonymous with one another. In fact, well into the 20th century "lunatic" was used to denote a person considered to be of unsound mind, mentally ill, or insane, while the term "idiot" referred to individuals with cognitive impairment, low intelligence, or developmental delay.11 Society's historical and derogatory differentiation of these two conditions has been explained by Radford as follows:

From the beginning, the plight of the 'idiot' perplexed the Enlightenment mind. Whereas the 'lunatic' was also a deviant, as were the criminal, the inebriate and the pauper, the 'idiot' was condemned several times over. In an age that celebrated intelligence as much as beauty, perfection and rationality, the 'idiot' was dull, flawed, defaced with stigmata and above all incurable. In the blunt terms of the philosopher John Locke: whereas the 'lunatic' had lost his mind, the 'idiot' never had one.12

For almost three decades after Confederation, the Canadian government undertook "large-scale" and "aggressive" immigration campaigns to attract newcomers and encourage settlement in the West.13 However, despite these efforts, immigration laws continued to bar any physically or mentally infirmed immigrant who was not accompanied and supported by family. The 1869 Act was amended in 1872 to exclude "criminals" and other "vicious" classes from immigrating to Canada.14 Future immigration legislation would continue this pattern of expanding the categories of undesirables by steadily augmenting and adding to the list of banned mental disabilities.

The Immigration Act of 1886

The first truly comprehensive post-Confederation immigration statute was enacted in 1886.15 The Immigration Act of 1886 ("1886 Act") established a highly developed medical and legal structure for excluding prospective immigrants with disabilities. Like past legislation, the 1886 Act required the Master of every vessel arriving at a Canadian port to report if any passengers were "lunatic, idiotic, deaf and dumb, blind or infirm, stating also whether they are accompanied by relatives able to support them or not."16 Failure to report or false reports were punishable by a $20 to $100 fine. The severity of the offence and magnitude of the financial penalty is evidenced in contrast to the $2 per passenger entrance duty the Master paid to immigration customs.17

The 1886 Act also stipulated similar responsibilities for the Medical Superintendent of a quarantine station. After the vessel anchored, the Medical Superintendent was required forthwith to inspect the vessel's "bill of health," as well as every passenger for "…any lunatic, idiotic, deaf and dumb, blind or infirm person not belonging to any immigrant family."18 If the Medical Superintendent believed any disabled passenger could become a permanent "public charge," the Medical Superintendent was required to immediately report that information to the port's Immigration collector of customs. The vessel's Master was required to post a $300 bond for every such disabled passenger so as to indemnify the government and charitable institutions for potential expenses incurred within three years for the passenger's maintenance and support. The bond was required to be backed by two Canadian sureties holding proof of assets double the amount of the bond.19 Failure to execute such a bond resulted in a penalty of $400 and denial of clearance for the vessel's return voyage.20 Immigration officials were also empowered to make arrangements for the "reconveyance of such person" to the port from which they came to Canada.21

In addition to these federally enforced financial penalties for failure to report or support a disabled passenger, other legal sanctions were also imposed by provincial governments to repel immigrants with disabilities. For example, one editorial illustrates the abhorrence of disabled immigrants, describing disabled immigrant children as "the diseased offscourings of the hotbeds of hellish slumdom."22 Referring to this editorial, Penny Richards notes that such fears "directly motivated the passage of restrictive legislation like the Ontario Act of 1897 (Wagner 1982: 150-154), which made it a crime to bring into the province any child of 'defective' intellect or physique."23 In order to prevent the entrance of children of low moral, mental and physical calibre, this law prohibited any individual or philanthropic society from bringing a child under the age of 18 into Ontario without a license.24 Responding to criticism from charitable organizations that this legislation undermined their altruistic efforts towards orphaned immigrant children, the then Premier of Ontario, Arthur S. Hardy, explained that the statute was prompted by "strong public prejudice against the importation of children" and to assure the "public that every precaution is being taken to guard against the moral or physical deterioration of our people."25

These early immigration statutes disclose that, even in the country's infancy, Canadian authorities were anxious to protect local governments and charities from the problem of the 'mentally ill' or 'mentally retarded,' both of whom were regarded as hopelessly dependent26 or morally degenerate.27 Authorities feared that allowing the mentally disabled into the country would strain publicly funded or charitable social services. The mid-1800s witnessed an emergence of charitable organizations for the mentally disabled, and in the late 1800s there was movement in North America towards state care, such as orphanages, industrial schools and mental hygiene institutions.28 Vaughn Switzer notes "…that there was a profound shift in policy in the 1840s as feeblemindedness, or idiocy, began to be regarded as a social and state problem rather than a family and local problem."29 Similarly, another author indicates that the "…trend toward specialized care — from the poorhouse to the asylum — was part of an overall change in ideas about the treatment of mad people taking place through the western world."30 By the 1870s, due to "the rise and growing dominance of professional expertise" and the belief that mental affliction was proof of sin and moral weakness, care of persons with mental disabilities shifted from the community "to formal facilities such as asylums and institutions".31 Clearly, this transition from family to state care for the mentally disabled compounded the concerns of government authorities, who attempted to bar those perceived as mentally unfit from immigrating to Canada and thereby minimize any encumbrance on state institutions.

In sum, from 1859 to the birth of the 20th century, Canadian lawmakers viewed persons with mental disabilities in two categorical images: 'mentally ill' or 'mentally retarded.' In both instances, it was expected that the person would be cared for by their family, and in the absence of adequate family support and sureties, the individual was to be expelled from the country's shores to forestall any resort to charitable aid or state care. In addition to being perceived as inherently defective, a dominant stereotype that has historically underpinned Canada's immigration laws is that persons with mental disabilities are incapable of contributing to their communities — that they are morally and mentally weak, unproductive, in need of family and public support, and therefore, a liability for society as a whole.

1902 Amendments

The House of Commons heard many debates in the early 1900s regarding proposed revisions to Canada's immigration laws. The debates spotlighted the conundrum of transportation companies (i.e., steamships) straddled with unhealthy passengers, as well as highlighted the need to bolster the country's population versus the need to avoid "undesirable immigrants from older countries."32 The debates typified the hostile attitudes prevalent in society towards persons with mental disabilities. The tenor and content of the debates leave little doubt that the most fervent apprehension of "undesirables" was regarding the mentally disabled. For example, at second reading of Bill 112, Members of Parliament heralded the proposed immigration statute amendment as strengthening the power of customs officials to prohibit the landing of immigrants with "dangerous or infectious diseases."33 The 1902 House of Commons transcripts reveal that Member of Parliament Frank Oliver, who later became the Minister of the Interior responsible for immigration policy, cautioned that "diseases existing amongst immigrants are but a trifling consideration in comparison with the general character of the immigrants."34 He argued that, when allowing immigrants into the country, "the first consideration should be the intellectual as well as the physical quality of those immigrants."35

Another Member of Parliament spoke of his concern that "Canada was being made a dumping ground for a very undesirable class of immigrants" and proposed a "vigorous immigration policy" that would limit immigration "to the right class — of good character and not destitute."36 On the eve of the passage of the amendments, yet another Member of Parliament expressed his consternation that the changes were not "wide" enough to exclude the "mentally unfit."37 The harsh and trenchant tone of these remarks provide a glimpse of the disparaging social narrative of the time that overwhelmingly depicted persons with mental disabilities as a menace to the moral fibre of Canadian society.

