A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
Episodes Search Site Map The Series Partners White Pine White Pine Home

General History


Alberto Guerrero's smooth entry and welcomed arrival as an immigrant into this country in the 1920s was unlike that of the large wave of Chilean immigrants and refugees who arrived 50 years later. Though Guerrero's life probably took a slight cultural downturn in this young and still unsophisticated country, he was still a lucky man with a job offer in a field where his passions lay. On the other hand, the bulk of Chileans who came later were initially, desperate Chilean refugees who came to Canada in two small groups that had sought political asylum in the Canadian embassy in Santiago; they were the first victims of Pinochet's military war. Responding to a vocal lobby led by Canadian church groups and many non?governmental organizations, Ottawa eventually implemented a special immigration program for the significant number of such Chileans who faced humanitarian abuses. This program would later help to recognize refugees as a distinct class of immigrants entitled to Canadian asylum in a new Immigration Act that came into effect in 1978. In the end, almost 7,000 Chileans finally made their way into Canada. 4

From 1980, Chileans have continued to immigrate to Canada, even though some have in fact returned to their country to rebuild their lives in their homeland. Those who have come and stayed are the new economic immigrants (rather than the previous refugees), in search of good employment opportunities and a better future for their families.

According to the 1996 census data, a total of 33,835 Canadians claim Chilean ancestry. The same census indicates that a total of 11,690 Chilean immigrants reside in Quebec; 10,875 in Ontario; 5,315 and 3860, respectively in Alberta and British Columbia. 5

Chilean settlers have moved between Ontario and the West depending on economic conditions. A booming western economy attracted many to Alberta and Manitoba in the seventies whereas, in the late eighties economic opportunity in Ontario and British Columbia made these provinces favorite targets of Chilean migration. The urban and industrial centres of Canada have attracted most of the immigrants: Chileans are concentrated in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. 6

1,2,3,4,5 The Canadian Encyclopedia 2000 McClelland and Stewart
6,7,8,9,10 Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples

Top of page.