2016 – Immigration

Watch the Waves: Immigration to Canada 1850-1950

By: Sam, Drake and Kaelyn

Immigration to Canada in the 1900s was vast, so it is often studied in segments called “waves”. Throughout the 1900s, Canada provided new opportunities to people who were mainly British, though there were arrivals from other areas as well.  The main factors that would lead thousands of people to leave their home countries included war, famine, disease and poverty. Canada provided land, job opportunities, and a safe haven for refugees.

The following info-graphics show the different origins of people immigrating to Canada in the early 1900’s. They are broken down into ten year intervals and show the nationalities that made up the population of Canada. Click to view enlarged images.



Business Advertising plate, James Reith & Son General Merchant, Grand Valley, 1917
This commemorative souvenir plate was given out to customers at the James Reith & Son General Merchant store in Grand Valley during the Christmas holiday season. This plate displays the flags of the nations allied during the First World War. It serves to advertise and promote patriotism during the War.

A ceramic souvenir plate from 1917  with a gold ring around the plate. In the center features four flags (Britain, Belgium, France, Russia) and under the flags it says “For Right and Country.” Along the edges of the plate there is the calendar months of the year (1917). Between sets of three calendar there is a crown.

The owner of the shop that gave out this plate was an immigrant himself (James Reith). He came over from Scotland in 1853, native to the parish of Drumoak near Aberdeen. James worked as a Stone Dyker and continued that trade as a Stonemason in Paris until he took over and managed the woolen mills in 1871. He then moved to Markham Township where he ran a flour mill, until he relocated to East Luther in 1883. In 1890, after farming for four years, James entered as a partner into the hardware and grocery store. In 1895, his partner W.R. Scott left the store to James and his sons. In 1900 they officially changed the name of the store from W.R. Scott & Co. to “James Reith & Sons.”

This plate bears the flags of four nations (Britain, Belgium, France, Russia). Each nations was allied with Canada during the First World War, but there is also a connection to Canada through immigration history.

Britain:  In the early 1900’s thousands of British Home Children were sent to Canada. Upon coming to Canada they worked on farms for cheap labour. When the First World War broke out, many volunteered to join the military. The British flag on the plate shows patriotism to the British Empire and therefore shows the support for the war. Farming communities with a need for workers made Canada an ideal place for orphanages and charities to send Children in the hopes they would have a better life.

Belgium: There is records that Canadians donated to relief funds to help Belgian refugees during the First World War. Belgians displaced to Britain were supported by Canadians through the Belgian Relief Fund and Belgian Orphan Fund. As part of the Dominion of Great Britain, Canadians gained patriotic pride from helping Belgians living in Britain. Canada did get Ukrainian refugees during WWI. Under the War Measures Act they like other “Aliens” were put into internment camps because they didn’t fit the policies Canada had at the time. The War Measure Act gave the government power to  suspend civil liberties and by-pass parliament to do things as they feel are appropriate. This also allows them to do as they please to people deemed “aliens” or “enemies”.

Russia: The Doukhobors who are the settlers in the West from Russia was a very pacifist group. Being newer immigrants to Canada like other groups at the time they were against the War Measures Act. On a wider Canadian scale they make up only one portion of the of the pacifists at the time. As immigrants to Canada they play a part in being a radical pacifist. In their beliefs they were opposed to conscription and military service. In Ontario, there was many opposed to the conscription and to the war in general. People like Mennonites were against war because it conflicts with their beliefs.

France: French immigrants came to Canada but they weren’t the numbers of  British immigrants.  France was where majority of the  battles were fought in WWI for Canadians. This shows a sense of patriotism because of Canadian soldiers were fighting and dying for the country and Britain over in Europe. There are soldiers buried in France, including many from Dufferin County.

The plate can be seen as a piece of home front propaganda. It would make people want to support the war effort and be patriotic. As Dufferin County was mostly of British origin, citizens would feel great patriotic pride displaying this plate in their homes.