Ultimately, the 1886 Act was amended on May 15, 1902, to include a new provision that prohibited the landing of any immigrant or passenger "suffering from any loathsome, dangerous or infectious disease or malady."38 While at first blush "loathsome, dangerous or infectious diseases" may appear unrelated to mental disability, it is important to recall the centuries-old social prejudices that suspected contagions, particularly as a result of venereal diseases, triggered the onset of volatile behaviour and psychosis. In his text on the history of madness, Roy Porter indicates that "[a]ssociating mental disturbance with various other illness, (syphilis, tuberculosis) and vices (drinking, drug taking)" was common in the Romantic era, which also correlated disease and degradation with mental illness.39 Quarantine and isolation practices were common means used in Victorian times to control both contagious diseases and mental illness.

In "An Institutional History of Disability", Braddock and Parish suggest that "[t]he period from 1880 to 1925 was a time when persons with intellectual disabilities were viewed as deviant social menaces, and intellectual disability was seen as an incurable disease."40 As previously noted, even children were not immune from such pernicious stereotypes. Kelley and Trebilcock describe how, at the turn of the century in Canada, "eminent" physicians, like psychiatrist C. K. Clarke, and other "[p]rominent members of the medical establishment also argued strenuously against the immigration of destitute British children, who were reported to bring syphilis and other contagious diseases arising from the moral depravity and squalour of their British existence and who were also genetically impaired."41 Popular belief among the general public throughout the 20th century has associated mental illness with sexual deviances and sexually transmitted diseases. The belief that infectious diseases are linked to mental disorders persists even today, as derogatory myths regarding safety risks continue to be invoked as a rationale for excluding prospective immigrants with HIV symptoms.42

The 1902 amendment targeting people with "loathsome" and "dangerous" diseases is significant not only for its implications in regards to mental disability, but also for being the first explicit health-related prohibition outright barring certain classes of persons from entering into Canada. Sociology and criminology scholar Robert Menzies indicates that the 1902 revisions are noteworthy because they "signaled the official foray of medical authorities into the realm of Canadian immigration."43

It is important to note, however, that the preceding immigration statutes expressly contemplated the possibility of permitting disabled immigrants, including the mentally disabled, to enter Canada, if such persons were accompanied by family members willing to support them. As such, families with economic means were allowed to bring their physically or mentally disabled relative along with them if the family could provide proof of sufficient financial support. Yet, a review of future immigration statutes reveals a startling divergence in treatment between physically and mentally disabled family members. Notably, less than a decade later, the family support exception for mentally disabled relatives was quickly deleted from the legislation as prejudicial views about the appropriate character and quality of immigrants eroded public sympathy and fuelled more stringent entrance provisions. As Menzies explains:

By the turn of the century the stigma of 'mental deficiency' had become firmly embedded in the culture. At that point it could be used to ensnare supposed deviants of any kind. The diagnosis of 'mentally deficient,' especially when supported by the whole armory of statistical procedures, became convincing evidence for the necessity of removal [exclusion] of the 'afflicted' from free society. The role of the state in this process varied over time and place. By the early year of this [20th] century, people in countless jurisdictions were being routinely incarcerated in custodial mental handicap asylums for reasons that had nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with their social undesirability.44

1906 Immigration Act

Despite the recent 1902 amendments, a newly revised Immigration Act was proclaimed in 1906 ("1906 Act").45 The debates leading up to this 1906 enactment indicate that Parliamentarians were determined to enact stronger and stricter laws in two areas of immigration regulation; first, to control the types of immigrants entering the country, and second, to facilitate efficient deportation. With respect to the latter, Menzies authoritatively writes about the collaboration between early 20th century psychiatrists and immigration officials, in chartering the introduction of a deportation regime into the 1906 legislation.46 Kelley and Trebilcock indicate that the 1906 Act provided for the removal of any immigrant who, within two years, became a public charge on a charitable institution, an inmate of a hospital or jail, or had committed an offence of moral turpitude.47

Along with launching powerful deportation machinations, the 1906 Act is also significant for its creation of a variety of new 'reportable' and 'inadmissible' classes of mental disabilities. Upon presenting the proposed 1906 legislation to the House of Commons, the Minister of the Interior (responsible for immigration) expressly proclaimed that one of the key purposes of the new statute was to prevent "the introduction of undesirable immigrants."48 While the 1906 statute contained several provisions similar to the 1886 Act and duplicated the medical inspection and certification responsibilities stipulated in past legislation, the 1906 statute also conspicuously expanded the list of 'reportable' conditions. Like its predecessor, the 1906 Act required the Master of a vessel arriving at a Canadian port to report whether any passengers were "lunatic, idiotic, epileptic, deaf and dumb, or dumb, blind or infirm, or suffering from any disease or injury… and stating also whether or not they are accompanied by relatives able to support them."49 The italicized words in the foregoing excerpt from the 1906 Act indicate the new 'reportable' conditions that extended the reach of the legislation.

The 1906 statute also enlarged the scope of 'inadmissible' classes, which had been introduced only four years earlier. The revised 1906 list of inadmissible classes now delineated between three categories of prohibited people: (1) the physically or mentally disabled,50 (2) those with infectious or dangerous diseases,51 and (3) paupers or destitute.52 Section 26, entitled "Persons Prohibited From Landing — Deportation," specified the types of mentally disabled people who were barred from entry as follows:

26. No person shall be permitted to land in Canada, who is feeble-minded, an idiot, or an epileptic, or who is insane or has had an attack of insanity within five years; nor shall any immigrant be so landed who is deaf and dumb, or dumb, blind or infirm, unless he belongs to a family accompanying him already in Canada and which gives security, satisfactory to the Minister, and in conformity with the regulations in that behalf, if any for his permanent support if admitted into Canada.53 (italics mine)

The insertion of the term "epileptic," as well as the isolation of the status of being "dumb" as both 'reportable' and 'excludable' conditions are noteworthy. The inclusion of epilepsy appears to correspond with the origins of the "modern medical era of epilepsy," which converted the condition from a 'social and religious curse' to a mental and physiological disease.54 The title "epileptologist" was coined in North America in 1904.55 Also around this time, eugenicists began to promote the view that epilepsy was "an inherited disorder" and epileptics should be sterilized "to prevent its spread".56 In 1905, Alfred Binet, the French psychologist who invented intelligence testing, wrote that "[m]any epileptics, who suffer from frequent attacks, progress toward insanity."57

Similarly, the identification of "dumb" as a discrete category, separate from deaf, reveals the fervor of immigration officials to target all conditions that intimated any hint of mental deficiency in the prospective immigrant. An ethnically and racially derogatory stereotype (as well as pejorative from a disability perspective) that has pervaded history, especially with the advancement of eugenics ideology, was the view that lack of oral capacity was a sign of "savage" or "uncivilized" races.58 At the turn of the century, the term "dumb" was used to describe the condition of muteness, and included people who may have had a normal range of hearing or intelligence, but who experienced vocal difficulties due to speech motor problems or language disorders.59 As recently as the first half of the 20th century, speech impairments were considered to be a symptom of mental illness. For example, lisping was viewed as a mental disorder that required treatment like other psychiatric diagnoses, such as hysteria, which involved cures ranging from hypnosis and psychoanalysis to "the newly discovered medical therapies of electrotherapy."60 In the early 1900s, a leading North American speech scientist and well-known psychologist and physician, Edward Wheeler Scripture, wrote that "[s]tuttering is a disease of the mind," a "mental trouble" evidencing an "unconscious desire to avoid human society."61

Clearly, the addition of "epileptic" and "dumb" to the list of 'reportable' and 'inadmissible' classes in the 1906 Act was intended to capture the newest forms of mental disorder diagnoses available to the medical and psychiatric communities. These new additions expanded the list of mentally disabled people prohibited from entering Canada, while simultaneously reinforcing some of society's most archaic prejudices.

