February 9, 1961

LIB

Leon David Crestohl

Liberal

Mr. Cresiohl:

Oh, there has been a modification of it, but not a redefinition. I asked the minister on the floor of this house if she would define now what "refugee" meant and her answer was, what the high commissioner for refugees says is a refugee we will acknowledge. It has never been otherwise.

There has been no change as she was instructed. The implications, as hon. members should know, are very wide if there were a redefinition of "refugee".

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James Ewen Matthews

Mr. Mailhews:

Will the hon. member permit a question?

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LIB
PC

Jacques Flynn (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

The Chairman:

Before the hon. member puts his question, I would mention that the time of the hon. member has expired. If the committee is willing to give unanimous consent, he may continue.

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Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

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James Ewen Matthews

Mr. Mailhews:

He is talking about the directions of a political convention to the government. I wonder if he would let the house know if the Liberals have put in their platform all the directions of the recent Liberal convention, and the resolutions that were passed there?

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LIB

Leon David Crestohl

Liberal

Mr. Cresiohl:

Is that not typical of hon. gentlemen shying away from their own responsibilities? They say that we did not do it and because the other fellow fails to do it, they should not do it. Surely the hon. gentleman who just asked the question knows as well as I do that the mere fact the other fellow does not do what he should do is no reason for me not to do it. I want to say that I know of nothing in the Liberal platform which will not be implemented as soon as the Liberal party has the power and authority to do so, which I hope will not be very long.

Then there is a third plank in the Conservative platform. This resolution instructs or authorizes the government to increase and extend the existing facilities and personnel for the processing of immigrants in foreign countries.

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PC

J.-H.-Théogène Ricard

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Ricard:

From what are you reading?

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LIB

Leon David Crestohl

Liberal

Mr. Crestohl:

From the very same document that I read before.

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PC
LIB

Leon David Crestohl

Liberal

Mr. Crestohl:

I will repeat it. Will the hon. gentleman please note it. It is a page out of the Senate Hansard for April 4, 1960, which is quite recent.

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An hon. Member:

From whose speech?

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LIB

Leon David Crestohl

Liberal

Mr. Crestohl:

I think it was Senator Cairine Wilson. She was quoting a resolution right out of the records of the Conservative party. Surely hon. members opposite should know whether or not there is such a resolution.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

They do not know; they were never published.

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LIB

Leon David Crestohl

Liberal

Mr. Cresiohl:

Of course they were never published. They do not know, and it is obvious from their behaviour they do not know.

I should like to get to the third point. This is a direct instruction or authorization to the government and to the minister. She was authorized and instructed by her own party to extend the existing facilities and personnel for the processing of immigrants in foreign countries. Those of us who are in communication with immigrants constantly hear the government say, we have no facilities in that country. This may be so; it is quite possible. The government says, we cannot deal with this immigrant because we have no facilities for processing. Surely when instructions are given to remedy that situation the minister is in default and is failing to do her duty as minister of immigration when she does not remedy the situation. As a consequence, the whole country suffers.

I should like to point out too that I am one of those who believe in an active immigration policy. As the committee well knows I have been propagating that for the last 11 years. Like the minister herself, I believe that immigrants make jobs and immigrants do not take away jobs from Canadians. On a number of occasions the minister has very eloquently and very forcefully told the country that the immigrants who come to this country are a blessing. They create jobs; they create industry; they encourage work. I believe as the minister does. But what does the record show? The record shows a pitiful reduction in immigration in the last three or four years. In fact, we were told today that 104,000 immigrants came in during the past year. I have not in front of me the figures to indicate how many immigrants left Canada, but I feel sure if you were to strike a balance there would certainly not be a very great net gain for our country.

I have the feeling that if the government were to implement an immigration program- I know the minister is in some difficulty now. She is on the eve of revising the Immigration Act. I believe this is one of the finest things that the minister can do for her department, her officials and the country. I feel I have had some training in the law, but by no stretch of the imagination could I set down clearly what the policy of the immigration department is now. The officials of this department are eminently able, well experienced men, and desirous as they are of being of assistance they come up against confusion in this act which the minister should eliminate once and for all.

I am beginning to be sceptical of whether the minister is serious about revising the act. As I said, the revision was promised last year

Supply-Citizenship and Immigration and it was promised in the speech from the throne. I hope the minister is not waiting until the end of the session to try to rush it through or, alternatively, to say that there is not sufficient time to do so. Tonight she did say that it will depend upon the business of the house as to whether we will be able to have the act revised. Everything will depend upon circumstances. I say to the minister that she will be delinquent in her responsibilities if she does not introduce a revision of this act, have a parliamentary committee appointed to study it and give that committee authority to summon witnesses and hear representations.

Surely the minister is aware of the fact that the country is clamouring for the overhaul of this act. I should like to quote from an article in the Montreal Star of January 4, 1960, which is headed, "Time for an Overhaul".

Without delay, the Immigration Act should be reviewed and the operations of the immigration department surveyed. Either, if not both, is in need of liberalization. Arbitrary behaviour on the part of department personnel would lead one to think sometimes that they are constitutionally hostile to immigration. It is a question whether they should have the power of discretion they sometimes exercise.

