Personal Data

Independent Liberal
Quebec County (Quebec)
Birth Date
May 27, 1882
Deceased Date
August 14, 1952

Parliamentary Career

October 23, 1906 - September 17, 1908
  Quebec County (Quebec)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 5 of 5)

April 23, 1908

1. When will the last volume of the French version of the Revised Statutes of 1906 be printed for distribution?

2. Is the government aware that Frenchspeaking lawyers of Montreal and Quebec are said to be handicapped by their English colleagues in facility of indexing. &c.?

3. Is it constitutional that both languages be treated on an unequal footing?

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April 23, 1908


What guarantee have I that the hon. gentleman's own figures are more correct than mine? It is a question of good faith. Following the main columns of this army of immigration back to their beginnings, the real reasons of its existence are soon discovered. The momentum is given at the source, and we find men pushing each other up the gangplanks of departing emigrant steamers to make their escape from incredible political and economic wrongs. There is another reason, based upon the first, but none the less potent. The traffic in ocean passages has reached a stage of fierce competition, unscrupulousness and even inhumanity, inconceivable to those not familiar with its details. Men who profit by the march of these millions of people have a drag-net out over continental Europe so fine in its meshes as to let no man, woman or child escape who has the price and the desire or need to go. Several cases of unscrupulousness have been brought to light. This summer, I met two families of French people who had come to Canada via London. One of these people had had some wealth which he had lost in certain mining ventures in Russia and he was coming to Canada to recuperate his lost fortune. He states that whilst in London, the immigration agent

a pretty foxy fellow-succeeded in learning what amount of money he had with him intended for investment in Canada, and, by a series of objections and delays, prevented him from getting on the steamer. The man was practically forced to stay in London for a period of at least three weeks in certain hotels recommended by the immigration men. I do not say these were directly immigration department officials, but booking agents. But it shows that the system affords opportunities for those who try to extract or extort money from intending immigrants on the other side of the water, and that these opportunities have been taken advantage of. It seems to me that it would be well for the government to have a close watch put upon such people through its own immigration officials, and to take every reasonable means to cause the bona fide immigrant to depend upon

tlie immigration offices for information, for booking and even for steamship tickets, rather than leave them in the hands of these men who are but too eager to exploit them in every way. Also, a few days ago, we had what I may call the Doctor Dickey incident concerning which the following appears in a London despatch:

London. March 11.-The trial of Maikeal Lurkis, Charles Harnson and Arshay Atonia, charged with conspiring to defraud emigrants, began at Liverpool yesterday. N. Cockshutt watched the case on behalf of the Canadian government. When Atonia was arrested a large number of letters was found in his possession. Counsel said these letters showed that Atonia was on terms of very intimate relationship with the authorities who had to pass the . emigrants on the other side. One of the letters found on him was from a man who described himself as Hugh L. Dickey, M.D., Halifax. A letter from Halifax, signed W. Dodds, said:

Your eleven people were all passed. Be a little more particular next time with Montreal cases. Do not let them make any signs whatever. If vou describe something that they will wear it will be enough. I felt quite nervous when they all made signs with their hands on their ties.

This clipping shows that the immigration officials do not thoroughly enforce the regulations regarding newcomers when they disembark in Canadian ports. The proof of that is the fact that, in order to procure entry, they have only to put their two hands to their neckties, which is considered a sort of password. It shows further that these men are sent over by unscrupulous partles, probably the booking agents at the other end, in collusion with certain officials of the department who allow these undesirable elements to pass, and if there was no bonus given for each immigrant coming to this country these officials would not be so eager to force immigrants upon us. That bonus is an inducement to fraud and unscrupulousness, and it ought to be condemned on that ground.

