CANADIAN IMMIGRATION POLICY
AN ADDRESS BY
HUGH LLEWELLYN KEENLEYSIDE, M.A., Ph.D., LL.D., F.R.Hist.S.
Chairman: The President, Mr. Thos. H. Howse
Thursday, February 3rd, 1949
HONOURED GUESTS AND GENTLEMEN
During the last few months I have read one or two articles dealing with the food situation, in which the writer forecast that at the present rate of increase in population, accompanied by a decrease in the productivity of the soil, the world would be over-populated in the not too distant future.
Personally, I have every confidence that the ingenuity of man will meet that situation when the time comes. However, this thought led me to a contemplation of the distribution of the population of the world at large and this is what I find.
The population, per square mile, of some of our neighbours, is as follows:
Japan - 496
China - 105
India - 246
Soviet Union - 21
United States - 45
Great Britain - 507
Canada - 3 1/2
- and exclusive of the Territories, 5
as per Canada Year Book--1947.
These are significant figures, gentlemen, which tell their own story and bring into focus a problem which in my humble judgment should be outside the realm of politics-is it not a matter of self preservation?
It is therefore with great interest that today we welcome as our guest speaker, Dr. Hugh L. Keenleyside, Deputy Minister of Mines and Resources, the title of whose address will be "Canadian Immigration Policy."
Dr. Keenleyside was born in Toronto but received his education in British Columbia, where he graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1920. He had a brilliant scholastic career and spent some time as a lecturer at his Alma Mater.
In 1928 he entered the Department of External Affairs and went to the Canadian Legation in Tokyo as First Secretary; he remained in Japan until 1936,
In 1941 he became Assistant Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs and in 1944 he went to Mexico as Canadian Ambassador,
Returning to Canada in 1947, Dr, Keenleyside received his present appointment.
He has served on numerous international Councils and Commissions, and is the author of two books.
It now affords me very great pleasure to introduce Dr. H. L. Keenleyside, M.A., Ph.D., LL.D., F.R.Hist.S.
There has recently been a good deal of public discussion in Canada about the role of the civil servant in our governmental system. As a member of the federal public service, therefore, I should like to preface what I shall say by a brief definition of the terms on which I appear before you. My views as to the duty of the civil servant may be summarized as follows
Before the Government decides on a specific policy or a particular course of action, it is the duty of the officials of the departments or agencies concerned to advise the Minister or the Government and to recommend the course of action which they consider most likely to be of general public benefit.
This advice may or may not be accepted; the recommendation may or may not be adopted. The decision is not the responsibility o f the civil servant but o f the Minister or the Government.
When a policy has been adopted it is the duty of the civil servant to carry out that policy, within the limits of his particular function, to the best of his ability. He should not publicly criticize the Government's policy; nor should he give it public praise. In response to enquiries or on other appropriate occasions he should describe, define or clarify the policy if that is part of the duty of his post. Otherwise he should confine himself to the anonymous and efficient execution of that part of the policy that has been assigned to him.
It is within the bounds of this definition of the proper duty of a civil servant that I shall now proceed to the discussion of Canadian Immigration Policy.
In view of the reputation of the people of my natal city for piety and propriety, it would, I believe, be advisable to start with a text. Fortunately such a text is readily at hand. Speaking in the House of Commons on the 1st of May, 1947, the then Prime Minister, the Right Honourable W. L. Mackenzie King, gave a clear and specific definition of the policy of his Government in relation to immigration. Mr. King's statement can be summarized in the following terms
First: Canada needs population and the national growth can be stimulated by an active immigration policy. The number of immigrants, however, must be related to the absorptive capacity of the country.
Second: There is no intention of allowing mass immigration to make a fundamental change in the character of the Canadian population. In consequence, Asiatic immigrants must continue to be barred except in certain particular cases. At the same time the Canadian Government will be prepared to enter into special arrangements with any country "for the control of the admission of immigrants on a basis of complete equality and reciprocity."
Third: During the depression and the war, immigration was inevitably restricted; now the categories of admissible persons have been considerably widened. Special steps will also be taken to provide for the admission of carefully selected immigrants from among the Displaced Persons of Europe.
