Now, sir, I want to make special reference tonight to immigration of refugees coming here under the mandate of the international refugee organization. Perhaps it may be of greater interest if I say that most of my remarks will be based upon personal observation when overseas a few months ago, when I had the pleasure of visiting one of these displaced persons camps. I went there, as some of you know, as representative of the Canadian government to attend a. convention of the international labour organization at Geneva.
May I digress here just for a minute or so to express the high regard my wife and I entertained for the various officials we found in various capacities and in various centres overseas. Their keen sense of responsibility, their abounding courtesy, their personal kindness compel me to make this public acknowledgment. I assure you I do so with pleasure and without any reservation.
The international refugee organization cooperates, as far as Canada is concerned, with the Department of External Affairs, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, the Department of Labour, and so forth. I want to concentrate on that phase of immigration for several reasons: First because I am convinced that many people are unaware of the great work, the important work, the humane work accomplished by the IRO in transporting refugees to Canada, to the United States and to other countries.
Then there is another reason. After the close of world war II, committees from various nations found themselves appalled by the.
serious condition of millions of displaced persons. Canada then played an important part -perhaps I may say a leading part-in urging the creation of a definite organization to handle the situation in some effective way. The United Kingdom and the United States were in complete agreement in pressing for what came to be known as IRO. Its constitution was signed by the Canadian government, and the Canadian parliament ratified the signature. Furthermore, the record shows that the resolution was adopted by a committee of united nations under the chairmanship of my good friend and fellow Canadian, Senator Turgeon of Vancouver. He also took a very active part in framing the constitution. It should also be kept in mind that the Canadian taxpayer is paying his share toward the financial upkeep of the IRO, and he is therefore entitled to know what is being done with his money.
These are some of the reasons why I deem it fitting to make known to the Canadian people, and to this parliament, the impressions I formed from actual observation of IRO activities.
I referred a minute ago to millions of displaced persons. During the war many of those people were forced to leave their homes, go into Germany and work as forced labour in German fields and factories. At the end of the war the allied armies liberated actually millions of them from concentration and labour camps in Germany. They were found to be from every country in Europe and represented almost every walk of life.
We are told that in the months immediately following the German surrender many highways in Europe were literally clogged with masses of refugees trekking back to their homes. By train, by truck and on foot, they wended their way back. What did they find when they got there? Those seven million people and more found their homes were no longer there. Their homes had been destroyed. Their livestock had been driven away; their farming implements were no more. They had the land, but nothing else. There they were like animals turned out into the fields to live or die. No doubt many of them in their despair would have preferred death. It was clear that something had to be done, and done quickly, if their lives were to be saved. I suggest that the practical efforts applied to the solution of that problem will go down in history as a lasting tribute to the Christian virtues of the United Nations.
But there was still another problem. Besides those seven or eight millions who had returned to their countries of origin there were another 1,600,000 refugees who
had to receive some other form of international assistance if their lives were to be saved. Many of them were still in Germany, some in Austria, some in Italy and other smaller countries. To re-establish those
1,600,000 was a hopeless task for any one nation to undertake. So, once again, United Nations got under the load.
Under the sponsorship of its general assembly a preparatory commission was set up which operated for over a year, until IRO could be constitutionally formed. This was completed on August 20, 1948. Under the terms of its constitution IRO became responsible-mark you, because responsible- for those 1,600,000 displaced persons, displaced from home and friends and thrown completely upon the charity of the allies.
Let me make it clear that there are seventeen countries who are members of IRO. Those countries pay the operating costs on an assessment basis. Canada's share is about $6 million per year. In other words IRO, although in a sense part and parcel of United Nations, is financed by the seventeen member countries, quite independent of United Nations funds. The head offices of IRO are in Geneva. That fact added to my interest in the organization, for during our two and a half weeks in Geneva I visited those offices several times. On each occasion I was profoundly impressed with the atmosphere of alertness, efficiency and sincerity that was everywhere manifest. The director general directs from the Geneva office an international staff of practically 2,500 persons, representing thirty-eight different nationalities, and assigned to twenty-six different countries. Among them are a good many Canadians, and those of them whom I met are mighty fine Canadians. I trust, Mr. Chairman, that I have now made fairly clear the creation of the IRO, as I found it, and that some idea of its work may be unfolded as I continue.
Hon. members will understand more clearly my interest in this question when I tell them that one of the highlights of our trip overseas was the greater part of an afternoon spent in a displaced persons camp during our days in Germany. We were in the city of Karlsruhe, where Canada has a most active branch office in the American zone. Karlsruhe, like many other cities through which we passed in Germany, carries the scars of war to a very marked degree. The IRO staff there is composed almost wholly of Canadians, and a more cordial, co-operative, efficient and friendly group it has never been my privilege to meet. We drove from Karlsruhe probably forty miles to this displaced persons camp, formerly a large German barracks, a formidable type of structure look-
Supply-Citizenship and Immigration ing well its part. It is what is called an assembly camp. It is recruited from some 58 or 60 minor camps quite a distance farther eastward. There I was able to grasp at first hand something of IRO activity, and still more of the responsibilities those officials were carrying.