Where do our immigrants come from ? From the British isles. London absorbs into her mighty heart thousands of feeble human beings, talking a gibberish of tongues, and quickly becoming public charges. Last year I believe it was stated in this House that there were 1,200 immigration agents in the British isles. The other day certain people took offence at the remarks of my hon. friend from Montmagny (Mr. Armand Lavergne) relative to the Salvation Army. Now I am free to say that the work which the Salvation Army has done in trying to elevate the depressed element of humanity is a most creditable one from a religious standpoint. But when we come to consider the class of people which the Salvation Army deal with we find that men who are broken down financially, men who are demoralized physically, morally and re-Mr. ROB1TAILLE.

iigiously, are brought into the barracks of the Salvation Army who try to do all in their power to make them good citizens. Moreover, we are told that there are certain political evils in England, such as Socialism and collectivism, which imperil the present order of things, not only the monarchy, but also the lords and the ruling classes. Naturally these ruling classes, being the moneyed people, are eager to foster any movement with their advice and patronage, and even with their financial assistance, which will diminish the number of these undesirable classes which the Salvation Army are taking away. The ruling class are all too eager to support the work of tlie Salvation Army in thrusting upon Canada some of the scum of the population. I do not say that all the English immigrants are undesirable, but I am speaking of the work whic-li tlie Salvation Army is doing in taking hold of this low grade of people, and trying to elevate them in the scale of citizenship, and that is the class of people which the Salvation Army is sending over to Canada. We also receive immigrants from continental Europe, particularly from Italy, Austria-Hungary and Russia. These are countries where the majority of people are low in the social scale, and where the percentage of illiteracy is discreditable to the twentieth century. These people are directed to channels of emigration made easy by those seeking cargoes for their ships.

Now, Mr. Speaker, since it has been demonstrated that the bonus system has forced upon us a certain class of undesirable immigrants, what are the consequences that we have to contemplate ? We find first of all an evil effect from a municipal standpoint. The Toronto, Winnipeg and! Montreal newspapers report frequent attacks upon citizens Who are these sinister bandits, and what do they want ? Look up the criminal records, and you will find that 95 per cent of the convicts are penniless immigrants who want to eat, and more especially to drink The charity organizations claim that there are thousands of people who lack the necessities of life. On Bleury street, Montreal, where a charitable institution is located, demands for help are made daily in the shape of food and fuel, In Winnipeg also if we are to believe newspaper reports, there is a large number of penniless and destitute people walking the streets, and armed attacks are made daily upon citizens. In Toronto matters are still worse. The ' Globe.' the ' World,' the * Star,' the ' Mail,' and several other newspapers give us information regarding this class of people. It is not my intention to weary the House with statistics, but It may be well to give a concrete case where a too large number of immigrants have been forced upon the community. Several char-

itable organizations assembled In an extraordinary meeting at Mr. Go Id win Smith's residence, about the beginning of December, 1907, and adopted the following resolution :

1. That employees of labour are urged, in the name of fraternal spirit, to provide work for the greatest possible number, even if it were necessary to reduce every one's task to a half day's work-

2. That the municipal authorities are begged to give employment to the greatest possible number even if it is necessary to reduce the dav's work to every one-

3. That for public works that have not been awarded, the city should exact from the contractors that they employ by day work people of all nationalities-

4. That all those who have projected -work should endeavor to hasten their operations.

5. A delegation should wait upon the Board of Control asking to press the starting of projected public works-

6. That the government is requested to give without delay work on the Grand Trunk Pacific to as great a number as possible of immigrants-

7. That publicity be given that Toronto is congested with idlers, in order to prevent their increase in number-

8. That the Ontario government is requested to establish, without delay, an employment bureau-

X may also say that this memorandum, of which I have just given the substance to the House, shows what a burden upon local charities these immigrants have become, and what a tax they are upon citizens from a financial standpoint. I read the other day a very able article in the ' Globe,' covering about the same point I have been elucidating. The title of the article is ' Carefully selected immigrants.' The article deals with the economic aspect of tlie immigration question, and I will take the liberty of quoting a certain portion :

Indeed, the Canadian government have appointed over one hundred employment agents in the agricultural district of the province of Ontario, and are paying them out of public funds for the very purpose of obviating the necessity of a further influx to the large cities of those immigrants who claim that they are going on the land.

That is taken from a letter written by Mr. J. Obed Smith, Assistant Superintendent of Immigration for Canada in Loudon, in reply to a gentleman named Hamilton, of the Church Army, and transmitting to him the new regulations which the government is trying to put into force to prevent the entry into Canada of immigrants thrust upon us by charitable institutions. To give the House an idea of how these people become a charge upon the community I will just glance for a moment at a report prepared by tlie House of Industry of Toronto in which it is stated that they have furnished relief to 2,387 families during last year of whom 484 were recorded as being native-born. If Toronto has to provide for the 222$

relief of 2,387 families bow many others are there who are in need, but who have not made applicaion for assistance ? The report continues:

Despite the large arrivals of immigrants from southern Europe, comparatively few of them applied for assistance.

Another point that I wish to call the attention of the House to is one that has been brought forward by the hon. member lor Jacques Cartier, and it is one in regard to which the lion. Minister of the Interior has not given any answer. How can the government explain that from 1901 to 190C the settlers reported by the department as having been located in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are 200,000 to 250,000 short of the number which the immigration returns are supposed to have shown? That is a point that the minister has not touched.

Now, I wish to call the attention of the House to the objection which can be raised to this forced immigration system from the provincial standpoint. The immigration policy, as carried out by this government, results in increasing the population of the western provinces and in enhancing tlie value of land retained by the railway companies as well as by companies of tlie stamp of the Saskatchewan Valley Land company. it also increases tlie population of tlie province of Ontario who are supposed to take care of immigrants as soon as they arrive in the country and try to establish them on farms or secure positions for them in other walks of life. In Quebec, only a few years ago, we succeeded in getting one single agent appointed who was supposed, not to work for Quebec, but to try to augment the population of the eastern townships. I shall refer, at greater length to this gentleman in a few moments. I do not enunciate this opinion in any unwarranted manner. A few days ago my bon. friend from East Grey (Mr. Sproule) enquired of the government to what religious denominations different people holding offices under the government belonged. If we could rely on our English friends generally sharing the sentiment which was expressed in reply to that question by the lion. Minister of Railways and Canals (Mr. Graham) we, in Quebec, would entertain no fears that our prestige would suffer as a result of the policy of the immigration branch of the Department of the Interior. The idea of the preponderance of any one race in Canada is contrary to the spirit of the constitution which was framed for the purpose of maintaining the equilibrium between the different races inhabiting this country. Tlie question is brought up. not in a spirit of aggressiveness, but as a matter of self-defence, and it is a result of such racial appeals as that to which I shall now call tlie attention of the House. The Hon. Mr. Weir, who happens to hold an official position in tlie local government of Quebec,

speaking on the 18th July, 1907, before a Protestant synod, described the English depopulation of the province of Quebec as a national peril and suggested the establishment of an organization which would prevent rural property from passing out of English hands, Protestant ministers would, he said, advise this organization of the departure of an English farmer in order that he might be replaced by one of the same nationality. This could only be effected by immigration. Why not, Mr. Weir asked, direct towards the province of Quebec, a portion of that large English immigration wave bound for the west. What was the effect of this speech? The first practical result of this suggested policy for the English population of the eastern townships was the nomination of Mr. E. W. Brewster, the only immigration agent who performs duties corresponding to those of the 199 agents in Ontario. That shows you how fairly Quebec has been treated on this immigration question. When we pay 40 per cent of the money that the government collect in revenue we ought, at least, to get our fair share of the expenditure not only in public works but with regard to this question of immigration the object of which, according to certain officials, seems to be to maintain the preponderance of one nationality. One and a half years' work by Mr. Brewster resulted in the location of about 1,500 immigrants in the eastern part of the province of Quebec, known as the eastern townships. That is the figure as given by the Minister of the Interior on April 15. 1907, in answer to an inquiry. The basic policy is to strengthen the British element. This policy has already borne its fruit in as much as within the space of one year it has added 16 English ridings to confederation. In fifteen years we, of the province of Quebec, shall form one-tenth of the whole population of this country; in twenty years this policy if carried out, will have caused the placing of 1,000,000 English immigrants in the northern part of Quebec, and in twenty-five years the English element will have conquered the eastern townships. Our premier himself sees no difficulty in admitting that in a quarter of a century Canada will have a population of 30,000,000. Sandwiched between the English of the far west, the English of the eastern provinces, between the Americans massed to the south of us and the English established in the north all along the Transcontinental route what influence will we have on the destinies of the nation? They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Let us put this into practice. Now is the time to act. To-morrow it may be too late. What effect has this undesirable immigration upon us from a national standpoint? It will be necessary to notice the influence of immigration on the growth of population and to follow the ethnic changes which are being, wrought thereby. Equally important Mr. ROBITATLLE.

is it to observe the effect of immigration on the economic condition of the labouring classes in this country, whether it is made better or worse. In the same way it is advisable to study the influence of the newcomers on the ethical consciousness of the community, whether there is a gain or a loss to us. In short, we must set up our standard of what we desire this nation to be and then consider whether the policy we hitherto pursued in regard to immigration is calculated to maintain that standard or to endanger it. As to the character of the immigration I shall quote expressions of opinion from prominent Canadians, men who hold high position in the land and who can impartially view this question. I quote from Judge McMahon, who believes in securing immigrants that will be a credit to the country.