Before proceeding to a discussion of each of these points I should say a word about the legal basis of the immigration policy,
Immigration into Canada is controlled by the terms of the Immigration Act, and of the Regulations made in accordance with the provisions of that Act. The Act does not guarantee to anyone the right of admission as an immigrant. This is a privilege, not a right. On the other hand, the Act does define certain prohibited classes, including persons suffering from some forms of mental or physical ailment, criminals, advocates of the use of force or violence against organized government, spies, illiterates and others. Persons within these prohibited classes cannot be admitted to Canada as immigrants except by Act o f Parliament
I have said that the Immigration Act does not define the classes or categories of persons who are admissible to Canada as immigrants. That definition is to be found in the Regulations made under the Act by Order-in-Council. To place such a list in the text of the Act itself would make exceptions impossible, save by legislation, and thus render the whole administration so inflexible as to be practically unworkable. In view of the fact that most of the persons who are inadmissible are placed in that category by Order-in-Council, the Government may, of course, provide at its discretion, also by Order-in-Council, for the entry of such persons. This action is taken frequently-usually on humanitarian grounds.
This is the legal framework within which the immigration policy is carried into effect.
Let us now return to the three headings under which I have summarized Mr. King's description of Canadian Immigration policy, The first summary was
Canada needs population and the national growth can be stimulated by an active immigration policy. The number of immigrants, however, must be related to the absorptive capacity of the country.
There are two major considerations that support the belief that an increased population for Canada is desirable. The first is defence--not only, or even primarily, military defence but rather the defence of moral justification and intellectual and social independence. If Canada is to be secure in the retention of its rich and varied heritage, if it is to justify this retention on either practical or ethical grounds, a larger population is essential, But it is necessary to provide a defence not only against the moral condemnation of less favored nations, and not only against the possibilities of external aggression, but also against the loss of the Canadian identity in the larger American community through a more extreme disparity in size between Canada and our great southern neighbour. Canada is Canadian, not American. In spite of our friendship and admiration for the United States, we believe that Canadian life has values of its own which would be lost by absorption in the great Republic.
Another reason for the fostering of immigration is the effect that a larger, population would have in reducing the burden of our transportation system and our other facilities which geographic and political factors have expanded and which sparsity of population has kept uneconomic. The Canadian railway network for instance could serve a population much larger than that of today. The same thing is true of our broadcasting installations and other facilities for communication, an enlarged population would erase deficits, or at worst, make them easier to carry, The same argument might be applied to the weight of our political institutions. The present number of legislatures, and even of civil servants (!), could undoubtedly service a larger community.
But the Prime Minister also said that the number of immigrants admitted to Canada should be closely related to the absorptive capacity of this country. What is that absorptive capacity. That is a 64 thousand dollar question! To the naive and impulsive observer the problem of Canadian immigration is a relatively simple matter. His conclusions are based directly on the ratio between area and population.
Canada has a land area of 3 and one-half million square miles; it has a population of approximately 13 million persons. The ratio is about three persons to the square mile. On the other hand the United Kingdom has a population of 507 persons to the square mile. Adapting the British ratio to the Canadian area (with allowance for the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions) Canada "should" have a population well in the hundreds of millions. Therefore, any official policy that aims at anything much less than this is uninspired, if not actively obstructive! This kind of argument is simple, easy to understand and has an appealing logic. But it also requires a simple mind to accept it, The land-population ratio is certainly one factor in the definition of absorptive capacity, but it is a factor of relatively minor importance.
It would be physically possible to put fifty million people into Western Canada. It is conceivable that by adopting intensive methods and relying upon subsistence agriculture this number of people might be kept alive. But this kind of oriental over-population must, of necessity, be accompanied by an oriental standard of living-so long a agriculture is the basis o f the economy. We can have fifty million people between Winnipeg and Vancouver-if we are content to have these people living like the peasantry of the more depressed parts of China.
