Great Migration of Canada

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The Great Migration of Canada (also known as the Great Migration from Britain) was a period of high immigration to Canada from 1815 to 1850, involving over 800,000 immigrants.[1] Though Europe was becoming richer through the Industrial Revolution, population growth made the relative number of jobs low, forcing many to look to the New World for economic success, especially Canada and America.[2]


In the late 18th and early 19th century, there occurred a transition in parts of Great Britain's previously manual-labor-based economy towards machine-based manufacturing. It started with the mechanization of the textile industries, the development of iron-making techniques and the increased use of refined coal. Though the Revolution began an era of expanded economic growth and higher standards of living, it was at the same time met with a rapid population explosion. A slow rise in quality of living standards throughout the past two hundred years allowed more children to survive and made childbearing more economic. Jobs that were previously done by poor peasants could now be done even cheaper by machinery, and this led to the loss of many jobs. The combined effects made it difficult for some to find jobs, leading them to look to the colonies in the Americas for work.[3][4]

The Migration[edit]

The Industrial Revolution began in Britain, the first (and therefore the majority of) settlers were English-speaking British. Sixty percent of these immigrants to Canada were British. This made them the largest group in Canada.[5] The Irish came first as workers, or navvies in the 1820-40s mostly to Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, later to escape the Great Potato Famine.[6]

Other people from other countries migrated as well. Americans went to British Columbia in order to look for gold, a material that was quickly evaporating because of the California gold rush. Chinese went to British Columbia too in order to help build the Canadian Pacific Railway, and to escape war and famine in their own country. These migrations can be considered apart from those in earlier times.


The Great Migration had profound impacts on Canadian culture, and identity. Before 1815, 80% of English speaking Canadians were exiles or immigrants from the 13 American colonies or their descendants. Because of this until the 1830s English Canada had pronounced American cultural 'flavor' in spite of the political divide over membership in the British Empire and independence. This may account even today for many cultural similarities. At the beginning of the Great Migration, the Canadiens, Canadians of French descent, outnumbered those of British descent. The total population of the provinces of Canada was approximately half a million. At the end of the period, the English Canadian population was double that of the French Canadian population out of a total of 2.4 million. The British Canadians also expanded into Lower Canada, which caused contentions with the French Canadian subjects. Crowded conditions on immigrant ships led to periodic outbreaks in diseases such as cholera in Lower Canada which spread to local urban populations and resulted in increased use of quarantine facilities such as Grosse Isle, Quebec and Partridge Island, New Brunswick. The Impact also had more British influence on British North America, further assimilating the French residents of Lower Canada.


  1. ^ "The History of Canada and Canadians - Colonies Grow Up". 2006-10-12. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  2. ^ "1815-1850 The Great Migration". timeline. Archived from the original on November 3, 2008.
  3. ^ Robert Lucas, Jr. (2003). "The Industrial Revolution". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Archived from the original on 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2007-11-14. it is fairly clear that up to 1800 or maybe 1750, no society had experienced sustained growth in per capita income. (Eighteenth-century population growth also averaged one-third of 1 percent, the same as production growth.) That is, up to about two centuries ago, per capital incomes in all societies were stagnated at around $400 to $800 per year.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Immigration to Canada". Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  6. ^ "Cultures arriving between 1815–1860". Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2010-07-29.