Mr. Justice McMahon, at the opening of the spring assizes yesterday, expressed his satisfaction that the duties of the grand iury would not he unusually onerous. But there was one matter which he brought to the jurymen's attention.

Dr. Clarice, superintendent of Toronto asylum, the judge said, stated recently : ' Of

362 admissions of lunatics last year 136 were foreign born, the majority recent arrivals. Those that the province will never get rid of amount to about 40. Each patient retained will cost the province $G.000.'

Sixty-five per cent of these weak-minded foreigners were afflicted with dementia proe-cox, the same form of insanity accredited to Harry K. Thaw. They were the failures sent from the old country by immigration companies to try and make good in Canada.'

The judge stated that the disease was usually contracted in early life and that 60 per cent of the cases became evident before the age of 25 years. 'We pay for immigration; then why not secure those who will be a credit to the country rather than a detriment to its progress ? '

Here is another quotation from a newspaper :

M. Regimbal, assistant agent of immigration for the district of Montreal, left for Portland last evening having in his charge 21 English immigrants who came from the west and who are to be deported. One of these is a lunatic, and the others have refused to do any work, and so are sent back to their country.

I do not mean to have it inferred by these quotations that by any means the entire immigration from England is undesirable, but I read them simply as a basis for my statement that no matter from what country people come they should be of a class calculated to advance the interests of Canada. I quote from Mr. Justice Lavergne who was at one time a law partner of the right lion, the Prime Minister, and who said :

For the last vear or so crime seems to have become epidemic among Italians of the lower classes. Men with the worst of records in

the old country invade out shores and lead here a life of crime.

Mr. Bruce Smith, inspector of prisons for Ontario, in his last annual report to the government, says :

Although the year closes with the largest number that have been in confinement in the jails of Ontario within the past twenty years, this increase is not due to any increase in crime in the province, but is largely due to Canada, and especially Ontario, being made the dumping ground during the past year of some most, undesirable immigrants. Every jail I have visited within the past six months has had among its prisoners persons who have been only a few months in this country. Some of them have spent most of their lives in English prisons. Several have admitted that they had been discharged by English magistrates on condition that they would emigrate to Canada. There must be something radically wrong with our immigration regulations that will permit such apparent neglect in the inspection of persons seeking and obtaining passage as immigrants to this country. The whole system of encouraging such people to seek a home in Canada is wrong, and the sooner the conditions complained of are recognized and changed the better.

These statements from men who are in a position to know show that undesirable immigrants are coming to our shores and that for the sake of gaining a few paltry dollars the immigrant agents are sending them here.

Let us look at this question from the economic standpoint. Economic well-being is a difficult thing for a nation to acquire, aud once acquired is too precious to give up without a struggle-once lost it may require generations to attain again even if the economic conditions are favourable. The standard of living in this country should be jealously guarded, so that our working classes should not either consciously or unconsciously lose it. It may be lowered in either of two ways. Excessive immigration may overstock the labour market and reduce wages ; or immigrants accustomed to fewer of the comforts of life may supplant the native workman. In either ease we have brought undue pressure to bear on the mass of the people and have forced them down to a lower level. We have substituted the lower for the higher and preferred that which is inferior. On this point I quote the following from the Toronto ' Globe ' of April the 17th :

If there is a great demand for men in Toronto when the seductive steamship agent is talking to the intending emigrant in London, it is no assurance that there will be any demand when the same emigrant reaches this city. Such instances go to show how widely the impression has been spread abroad and accepted that Canada is a country in which the laws of political economy have no existence.