Another striking development evident from the foregoing chronology of statutes is the ever-increasing categories of people identified with mental conditions that were not just reportable, but outright excluded from admission into Canada. While the 1906 Act maintained the language of "lunatics" as a 'reportable' condition, the new list of inadmissible classes also denied entry to the "insane" and "feeble-minded". According to prevailing science, "feeble-mindedness" constituted a separate classification of mental retardation.62 The early 1900s saw the growth of intelligence testing and classification schemes that provided physicians and psychiatrists with the tools to evaluate so-called various mental disorders and accord 'appropriate' labels for different levels of intelligence.63

In addition, officials could widely interpret the term "feeblemindedness" to restrict immigration based on prevailing social prejudices. Canadian research indicates that "the classification of mental defectiveness was increasingly applied in the early twentieth century, to a wide range of social categories" and that "feebleminded" was a "convenient catch-all diagnosis by which social problems, such as poverty, crime, alcoholism and juvenile delinquency, became psychiatrized as mental disorders."64 A report prepared by the U.S. President's Committee on Mental Retardation recognized that "[d]uring the early part of the century — a very chauvinistic period — numerous writers claimed that a large proportion of retardates came from foreign-born stock, contributing to the call for more restrictive immigration laws."65 According to Bradock and Parish:

Intelligence tests were also used to support ethnocentric and class biases against immigrants in the United States. Subsequent to the implementation of intelligence testing at ports of entry, deportations for mental deficiency increased 350 percent in 1913 and 570 percent in 1914. Rampant abuse existed in the classification of both immigrants and poor Americans as mentally deficient. Workers were 'trained' to classify people as mentally deficient on sight.66

By adding the term "feebleminded" to immigration legislation, it appears that Canadian legislators were not only attempting to maintain currency with so-called advances in eugenics science, but were also swayed by the prevailing prejudices against immigrants, ethnicity and class.

In summary, while the original 1869 list of unwelcome immigrants with mental conditions was limited to "lunatics" and "idiots", this list grew in 1902 to include "loathsome diseases", and in 1906, was again expanded to add a broader range of inadmissible mental disabilities. The 1906 statute devoted an entire paragraph identifying certain types of mentally disabled people that were banned from Canada, including the "feeble-minded", "epileptic", "dumb", the "insane" and those with a past history of "insanity."67 The expanding category of "mentally unfit" immigrants was contemporaneous with the rise of psychiatric and eugenics science and the increasing medicalized demarcation of mental conditions and intellectual classifications. This trend culminated in the first decade of the 20th century with extensive discussions in the House of Commons about reinforcing immigration mechanisms to secure immigrants of higher physical and mental quality.68

A New Era of Mental Discrimination

The Canadian government allowed a mere four years to pass before again revising immigration laws and revamping the entry and deportation regime. And as before, these legislative amendments boosted the powers granted to immigration officials to exclude and expel objectionable immigrants. In 1908, the Federal government introduced an immigration inspection regime at 37 points of entry along the Canada-United States border.69 A striking aspect apparent in the House of Commons debates surrounding the proposed 1910 legislation was the increasing presence of psychiatry as a fundamental force in shaping immigration policy. At the turn of the century, legislators were being persuaded that psychiatrists were the most proficient tool available to the Canadian government to expose immigrants of suspect character. Further, the 1910 statute is infamous for granting unlimited discretion to Cabinet to regulate immigration matters.70

1910 House of Commons Debates

The House of Commons debates for the year 1910 were again rife with references to "undesirable" immigrants, described as certain religious and ethnic backgrounds,71 and, as the case had been for the past three decades, the poor and mentally unfit. In lengthy comments introducing the legislation, Frank Oliver, the Minister responsible for immigration matters, indicated that the precipitating factor for excluding the destitute from Canada was the recession of 1907. He noted that in 1907 there was a "dearth of employment" which gave rise to a "great deal of distress" amongst the new settlers who were forced onto the rolls of charitable organizations.72 The solution proposed by Minister Oliver was stricter immigration screening processes to inspect the "character and standing" of immigrants prior to entry into the country.73

With respect to the status of mentally disabled immigrants, there are frequent references in the House of Commons debates to the expert advice provided by the leading psychiatrists of the day, among them, Dr. C. K. Clarke, considered to be the pioneer and founder of Canadian psychiatry.74 These debates indicate that early 20th century psychiatry propounded the belief that persons with mental disabilities were undesirable immigrants because they were by nature degenerates, dangerous and dishonest in disposition. Throughout the House of Commons debates, there are repeated references to the psychiatric ideas prevailing at that time, and in particular, Dr. Clarke's authoritative opinions. In Keeping America Sane, Ian Robert Dowbiggin provides a detailed historical overview of the powerful influence of eugenics-type psychiatry in North American immigration policy.75 Dowbiggin documents a series of articles in which Dr. Clarke discusses his concerns regarding the Canadian immigration system and "allege[s] that England and other countries were deliberately sending their orphans and asylum inmates to Canada to 'simply get rid of them.' How these individuals made it past the port medical inspectors remained a mystery to Clarke."76 A Canadian historian notes that Clarke routinely sought to "deport immigrants who ended up in asylums (which he succeeded in doing a number of times) and was an anti-Semite who expressed disdain for the lower classes."77

Excerpts from the House of Commons transcripts confirm that Dr. Clarke was a strident proponent for strengthening government powers to exclude "mentally defective" immigrants and an unrelenting advocate for the deportation of asylum inmates. For example, Member of Parliament Uriah Wilson, citing the opinion of Dr. Clarke, proposed the period of time during which the government could deport someone because of mental illness be increased. Mr. Wilson announced in the House of Commons that "Dr. Clark (sic), of the insane hospital in Toronto, is strongly in favour of increasing the period to four years."78 This recommendation meant that Dr. Clarke supported doubling the period of time available to authorities to revoke immigrant status from those believed to be insane. Dr. Clarke's support for doubling the two-year deportation window had serious implications for persons with mental disabilities. As Richards points out, "certain invisible disabilities (such as mental illness, or deafness) might with care be concealed from inspectors" at point of entry examination, but upon coming to light constitute valid grounds for deportation.79 Richards indicates that "[a]necdotal evidence suggests some people 'passed,' hiding their disability for the duration of the official surveillance."80

Emboldened by Dr. Clarke's recommendation, Mr. Wilson saw no reason why people who have been "sent to an insane asylum" or are "weak minded" should be allowed to stay in Canada. Similarly, Dr. Clarke is again cited in the House of Commons for the statistic that 40-50% of asylum inmates were foreign-born, whereas the provincial population was only 17% foreign-born, and presumably therefore almost half of the inmate population should have been expelled from the country.81 The House of Commons transcripts reveal Mr. Wilson's resort to passionate hyperbole, suggesting for the sake of "our grandchildren… who will have to live side by side with these undesirable people," to impose higher standards for admission into the country.82 Mr. Wilson's arguments echo the sentiments of other Parliamentarians, as well as the opinions held by prominent psychiatrists of the time, that Canada was becoming the dustbin for the world's mentally insane refuse. Wilson declared "[a] good many people are sent to this country by relatives who are anxious to get rid of them. I notice in the reports from the asylum that people have been sent out here, and after they have been deported, their friends in the old country have admitted that they sent them out here for the purpose of getting rid of them."83

