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Commentary

Vol. 18 No. 1 (2020)

Sanitation, Sanity, and (Moral) Suitability: The History of the Medical Inadmissibility of Immigrants into Canada

Submitted
May 21, 2020
Published
2020-08-12

Abstract

Study of the history of medical inadmissibility and deportation of Canadian immigrants uncovers three important themes as criteria for immigration selection and control: sanitation, sanity, and moral suitability. As the understanding of human health changed with history, so too did the basis for exclusion and deportation of Canadian immigrants for medical purposes. Immigration policy mirrored then current notions of health and disease, growing in complexity as immigration policy increased its selectivity contemporaneous to increasing immigration rates. Immigration control developed from simple quarantine measures to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases from other continents, to physical and mental health inspections to prevent the propagation of hereditary dysfunction, to selection of morally fit immigrants resembling Canadian values for easy assimilation into society. Physical, mental, and moral health were key criteria in the first century of Canadian immigration policy, highlighting Canada’s history of anti-immigrant sentiment through the medicalization of specific ethnic groups.

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