After the initial period of British and French colonization , four major waves (or peaks) of immigration and settlement of non-aboriginal peoples took place over a period of almost two centuries. The fifth wave is currently ongoing.
The first significant, non-aboriginal immigration to Canada occurred over almost two centuries with slow but progressive French settlement of Quebec and Acadia with smaller numbers of American and European entrepreneurs in addition to British military personnel. This wave culminated with the influx of British Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution, chiefly from the Mid-Atlantic States mostly into what is today Southern Ontario, the Eastern Townships of Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
The second wave from Britain and Ireland was encouraged to settle in Canada after the War of 1812 , which included British army regulars who had served in the war, by the colonial governors of Canada, who were worried about another American invasion attempt and to counter the French-speaking influence of Quebec, rushed to promote settlement in back country areas along newly constructed plank roads within organized land tracts, mostly in Upper Canada (present-day Ontario). With the second wave Irish immigration to Canada had been increasing and peaked when the Irish Potato Famine occurred from 1846 to 1849 resulting in hundreds of thousands more Irish arriving on Canada's shores, although a significant portion migrated to the United States over the subsequent decades.  Of the 100,000 Irish that sailed to Canada in 1847, an estimated one out of five died as periods of heavier migration; for example, the Loyalist refugees, during the Cariboo/Fraser Gold Rush and later the Klondike Gold Rush which saw many American prospectors inhabiting British Columbia and the Yukon , land settlers moving from Northern Plains to the Prairies in the early 20th century and also during periods of political turmoil and/or during wars, for example the Vietnam War .
The third wave of immigration coming mostly from continental Europe peaked prior to World War I , between 19101913 (over 400,000 in 1913) and the fourth wave also from that same continent in 1957 (282,000), making Canada a more multicultural country with substantial non-English or -French speaking populations. For example, Ukrainian Canadians account for the largest Ukrainian population outside of Ukraine and Russia. Periods of lowered immigration have also occurred, especially during the First World War and the Second World War , in addition to the Great Depression .
Come to Stay, printed in 1880 in the Canadian Illustrated News , which refers to immigration to the " Dominion ".
Immigration since the 1970s has overwhelmingly been of visible minorities from the developing world. This was largely influenced in 1967 when the Immigration Act was revised and this continued to be official government policy. During the Mulroney government, immigration levels were increased. By the late 1980s immigration has maintained with slight fluctuations since (225,000275,000 annually). Currently, most immigrants come from South Asia and China and this trend is expected to continue.
Prior to 1885, restrictions on immigration were imposed mostly in response to large waves of immigration rather than planned policy decisions, but not specifically targeted at one group or ethnicity, at least as official policy. Then came the introduction of the first Chinese Head Tax legislation passed in 1885, which was in response to a growing number of Chinese working on the Canadian Pacific Railway . Subsequent increases in the head tax in 1900 and 1903 limited Chinese entrants to Canada. In 1923 the government passed the Chinese Immigration Act which excluded Chinese from entering Canada altogether between 1923 and 1947. For discriminating against Chinese immigrants in past periods, an official government apology and compensations were announced on 22 June 2006.
Canadian citizenship was originally created under the Immigration Act, 1910, to designate those British subjects who were domiciled in Canada. All other British subjects required permission to land. A separate status of "Canadian national" was created under the Canadian Nationals Act, 1921, which was defined as being a Canadian citizen as defined above, their wives, and any children (fathered by such citizens) that had not yet landed in Canada. After the passage of the Statute of Westminster in 1931, the monarchy thus ceased to be an exclusively British institution. Because of this Canadians, and others living in countries that became known as Commonwealth realms , were known assubjects of the Crown. However in legal documents the term "British subject" continued to be used.
Canada was the first nation in the then British Commonwealth to establish its own nationality law in 1946, with the enactment of the Canadian Citizenship Act 1946 . This took effect on 1 January 1947. In order to acquire Canadian citizenship on 1 January 1947 one generally had to be a British subject on that date, an Indian or Eskimo, or had been admitted to Canada as landed immigrants before that date. The phraseBritish subjectrefers in general to anyone from the United Kingdom, its colonies at the time, or a Commonwealth country. Acquisition and loss of British subject status before 1947 was determined by United Kingdom law (see History of British nationality law ).
On 15 February 1977, Canada removed restrictions on dual citizenship. Many of the provisions to acquire or lose Canadian citizenship that existed under the 1946 legislation were repealed. Canadian citizens are in general no longer subject to involuntary loss of citizenship, barring revocation on the grounds of immigration fraud.
Statistics Canada has tabulated the effect of immigration on population growth in Canada from 1851 to 2001.