Another psychiatrist who appears on a number of occasions in the 1910 debates is Dr. Thomas Burgess, medical superintendent of Verdun Asylum in Quebec. Burgess was considered to be Clarke's Quebec "counterpart" in more than occupation. Burgess believed that "[t]he crowding of a psychiatrist's wards with 'degenerate' immigrants — who by definition were immoral and disreputable — was not just an inconvenience … it was a violation of God's will."84 In the House of Commons debates, Parliamentarians quote Burgess as levying intense criticism against immigration officials for the failure to stop the tide of a "defective class of immigrants that are being dumped upon our shores."85 He is further cited for the view that "a large proportion of the immigrants brought in [were] of a low standard of mentality" and if they had been "subjected to a proper examination would never have been allowed to set foot in the country."86

Quoting the opinions and echoing the concerns of these 'eminent' psychiatrists, Parliamentarians forcefully and repeatedly called for stricter measures to screen for moral character and mental inspections of immigrants. For example, one Member of Parliament implored for the "utmost care in examining immigrants, not only as to their financial standing… even more carefully as to their mental, moral and physical qualities."87 Similarly, another demanded that immigration officials create mechanisms to ascertain the "moral qualifications" of immigrants fearing "unfit" immigrants will simply "rove."88 The debates reveal the overwhelming frustration of lawmakers decrying lax immigration screening procedures:

I am very strong upon the point that we should be very particular about the inspection of immigrants coming to this country, and I think the best way to do that is to have a doctor upon every ship that brings immigrants and have them thoroughly examined on the voyage. Those who are not up to the mark should not be allowed to land. … The whole trouble has been that we have been too careless in our inspection.89

It is apparent from the foregoing House of Commons extracts that government officials were persuaded by prominent psychiatrists that their medical expertise was best suited to detect and diagnosis mental illness, and therefore their brethren, rather than immigration agents, should be accorded full power and deference to conduct immigration screenings. Eventually, the two-year deportation window was expanded to three years, and further extended to five years in 1919.90 Authors Comeau and Allahar characterize this increase as "a victory for asylum psychiatrists" and "…the fruition of efforts on the part of the psychiatric profession to gain an increased and indispensable role in immigration regulation and deportation."91

1910 Immigration Act

Ultimately, a new immigration statute passed into law on May 4, 1910, with several significant amendments in relation to persons with mental disabilities ("1910 Act").92 The substantive content of the 1910 Act commences at section 3, entitled "Prohibited Classes," and the very first prohibited class identified in the sidebar heading was "Persons Mentally Defective." That class consisted of "idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, epileptics, insane persons, and person who have been insane within five years previous."93 The prominent location of this prohibited class provision is indicative of the priority lawmakers gave to the objective of excluding mentally defective immigrants.

A noteworthy addition to the list of inadmissible mental defectives was the category of "imbeciles." In the early 1900s, "imbecile" was a highly scientific term used to denote a mid-level 'mental retardation' ranking based on an intelligence quotient (I.Q.) rating scale, invented in 1904 by Alfred Binet, a psychologist. Binet's I.Q. scale was considered to be the "cutting edge" standard of diagnostic systems to test the mental functioning of children. Binet explained the difference between the new diagnostic category of "imbecile" (used in the Canadian immigration statute) and the older phrase "moral imbecile" as follows:

Most subnormal children, especially those in the schools, are habitually grouped in two categories, those of backward intelligence, and those who are unstable. This latter class, which certain alienists call moral imbeciles, do not necessarily manifest inferiority of intelligence; they are turbulent, vicious, rebellious to all discipline; they lack sequence of ideas, and probably power of attention. It is a matter of great delicacy to make the distinction between children who are unstable, and those who have rebellious dispositions. Elsewhere we have insisted upon the necessity of instructors not treating as unstable, that is as pathological cases, those children whose character is not sympathetic with their own.94

Consequently, at the turn of the century, the "imbecile" was developmentally delayed, while the "moral imbecile" suffered from a form of mental deviance or insanity. Undoubtedly in 1910, Canadian officials sought to exclude all manifestations of these conditions by expressly legislating both "imbeciles" and "insane persons" as inadmissible classes in the statute.

In addition to the 'traditionally' mentally unfit categories of inadmissible persons, the 1910 legislation also now excluded "persons who have been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude," "prostitutes," "pimps or persons living on the avails of prostitution" and "persons who… procure prostitutes" as prohibited classes.95 This list clearly reveals that in the minds of lawmakers the mentally ill belonged with criminals and persons of immoral character. As seen from the House of Commons debates, the 1910 legislation stemmed from strong social prejudices held by legislators and psychiatrists that prospective immigrants needed to be carefully screened not only for their mental status, but also their moral quality. It is also evident from these debates, as well as the new statutory structure, that fear of persons with mental disorders came from the belief that mentally defective persons were associated with a host of menacing social groups, such as criminals, prostitutes or people who engaged in other types of degeneracies.

Along with being perceived as immoral and dangerous characters, the mentally disabled were also believed to be predominant amongst persons of non-Western races and ethnicities, who according to eugenics theory, were all to be excluded because of their purported inferior physical and mental stock.96 American historian Douglas C. Baynton points out that

[e]thnicity also has been defined by disability. One of the fundamental imperatives in the initial formation of American immigration policy at the end of the nineteenth century was the exclusion of disabled people. Beyond the targeting of disabled people, the concept of disability was instrumental in crafting the image of the undesirable [ethnic] immigrant.97

Canadian scholars have similarly suggested that Canadian immigration laws and screening mechanisms aimed at excluding disabled immigrants were also used to target unwelcome ethnic groups.98

The fact that certain immigration entrance tests adversely targeted ethnic minorities and masked racial discrimination should not deflect attention from the fact that immigration officials were simultaneously and purposefully screening for mental disability. Along with the deliberate exclusion of immigrants of various ethnic and racial backgrounds, we see that culturally prescribed ideas about appropriate behaviour influence conclusions and attributions about mental fitness. A number of writers point out how cultural attitudes about social norms shape our views and definition of madness.99 Kelley and Trebilcock note that low scores in intelligence testing were "frequently cited as proof that immigrants were disproportionately genetically defective, yet the effect that factors such as the foreigners' linguistic and cultural differences had on these scores was not adequately addressed" and "[i]n large measure, the criterion used to distinguish between the fit and unfit was adherence to accepted cultural norms."100 This suggests that at a port of entry the culturally rooted (re)actions of immigrants caused immigration officials to suspect mental instability and screen immigrants as unfit to settle in Canada.101

Most importantly, with the cessation of the family support exception for the mentally disabled, the 1910 Act marks a critical divergence between the treatment of persons with physical and mental disabilities in admission standards.102 The 1910 statute removed the family support exception for the mentally disabled relatives, and instead introduced an absolute bar on the admission of persons with mental disabilities. The new legislation further maintained an automatic ban for persons afflicted with loathsome diseases or vagrants. However, and remarkably, those who were "physically defective" continued to be permitted entry into Canada if there was proof of an occupation or trade, or if accompanied by family that provided sufficient security against the individual becoming a public charge.103 This differential treatment, coinciding with emergence of the eugenics movement in the early 1900s, suggests that persons with mental disabilities were perceived as completely unredeemable, and therefore previously accepted mitigating factors, like family support, were no longer sufficiently favourable to permit such defectives into the country.

