Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask the minister about a development in my area. Late last fall a number of Mennonites came into my area from Mexico.
There is some question of whether or not they were immigrants or whether they were already Canadian citizens because they had lived here previously. These people came in, expecting to find work in the bush during the winter and they wanted to farm. They found themselves in pretty desperate straits, so bad, in fact, that the municipal authorities are looking after them and appeals have been made. I am wondering, if they are immigrants, whether the immigration department could do something on their behalf? There is not a large number involved but it is spread across the Timmins and Timiskaming areas.
I am informed that the bulk of this movement would be made up of persons returning to Canada from Mexico. These people had gone down there, mainly from Manitoba, after the first war, and have never taken out their Mexican papers. They had thus retained the right to return to Canada if they made application to do so.
whether the minister would look into a situation which I think is rather important. I have in my hand copies of many of the kinds of literature which our immigrants are receiving from various parts of communist-occupied territories. I have also a copy of an envelope which, together with a letter, is directed to a German immigrant and I understand many such letters have been addressed to other immigrants. The purpose of these letters, of course, is to persuade them to return to their land of origin. The point I wish to raise is that these new Canadians are quite satisfied to stay in Canada and are extremely happy with their circumstances, therefore they are not going to concern themselves with this literature. They are, however, worried that the communists seem to be aware of the fact that they have relatives still in occupied areas, and I think it is important that these new immigrants who come to Canada have every rightful protection against any possibility that information might be made available to anyone outside of Canada. I am at a loss to explain how such information would be made available in such a way, but I merely ask the minister to look into this situation.
I think this mainly arises under the citizenship branch, but I think I might take the time, under the circumstances, to answer this particular question. I think I am absolutely safe in saying that the citizenship branch reveals no information with regard to any citizenship application which might be on file to any unauthorized person. Nevertheless the hon. member will recall that it is a provision in the citizenship act that an application for citizenship must be posted in various courthouses for 30 days and, in spite of the fullest precautions, I am afraid we have to confess there is a possibility of enemy or foreign agents coming into Canada and it would therefore be a relatively simple matter for them to go into our courthouses and get these lists if they wished to do so. I think that is the explanation of the situation to which the hon. gentleman has referred.
Would the minister venture to answer a question put to him by the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate in respect
of the increase in immigrants after the winter months are over. Is the minister also aware of the large backlog of immigration applications in Warsaw and, if he is, would he say whether he will do something about it?
With regard to the program for 1958, the hon. gentleman will of course appreciate that we are discussing matters for the fiscal year 1957-58, in other words, the year ending March 31 next. The estimates for the fiscal year commencing April 1, 1958, are not yet before the house and for that reason I am unable to answer his question in detail. I think I should repeat what I said this afternoon in regard to a comment of the hon. member for Okanagan-Revelstoke with respect to the 1958 program, namely that it will be adjusted to the situation and the absorptive capacity in Canada as it is is indicated from time to time in the reports we receive.
With regard to the situation in Warsaw, the facilities and staff there are under the control of the Department of External Affairs. I understand that these are regarded as sufficient for the requirements and I am informed that there is no backlog of applications on file at our embassy in Warsaw.
1 have received several letters from my constituents, Mr. Chairman, who have applied as far back as May last for permission to bring in relatives from Poland. The information they have received is that there are not enough medical examiners to put through the applications promptly.
I think the hon. gentleman will realize that the movement from Poland is to some extent an experimental one and we have to move slowly and rather carefully. We do not like to press the situation beyond what we think would be welcome in the country with which we are dealing. We are advised by the Department of External Affairs, and I think the hon. gentleman will agree it is sensible for us to be so advised, to this effect.
In view of the situation which exists in Poland where at any time the communist government could cut off immigration from that country, and in view of the anxieties of the relatives of these people in Canada with respect to getting their
Supply-Citizenship and Immigration
relatives out of Poland as quickly as possible, does the minister not consider that this is an urgent matter?
Of course the minister thinks it is an urgent matter, but the minister indicated earlier that he accepts the advice he receives from his experts and one such piece of advice is that in dealing with iron curtain countries we have to be very careful to make certain that the representations we make and the actions we take in matters such as these are acceptable to the countries which, after all, have control over the number of people who will be allowed to leave for Canada. I accept the advice which I receive from my colleagues and experts without any suggestion whatsoever that I am not as interested as the hon. gentleman in getting the maximum number of admissions which we can arrange with respect to people from Poland. I am however, unwilling to prejudice the whole operation by taking an unwise step and pressing it to an unwise degree.
My information as of January 24, 1958, is (a) with respect to the accommodation summary for the week ending January 17, 1958, there was an increase of 25 persons accommodated in immigration halls for the week, 756 as compared with 731 for the previous week; (b) the number of unplaced workers in immigration halls in excess of two weeks a decrease of 10, or 430 as compared with 440; (c) number of persons provided assistance outside of immigration halls has decreased by 99, 12,296 compared with 12,395; (d) total number of unplaced workers in excess of two weeks inside and outside halls has decreased by 115, 5,602 compared with 5,717.
(e) total number of persons receiving assistance by the department throughout Canada is 13,052, a decrease of 74 from the previous week's report of 13,126.