In trying to define the absorptive capacity of Canada there are factors of much greater importance than the mere superficial area of the country, Among these are the nature, distribution, availability, and marketability of our natural resources. Under efficient modern methods of cultivation it takes about 320 acres of average wheat land to provide a decent living for a Canadian family. A mine covering a tenth of that area might provide incomes for a thousand families not to mention all those engaged in the subsidiary services that would be required to meet their domestic and public needs,
A second factor is the knowledge of effective techniques of extraction, processing, and distribution, New processes are constantly being developed (often by scientists in the service of the federal and provincial governments) which enable Canadians successfully to exploit mineral and other resources that would otherwise lie idle, The tar sands of the Mackenzie Valley are a case in point. Here science will one day provide an economic solution which will make available what is probably the largest oil reserve in the world.
The existence of large accumulations of capital available for investment is another important factor in the development of the Canadian domain and consequently in the absorptive capacity of the nation. The existence of a resource, the availability of labour, the technical knowledge required for its development, will not alone suffice. Capital is also essential. In the case of the phenomenal iron deposits of Labrador, for example, something over 100 million dollars will have to be spent before a single ton of ore is shipped to the smelters.
Finally, reference should be made to a fourth factor which because of its effect on the processes of internal development has a significant influence on the absorptive capacity of the nation. This last factor is the quality of the present population--quality measured in terms of character, education, philosophy. A nation of thieves, a nation of illiterates, a nation of lotus-eaters, would not be further immigrants. An active co-operative population of high educational standards, guided by a philosophy that, with proper safeguards, places the welfare of the community above that of the individual, can be expected to make a greater success of its national business than would a society that lacks these qualities. There is a direct line of cause and effect from high educational standards through an intelligent exploitation of resources to an increased capacity to absorb immigrants,
What, then, is the absorptive capacity of Canada today? The answer is that no one knows. There is no means of measuring it.
There are, however, a few facts that can be used to advantage in the consideration of this problem.
It is quite clear that the modern, industrialized, expanding economy of Canada in these post-war years is far more capable of receiving and employing immigrants than has ever before been the case in the national history, except perhaps for a few short years when the western prairies were first being opened to general settlement. The distinctive characteristic of Canada today is a factory, not a farm.
During the war Canadians proved that they could produce manufactured articles of a variety and a quality that far surpassed anything previously attempted or imagined. Much has been heard of the great speed with which the phenomenal American, Mr. Henry Kaiser, turned out vessels for the wartime demands of the United States. Yet we in Canada had a shipyard that built better ships, at lower cost, and in a shorter time! Many of the best gun-barrels used by the allied forces were made in Canada, and optical glass which we had never previously attempted was made to the finest specifications of the trade. It is time that we got over our sheepish assumption that Americans or Englishmen, can do everything better than we can. It is not true,
Many of our wartime innovations--these discoveries of our own abilities-will enable Canada to compete more effectively in the world of post-war trade. Canada is now primarily an industrial nation. And the history of industrialization shows a record of rapidly increasing population.
The second point made by Mr. King was summarized as follows
There is no intention o f allowing mass immigration to make a fundamental change in the character of the Canadian population, In consequence, Asiatic immigrants must continue to be barred except in certain particular cases. At the same time the Canadian Government will be prepared to enter into special arrangements with any country "for the control of the admission of immigrants on a basis of complete equality and reciprocity."
At the present time the only persons of Asiatic racial origin who are admissible to Canada are the wives and minor children of Canadian citizens, The reasons for objecting to an unrestricted, or even a large, movement of Oriental immigrants are obvious in the light of the difficulties of assimilation and integration that have already been experienced with even a relatively small movement of such persons, If the barriers against Asiatic immigration were removed there is not the least doubt that there would be a tremendous influx of immigrants from the depressed lands of the middle and far east, This movement would certainly result in "a fundamental change in the character of the Canadian population," At the same time it would do little if anything to solve the population problems of such countries as China and Japan. The children born in China in one week would fill every passenger liner on the Pacific Ocean for a year. The solution for the Oriental population problem--if there is a solution-must be found in other ways.
The third heading of my summary was the following
During the depression and the war immigration was inevitably restricted; now the categories of admissible persons have been considerably widened. Special steps will be taken to provide for the admission o f carefully selected immigrants from among the Displaced Persons of Europe.
In line with this policy the Canadian government since the conclusion of hostilities, has taken the following steps
A. The Immigration Service, reduced to minor proportions during- the years of depression and war, has been strengthened and revitalized until now it is a strong and efficient instrument of government policy. Incidentally, some of the best of our new officials have been recruited from among our compatriots of French racial origin.
B. Regulations have been changed with the result that barriers against British immigrants from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, against French-born immigrants from France, and against immigrants f rom the United States have been reduced to the bare minimum of good health, the absence of obviously subversive political views, and reasonable evidence of capacity for personal maintenance and adjustment.
C. The list of admissible relatives of legal residents of Canada has been extended to include everyone closer than a cousin-cousin is such an elastic term! It also includes persons (of either sex) engaged to marry the residents who make application for their admission. Previously the man could send for his girl; now the girl has the right to import her prospective husband.
D. Special provision has been made for the entrance of 40,000 persons, who were not otherwise admissible, from the Displaced Persons camps of Europe. D.P. relatives of persons already resident in Canada are, of course, outside the quota, Thus on the present basis Canada's ultimate contribution to the solution of this problem may involve the movement of something like 100,000 D.P.'s.
In connection with the movement of D.P.'s it is well to remind ourselves that the Canadian government took the initiative among overseas countries in acting to ameliorate this concentration of human misery. Not only did this country act first, without waiting for a general international agreement, but for many months Canada was admitting more D.P.'s than all other non-European countries combined. Our total is still considerably higher than that of any country outside Europe, including the United States. This is a fact that should be recalled when the real or alleged programs of other countries are published in the press to the disadvantage of our own contribution.
Exceptional difficulties have been encountered in carrying through some aspects of the post-war Canadian policy. Apart from the movement of D.P.'s, immigration from continental Europe has been almost impossible. East of the red curtain drawn across the continent by the fanatical devotees of the Communist religion the totalitarian governments do not readily permit their people to leave--except under circumstances which make the immigrant a rather dubious asset from the point of view of the receiving country.
In Western Europe also, certain countries, notably France, do not permit emigration except in special cases. Even in Great Britain the government is not anxious to have its people leave, although, holding fast to its tradition of personal liberty, it has made no effort to stop those who decide to go. Many citizens of the United Kingdom, however, feel that it is their patriotic duty to remain in their native land and help in the valiant effort that the British people are making to overcome the gravest economic problems that their embattled islands have ever had to face. Under such circumstances the Canadian government, while providing facilities for the admission of persons from the British Isles, believes that any high-powered immigrant recruiting campaign in the United Kingdom would be in bad taste at this time. This restraint has been recognized and has been the subject of appreciative comment in Great Britain.
In addition to these difficulties another great obstacle to the flow of immigrants from overseas has been the shortage of transport. In pre-war days there was an aver age of fourteen or fifteen passenger liners on regular service between European and Canadian ports. During a large part of 1947 there was one, and at the end of 1948 there were only two I.R.O. ships, carrying D.P.'s exclusively, and four passenger liners.
The Canadian government paid three hundred thousand dollars to convert a German prize vessel for immigrant service, and the "Beaverbrae" is now sailing regularly between Halifax and Bremerhaven-with priorities on its western voyages being given to the relatives of persons resident in Canada. In addition the government paid the Cunard Line a considerable sum to keep the "Aquitania" in the Atlantic service throughout 1948. Other vessels are slowly coming into this trade, and it is hoped that something approaching normal conditions will prevail by the end of 1949. Finally the government entered into an agreement with the Trans-Canada Air Lines by which ten thousand additional air passages are being made available on chartered planes between the first of May, 1948 and the 31st of March, 1949.
Turning now from a description of the Canadian policy, may I say just a word about its results? These can be summarized as follows
Total immigration to Canada which sank to less than 11,500 during the depression (1935), and to less than 7,500 at one stage during the war (1942), has grown since the ending of hostilities in Europe in the following manner
Calendar year 1946- 25,640 plus 46,000 war brides
" " 1947- 64,127 dependents of returning Canadian servicemen.