This revocation of the family support exemption in cases of mental disability is striking in contrast to maintenance of the exception for "physically defective" people. This raises the query of whether, in the eugenics era, persons with physical disabilities were perceived more sympathetically, or were viewed as potentially capable of improving their stock, or more likely to secure family support. Disability law scholar Judith Mosoff suggests that physically and mentally disabled immigrants were perceived differently because

[p]eople with physical disabilities (but not mental disabilities) were seen as having the potential to support themselves. It was either not considered possible for people with mental disabilities to be self-supporting, or people with mental disabilities were viewed as so undesirable that the issue of self-sufficiency was not important.104

Although outside of the scope of this paper, it is noteworthy that future amendments to Canadian immigration law in the 1950s ultimately condemned the whole family as inadmissible if it included a mentally disabled dependent.105 The elimination of the family support exception for persons with mental disabilities reinforces the image and treatment of the mentally ill as perpetual and unequivocal social outcasts.

Thus, by 1910, an incredible range of so-called "mental defectives," such as the lunatic, idiot, dumb, epileptic, feebleminded, imbecile and insane, were deemed inadmissible deviances.106 We shall see that future legislative amendments continued to expand the list of inadmissible mental disorders, and resort to the automatic exclusion of those mentally disabled clearly stemmed from discriminatory notions about such conditions.

1927 Immigration Act

Although very little appears to be documented about the Consolidated 1927 Immigration Act ("1927 Act"),107 it is apparent from a read of the statute that the legislation once again sought to fortify the inadmissible classes provisions, particularly in regards to those perceived to be mentally incompetent. This statute compiled together a number of significant amendments that had taken place over the past fifteen years.

The various amendments consolidated in the 1927 law included an articulation of sophisticated legal definitions and entrance standards for military personnel and tourists, most likely attributable to the post-war era. However, based on Menzies' research data for 1902 to 1919, it appears that many were also denied entry to Canada on disability related basis. An analysis of Menzies' figures indicates that out of the 12,559 people refused admission to Canada, 4,974 prospective immigrants were rejected for medical reasons and "153 aspiring immigrants had been rejected as insane, and another 280 as mentally defective."108 Thus, approximately 9% of all prospective immigrants refused admission due to medical grounds were rejected because of perceived mental disability.

Kelley and Trebilcock note that eugenics theory, "which garnered considerable popularity in the interwar years," had the "self-serving" effect of enhancing the role of medical professionals in immigration planning.109 Dowbiggin highlights one example of such "self-serving" behaviour when Clarke "…circulated among members of the federal cabinet in Ottawa his unpublished novel 'The Amiable Morons' in order to demonstrate the ties between immigration and criminality."110 Dowbiggin describes Clarke's message as a "warning that undesirable immigrants were not just biologically prolific, expensive to care for, and prone to crime but politically dangerous as well."111 Although Dowbiggin notes that "Clarke reassured Canadians" that the mentally defective and deviant "…could be detected by a properly trained psychiatrist,"112 it would appear that this communication principally targeted lawmakers. Government officials responded to the message to stop the tide of "mentally diseased" immigrants, by the mid-20th century, as Parliament revisited immigration legislation on several occasions in an effort to "modernize" the statutory scheme. From a disability-rights perspective, many of the steps taken to update the legislation can also be understood as 'medicalizing' the statute and further pathologizing mental disability.

Significant amendments in the 1927 Consolidation included additional grounds for denial of entry and deportation. With respect to these prohibited grounds, the legislation identified ten new classes of people who were prima facie barred from entering Canada.113 The majority of the people identified for exclusion fell within one of two categories: people engaged in espionage/subversion offences and people with mental health conditions.114 Obviously, the former group evolved from post-war security concerns, while the latter group arose from the ugly and powerful eugenics movement that was widespread in Canada at that time.115 Four groups refused admission into Canada based on characteristics associated with mental disability were those with constitutional psychopathic inferiority, chronic alcoholics, mental defectives unable to work and illiterates.116

There is little doubt that the first new category, "persons of constitutional psychopathic inferiority," was included to target any and all dysfunctional or antisocial behaviour. In the early part of the century, this label was commonly used in psychiatric nomenclature for a broad range of alleged mental deviances, including homosexuality. In the 1890s, German psychiatrist J.L.A. Koch introduced the concept of "psychopathic inferiority" as a replacement for the older terminology and diagnosis of "moral insanity."117 Koch coined the term "psychopathic" in 1891 as a personality disorder distinct from "insanity" and "idiocy."118 By the early 1920s, "psychopathic inferiority" had significant prominence in psychiatric taxonomy and was used to refer to a variety of disturbed personality traits.119

Virtually throughout modern history, alcoholism has been associated with mental disturbance, and as such, it is not surprising that persons identified with "chronic alcoholism" were codified into the 1927 as an inadmissible class. Addictive conditions, such as alcoholism, continue to be categorized as a leading cause of mental disorders, including in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the principal guide of mental disorders that lists specific diagnostic criteria for each condition.

Kelley and Trebilcock state that into the 1930s, Canadian immigration policy "…was reduced to an essentially explicit concept of exclusion."120 In sum, by the time of Canada's 50th birthday, a litany of labels, descriptors and conditions, such as idiocy, insanity, imbecility, feeblemindedness, epilepsy, loathsome or dangerous diseases, constitutional psychopathic inferiority, chronic alcoholism, mental defects and illiteracy, were being employed in immigration legislation to justify the discriminatory ban of persons with mental disabilities. We see that both psychiatric and eugenics science were relied on by legislators to justify this wholesale exclusion of persons with mental disabilities.


When considering discrimination in immigration history, scholars have tended to concentrate on race and ethnicity, with occasional reference to physical disability. This traditional focus has eclipsed the legacy of systemic discrimination experienced by persons with mental disabilities under Canada's immigration laws. This paper's examination of early immigration statutes exposes how Canada's immigration regime has historically perceived immigrants with mental disabilities as deviant and defective. At the turn of the century, pernicious stereotypes prevalent in society of the mentally disabled as burdens, diseased, dishonest, dangerous, immoral, and hopeless, underscored how Canadian immigration legislation treated prospective immigrants with mental disabilities. This historical survey of Canada's immigration system reveals the key role of psychiatry in influencing admission standards and advancing the invocation of eugenics ideology to justify discriminatory laws. The early House of Commons debates further disclose the powerful grip that eugenics discourse had on legislators and how consequently, many immigrants were cast as undesireables and degenerates because of such prevailing theories.

There is little doubt that the rise of psychiatric science seriously and negatively impacted immigration policy and legislation. This is evident in the medicalized conceptions of 'mental deficiency' which permeated the statutory language used to classify prohibited categories of mentally defective persons. The pervasive influence of psychiatry is also evident in society's transition from family care to institutional care for the mentally disabled. As society increasingly incarcerated the mentally disabled in asylums, we see that immigration legislation eliminated the family support exception for 'mentally defective' relatives. Thus, at the turn of the century, psychiatrists were not just mental health experts, but were also legal policy makers, immigration gatekeepers and 'protectors' of the desired character of Canadian society.

