Public Archives of Canada, Manuscript Division. Canadian National Railways, RG 30, vols. 5999 and 8317. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
The Canadian National Railway (CNR) compiled records on immigrants that included details on family structure, origins, settlement in Canada, and progress. This collection includes immigrant questionnaires, service placement details, and various correspondence regarding applications for settlement. The content of these records varied and you may run across multiple records referencing the same immigrant. Records were kept in both English and French.
Following World War I, Canadian railroad companies were hungry for immigrants to help fuel expansion into the western provinces because more farmers settling these regions meant more freight and commuter business. The Railways Agreement of 1925 gave railroads in Canada a hand in the immigration process. The Canadian National Railway’s colonization arm was now able to encourage settlement, and formerly rigid restrictions on who was allowed to immigrate to Canada were loosened.
British, French, American, and immigrants from northwest Europe were favored, while immigrants from eastern European countries faced quotas. Those allowed to enter the country had to meet a range of criteria that included the amount of capital available, marital status, family size and age, and country of origin. Immigrants in the Railway’s program were restricted to farmers and those engaged in domestic services.
Growing nativist sentiment prompted a shift in efforts toward internal settlement during the 1930s, but following World War II, immigration once again climbed until the government ended the railway’s cooperative immigration program in 1961.
Osborne, Brian S., and Wurtele, Susan E. "The Other Railway: Canadian National's Department of Colonization and Agriculture." In Marchildon, Gregory P., ed. Immigration and Settlement, 1870–1939. Regina, Saskatchewan: University of Regina Press, 2009.