May 2, 1928

CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

Then I undertand the case, and we are not apart at all. I have always understood that, but my point is that the wide discretion given to the minister under the act as a matter of public policy was given to him not that he should take the place of the judge, not that he should make an inquiry similar to the judicial inquiry which takes place before the judge but to enable him as a high officer of the crown, exercising the ancient prerogative right of the crown to admit aliens to allegiance, to determine whether there were objections of high policy to the admission to British citizenship of certain peoples whom we have not been wont to admit to citizenships in this country although they may be able to speak English or French and may possess the residence qualification. Now the minister is changing the w'hole policy, apparently; instead of retaining the exercise of that high discretion as a part of the prerogative right of the crown, he is making himself and his appointees the

Naturalization Act

instruments of inquiry and investigation, and is usurping to that extent the functions which have been previously exercised by the courts of the land.

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LIB
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

The hon. member

for St. Lawrence-St. George has been urging that we in Canada should live up to the agreement made with the other British countries. I do not believe there is anything in the proposed legislation which would tend to violate that agreement. It is now proposed merely to change the method by which we ascertain whether or not a man is qualified for naturalization, and notwithstanding some statements which have been made the hon. gentleman must admit that the method existing in other British dominions is that of investigation by the department of the Secretary of State, so in adopting legislation of this character in reality we are falling in line with the methods used in other British dominions and in the motherland as well.

The hon. member suggests that on account of the differences existing in Canada we should have another method, and I quite agree that possibly this may be so. I believe we should consider these matters on their merits as they apply to Canada, rather than consider conditions which exist with regard to the Hottentots or some other race in another part of the world. In fact, I find it a little difficult to get back to the actual realities in Canada after having listened for forty minutes to the hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George.

The hon. gentleman has been talking about diplomatic considerations, and has been explaining to us how a man who could qualify under the statute might not be allowed to become naturalized because of matters of high political policy. That might be in accordance with diplomatie practice, but I would rather be inclined to urge that individuals w'ho can qualify under our statutes by all means should be permitted to enjoy the rights which are there provided. I think we have found ourselves in all kinds of trouble through these devious methods of preventing people from getting what they have every right to expect. The hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George has gone back to 1844 and has dealt with the question of how a foreign prince might have bestowed upon him the high privilege of becoming a British subject. I submit that we are a long way from England in 1844.

We are receiving hundreds of thousands of immigrants. We are spending millions of dollars in trying to bring immigrants in. We are offering them inducements to come, in the way of free homesteads. Our regulations, however, provide for naturalization, and I submit we are not keeping faith with those whom we are inviting to come to this country unless we make it possible for them to qualify in order that they may receive free homesteads and in order that they may enter into the full rights of Canadian citizenship.

I quite admit that our naturalization must be safeguarded, but I am firmly convinced that there is more danger of shutting people out from naturalization than there is of admitting too many of them to naturalization. We have definite rules and statutes governing the classes of people who are to be admitted to naturalization. We are not discussing these at the present time; we are discussing merely the most desiraJble method by which such naturalization may be granted. Let us consider the actual situation in respect to these hundreds of thousands of people who are coming to our shores. If we deny them naturalization we postpone for them any opportunity of participating in our common political life. Sometimes there are those in this house who object to what is known in industrial circles as "direct action"; they say that these men ought never to strike. They say that these men who are out of work ought never to parade. If you deny to them the rights of citizenship, if you deny to them the right of endeavouring to bring about desired reforms by means of constitutional action, can you wonder that sometimes they are driven to take unconstitutional action? Surely we must admit that the strongest safeguard we can have in this country-if we believe in democracy at all-is to have the freest participation by all in our common national life, and if we deny to these people who come to our shores-people who are not criminals by any means, people who come from countries which are just as high in the political scale as our own-if we deny to them the right to participate in our national life we are only laying up to ourselves trouble in the years to come. We must not be placed in the position of urging people to come in, of promising certain things when they do come, and then failing to keep faith with them. We do so at our risk.

I am not quite sure whether or not this proposed legislation is for the best, but I do know that the present arrangement is not at all satisfactory. I suppose we should not discuss here some of the questions that do not immediately come up for consideration. The

Naturalization Act

language question has been already referred to, and with regard to that I should like to say that, while I suppose it is a good thing for us to insist, in a general way, that immigrants should learn English or French, there are a good many people coming here who are well educated, but do not know and have no opportunity to learn English or French and I do not think we should be too rigid about those matters. Take one class of people, the Icelanders; they are years and years ahead of us in political consciousness and political education. For a thousand years they have had democratic political institutions. I know some of the .men who have come to this country in mature life who find it extremely difficult, when placed in remote places in the west, to learn the English language. I think it is a great hardship to prevent such people acquiring citizenship. I had an instance come to my knowledge in this connection, where an elderly Icelandic woman, who is well educated in her own language, has not been able to become naturalized; she is now seventy years of age and yet she is prevented from receiving an old age pension because of lack of naturalization. I think that is a great hardship. She has done much pioneer work in the west. I think it is stupid, if not indeed cruel, to prevent her being naturalized because of some technical requirement.

It has been stated that our practice is uniform, because in every case the judges have to deal with this matter. I would suggest that the lack of uniformity is one of the reasons why some of us would like to see the act changed. Judges have been very arbitrary, in some cases that I have known, in refusing to grant naturalization certificates. They themselves, in my judgment are prejudiced. They have the right to their own opinions, but they are personally very much prejudiced against certain types of foreigners; in some cases it is against orientals, in others it is against Greeks and Italians, and they have absolutely refused to grant naturalization to people >of these nationalities. I cannot think that is a good thing. I number among my own friends people of these nationalities, people who stand just as high in the social scale as people we meet in this parliament. Why should they be refused naturalization because some ignorant judge, and there are some such, or some prejudiced judge, and there are some such, has decided not to admit foreigners? If we ask aliens to come to this country we must be prepared to go through with the undertaking and see that they are incorporated into the life of this country.

It, has been suggested that complaints come only from a few districts. Personally I have comparatively few newly arrived foreigners in my own constituency, but during the last few years I have had the opportunity of lecturing to labour groups pretty much across Canada, and from Glace Bay, Montreal, Toronto, Fort William, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, all through the Crowsnest right through to Vancouver, I have had the frequent experience that men of foreign extraction would come to me after my lecture and say, How can we become Canadian citizens? We have been here five, ten or fifteen years but we have no opportunity of becoming Canadian citizens. I have made inquiries in some cases, and it is true that some of these men have had police records; and I have lived long enough among the immigrants to know that it is very easy for a foreigner to acquire a police record. He may have broken a municipal ordinance-and it is very easy for a new arrival to break one of these ordinances -and then he acquires a police record. Or one of them may have taken part in a strike and some charge have been laid against him, and although that took place ten, fifteen or twenty years ago it has been recorded against him and prevents him becoming a Canadian citizen. I have investigated some of these cases and have found that they stand high in the local community; I could produce certificates from reputable citizens of iall classes in the community, that these immigrants are in every way qualified for naturalization, but nothing can be done under the existing arrangements. That means that there is a bitter feeling growing up on the part of thousands of people who otherwise might become good Canadian citizens.

I venture to suggest to the minister an amendment that I think would be desirable if legislation such as he proposes is to be carried. There might be a danger that the Secretary of State might alct in an arbitrary manner, not merely that he might be willing to naturalize thousands of people, as the hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George has suggested, but on the other hand that he might be inclined to deny citizenship to others who have a perfect right to it. Therefore I would suggest that provision should be made in his bill for some sort of a court of appeal. If the Department of the Secretary of State, betaause of an adverse report concerning a man, refuses to grant naturalization, I would say that if the man himself or anyone opposed to the man's naturalization wants to appeal against the decision there should be some place where such an appeal could be