Now, let us look at the question from the electoral standpoint. The continued addition to our electorate of hundreds of thousands of persons who have had no training in self-government, who have other and quite different state of action-will this not tend to weaken our political capacity and self-reliance ? Will it not also effect the adjustment of our institutions to our people. an adjustment which is so necessary if the institutions are to work successfully ?

If the new beam of our political life have neither the aspirations which our ancestors cherished, nor the experience which we have cherished, will not the homogeneousness of our social organizations he seriously imperilled ? A free ballot which was safe in the hands of our intelligent and self-respecting democracy is no longer safe in those of an ignorant and degraded proletariat. Will these alien races rule at the ballot box ? Will they govern our great cities ? What will be their rule ? Will their be the dominant church life ? What will he their faith ? Will their children determine our social and industrial conditions ? What will be their ideals and standards ? We must answer for all this. These immigrants are our raw material out of which we make our to-morrow. Canada welcomes the self-supporting, intelligent and healthy foreigners ; but unfortunately for the peace aud safety of well governed communities in this promising country of ours, a very large proportion of these now on the move cannot, even by courtesy or true sympathy, be placed under this classification. Patriotism, loyalty and other civic virtues are by the present immigration policy sinking to a low ebb. In conclusion, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to support the motion of my hon. friend (Mr. Monk)-1. Because the premiums are paid to other parties than for those intended by the regulations ; 2. Because a bonus incites greed of graft and thereby has forced upon us undesirable immigrants which inevitably shall lower our standard of ideals. To these immigrants I would apply the words of the poet :

Canada, charge not thv fate to these;

The power is ours to mold them or to mar,

But freedom's voice, far down the centuries.

Shall sound our choice from blazing star to star.

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April 22, 1908

Mr. L. ROBITAILLE (Quebec County).

I have listened with intense interest to the able remarks of the hon. member for Strath-cona (Mr. W. McIntyre). He seems, however. to be under a false impression in trying to make this House believe that we are against the development of the west. Such an idea would be far from our minds. We are delighted at the magnificent figures which have been given to show the development of the west, not only from a financial standpoint, but from the standpoint of national development as well. What we are against is the bringing to Canada by a system of bonus premiums of people who are undesirable not only for the west but for the east or any portion of Canada where they may establish themselves. The figures of development which he has just given to the House are not the basic argument upon which he should rely to prove the advisability of the bonus system, because from my observation during certain trips I have made to the west, we have there a large number of American citizens who have sold their lands in their own country and have come to Canada from the two Dakotas and Minnesota, bringing their children and their money and have planted themselves in the west, making in my estimation as high class citizens as any immigrants we could get by a bonus system. No bonus has been paid by the goverment on these immigrants and still we are glad to include in the statistics of our western development the magnificent result of their enterprise and skill.

The hon. member was very paternal in some remarks he made concerning my friend (Mr. Armand Lavergne), trying to teach him what broadmindedness was. It is very well to offer suggestions, but I think the best thing for the hon. member for Stratheona (Mr. W. McIntyre) and others to remember is that they should be broadminded first and that the west is not the only portion of the Dominion to be considered. Personally, I think if that broadmindedness in theory of which lie spoke had been put into practice last year we would not have had the position we have had of the promulgation of the English statute before the promulgation of the French statute. There are many other instances which I could cite in political history where that same broadmindedness has not been shown.

We demand the abolition of the bonus system because it is one of the most potent causes of the introduction into Canada of the undesirable element which it is generally admitted we have In Canada. Perhaps my words may not have much weight with the House, so I shall quote a statement given in 1902 by the present Minister of the Interior (Mr. Oliver) who said:

We have made an error in the past in paying 'large sums of money as premiums to navigation companies for the transportation of immigrants, because we transform there and thep the navigation companies into immigration agents, and the character of the immigrant, as well as his origin, is of no account so long as they obtain the premium. This system seems to me very undesirable and I would demand its abolition. Levying to navigation companies the task of inciting immigrants, means that a premium is given on the bad quality of immigrants rather than on the good.

That is exactly what we are asking. We claim that the system of premiums to-day, far from inducing the good and desirable class, forces on us the undesirable immigrant. Further on in 1903, the same gentleman stated :

Reference has been made, I believe, to the premium as a means of inducing immigration In my opinion, if ever that system has been necessary it is no longer necessary. The payment of premiums or commission tends to bring to us a class of people not the most desirable.

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