On the day of our visit there were present 2,145 refugees, men, women and children, in the last stages of preparedness for transport across the Atlantic. A few were still being X-rayed, but the screening in general had been completed. One trainload was due to leave next day for Bremen, thence to New York, and another the following day to Montreal. I talked with several of the men, most of whom were Polish or Ukrainian, and some of whom could speak English. Reference to their homeland brought only a look of despair, but when one mentioned Canada their faces beamed.
I shall not take the time this evening to discuss immigration in general, because I may have an opportunity to do so later. May. I say I am quite in accord with some of the remarks made before six o'clock by the leader of the opposition. However, if some of those remarks were intended to apply to displaced persons camps-and I am not sure that they were-then I would have to say that those remarks were not all in accordance with the facts. I speak from my own personal observations. There are two or three points he made with which I would be compelled to take issue respectfully and perhaps reluctantly.
I would say that everything humanly possible is being done to make their stay over there comfortable, and their trip across the ocean pleasant. I confirmed that opinion by personal discussion with some of them on board ship during our return from the old land. Every effort is being made to take care of them there, to take care of them on the ship, and to see that they are carefully placed after they are landed. I am sure they appreciate it. I am very happy therefore that these people are assured of a friendly welcome upon arrival here. Why should they not be? Throughout Canada, and particularly in western Canada, those who came to us from European countries forty or fifty years ago proved valuable assets to this country. They entered upon manual labour of the hardest kind, very often such as was refused by our native-born Canadians. They took up land in rough, unsettled areas, thought by some to be valueless; but before long those crude surroundings reached the stage when "creaking wagons bore the harvest home and well-filled barns laughed with their golden plenty".
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Today a great many of those farm homes are among the most desirable in western Canada. The sons and daughters are making progress in all branches of Canadian life, not only on the farms but in business, professional and public life as well. In fact, in the province of Manitoba there are five members, either of European birth or ancestry, in the provincial legislature. I have no hesitation in saying that Canada is a richer country today because of that immigration years ago; and it will be richer still as a result of this new flow of immigration coming to pur shores.
In one of the rooms we visited at the camp an elderly woman, intelligent and neat in appearance, was being instructed in languages by a younger one. It was explained to us that this woman was waiting and longing for the day when a certain technicality would have been overcome and she could join her friends in Canada. When about to leave I stepped across the room, shook hands with her and said as distinctly as I could, "I hope you will soon be in Canada". Whether it was the word "Canada" or just the little gesture of good will, I do not know, but the expression of gratitude shining through the tears that started coursing down that lonely woman's cheeks is something I shall not forget. Yes, an extra touch of kindness bestowed upon these people who come to us will make of them better Canadians and in a shorter time.
I can assure the committee that the afternoon spent in that camp was to us an enlightening and worth-while experience.
I wish very bluntly to ask my fellow Canadians, both in this chamber and outside it, this pointed question: If as a result of war in Canada you had lost your homes and all you had, everything taken over by an enemy, many of your loved ones gone, if you were compelled to seek refuge in a European country, compelled to begin life all over again in a land you had never known, under conditions you had never experienced, among people you had never seen, addressed in a language you had never heard, in your despair hoping for the bread of kindness, just what would your feelings be; what would be your reaction? Just think that over for a while. I suggest that with the war clouds not yet cleared away, this is no time for any of us to adopt a complex of superiority or selfishness. At present there are two of these assembly camps in the French zone, six in the American zone and four in the British zone.
I should like to mention some of the general features noticeable around those displaced persons' camps. Notwithstanding, the number transferred to other lands, there were
still living in or near those camps as of March 1, 1950, a total of 305,407 persons. They included 105,000 Poles, 42,000 Ukrainians and
19.000 Yugoslavs. You ask: How do those
305.000 people manage to live? Well, it is pretty tough. Let us realize that they are maintaining their morale today only by the hope of migrating soon to some other country to begin life all over again.
Those people of various nationalities, various cultures, various degrees of education, have learned to live together in harmony. Everywhere they are reported to be governing themselves along the democratic lines of the countries in which they wish to resettle. A number of them earn a scant living by taking up work of different kinds, some as farmers, some as road builders, some as professional men and some as artisans. Many of them are doing work far below their qualifications. The women appeared to be busy at knitting, sewing and embroidery, and apparently all are of a thrifty type. Educational facilities have been made available for both children and adults. Moving pictures of Canada are shown and informative discussions concerning Canada are held. Lectures are given on various topics, educational and otherwise, for there is no lack of experts in almost every field.
