April 30, 1901 (9th Parliament, 1st Session)


Edward Gawler Prior

Conservative (1867-1942)


I wish to-day to speak on some of the most important subjects it deals with, but I shall not go very much into detail, except in one or two instances. 1 am sorry to see that in the last few years the members from British Columbia on the government side of the House have not seen fit to rise in their places and talk more about the requirements of that province. I am well aware that when a member is on the government side of the House he has the ear of the government, he can interview the ministers privately, and do more good, perhaps, than by speaking in the House. At the same time, I think it is a pity that they do not speak in public, and thereby educate members from other parts of the Dominion as to how matters stand in the far west. We have now two members from British Columbia who have not sat in this House before this session, and I hope and feel convinced that they will lay their views also before the government when I sit down.
Now, one of the most serious matters, but one about which I shall not say very much, because I have already spoken about it year after year-one of the most serious matters that is engaging the attention of men in British Columbia, is Mongolian immigration. That, in conjunction with railroad development, are the two matters that seem most important to the thinking men in that country. A Chinese commission is, as hon. gentlemen know, sitting at the present time in British Columbia, and has been doing so for some weeks past.
It has had men of all classes and all trades before it in order to get their evidence. But I very much doubt whether i.t will be able to give any more reason for the Chinese being kept out of the country than did the commission of 1884, because I believe that almost everything is known that could possibly be known about the reasons why these people are not wanted in the country. The local legislature and the majority of the people in British Columbia are, without doubt, in favour of a prohibitive tax on the Chinese. As we know, the government were asked to fix this tax at $500 per head. There was some little opinion expressed in this House by gentlemen who were not so well up in the question as the western members-(I speak not for myself alone, but for all the western members)-who thought it was a hardship and a shame to put on such a tax and keep these people out of the country. But we thought otherwise. The end of it was that the government brought down the measure increasing the head tax from $50 to $100, at which it now stands. This, undoubtedly, is not sufficient to keep these yellow' men out of Canada. For I see that on the 24tli of this month, one of the Empresses that run between Canada and Japan and China, was due at Vancouver, and she had on board 500 Chinese, for whom the Canadian Pacific Railway Company would have to

deposit with the customs $50,000, before they could land one of them. Of this 500 Chinese, I am informed, 250 at the very least were for the province of British Columbia, while the remainder were for the United States and Mexico. So that, although $100 is charged for every Chinaman coming in, they still come in In large numbers. The reasons that have been given to the House for a prohibitive tax on the Chinese I am not going to repeat, because everybody is au fait with the reasons. Briefly, no white man can compete with these Chinamen in wages. The Chinamen do not live like white men, do not spend the same amount of money for their living, and it is impossible for white men to compete with them in a country like British Columbia. I only wish to ask the government to further consider this matter. Perhaps it is asking too much to ask them to take it into consideration before the report of the Chinese commission is presented, but when it is presented, I hope the government will not put the matter off from year to year, but will take it up at once, as it is a very serious matter, especially for the province of British Columbia.
The Japanese are not coming into the country as they did at one time, the reason being that the Emperor of Japan issued an edict to prevent them leaving their country. But what the province of British Columbia wants is an assurance from the government that, if this edict is withdrawn, some means will be taken by this government to keep the Japanese also out of the province. The question of Japanese naturalization is one that ought to be taken up immediately by the Justice Department of the Dominion. We have seen not hundreds merely, but thousands of Japanese coming to the Pacific coast and, before they have been more than a week or ten days there, managing to get fraudulent naturalization papers, and being enabled thereby to take their place on the rivers and compete with white men who have been doing that work. Now, that is not fair to the white fishermen of British Columbia, it is not fair to any class of the labouring element of that country. The difficulty is simply that the law is defective. I have it on the authority of one of the Supreme Court judges of British Columbia that nothing can be done until the Dominion government alters the law making it so that justices of the peace and men who have the right to issue certificates, whereby these naturalization papers are obtained, shall be placed in a different position from that in which they are at present. Now, as to the head tax that is imposed on the Chinese, now fixed at $100 per head for Chinamen coming into Canada for the first time, the revenue collected for the year 1900. was $190,552. Of this, one-quarter was paid back to the province of British Columbia, $47,362.50. As British Columbia is the only portion of the Dominion that
suffers to any great extent from the presence and competition of these men, we consider that it is not fair that the Dominion should obtain three-quarters of the head tax and the province only one-quarter, we think that as we have to suffer we should get the reward-if you can call it a reward -and that at least three-quarters, if not more, of that revenue shall be paid into the provincial treasury. I am aware that this matter has been brought up before. But I wish to press it again in the interest of the coast. We see that the fishermen of Nova Scotia are given the whole of the Fisheries Award. That was not divided up amongst the different provinces, it was not put into the Dominion treasury for the benefit of the whole country, but, as it was obtained for the benefit of the fishermen of Nova Scotia, it was paid to them.

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