The 100th Anniversary of the Continuous Passage Act

…THEREFORE the Governor general in Council is pleased to Order and it is hereby Ordered that, … immigrants may be prohibited from landing or coming into Canada unless they come from the country of their birth, or citizenship, by a continuous journey and on through tickets purchased before leaving the country of their birth, or citizenship. Wednesday, 8th Day of January, 1908

In 1908, the Government of Canada enacted the Continuous Passage Act which required all immigrants to arrive on uninterrupted journey on their passage ticket, a “continuous passage”, from their point of origin to Canada.

This created a significant barrier to immigration from Asia as trips from most Asian countries involved stops. For Indians, who were also British subjects, this Act made it impossible for them to enter Canada as immigrants.

This law was created in response to slowly increasing immigration from India which sparked fear in the public, recorded as “the Indian invasion” or “the Hindu invasion”. The first South Asians to immigrate to Canada were Sikhs from the Indian province of Punjab. Despite their small numbers (approximately 5000 in 1908), their presence drew racial hostility and resentment that were directed to other visible minority communities.

It is noteworthy that the first Canadian Gurdwara (Sikh temple) was built by the Khalsa Diwan Society in West Vancouver in 1908. This historical footnote is significant because it was the means by which many Indian men made their passage into Canada. As a continuous journey from India was not possible, passengers landed in the United States and then crossed the border illegally to take refuge in the Gurdwara. Legend has it that the temple (built on a hill) had a signal indicating whether or not it was safe to cross the border.

The Continuous Passage Act remained in effect until 1947.


Date Modified: