Joanne (Bekkers) & Casey Van de Sande by suitcases, Pier 21, Halifax, 1956

Joanne (Bekkers) & Casey Van de Sande by suitcases, Pier 21, Halifax, 1956. Courtesy of Casey & Toosje Van de Sande. Restoration: Anne Louise MacDonald

B8 - Joanne (Bekkers)  & Casey Van de Sande by suitcases, Pier 21, Halifax,  1956



The sign for “Sick Mariners” caught our attention.  I found this report on medical screening for would-be immigrants.  When did Canadian Immigration lift the ban on accepting immigrants with mental or physical disabilities — or did they?

Dr. Bernard Charles Sullivan served as Medical Officer-in-Charge from 1952. In January 1954, Bill March (staff writer) called his practice “the biggest practice in Halifax, (even) … though his offices are on the edge- the water’s edge of town.” “He and his two-man staff’, Mr. March continues, “last year took care of 10,300 sick mariners and checked a total of 110,561 crew members and passengers.”  Also in January 1954, a campaign to vaccinate for smallpox throughout the world was begun. Under a procedure known as radio pratique, every incoming ship would get the once over. They were to wire the medics about twelve hours before docking, stating health conditions and requesting privilege to land. National Health and Welfare staff kept a careful lookout for disease carrying rodents. It wasn’t long before ships’ captains got the message. “All ship masters make special efforts to free their vessels of rats because of the dangers of having their ship tied up in port.” Immigrants, technically, could only be deported on three medical grounds: epilepsy or mental ailments; those with loathsome and dangerous contagious diseases; and sufferers of body deformities, hearing and speech defects or heart trouble. During 1954 few were deported. Medical screening was taking place overseas by Canadian Doctors before the migrant could leave for Canada.


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