MP-1980.208.3 | Russian immigrants at U. S. Immigration office, Winnipeg, MB, 1905

Russian immigrants at U. S. Immigration office, Winnipeg, MB, 1905
Anonyme - Anonymous
1905, 20th century
Silver salts on paper (glossy finish) mounted on card - Gelatin silver process
12 x 9 cm
Gift from The Niagara County Historical Society Inc.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  child (1308) , informal (1120) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

The arrival of over two million immigrants between 1896 and 1914, most of them British, American or European, represented a massive challenge to Canadian society. Many of the newcomers settled on farms in the Prairies, stimulating the region's agriculture trade. Others ended up in the ethnic ghettos of Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg or Vancouver, adding to the problems of over-population and public health in those neighbourhoods.

From the standpoint of trade unionists, this wave of immigration greatly increased the numbers of workers seeking employment and so had a negative effect on collective negotiation. On the other hand, many of these immigrants had experience with unions and had developed a collective consciousness that helped bolster the union movement. In British Colombia, northern Ontario and northern Quebec, for example, the Ukrainians, Finns and Poles closed ranks with English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians to form locals of the Western Federation of Miners.

  • What

    These Russian immigrants have just arrived from Europe and are waiting in front of the United States immigration bureau in Winnipeg. Thousands more settled in the Manitoba capital: their numbers jumped from 1,400 a year to 8,600 between 1901 and 1911.

  • Where

    In the early-20th century Winnipeg, the biggest city in the Prairies, was a crossroads for great movements of peoples. A large number of immigrants stayed there briefly before going on to settle on the land.

  • When

    This shot was taken in 1905, when immigration was at its peak. The growth of the city's population was so swift that it was not long before a wide range of trades unions had locals there, most of them affiliated to the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council, a federation meant to co-ordinate actions by its member groups at the municipal level.

  • Who

    From now on, Canada was more successful in inducing the majority of immigrants to stay in the country, which offered great possibilities of self-improvement and success. But these Russian immigrants are a reminder that some foreigners were just passing through on their way to the United States.