According to Canadian Arabophile Baha Abu Laban, the wave of Arab immigration to Canada can be traced to 1882, when Syrian-Lebanese immigrants began to arrive in Montreal. This immigration was marginal until 1945, when it began increasing on an annual basis (Abu Laban, 1991). The Canadian Encyclopedia (1998) points out that by 1991, 151,125 Canadians claimed Arab single origin and a further 52,820 claimed Arab multiple origins (i.e., Arab plus one or 2 other ethnic classifications), for a total of 203,945 Arab-origin Canadians.
That figure was, in 1998, estimated to be some 300,000 citizens. The Encyclopedia also points out the major distinction that "'Arab Canadian' does not refer to one religious affiliation, country of origin or distance from the immigration generation but to the mixture of characteristics and beliefs that members of this ethnic group have inherited from the past or acquired in Canada" (Canadian Encyclopedia, 1998).
In his 1991 book Abu-Laban explains that more than 90 percent of the earliest immigrants were Christians who were seeking refuge from poverty and the Ottoman colonial regime. The post-WWII wave of Arab immigrants, on the other hand, "comprised a broader mixture of Christian groups and a substantial number of Muslims and Druzes who were motivated by the desire to escape unfavourable social, economic and political conditions in their homelands" (Abu Laban, 1991, 17).
Most experts on the subject agree that pre World War II and post World War II immigration patterns were reflections of differing social contexts.
This timeline shows the growth from 1901 to 1997.
The substantial growth in Arab immigration to Canada has altered the demographics of the Arab-Canadian community, which shows about 75% of the total as foreign-born versus 16 percent of the population as a whole ("Creating," 2000).
The 1991 figures and home countries of the 140,250 immigrants recorded in Canada showed these...