This survey of the early 20th century House of Commons debates and statutory provisions prohibiting admission to persons with mental disabilities provides a glimpse of the pervasive discriminatory views about immigrants with perceived mental disabilities that were deeply entrenched in the nation's social and legislative psyche. Canada's immigration laws have consistently declared that all persons deemed to be "mentally defective" are not welcome. In conclusion, despite the changing scope of inadmissible classes, social prejudices about mental disability have remained constant since Confederation barring any immigrant perceived to be mentally disabled from admission into the country.

By Ena Chadha, Director of Litigation, ARCH: Disability Law Centre and LL.M. Candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School. I would like to thank Geoffrey Reaume for his invaluable feedback on an earlier draft and Eli Hansen for his helpful proof reading. The views expressed in this paper are mine alone.

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  1. Commenting on the situation of disability discrimination in early American immigration legislation, Longmore and Goldberger state "[s]ince colonial times exclusion of aliens with disabilities has been a central, if uncontroversial, goal of American immigration law, yet immigration historians have failed to examine that practice, except to disparage attribution of disability as an excuse to bar certain ethnic groups." Paul K. Longmore and David Goldberger, "The League of the Physically Handicapped and the Great Depression: A Case Study in the New Disability History" (December 2000) 87:3 The Journal of American History 888. Notable Canadian exceptions includes the authoritative historical research regarding deportation by Robert Menzies, Judith Mosoff's compelling legal examination of medical inadmissibility in family class immigration and T.D. Comeau and A. L. Allahar's insightful study of early racial and psychiatric policy in immigration. See below. Return to Text
  2. Penny L. Richards, "Disability and the Historical Geography of Immigration" (Summer 2004) 24:3 Disability Studies Quarterly. Return to Text
  3. While today we differentiate between intellectual, cognitive, neurological and psychiatric disabilities, in this paper, the phrase "mental disability" is used to identify a variety of conditions which were historically referred to as "madness", "retardation", "mental defects", "idiocy", "insanity", "feeblemindedness", etc. When specific labels or and terminology are used, this is for historical accuracy. Return to Text
  4. An Act Respecting Emigrants and Quarantine, 22 Vict., c. 40 . Return to Text
  5. Rose Voyvodic, "Into the Wasteland: Applying Equality Principles to Medical Inadmissibility in Canadian Immigration Law" (2001) 16 Journal of Law & Social Policy 115 at p.131. Return to Text
  6. An Act Respecting Emigrants and Quarantine, 22 Vict., ss.10(2) and s.11. Return to Text
  7. An Act Respecting Emigrants and Quarantine, Con. Stat. Of Canada, Cap. 40 (1866), section 8(2). Return to Text
  8. Now called the Constitution Act, 1867. At that time, immigration matters were within the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture. Later, immigration came under the purview of the Department of Interior. Return to Text
  9. An Act respecting Immigration and Immigrants, S.C. 1869, c.10. Return to Text
  10. Ibid., s.11 and s.12. Return to Text
  11. John P. Radford, "Intellectual Disability and the Heritage of Modernity" in Disability Is Not Measles: New Research Paradigms In Disability, eds. M.H. Rioux and M. Bach (North York: Roeher Institute, 1994) 9. Return to Text
  12. Ibid., at p.12. Return to Text
  13. Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Forging Our Legacy (Ottawa: Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2000) Cat. No. CI51-93/2000E, http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/legacy/index.html. Return to Text
  14. The Applied History Research Group, Peopling North America: Population Migrations and Movement (Department of History and the Faculty of Social Sciences: University of Calgary, 1999-2001), available on-line at <www.ucalgary.ca/applied_history/tutor/migrations/Fhome.html> citing section 10 of the 1872 legislation. Return to Text
  15. The Immigration Act, 1886, R.S.C. c. 65, (short title). Official title "An Act respecting Immigration and Immigrants." Return to Text
  16. Ibid., s.15. Return to Text
  17. The $2 duty is stipulated in s.4 of the 1886 Act. Return to Text
  18. Immigration Act, 1886, ss.17(2). The "bill of health" was also referred to as a "manifest" or "logbook". Return to Text
  19. Ibid. According to ss.17(5), custom officials could dispense of the bond if the Medical Superintendent certified that it appeared that the passenger had "become lunatic, idiotic,ߪfrom some cause not existing or discernible at the time of the departure of the ship from the port where such passenger embarked." Return to Text
  20. Ibid., s.20. Return to Text
  21. Ibid., s.18. Return to Text
  22. Richards, "Disability and the Historical Geography of Immigration". Return to Text
  23. Ibid. Return to Text
  24. Letter to the editor from William Quarrier, The [Toronto] Globe, August 28, 1897. Return to Text
  25. Letter from Premier Arthur S. Hardy, Department of Attorney-General, Toronto, July 19, 1897 to "Wm. Quarrier, Esq., Scottish Home for Children, Brockville, Ontario, available on-line: http://ist.uwaterloo.ca/~marj/genealogy/children/Organizations/quarriernews.html Return to Text
  26. Radford, "Intellectual Disability" at p.12, contends that "[w]e deal today with the residue of the mind-set that readily dismissed the supposed 'victims' of 'mental deficiency' as 'hopeless cases'." Return to Text
  27. David L. Braddock and Susan L. Parish "An Institutional History of Disability" in Handbook of Disability Studies, eds. G.L. Albrecht, K.D. Seelman and M. Bury, (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc., 2001) 38. Return to Text
  28. Jessa Chupik and David Wright, "Treating the 'idiot child' in early 20th-century Ontario", (January 2006) 21:1 Disability & Society 77-90 at p.81. Return to Text
  29. Jacqueline Vaughn Switzer, Disabled Rights: American Disability Policy and the Fight for Equality (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2003) 34. See also Deborah S. Metzel and Pamela M. Walker, "The Illusion of Inclusion: Geographies of the Lives of People with Developmental Disabilities in the United States", (Fall 2001) 21:4 Disability Studies Quarterly 114-128. In tracing the historical treatment of persons with developmental disabilities, Metzel and Walker point out that pre-1850s "poverty and dependency were not unusual nor unexpected circumstances and communities were generally prepared to help those individuals or families who became needy. However, there were some criteria for receiving assistance. People who were part of the community received local aid; strangers were encouraged to move on." Return to Text
  30. Anonymous, "Five Months in the New York State Lunatic Asylum" in Mad People's History of Madness, ed. D. Peterson, (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982) 108 at p.113 Return to Text
  31. Metzel and Walker, "The Illusion of Inclusion: Geographies of the Lives of People with Developmental Disabilities in the United States". Return to Text
  32. House of Commons & Senate Debates, 2nd Session, 9th Parliament, (29 April 1902), p.3735 (Mr. Wilson). Return to Text
  33. Ibid. Return to Text
  34. House of Commons & Senate Debates, 2nd Session, 9th Parliament, (29 April 1902), p. 3738 (Mr. Oliver). Return to Text
  35. House of Commons & Senate Debates, 2nd Session, 9th Parliament, (29 April 1902), p. 3740 (Mr. Oliver). Return to Text
  36. House of Commons & Senate Debates, 2nd Session, 9th Parliament, (29 April 1902), p. 3743 (Mr. Clarke). Return to Text
  37. House of Commons & Senate Debates, 2nd Session, 9th Parliament, (13 May 1902), p. 4802 (Mr. Sproule). Return to Text
