The New Commonwealth and New Canadians
Publication
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 8 Dec 1955, p. 136-145
Description
Creator
Pickersgill, Hon. John W., Speaker
Media Type
Text
Item Type
Speeches
Description
The speaker begins by recalling his last address two years ago. Starting today where he left off two years ago. The theme of the New Commonwealth—the Commonwealth Mackenzie King had such a large and decisive part in shaping—the New Commonwealth and New Canadians. An assumption that the older Canadians value and cherish the Commonwealth and Canada's membership in it. Questions posed, including: "But what about the newcomers who have settled in Canada in hundreds of thousands since the war? What is their attitude to the Commonwealth? What do they understand by the Commonwealth?" The importance to the future of Canada, even to the future of Toronto, of the answers to those questions. Toronto as a post-war Mecca for immigrants. Integrating these new settlers into our Canadian community. A description of Canada from "Foundations of Canadian Nationhood" by Prof. Chester Martin. Some British and Canadian history. The influence of English political institutions on Canada and Confederation. The Canadian Citizenship Act. The outward and visible signs that are first seen by newcomers. The importance of new Canadians understanding the true nature of Canada's association with the Commonwealth of today. The Commonwealth association as only part of Canada's association with the United Kingdom. Close relations between Canada and the United Kingdom. Intimacy based on community of interest, on common attachment to the same kind of political institutions, and on similarity of outlook. Canadians today that have no ancestors in the British Isles. How to bring new Canadians to share our pride as Canadians in belonging to the Commonwealth.
Date of Original
8 Dec 1955
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Language of Item
English
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Full Text
"THE NEW COMMONWEALTH AND NEW CANADIANS"
An Address by HON. JOHN W. PICKERSGILL, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Thursday, December 8th, 1955
CHAIRMAN: The Second Vice President, Lt.-Col. W. H. Montague.

LT.-COL. MONTAGUE: Our distinguished speaker was born in Ontario and educated in Manitoba. He graduated from the University of Manitoba as a B.A. in 1926securing his M.A. from the same university in 1927. He studied history at Oxford University from 1927 to 29 doing post-graduate work there and in Paris at intervals until 1937, when he entered the Civil Service of Canada on appointment to the Department of External Affairs at Ottawa. He was immediately attached to the office of the then Prime Minister, the late Right Honourable William Lyon Mackenzie King. He was appointed Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet in June 1952. Thus, at a comparatively early age, he had reached the top rungs of the civil service ladder.

Now when a prominent and highly successful business or professional man announces that he will offer himself as a candidate for a seat in the House of Commons - that's news! - most people realizing that his decision, if he is elected, will mean substantial financial sacrifices as it will be impossible for him to give other than very divided attention to his business or profession. On the other hand, defeat at the polls means taking up the reins where he left them.

But when a top flight member of the Civil Service of Canada announces that he will offer himself as a candidate for a seat in the House of Commons -that approaches the sensational!-as Section 55 of the Civil Service Act reads:

"55. (1) No deputy head, officer, clerk or employee in the Civil Service shall be debarred from voting at any Dominion or provincial election if, under the laws governing the said election, he has the right to vote; but no such deputy head, officer, clerk or employee shall engage in partisan work in connection with any such election, or contribute, receive or in any way deal with any money for any party funds.

(2) Any person violating any of the provisions of this section shall be dismissed from the Civil Service." There can be no part time performance as a civil serv

ant turned politician. Thus the die has been cast in favour of greater service to the nation-in the legislative field rather than in the administrative - but always subject to the will of the electors.

It is just over two years since our Speaker made such an important decision - important to Canada and, certainly, important to him.

It is just about two years ago to the day that as Secretary of State for Canada he addressed the Empire Club in these surroundings.

Now he comes to us as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, since July 1954, and will deal with the subject "The New Commonwealth and New Canadians."

With respectful pride I present the Hon. John Whitney Pickersgill, P.C., M.P., for the Newfoundland riding of Bonavista-Twillingate.

HON. J. W. PICKERSGILL: It is just two years since the Empire Club of Toronto had me as its guest for the first time. On that occasion, I spoke on the theme "Mr. Mackenzie King and the Development of the Commonwealth." I came here with some apprehension that my first appearance might be my last, and I am really flattered that the Empire Club should have invited me for a second time.