May I emphasize here that many of those displaced persons although lacking in financial assets are well educated and capable in other ways. It is stated that in Latvia and Estonia, the original homelands of many displaced persons, practically the same percentage of the population attended university as in Canada, and that in 1939 there was approximately the same number of students at the university of Riga as at the university of Toronto. No, they cannot be classed as an illiterate -people, not by any means.
From what I could see and learn I would suggest that now with the rush of immigration lessening to some extent the age of admissibility to Canada, now limited at 45 years, should be raised to age 50 at least. I would suggest also that the time has arrived when there should be more elasticity when one member of a family is found to be physically handicapped. To have a family barred from coming to Canada or broken up, to have some little one left behind in Europe, because it is not as strong as the others, seems to me rather harsh today, even if it were justified two or three years ago. Then again, permission for widows with one or more children, according to conditions, should be widened to the extent that each case be studied on its own merits.
I suggest this because I have confidence in the judgment of the men right on the ground
to make the proper selections. I have confidence in the screening, or security officers as they are called. I talked with two of them and could catch something of their difficulties. They have a tough job. They make every effort to be fair. It is not their wish to bar any worthy person nor do they want to admit the unworthy. Despite every precaution they will make an occasional mistake. That cannot be avoided. We are bound to get some misfits, but I ask whether there are any misfits among our own people.
We must also endeavour, so far as is reasonably possible, to keep down to a minimum that "hard core," as it is sometimes called, meaning the handicapped element. Norway has recently agreed to accept and care for one hundred of the blind among those unfortunates; Belgium 227 of the aged, now growing infirm; and Sweden 150 of those who
nations should lend a hand. I am informed that IRO has a $22 million fund in the budget to pay part of the cost of permanent care to countries willing to accept some of those hard core cases.
It is to the credit of Canada, and I say it with pride, that ours was the first country to accept displaced persons from overseas. We began with fifty-four, who sailed for Canada on the Aquitania on April 4, 1947, and since then Canada's record compares favourably with that of any other country. From that time there has been a total of 43,000 workers brought to Canada under the arrangements made by the interdepartmental immigration committee. This is the break-down: for
domestic service approximately 10,400; for farms, 13,289; heavy labour, 19,000; and for nursing, interneship and professional service, 300. In addition to the 43,000 workers there were 3,388 wives or children of those workers who came along with them. In addition to those 46,388, there were over 55,000 wives and children of workers who had been left in d.p. camps and who were brought out after the workers became established. Some others were relatives or close connections of those already here. Canada has actually brought across 101,388 refugees to date. Here I should point out that Canada agreed in the first place to accept only five thousand displaced persons, but as you will note we have exceeded that number twenty times over.
There are those who say that because of our housing shortage immigration should not be encouraged. In that connection someone has made the apt remark that the greatest housing shortage this country has ever known was the day Jacques Cartier landed on the shores of Gaspe. Others claim we have all the population now we can assimilate. If I
Supply-Citizenship and Immigration remember correctly a somewhat similar claim was made long years ago by the Hudson's Bay Company. Those coming into western or northern Canada at that time to embark upon other activities were mostly regarded as aliens, intruding upon the supposedly sacred precincts of the fur industry. I take it we have far outgrown a mental attitude of that kind, particularly when we stop to consider that Canada's land area is greater even than that of the United States and Alaska, and comprises 28 per cent of the land area of the British commonwealth. Ever since the days when -the fur industry reigned supreme in western and northern Canada increased population and increased production have gone forward hand in hand in the development and the enrichment of Canada. Would any process of depopulation and decreased production spell any greater, or as great, prosperity for our people? The answer is obvious.
The IRO was supposed to discontinue operations on June 30 next, but it is pleasing to note that the time has been extended by United Nations up to March 31, 1951. After that date further arrangements will go into effect. I have taken longer than I would have wished in discussing the set-up and work of the IRO, but I feel that it is information to which Canadians are entitled, and which they will be glad to receive. I hope to have something to say at a later date on the subject of general immigration.
Now, Mr. Speaker, in conclusion may I point this out, that in the setting up of an organization to this end, in the adjusting of a thousand details and difficulties never even thought of by the general public, in the securing of an efficient and sympathetic personnel in many different centres, the fact of transportation congestion resulting from the huge number of returned men and women, who were so gladly brought back to Canada and re-absorbed into our economy, in placing those refugees at work when they arrived in Canada and in attaining the phenomenal results expressed in the figures I have just quoted, I am sure every thoughtful person will agree that the Department of Labour is entitled to sincere congratulations and the highest praise. A writer remarked not long ago that the achievement of bringing those refugees here in the face of the many difficulties that had to be overcome is as remarkable a performance as anything to be found in the history of immigration to Canada.
Topic: DEPARTMENT OF CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION