Lesson Two: Immigration Before and After the UDHR

By: Doriane Ossene

Doriane Ossene

Education Collaborator

Doriane’s background includes education in France and learning a lot about Canada through her studies at York University in International Studies and Canadian studies, which she will be graduating from in 2023. She is passionate about stories people don’t know about and loves making them known. Her dream is to work in a field that supports underrepresented communities, in Canada and around the world.

Suggested Subject Areas


Grade Level

Adaptable across 9-12

Learning Goals

Lesson Outline 

Note: the following lesson directly addresses students while giving them instructions on how to proceed through the learning (i.e. the “you” is the student).

Before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

Read through the tables below (from “Canada’s Immigration History: Milestones and Stories,” Caldararu, A. et. al). Consider how you would describe the immigration system in Canada prior to the adoption of the UDHR in 1948. There will be space below the tables to record your answer.

Based on the timeline above, what are your overall observations about the immigration system and immigration policies in Canada prior to the adoption of the UDHR in 1948?
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Did any of the information in the timeline surprise you? Why or why not? How does it align (or not) with any pre-existing ideas you have about Canada’s government?
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Based on the timeline above, what are three immigration policies that stand out to you? Why do they stand out in particular?
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As  mentioned in this unit’s introductory lesson, the United Nations ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. The UDHR deals with many topics relating to the rights of people all around the world.

Watch the video Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Explained by a Canadian Lawyer, available below or on Defining Moments Canada’s YouTube channel.

Reflect on the meaning and content of Article 13 as it is explained in the video. What does Article 13 mean, in your understanding? What is it saying? Use a method of your choosing to share your answer (e.g. it can be a drawing, a list, your own wording of the article, etc.).
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Based on your understanding of Article 13, how do you think it might be applied? What might that look like in reality?
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Based on what you already know about the Canadian immigration context leading up to 1948, why might Article 13 have been impactful when the UDHR was ratified at that time? What do you think is significant about it?
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From your perspective, what might have been the next steps Canada would have had to take in 1948 to conform to the articles of the new Declaration?
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Principle of a “Declaration”
Define, in your own words, the term “declaration.” Feel free to refer to external sources, such as the dictionary, to support your answer.
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Using the Glossary of terms relating to Treaty actions of the United Nations, explain  the intended effects of an “international declaration” in the law. What is an international declaration? What power does it have?
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In the eyes of international law, a declaration has no binding power over national policies. This means that the declaration, even if proclaimed by the United Nations, cannot actually force a country to change their immigration laws (European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, “Hard Law/Soft Law”).

The UDHR and similar documents/proclamations are called “soft laws.” It does not contain any kind of consequence for not putting into practice the recommendations it sets out.

Ultimately, this means Canada does not have to change its laws to meet the articles of the UDHR.

What are your thoughts on the reality that Canada (and the rest of the UN countries) do not need to change their laws to reflect the UDHR? What factors might influence Canada to follow the soft laws regardless? What factors might influence Canada’s decision not to follow them?
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The Impacts of the UDHR

The timeline above in this lesson mentions the arrival of Hungarian refugees in Vancouver in 1956. Watch the video at this link to learn more.

How does the arrival of Hungarian refugees in Vancouver at this time, after the signing of the UDHR, conform to Article 13 that you learned about above?
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According to the article “Immigration Regulations, Order-in-Council PC 1962-86, 1962” from Pier 21, how did Canada shift its immigration policies following the ratification of the UDHR?
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Given the historical context of the Declaration, name  3-4 reasons that you think justify the shift mentioned in the Pier 21 article? You can use the article above to help you think this question through, and quote from it as needed.
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Economic Immigration
Do you know of anyone who moved to Canada for economic reasons (who is a migrant according to the definitions you learned in the previous lesson)? If so, do you know how they came to Canada? Why did they come to Canada specifically? Do you know what their status was when they migrated to Canada?*

*You will not have to share this information with the class.
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Watch the following video about ways to immigrate to Canada:

According to the video above, what are the most common ways to immigrate to Canada as an economic migrant?
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How accessible and/or easy do these processes seem to you? What elements of them seem challenging? You can think about the social aspect of it, as well as the financial aspect, and any other that might come to mind.
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What are other reasons people might immigrate to Canada? Think of what might be happening in their country of origin that pushes them to leave (a “push” factor) or what might be happening in Canada as a destination country that pulls them to come (a “pull” factor).
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Watch the following video. While you do, consider the differences and similarities you can identify between the ideals of the UDHR, Canada’s immigration laws, Canada’s reputation of welcoming immigrants, and the realities of immigration to Canada. Take notes while you watch.

Now, fill out the Venn diagram below with your notes.

In conclusion, what would you consider Canada’s successes regarding immigration policies and practices for economic immigrants (and/or immigrants more broadly) when considered through the lens of Article 13 of the UDHR? 
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What would you consider as Canada’s failures regarding economic immigrants (and/or immigrants more broadly) when considered through the lens of the UDHR?
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Do you have any questions about economic immigration in Canada? About immigration more broadly? Anything you still want to know or are seeking clarity about? Any questions about Article 13 or the UDHR?
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Caldararu, Alexandru, Julie Clements, Rennais Gayle, Christina Hamer, Maria MacMinn Varvos, and Lynn Sutankayo. “Canada’s Immigration History: Milestones and Stories.” Canadian Settlement in Action History and Future, December 21, 2021.

Canadian Immigration Institute. “How to Immigrate to Canada | 4 Ways in 4 Minutes.” YouTube, October 27, 2022.

Defining Moments Canada. “Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Explained by a Canadian Lawyer.” YouTube, October 6, 2023.

European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. “Hard Law/Soft Law.” ECCHR, November 22, 2023.

“Immigration Regulations, Order-in-Council PC 1962-86, 1962.” Immigration Regulations, Order-in-Council PC 1962-86, 1962 | Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Accessed November 15, 2023.

United Nations Treaty Collection. “UN, United Nations, UN Treaties, Treaties.” United Nations. Accessed December 26, 2023.

Veracity. “The Dark Side of Canada’s Immigration System.” YouTube, August 16, 2023.