Chapter 1: The History of Settlement Services in Canada

Immigrant and Refugee Historical Settlement Needs

Specific Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to

  1. Identify the historical challenges of diverse groups of immigrants and refugees
  2. Compare the differences and similarities of the immigrant and refugee groups that are served by organizations in the settlement sector
  3. Recommend the types of service delivery practices that meet the unique needs of different groups of immigrants and refugees

Understanding Your Client Group: Immigrant Stories


Social Darwinism generally refers to the extension of Charles Darwin’s theories of natural selection in EVOLUTION, as used in his Origin of Species (1859), into the realm of social relations”  (McKillop, 2013, para. 1) .


A vital part of being a settlement practitioner is to become familiar with the unique settlement needs of immigrant and refugee groups throughout the history of immigration in Canada. Many of the settlement needs are similar, such as housing, language learning, childcare, and employment, but other needs are unique to each group because of cultural and religious-specific practices, beliefs, and values that impede intercultural communication and fitting into mainstream culture. It is also vital to understand underlying social values, beliefs, and ideologies such as Social Darwinism that promote the belief that some races are superior to others, specifically the white race. Social Darwinism was originally a biological scientific theory applied to evolution. This theory turned into a social ideology that was used in politics and society to rationalize blocking non-white people from white society. This early 20th-century social theory influenced how immigrants and refugees were perceived and consequently influenced Canada’s early immigration policies (McKillop, 2013)

Attitudes and ideology are embedded into the morality and values of different periods of time throughout history, but they are not necessarily reflective of the values and morals of modern-day Canada. What was considered acceptable thought as recently as the 1990’s, is now considered abhorrent and out of touch with the values and morals of today. For example, the passage of the Indian Act and the existence of Indian Residential Schools in Canada was originally justified by high-ranking officials within the Canadian government as facilitating the integration of Indigenous communities into Canadian society and forcing the adoption of European and Christian value systems (Canadian Encyclopedia, 2021). Unfortunately, this was not the case, as we now know that residential schools destroyed Indigenous ways of thinking, being and knowing, caused great harm to generations of Indigenous Peoples, and sought to “kill the Indian in the child” (Coyne, 2021).

NOTE: There have been numerous terms that have been used to refer to Indigenous Peoples in Canada over the course of Canadian history. For more information on the evolution of these terms, please visit the Pulling Together: Foundations Guide.

Learning Activity 6: Immigration Milestones

Review the timelines in “Canada’s Immigration History: Milestones and Stories” earlier in this chapter. Reflect on the following questions:

  1. From which countries did the first major groups of immigrants originate?
  2. What precipitated the peak in immigration in the early 1900s?
  3. At what points in history were refugees welcomed into Canada? Which countries did they come from?
  4. When did the first Sikh immigrants come to Canada? Did Canada continue to encourage immigration South Asian countries?
  5. When did Canada open immigration to non-European countries?

Write a summary of your observations in your chapter journal.

Immigrant Stories

Learning Activity 7: Passages Canada Video

Passages Canada is a Canadian government publication that introduces immigrants to Canada.

Watch the video below and answer the following questions:

  1. What are some of the stereotypes and misconceptions about immigrants?
  2. Why is it important to hear about immigrant stories?
  3. What are some of the benefits that result from sharing immigrant stories?
  4. What are three (3) major challenges for immigrants that are identified in this video?

New Canadians. (2018, October 26). Passages Canada introduces today’s immigrants to Canada [Video]. YouTube.

Learning Activity 8: Immigrant Story Videos

Choose three (3 ) of the following immigrant story videos and answer the following questions:

  1. Where are the immigrants from?
  2. Why did they want to immigrate to Canada?
  3. How did they prepare themselves to immigrate to Canada?
  4. What were their initial challenges?
  5. What settlement services did they access.?
  6. How did they explain what it means to be Canadian?
  7. What do they believe Canada will be like in 30 years?
  8. What advice do they have for newcomers to Canada?
  9. After watching all three videos, describe the common elements of the immigrants’ experiences.
  10. What kinds of support or services would you have recommended?
  11. How do you think that hearing immigrant stories will help you with your development as a settlement services practitioner?
Video 1

Historica Canada. (2017, June 19). Heritage minutes: “Boat people” refugees [Video]. YouTube.

Video 2

CBC. (2017, June 4). The Canadian experiment | Canada: The story of us, full episode 10 [Video]. YouTube.

Video 3

Fifth Estate. ( 2017, March 20). After the crossing : Refugees in Canada – The Fifth Estate [Video]. YouTube.

Video 4

Wanders of Chi. ( 2020, June 27). My Canadian immigration story: Why I decided to move to Canada permanently [Video]. YouTube.

Video 5

TEDx Talks. (2018, July 16). What did two years in Canada teach me? [Video]. YouTube.

Video 6

Arienne – SeeYouSoon Travel. (2018, May 10). Halifax’s Pier 21 and my family’s immigration story | Nova Scotia [Video]. YouTube.

Video 7

Historica Canada. (2015, May 20). Jason’s story: Embracing the hyphen in Korean-Canadian [Video]. YouTube.

Additional Suggested Resources

Canadian Heritage. (2017, April 21). Remembering the journey to Canada of Vietnamese refugees – Asian heritage month. [Video]. YouTube.

Canadian Immigration Channel. (2017, May 28). Do not use settlement services. Immigration to Canada. LP Group [Video]. YouTube.

El-Assal, K. (2020, June 14). Where are Canada’s immigrants coming from in 2020? CIC News.

Walker, B. (Ed.). (2008). The history of immigration and racism in Canada: Essential readings. Canadian Scholars Press.

Wilkinson, L., Bhattacharyya, P., Riziki, A., & Abdul-Karim, A. (2019). Yazidi resettlement in Canada-final report 2018. University of Manitoba.


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Canadian Settlement in Action: History and Future Copyright © 2021 by NorQuest College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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