May 7, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)


William Antrobus Griesbach



I should like to take advantage on this item, Mr. Chairman, of

the invitation extended by the minister to discuss generally the question of immigration and to put forward certain views which I hold and which I believe are held by a great many people in this country. Immigration is a very large question, for the reason that some nine million of us occupy a country which is over three million seven hundred thousand square miles in area, and we are distributed in a most extraordinary fashion, for we occupy a ribbon of territory not more than 300 miles wide at any point stretching from coast to coast. And this great country is capable of maintaining without difficulty a population of two or three hundred million people. If we are to become a great nation we must have population. On the other hand, many people regard unrestricted immigration, particularly of foreigners, with grave apprehension. The question is viewed from four standpoints-the sentimental, the patriotic, the humanitarian, and the material. While some hold that it is dangerous to allow too many foreigners to come in, there are others who take the humanitarian view that we have no right to restrict immigration into a country of such vast area and such boundless natural resources, especially while other countries are overcrowded and congested. And there are those who take the material point of view, that for the purpose of exploiting our resources and developing the country the more immigrants we bring in the better. A variety of causes superinduce immigration, being chiefly the following: industrial depression, political oppression, religious persecution, poverty at home, and prosperity here, the solicitation of friends and relations here, employment agencies, facility of transport, solicitation of steamship companies, assisted emigration, and epidemics.
In considering the people who come to this country of foreign blood, we have to consider them in the light of possible amalgamation in the future or immediate assimilation. Amalgamation is defined as that process which occurs when, by reason of proximity, nations grow together by intermarriage, a process which takes hundreds of years. The best example of this is perhaps the British race itself, the last immigrants having arrived in the British Isles somewhere about 1066. The process of amalgamation has gone forward steadily and as a result a type has been produced. We are not particularly concerned for the next two or three hundred years at least with the process of amalgamation, but we are concerned with the process of assimilation, which is defined as that process whereby immigrants may learn to speak our language, understand our customs, and the working of our political machinery, whereby they may take their places with us upon terms of equality. But it may be laid down that the process of assimilation is rendered slow and difficult or quick and easy precisely in the proportion which the foreign element bears to the British element. That, I think, is fairly obvious. If we have one foreigner living among four men of British blood,-surrounded, so to speak, by men of the British race-the process of assimilation will be quick and easy; but if we have, say, two foreigners, to three men of British blood the process is slower, and the number that can be assimilated is necessarily smaller, until the time might come when by the increase of the percentage of persons of foreign birth the process of Canadianization might come to a standstill, and that of "foreignization" might begin.
I recognize the virtues of the foreigners who have come to us in the past, particularly those who settled upon the western prairies and who came to us with practically nothing but their ability to work. They have made a great success, they have increased agricultural production, and they are slowly but surely climbing up the social and cultural ladder. But there are certain statistics which cannot be denied, and I desire to place them upon Hansard because I believe they are worthy of study by our people. I will take first the immigration between the years 1900 and 1910, arranged to show the immigration of the British born and the foreign born, with the total and the percentages thereof. These are the figures:
British Foreign
Year born born Total1900.. .. . . . 5,141 18,754 23,8951901.. .. . . 18,810 37,339 66,1491902.. .. . . 17,259 50,120 67,3791903.. .. . . 41,792 86,572 128,3641904.. .. . . 50,374 79,957 130,3311905.. .. . . 65,359 80,907 146,2661906.. .. . . 86,796 102,268 189,0641907.. .. . . 55,791 68,876 124,6671908.. .. , . . 120,182 142,287 262,4691909.. .. . . . 52,901 94.007 146,9081910.. .. , . . 59,790 149,004 208,794574,195 910,091 1,484,286
Now, that immigration had a certain effect upon the population of this country. I have obtained from the Dominion Statistician the figures as to the number of persons in Canada of British descent, French descent and foreign descent, in 1901 and 1911 respectively. They are as follows:

1901 1911
Per cent Per cent
British descent
57.03 54,08French descent
30.71 28.51Foreign descent
14.46 17.40
In other words, during that decade the number of persons in Canada of British descent fell three points; the number of persons in Canada of French descent fell two points, and the number of persons of foreign descent increased by something like 4 per cent.

Full View