Dominion of Canada, Chinese Immigration Certificate,1920.
This immigration certificate was issued by the Government of Canada in 1920 to Mr. Henry Lang (Chong Wing Dung), a Chinese immigrant and later, owner of the Royal Cafe located in Shelburne, Ontario.

Henry Lang, formerly Chong Wing Dung, arrived in Vancouver from Hoyping, China in 1920 at the age of 14. Eventually, he moved to Dufferin County to live in Shelburne. Among some of his personal effects that were donated to the Dufferin County Museum & Archives is an immigration certificate.

Lang likely came to Canada as a worker. If so, he would be similar to a British Home Child, but there is not enough evidence to say for certain.This is relevant to local history, as he had lived and worked in Dufferin County and later owned a business in Shelburne (The Royal Cafe). This perhaps demonstrates that Dufferin County was a welcoming place for immigrants.This was during a time of huge racism towards Chinese people at a time when a Head Tax was imposed attempting to discourage Chinese immigration.

Chinese immigration is an important part of Canadian history as many Chinese Immigrants helped to make Canada what it is today. The Head Tax imposed on Chinese people that greatly impacted their experience in immigrating to Canada. For some reason currently unknown, Mr. Lang was exempt from paying the Head Tax. Most likely, if Mr. Lang had come over as a sponsored worker with a job in place, this made him exempt from paying the Head Tax.

Canada is now paying the for the Chinese Head Tax to the 500 people who had once paid it that are still alive. 20,000 dollars was given out as of March 10, 2007.


Picture, Fred Davey, Primrose, ca. 1925
This picture is of Fred Davey, taken ca.1925 in St.Catherines or Welland. Davey was a British Home Child sent to Ontario by way of the Dr. Barnardo’s Homes. Coming from impoverished families or as orphans, children were taken into homes to receive care and education. They were then sent away to work as indentured farm workers and domestics for families in Canada and Australia. Fred Davey was sent to Canada as a farm hand. He lived with families in Primrose, Shelburne and Laurel.

There are four objects that belonged to Fred Davey in the exhibit.  There is a handwritten letter, and that includes the envelope that it came in, addressed to Master Fred Davey, Primrose Ontario, Canada.  There is a picture of Fred Davey that is sepia tones.  This photo is encased in a brown paper picture holder.  There is also a short letter of only a couple sentences, the writer unknown.  It speaks of missing Fred since he has been sent to Canada.

These items belonged to Fred Davey, a British Home Child who moved to Canada in 1905 when he was eight years old. His older brother, John, who was eleven years old, came to Canada at the same time.  They were both sent by Barnardo Homes, a charity organization.  During this time period there was a lot of immigration to Canada by children of Europe.  They were Home Children that were orphans, or from poor families who could not afford to have children.  Fred was an orphan, though he had a grandmother in Britain that often wrote to him.  He was sent to Primrose, Ontario.  This was most likely the destination because of the amount of farming in the area. His brother, John moved to Dufferin County at the same time.  John was a little older.  They would become indentured farm workers- the fate of most Home Children.  John and Fred did not end up living together once they were sent to Canada. Fred often got letters from his grandmother who was living in Britain.  The letters are from 1912 and 1913.  His grandmother said that she was sad that they would never meet again in this world, but happy that they will be meeting together in the next.  His grandmother asks in 1913 if Canada has an army yet.  She could have been concerning world issues leading up to 1914 (the outbreak of WWI).  Fred did end up fighting in the First World War, but not until 1918.  His attestation papers say his occupation was a farmer.

Fred was a part of major immigration wave that came to Canada during the early 1900s.  100 000 Home Children, primarily England, were sent to Canada to live and work as indentured farm workers and domestics. Home Children were accepted in Dufferin County because of the amount of farming in the area and a need for workers. During his time in Dufferin County, Fred lived in Primrose, Shelburne and Laurel.