  38. An Act to amend the Immigration Act, R.S.C. 65, 2 E. VII, c. 14, s.24. Pursuant to ss.24(2), any person contravening, or aiding or abetting the contravention of, this provision was subject to a penalty between $100 to $1000 per passenger. Return to Text
  39. Roy Porter, Madness: A Brief History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) 81. Return to Text
  40. Braddock and Parish, "An Institutional History of Disability" at p.38. Return to Text
  41. Ninette Kelley and Michael Trebilcock, The Making of the Mosaic: A History of Canadian Immigration Policy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998) at p.92. Return to Text
  42. Theodore de Bruyn, HIV/AIDS and Discrimination: A Discussion Paper (Montréal: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network & Canadian AIDS Society, 1998) www.aidslaw.ca/Maincontent/issues/discrimination/discussionpapers. Return to Text
  43. Robert Menzies, "Governing Mentalities: The Deportation of "Insane' and 'Feebleminded' Immigrants Out of British Columbia from Confederation to World War II" (1998) 13 Can. J.L. & Soc'y 135 at 154. Return to Text
  44. Radford, "Intellectual Disability" at p.15. Return to Text
  45. Immigration Act, R.S.C. (1906), 6 E. VII, c. 19. Return to Text
  46. Menzies, "Governing Mentalities" 154. Menzies documented how these two groups relied on deportation to systemically expel insane asylum inmates from Canada. See also R. Menzies, "Race, Reason and Regulation: British Columbia's Mass Exile of Chinese 'Lunatics' Aboard the CPSS Empress of Russia, 9 February 1935" in Regulating Lives: Historical Essays on the State, Society, The Individual, and the Law, eds. J. McLaren, R. Menzies and D.E. Chunn (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2002) 196. Return to Text
  47. Kelley and Trebilcock, The Making of the Mosaic at p.136. Return to Text
  48. House of Commons Debates, 3rd Session, 10th Parliament, (13 June 1906-7), p.5216 (Mr. Oliver). Return to Text
  49. Immigration Act, (1906). Return to Text
  50. Immigration Act, (1906) s. 26. Return to Text
  51. Immigration Act, (1906). Section 27 prohibits the landing of persons who are "afflicted with a loathsome disease" or a disease which is contagious, infectious or may become dangerous to the public health. Return to Text
  52. Immigration Act, (1906). Section 28 prohibits the landing of persons who are paupers, destitute, a professional beggar, vagrant or likely to become a public charge. Return to Text
  53. Immigration Act, (1906), s.26. Return to Text
  54. See "Epilepsy.com" on-line information site, http://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/history.html. Return to Text
  55. Ibid. Return to Text
  56. See Eugenics Archive for various historical medical journals, articles, diagrams, etc. documenting the "hereditary" nature of epilepsy: http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/html/eugenics/static/themes/1.html. Return to Text
  57. Alfred Binet, "New Methods for the Diagnosis of the Intellectual Level of Subnormals" (1905) 12 L'Année Psychologique 191-244, translation by Elizabeth S. Kite in The development of intelligence in children (Vineland, NJ: Publications of the Training School at Vineland, 1916), available on-line at Classics in the History of Psychology website http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Binet/binet1.htm. Return to Text
  58. Douglas C. Baynton, Forbidden Signs: American Culture and the Campaign against Sign Language (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1996) 36-45. Baynton documents how sign language was associated with so-called inferior races and ethnicities, such as Aboriginals and African nations, and how from before the time of Locke to post-Darwin, sign language was viewed "ߪas a language low in the scale of evolutionary progress, preceding in history even the most "savage" of spoken languages and supposedly forming a link between the animal and the human". Return to Text
  59. See "History of Speech-Language Pathology in America" available on-line at http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~duchan/history_subpages/scripture.html Return to Text
  60. See "History of Speech-Language Pathology in America" available on-line at http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~duchan/history_subpages/scripture.html Return to Text
  61. Edward W. Scripture, Stuttering, Lisping and Correction of the Speech of the Deaf, 2nd ed. (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1926) at vii-viii. Return to Text
  62. Vaughn Switzer, Disabled Rights at p.35. Return to Text
  63. Ibid., at p.34-36. Return to Text
  64. Lykke de la Cour, "'She thinks this is the Queen's Castle': women patients' perceptions of an Ontario psychiatric hospital" (1997) 3:2 Health & Place 131 at p.137, citing the research of Harvey Simmons and Angus McLaren. Return to Text
  65. Wolf Wolfensberger, "The Origin And Nature Of Our Institutional Models" (1969) President's Committee on Mental Retardation, Washington, D.C., (para 21), available on-line at Disability History Museum, http://www.disabilitymuseum.org/lib/docs/1909.htm?page=1 Return to Text
  66. Braddock and Parish, "Institutional History" at p.38. Return to Text
  67. This growing list of mental disorders was recently recognized by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, which described the 1906 Act as "ߪsignificantly increasing the number of categories of prohibited immigrants and officially sanctioning the deportation of undesirable newcomers." See Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Forging Our Legacy. Return to Text
  68. This trend was mirrored in the American experience. Baynton notes by added "imbeciles" and "feeble-minded" American immigration officials were granted "ߪconsiderably more discretion to judge the fitness of immigrants for America life. ߪ In short, the exclusion of disabled people was central to the laws and the work of the immigration service." See D. C. Baynton, "Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History" in The New Disability History: American Perspectives, eds., P.K. Longmore & L. Umansy (New York: New York University Press, 2001) 33 at p.48-49. Return to Text
  69. Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Forging Our Legacy. Return to Text
  70. Ibid. Return to Text
  71. For example, in a debate regarding whether Canada's immigration laws should exclude the Doukhobor community, people of Doukhobor origin are described as "a detriment to the civilization of the west" and "a disgrace to the people of the west". See House of Commons & Senate Debates, 2nd Session, 11th Parliament, (14 March 1909-1910), p.5504 (Mr. Campbell). Return to Text
  72. See House of Commons Debates, 2nd Session, 11th Parliament, (21 March 1909-1910), p.5906 (Mr. Oliver). Return to Text
  73. See House of Commons Debates, 2nd Session, 11th Parliament, (21 March 1909-1910), p.5906 (Mr. Oliver). Return to Text
  74. C. Greenland, "C. K. Clarke: a founder of Canadian psychiatry" (1966) 95:4 Can. Med. Assoc. J. 155-160. Return to Text
  75. Ian Robert Dowbiggin, Keeping America Sane Psychiatry and Eugenics In the United States and Canada, 1880-1949 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997). Return to Text
  76. Ibid., at p.152. Return to Text
  77. Geoffrey Reaume, "Portraits of People with Mental Disorders in Canadian History" (2000) 17: 1&2 Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 93 at 97. Return to Text
  78. See House of Commons Debates, 2nd Session, 11th Parliament, (14 March 1909-1910), p.5519 (Mr. Uriah Wilson). Return to Text
  79. Richards, "Disability and Historical Geography". Return to Text
  80. Ibid. Return to Text
  81. See House of Commons Debates, 2nd Session, 11th Parliament, (14 March 1909-1910), p. 5522 (Mr. Uriah Wilson). Return to Text
  82. Ibid. Return to Text
  83. House of Commons Debates, 2nd Session, 11th Parliament, (14 March 1909-1910), p.5520. Return to Text
  84. Dowbiggin, Keeping America Sane 153-4. Return to Text
  85. See House of Commons Debates, 2nd Session, 11th Parliament, (22 March 1909-1910), p.5823 (Mr. Paquet). Return to Text