Naturalization Act

heard. It might be an appeal to the Secretary of State himiself who might send out a commissioner to hold some sort of public investigation. Edmonton, Saskatoon and other cities in the west are a long way from Ottawa and you cannot expect the ordinary citizen, whether he be a workingman. or a farmer, to come down to Ottawa. If he has to employ the services of a lawyer that means a considerable expense. He ought to have the right of stating his case before a final decision bjr the Secretary of State. It might be that a minor official has made a mistake. Surely the man ought to have the right to appeal to a commissioner or judge who might be sent out or selected in the district to hold a public hearing. In that way the interests of the public as a whole would be safeguarded. Such an appeal should be granted either when the complaint came from the mian who felt that he was not being given a fair chance or from the community who felt that the department of the Secretary of State had made a mistake.

At the present time investigations are made by the mounted police, and so far as I can see the proposal is that that duty will still be expected of them. Personally I want to enter a protest against that procedure. To a great many people the police are people who come to protect their homes, but to other classes in the community they are officials who miay be coming to cause their arrest. Away out on the plains of Saskatchewan when a policeman appears at the home of a private individual the opinion generally gets abroad that there is something wrong at that home; that the officer is there to investigate; that the settler may be suspected of bootlegging or something of that kind, and people do not like that. Some hon. member says: "No." I know enough about the prairies to' know that is a very common sentiment among certain classes of most reputable people. I believe the hon. member for Melfort (Mr. McLean) said that some people had the same feeling about going to the courts. Ordinary people do not go to the courts unless they are forced to go there in connection with some trouble. It may be all very well for lawyers to sit here and say that the courts are the great safeguard of our liberties. The courts are very profitable for them; they enjoy being around the courts, but for many people the courts mean places in which they are mulcted of their hard-earned money. A court means a place where they may get into trouble and which they want to avoid as far as possible.

I would suggest that citizenship is not in the nature of a crime. I hope the time will come 56103-166

when the duty of policemen will not be largely to suppress crime but rather to do everything possible in the interest of the public. When. I see a policeman doing point duty, safeguarding little children as they cross the street. I see exemplified the ideal with regard to a police force which I should like to have generally adopted. But I conceive that is not the ideal most people have to-day with regard to the police and under existing circumstances it would seem to be wise that someone other than a policeman should be used to make these investigations. If a person has a criminal record, by all means have a policeman investigate ; but if there is no criminal record and if Canadian citizenship is a high estate to which the applicant seeks to secure admission, the least we can do is to send to him someone who will not in any way be associated in his mind with crime.

I offer what may seem a very idealistic suggestion, but I have sometimes wondered whether it might not be well to have a little more ceremony connected with the admission ,to citizenship. I have sometimes considered whether we might not add real value to Dominion day if we would arrange that aliens might be admitted to full citizenship, say, on Dominion day, or on some other fixed day when some little ceremonial could be connected with the matter. In that way naturalization would not be granted in a corner after investigation by a policeman as to whether or not the man was guilty of anything, but the new citizen would be made to feel that he was getting something worth while. I am suggesting Dominion day because it is the national holiday. We should say to these 'people: We grant you this Canadian citizenship ; and we might give them some little token in the way of a card or a medal or something of that kind .that would remind them of the occasion.

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CON
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I am not very much in favour myself, of ceremonial, but it is a big thing for an alien to have all the rights of Canadian citizenship.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

British citizenship.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

British citizenship, and while this may seem a little idealistic it might result in a great deal of good especially amongst people who come from countries where ceremonial is very common and where the populace revels in anything that involves a pageant.

Naturalization Act

I would however return to my main contention that the Secretary of State might consider the bringing in of some amendment by [DOT]which an appeal could be made to his department and an investigation held in the locality iwhere the applicant himself or the objectors .to the application might appear to state his or their side of the case.

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LAB

Herbert Bealey Adshead

Labour

Mr. ADSHEAD:

As one who homesteaded thirty years ago I must differ somewhat from the leader of the Labour party when he says that a mounted policeman is regarded by citizens as a man who is investigating a crime, and that if a policeman visists a home everybody thinks there must be something wrong with that home, or the policeman would not go there.