I could quote any number of newspaper authorities who are urging the overhauling of the Immigration Act. As I said before, I think there should be an overhauling or revising of this act that would really place the entire policy into simple language, not complicated language, and would set it out clearly so that everybody with intelligence, would be able to understand it. If this were done it would relieve the country and it would certainly relieve the department. I speak for the officials of the department who I know are anxious to do their duty completely and thoroughly but who are sometimes hamstrung by the difficulty of understanding the language of the act.

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PC

Jacques Flynn (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

The Chairman:

Shall item 51 carry?

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Some hon. Members:

Carried.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Mr. Chairman, I do not think it is seriously thought that the most important item in the estimates of the immigration branch would be carried without any reply by the hon. lady to the indictment made by the hon. member for Cartier, not merely of the current practice but of some of the regulations that have been in existence for quite some time and some of the practices that have been in existence for quite some time and which, in some cases, are anachronistic today. I may say that I was minister for about the same length of time or perhaps a little bit longer as the hon. lady has been in office. However, I changed the regulations

1908 HOUSE OF

Supply-Citizenship and Immigration or caused them to be changed or persuaded my colleagues to have them changed four or five times during that period. I must say that my attitude has been a sort of mixture of feeling flattered that the hon. lady considered my regulations to be so good that she has not been able to change them at all significantly and of feeling that they ought in some respects to have been changed in order to meet changing conditions. That has been my attitude to them.

In extenuation of my own conduct may I say this, and I am not going to defend it more. Nearly all of the instances given by the hon. member for Cartier-and he would perhaps recall this if I went further.-were cases in which liberalizations of the regulations were made and not cases in which restrictions were made. The hon. gentlemen did not point out that the reason that the parents of Canadian citizens can only be applied for when the father is over 65 years of age and the mother is over 60 years of age is that in those cases they are iron curtain countries and as long as the government sees fit-and this is not the fault of the immigration department; this was a decision that was made by the previous government and is presumably being carried on by the present government-and as long as the government feels that in the state of the world as it is at the present time it is necessary to have some security screen of immigrants and as long as it is impossible, as it is, to carry on security screening in countries behind the iron curtain it was felt that the highest considerations of the security of the state made it inadvisable to relax the regulations more than that.

Whether that is suitable to conditions in 1961, as we felt it was the only thing that it was proper to do at the time when I was minister, I should not like to express an offhand opinion. But that is the reason and the sole reason why there is a difference between, say, the parents of a Canadian citizen who happens to be living in a country behind the iron curtain and those who do not. I think perhaps that consideration ought to be put on the record.

I must say that it seems to me that the fundamental criticism that one could make at the present time of the state of our immigration to this country is this, and the hon. member for Cartier put his finger on it when, during his remarks he said he wondered whether there had been very much net gain in population in Canada in the last year or two from immigration. We do not have statistics, and I do not see any practicable way of collecting statistics on the number of people who leave Canada to settle permanently somewhere else unless we turn this country

into a sort of police state, which is not something I would like to see. I would not like to see us starting to ask every Canadian or every resident of Canada who leaves Canada questions such as these; why are you leaving the country? Are you going to stay permanently or are you just going down to Florida? Or things of that sort.

In the first place, I think it would slow up border crossings to such a degree that we would be obliged to have an army of immigration officers instead of the number we now have. I must say that I am glad that we live in a country in which we can have a fairly open border and I am not a bit in favour of changing that situation just for the sake of collecting statistics.

But there is something we can tell from the statistics of immigration into the United States, into the United Kingdom and into one or two other countries that keep records, those being the principal ones. We know that a regrettably large number of residents of Canada have left this country in the last two or three years and that there has been a good deal of comment about that in the press. That has been particularly true in the case of the United Kingdom and Germany in the last couple of years.

But the root cause of that situation, of course, is not any failure of immigration policy or of immigration administration. The root causes of that situation is the unemployment situation with which we are faced. I quite agree with the hon. member for Cartier that if there were some way of keeping people alive indefinitely until they could get jobs it would be desirable to keep up a flow of immigration even when it was difficult to get employment. However, I administered the department and I must say that I do not believe the Canadian people would support such a policy. I do not believe it is a practical policy to encourage people to come to Canada, when those people have no employment and have no real chance of getting employment. From experience that I have had and from studying the experience that the government has had since that time I know that nothing does more to spoil the prospects of future immigration than to have a considerable number of people come to this country with high hopes of getting jobs, spend two or three months here without getting a job and then go back and inevitably blame this country for their experience. As is commonly known, people do not like to blame themselves. I do not think there is any single thing that did so much to discourage British immigration, and will continue to discourage it just as long as the present government is in office, as the brutal cancellation of the Arrow contract and all the consequences it had on the destruction of

Supply-Citizenship and Immigration

that complex which had been built up in the Toronto area of industrial research and development which was just by the stroke of a pen in a fit of irritation by the Prime Minister ended on a Friday when these people were brutally thrown out of work.

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PC

Douglas Scott Harkness (Minister of National Defence)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Harkness:

That is absolutely ridiculous.

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Yes, it was absolutely ridiculous and it was utterly irresponsible.

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February 9, 1961