" " 1948-123,000 (approximately)
An analysis of the immigration figures for the fiscal year 1947-48 gives some interesting information.
Of all the immigrants who entered Canada, 2900 gave Continental Europe as their last place of permanent residence; 53% came from the British Isles; 11% from the United States; and other countries accounted for the remaining 7%.
(ii) The destination of these immigrants in Canada was as follows: 5% went to the Maritimes; 16% to Quebec; 54% to Ontario; 12% to the Prairie Provinces; and 13% to British Columbia, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories.
(iii) D.P.'s constituted 180/0 of the total immigrant movement.
(iv) It is sometimes charged that the D.P. policy unduly favours or discriminates against certain racial groups. The facts disprove this charge. Of the many nationalities that were included in the move of D.P.'s up to March 31, 1948, the larger groups were: Polish, 25%; Ukrainian, 23%; Hebrew, 16%; Lithuanian, 14%; Latvian, 6%; Dutch, 5%; others 11%.
In contrast to the experience of earlier years it is interesting to note that there has been little organized opposition to the current expansion of the movement of immigrants to Canada. Certain sections of the country which have traditionally looked critically on any substantial movement of this character have voiced little opposition during the last two years. The same has also been true of the organized labour movement which has helped rather than endeavoured to hinder the admission of new Canadians, particularly the D.P.'s. This is especially creditable because the D.P.'s do come into competition with certain labour groups, although fortunately there is work enough for all in most parts of Canada today.
Actually the only trades unions that have strongly opposed the admission of competitive D.P.'s have been the medical and dental professions-although this does not, of course, represent the attitude of all Canadian doctors and dentists. There has also been persistent and organized opposition from certain Communist groups.
So much for the Government's policy and its current results. What are the prospects for the future?
The movement of immigrants to Canada will always, of course, be conditioned by the state of international relations. If the criminal insanity of war is again allowed to take control of human affairs, immigration will be one of the first casualties.
Moreover, the Canadian economy is still very largely dependent upon international trade, and a prolonged continuation of the present chaos in this field will so affect our national welfare that we shall lose much of our ability successfully to absorb those who wish to come from other lands to find new homes in Canada. The maintenance of conditions approximating full employment is a prerequisite to a healthy movement of population. An expanding economy at home is the surest guarantee of an expanding movement of immigrants from abroad, There must be jobs or there will be few immigrants.
Over a longer period there is, in my mind, no doubt as to the future. Canada is at last on the verge of a period of vast development. Canadians are now ready for the responsibilities of a great nation.
Psychologically we have lost the inferiority complex that used to find expression in a colonial subservience towards Britain or a constant sneering criticism of the United States.
Economically we have shown that we can compete on equal terms not only in the production of wheat and lumber but in the most intricate processes of industry and commerce.
Our potential resources are no longer a matter of faith and hope-today, in the light of developments in Quebec, Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories and above all, in Alberta, we know that we have a sound basis for a splendid future.
Our political and judicial institutions have been tested and have proved their adaptability and their strength. Socially, in the fields of education, scientific research, the care for human welfare, the development of the arts, the recognition of the dignity of labour, we have established a record which, with all its imperfections, is something on which we can base a fair hope for the future. Above all we can rely upon ourselves-upon the people of Canada. This beautiful but hard land has not been won by weaklings. The pioneers of New France, of Acadia, of Upper Canada, of the great West, and now of the stirring North, were and are men and women of quality, of strength and character. The record of our armed forces in two world wars has given final proof of this quality.
We are citizens of no mean country. Without boastfulness or arrogance we can take a modest but warming pride in our past and present achievements and look with confidence to a future of continued progress at home, and hope for co-operation abroad from all countries and peoples of good will.
In 1905 Sir Wilfred Laurier said that as the 19th Century had been the century of the United States, so the 20th Century will be the century of Canada. So far that prophecy has not been fulfilled. But when, 51 years from today, our sons and daughters look back on the century that will then have ended, I believe that they will say that Sir Wilfred spoke more truly than he knew.