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LAB
LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

With regard to that libel on Saskatchewan I may say that the police have many times been dispenser's of various forms of relief. They have been very welcome too and no such slur has been cast upon households which they have visited.

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LAB

Herbert Bealey Adshead

Labour

Mr. ADSHEAD:

During the days of my homesteading in the district in which I laboured we were very glad to see the mounted policeman come along. He was our friend; he would inquire if there was any difficulty and he always helped us out. My purpose however in rising is to make a plea for the alien homesteader. I would not do away with the provision that the man, before he votes, must know the English language; but it is a hardship to an alien, after he is brought into this country, goes on the land, plugs away for five years, builds a house, stable and barns, grubs the roots out of the land and brings it into cultivation, to be told that before he can get his patent or deed for his land he must do something else, he must learn another language. That is not fair. After he has fulfilled his homestead duties you should give him his patent in order that he may be able to carry on. If he has not his deed he cannot mortgage his land, and he cannot come in under the Farm Loans Act. You tie him up, although he has earned and well earned that property. I think this restriction might very well be taken out of the Naturalization Act and put instead into the Elections Act, where you could provide that before a man should be entitled to vote he must be able to read and write one of the two official languages, and that should apply to Canadian settlers as well as to aliens. I have known Canadians many a

time, when I was in business in Ontario, who could not sign a receipt and had to mark a cross. I think the same qualifications for exercising the franchise should apply to Canadians as well as aliens, much more so in the case of the Canadian, who should be better able to read and write the English language than an alien. So I think we might very well consider in this act the granting of naturalization to aliens who have fulfilled their homestead duties and are of good character, and leave the question of being able to read and write the English language to be dealt with in the Elections Act. Then you do away with the discrimination, and you say to the settler, as you ought to do: After you have fulfilled your homestead duties, if you are of good character, we will grant you your patent and naturalization. I know that men who have lived in the frontier districts will endorse this statement, that the first five years are the hardest on the homestead. During the first five years of my life on the homestead I was fully occupied with my homestead duties, and if I had been told that I had not only to live on the homestead and fence and break thirty or forty acres, and have so many cattle, and build a house and barn, but must in addition learn the German language, I would have said: Take back your homestead, because learning a new language would have been harder to me than all the other work, and by the way, we did not say to these aliens when they came here from Hungary or Iceland or Norway: We will grant you a patent after you have finished your homestead duties and made a good citizen of yourself, and in addition you must learn a foreign language. That language qualification was not mentioned when they came here, and it is not fair to bring it up now.

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LIB

John Gordon Ross

Liberal

Mr. ROSS (Moose Jaw):

I would like

to answer a remark made by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth), Mr. Chairman, and then I would ask you to call it six o'clock. The hon. member spoke of the feeling of the people of Saskatchewan towards the mounted police. As one born in that province and having lived there all my life, perhaps I can speak with some authority as to how our people feel about the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I do not think there is any class of citizen in the whole of Canada that is more looked up to by our western people than the Northwest mounted police ever since they were organized in 1872. When a policeman comes

Questions

to their doors, it is never thought by anyone that it is because of some wrong-doing that has been done, but it was the natural thing for these policemen to call at the homes of all the homesteaders in turn, to see if everything was going well with the homesteader, and if everything was not going well it was the duty of the policeman to report accordingly, and see that help was brought, doctors, nurses, and any other assistance that might be required, and that assistance was supplied by the Royal Northwest Mounted Police so far as possible. Therefore, I do not think that anj'body upon the prairies is at all adverse to having one of the riders of the plains come to his door. I have never seen one that objected. On the contrary, the policeman is always welcomed and invited in for a meal, and although the settler has the right to charge the man for a meal, in very few cases is that ever done. The people of Saskatchewan are proud of the Northwest mounted police, and they know that any job they are put at by the Secretary of State or by any department of the government will be looked after, and looked after well, by that splendid body of men.

Progress reported.

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At six o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order. Thursday, May 3, 1928


May 2, 1928