  86. See House of Commons, 2nd Session, 11th Parliament, (22 March 1909-1910), p.5824 (Mr. Paquet). Return to Text
  87. House of Commons Debates, 2nd Session, 11th Parliament, (14 March 1909-1910), p.5530 (Mr. Edwards). Return to Text
  88. Ibid, p.5510 (Mr. Monk). Return to Text
  89. See House of Commons Debates, 2nd Session, 11th Parliament, (14 March 1909-1910), p.5522 (Mr. Wilson). Return to Text
  90. Menzies, "Governing Mentalities" 158. Return to Text
  91. Comeau and Allahar, "Forming Canada's Ethnoracial Identity" 156. Return to Text
  92. Immigration Act, R.S. 1910, 9-10 E. VII, c.27. Return to Text
  93. Ibid., ss.3(a) of 1910 Act. Section 1 consisted of the title of the legislation and s.2 contained legal definitions. Return to Text
  94. Binet, "New Methods for the Diagnosis of the Intellectual Level of Subnormals" (1905). Recall that the "alienist" was a 19th century term for psychiatrist, denoting the psychiatrist role in treating the mentally ill, or in other words, those persons alienated or estranged from their mental faculties. Return to Text
  95. Immigration Act, 1910, ss.3(d)-(f). Return to Text
  96. A number of scholarly articles have examined this issue. Henry Friedlander explains that a main theme of the eugenics movement in the United States at the turn of the century "ߪwas the attempt to bar the unfit from entering the country. Applying the label of inferior and unfit to entire ethnic groups, eugenicists campaigned to restrict immigration from southern and eastern Europe, and their lobbying assured passage of the 1924 Johnson Immigration Restriction Act, which imposed quotas that severely limited immigration form countries whose inhabitants were identified as unfit." See H. Friedlander, "The Exclusion and Murder of the Disabled" in Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany, eds. R. Gellately and N. Stolzfus (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001) 145 at p.146. Return to Text
  97. Baynton, "Disability and the Justification of Inequality" 45. Return to Text
  98. Menzies, "Governing Mentalities" 154. T.D. Comeau and A.L. Allahar, "Forming Canada's Ethnoracial Identity: Psychiatry and the History of Immigration Practices" (2001) 1:2 Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research 143 at p.156. J. Mosoff, "Excessive Demand on the Canadian Conscience: Disability, Family and Education" (1999) 26 Manitoba Law Journal 149. Return to Text
  99. Also see John Read, "Poverty, Ethnicity and Gender" in Models of Madness, eds. J. Read, L. Mosher & R.P. Bentall (Hove, UK: Brumner-Routledge, 2004) 161. Read points to research that highlights the susceptibility of racist bias involved in mental illness diagnosis. Return to Text
  100. Kelley and Trebilcock, The Making of the Mosaic at p.212. Return to Text
  101. Ibid. Kelley and Trebilcock conclude, at p.212, that "[h]ence, it was common to label as defective the foreign-born, the poor, the diseased, the criminal, and others engaged in anti-social acts." Baynton, "Disability and the Justification of Inequality" 46, also emphasizes this point when he cites Fiorello H. LaGuardia for the statistic that over 50% of deportations at Ellis Island of mentally ill people were unjustified because the finding of mental illness was based on the immigration officers or doctors' ignorance about the particular immigrant's cultural norms. Return to Text
  102. Immigration Act, 1910, ss.3(a) stated that "persons mentally defective" (e.g. feeble-minded) were a prohibited class, while ss.3(c) provided an exception for "persons physically defective" (e.g. blind) who were allowed to enter Canada if they were accompanied by family or if they could support themselves. Return to Text
  103. Immigration Act, 1910, ss.3(c). Return to Text
  104. Mosoff, "Excessive Demand on the Canadian Conscience". Return to Text
  105. Amendments made to immigration legislation in 1952 created an automatic exclusion clause for all individuals in the family unit who were accompanied by an inadmissible member. Pursuant to section 5(o) of the 1952 Immigration Act, R.S.C. 1952, c. 325, all members of an immigrant family were deemed part of the prohibited class due to the fact that one person in their family was inadmissible. Therefore, the entire family unit was denied immigration status if the family included a mentally disabled family member, unless the family could demonstrate that no hardship would arise by leaving that disabled person behind. This provision appears to bring the cycle of discrimination full circle to brand the entire family. No longer was the mentally disabled person alone viewed as tainted and damaged goods, but the whole family was marked as banned immigrants. This provision forced families to either abandon their relative or their plans to emigrate to Canada. Return to Text
  106. Wolfensberger, "The Origin And Nature Of Our Institutional Models", para 19. Return to Text
  107. Immigration Act, R.S. 1927, c.93. Return to Text
  108. Ibid., at 142. While Menzies' overall data covered the years 1902 to 1939, statistics for admissions denied due to mental disability were only assembled up to the fiscal year 1919. The above-noted figures are my calculations based on Menzies' data. Return to Text
  109. Kelley and Trebilcock, The Making of the Mosaic at p.214. Return to Text
  110. Dowbiggin, Keeping America Sane at p.173. Return to Text
  111. Ibid., at p.173. Return to Text
  112. Ibid., at p.173. Return to Text
  113. The new inadmissible categories can be summarized as follows: Section 3 (k) Persons of Constitutional psychopathic inferiority; (l) Persons with chronic alcoholism; (m) Persons not included within any of the previous prohibited classes, but who upon medical examination are certified as mentally or physically defective to such a degree as to affect their ability to earn a living; (n & o) People advocating force, violence, assassination against the Government of Canada or opposed to organized government; (p & q) Enemy aliens or persons guilty of espionage; (r & s) Persons guilty of high treason or deported conspirators and (t) Persons over 15 years of age, physically capable of reading who cannot read the English or French language or some other language or dialect, except any parent or grandparent of a Canadian citizen. Return to Text
  114. It appears that these provisions relating to mental illness were included in the old 1910 Immigration Act through the 1919 Act to Amend the Immigration Act, 9-10 George V, chp. 25 (assented to June 6, 1919), but were only officially consolidated in the 1927 Act. See Dowbiggin, Keeping America Sane at p.173. Return to Text
  115. Richard Cairney, "'Democracy Was Never Intended For Degenerates': Alberta's Flirtation with Eugenics Comes Back To Haunt It" (Sept. 15, 1996) 155:6 Canadian Medical Association Journal 789 at 790. As part of the eugenics movement, the sterilization of the mentally disabled was being vigorously promoted in Canada by the 1920's. Return to Text
  116. With respect to discriminatory impact of such literacy tests, Mosoff notes that "[b]esides the obvious effect of this provision on people with intellectual disabilities, the real intent may have been to exclude people of certain races and national origins." She cites D. Bagambire, "The Constitution and Immigration: the Impact of the Proposed Changes to the Immigration Powers Under the Constitution Act, 1867" (1992) 15 Dalhousie L.J. 428 for a discussion of the so-called "literacy test" established by the provincial government pursuant to the British Columbia Immigration Act, S.B.C. 1908, c. 23. Return to Text
  117. Lucy Ozarin, "Moral Insanity: A Brief History" (May 18, 2001) 36:10 Psychiatric News 21. Return to Text
  118. R.E. Kendell, "The distinction between personality disorder and mental illness" (2002) 180 The British Journal of Psychiatry 110-115. Return to Text
  119. Harrison G. Gough, "A Sociological Theory of Psychopathy"(March 1948) 53:5 American Journal of Sociology 359-366. Return to Text
  120. Kelley and Trebilcock, The Making of the Mosaic at p.249 (emphasis in original). Return to Text
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