Scott, W.D. (1861-1925)

William Duncan Scott was the Superintendent of Immigration in Ottawa from 1902 to 1919 and Deputy Minister of Immigration and Colonization from 1919 to 1924. He was a civil servant with a long memory of the South Asian immigration file, along with other files. He was born in Dundas, Ontario of Scottish Presbyterian ancestry and he had a high school education. His working life began in Manitoba when he was twenty and employed by the CPR as an agent selling CPR colonization lands. His move eight years later into the civil service as a clerk in the Manitoba immigration department was a natural one, involving him in promoting settlement on western land by farmers from Eastern Canada and northern Europe, following government objectives of the day. This experience led to his appointment as Superintendent of Immigration in 1903. In the fall of 1907,  during the arrival of hundreds of Punjabi immigrants to British Columbia, he visited Vancouver and concluded that these immigrants were “totally unsuited to this country” and that they should be prohibited from landing. This was months before the government began applying the continuous journey provision. Scott’s job was both to encourage and to restrict immigration, depending on who the immigrants were. He presided over the most extraordinary decade of immigration the country has ever seen, while frequently answering the charge from Anglo-Canadians that he was bringing in too many foreigners, meaning not just Asians but foreigners from Europe.  In 1911, when the Borden government shifted responsibility for Chinese immigration from the Department of Trade and Commerce to the Department of the Interior, Scott became Chief Controller of Chinese immigration as well. A year before he retired in ill health in the summer of 1924, the government of MacKenzie King had legislated the complete exclusion of Chinese immigrants with the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923.

Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. XV, 1921-130 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998); Library and Archives Canada, Immigration Files, RG 76.