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The different waves of Arab immigration to Canada

An analysis of the Canadian Arab Institute produced in 2014 argues that there would be a little more than 750 thousand Canadians of Arab origin! What is certain, after more than 130 years of Arab immigration in Canada, is that knowledge about Arab Canadians remains virtually unknown. At the beginning, the history of immigrants of Arab origin in Canada resembled in many ways that of those who immigrated to the United States. They generally escaped poverty or fled from despotic or corrupt regimes.

The first Arab immigrants – 1882

The first immigrants from Arab countries arrived in Canada, more specifically in Montreal, in 1882. They were from Greater Syria, a region that corresponded to the current territories of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel as well as the occupied territories of the West Bank and Loop. It is estimated that there were about 2,000 Syrian immigrants in Canada in 1901, and almost 7,000 in 1911. But this Arab immigration stopped in the middle of the two wars and only natural growth was responsible for the increase of the community. Composed primarily of Christians, the first generation of this group was economically active in the exploitation of small businesses.

The second wave of Arabs since 1950

The second wave began at the end of World War II and continued until 1975. This second wave of Arab immigrants came mainly from Egypt (37%) and Lebanon (33.6%) but also from Morocco (14.9%), Syria (7.6%) and other Arab countries (6, 6%) Together, these Arab groups total, in 1971, 28 550 people in total, according to official figures that were compiled following the criteria of the mother tongue and not that of the country of origin.

In 1971, Canada had between 50,000 to 60,000 people of Arab origin, and 70,000 to 80,000 in 1975. Although immigrants of Egyptian origin make up the largest contingent of this wave, and that many have settled in Montreal, it should be noted that a majority of these Egyptians were Christians of Syrian-Lebanese origin, from a group that immigrated to Egypt at the end 19th century

The third wave since 1975

From 1975 the sociodemographic profile of newcomers diversified in several aspects. They did not have the knowledge of the English or French languages ​​contrary to the Egyptian and Lebanese groups that arrived in the 1960s and 1970s. These used to be trilingual (Arabic-French-English) or, at least, bilingual (Arabic and French or Arabic and English). Many Lebanese who wished to flee the war of the Lebanese militias, which lasted about fifteen years, were able to settle in Canada thanks to the easing of immigration procedures, especially the so-called Lebanese Program.

The fourth wave (to date)

Between 1997 and 2006, more than 53,000 Algerians and Moroccans arrived in Canada

With 24% of total Arab immigration in Canada between 1960 and 2011, Lebanon is by far the largest contributor to Arab immigrants, followed by Egypt (far behind) at 14%, Morocco 13%, Algeria 11%, and Iraq with 11%. Among them, these countries represent almost three quarters of Arab immigration to Canada in this period, which is approximately 52 years. Today they are helped by the existence of sites such as

Unlike what was happening in the US, the first Arab immigrants from Canada fought for acceptance, arguing that the existing legislation against immigration was aimed at people from East Asia and that they were Caucasian. After the San Remo Conference in 1920, they came to argue that they were European, since their native countries were at that time under French or British protectorate. Arab immigrants eventually managed to convince the legislators of both countries of their “white” ethnicity, but, at present, the classification of Arab-Americans as whites is purely official.

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