I want to start today where I left off two years ago. My theme is the New Commonwealth-the Commonwealth Mackenzie King bad such a large and decisive part in shaping the New Commonwealth and New Canadians.

I dare say some of you may have wondered what real connection there is between the two halves of my subject. It is reasonable to assume that the older Canadians value and cherish the Commonwealth and Canada's membership in that unique association of free nations. That is certainly true of the members of the Empire Club. But what about the newcomers who have settled in Canada in hundreds of thousands since the war? What is their attitude to the Commonwealth? What, indeed, do they understand by the Commonwealth? The answers to those questions are important to the future of Canada - and even to the future of Toronto.

Toronto, you know, has been the mecca of our postwar immigrants. I estimate that about one person in every eight in Metropolitan Toronto is either a post-war immigrant or the child of a post-war immigrant. You in Toronto, and all of us in Canada, have a stupendous task before us in integrating these new settlers into our community life. And that task will be all the harder because we must keep up the flow into Canada of this stream of new settlers, if this country is to go on with the dynamic development we have enjoyed in the past ten years.

But, if we are going to integrate these new settlers into our Canadian community, if we are going to make them Canadians, we have first to make them understand what kind of country Canada is, what kind of institutions we have and what kind of relationships we have with the rest of the world. And, historically at least, the most important of our relationships with the rest of the world is our association with the Commonwealth. As I reminded you when I spoke here two years ago, Mackenzie King was convinced that, for Canada, association in the Commonwealth could survive only if each nation of the Commonwealth had complete freedom to make its own decisions on a basis which would leave no doubt of the constitutional equality of all members of the Association. And it was because he insisted on this conception of Commonwealth that a united Canada stood at the side of Britain in September of 1939.

The other day I came across a speech delivered by my friend, Mr. G. V. Ferguson, the Editor of the Montreal Star, to the Canadian Society of New York on Empire Day, 1951. "A few years ago,"' Mr. Ferguson said in that speech, "I would have found it hard to believe that I would find myself extolling Mackenzie King as an Empire Builder." But he felt justified in using that description because, as he said, though Mackenzie King's policy was not one of narrow, unquestioning loyalty to the British Crown, "it was a policy which never denied the real essentials of imperial co-operation. Mr. King forced open the door which led to the creation of the Fourth British Empire - the Commonwealth of the London Declaration of 1949, the Declaration which made the reconstruction possible of the political association of peoples who, in other circumstances, would have drifted hopelessly apart." Far from driving the nations of the Commonwealth apart, our whole Canadian constitutional evolution has had the opposite effect.

My old teacher, Professor Chester Martin, in his recent book "Foundations of Canadian Nationhood" has put it very well in these words: "Canada has emerged by evolution from the second empire, after historic passages of political conflict but with parliamentary government fortified by British precedents and so charged by common traditions and practice that she remains in association with kindred nations of the British Commonwealth in every quarter of the world. It can scarcely be denied that the method itself determined function as well as form; for if the high road of revolution led to isolation, the low road of evolution led to association. Canada assuredly did not reach nationhood first (that is before the United States) but the record would seem to show that she reached it in the end by a process which kept her more closely in association with world forces of peace and freedom, and left her for nearly a generation before the outbreak of war in 1939 much nearer to an international world order." And it was assuredly the conception of equality and the association founded on a common conviction of common interest that held the Commonwealth together in the terrible testing period from 1939 to 1945. And it is surely the common interest in achieving, in concert with other nations, an international world order based on peace and justice that is the abiding bond of the new Commonwealth of these post-war years.

It is nearly half a century since Sir Winston Churchill said that the British Empire represents more than any other similar organization had ever represented, "the peaceful co-operation of all sorts of men in all sorts of countries and . . . . it is, in that respect at least, a model of what we hope the whole world will some day become." Pride in our association in that kind of Commonwealth is something all Canadians, old and new can share equally. The struggle between two different conceptions-the conception of Empire and the conception of Commonwealth -goes right back to the very beginning of the history of Canada as a British Community.

When my ancestors crossed the Niagara River after the American Revolution, they settled in a colony in the backwoods of North America in which the first Governor, Simcoe, tried consciously to establish a society constructed in the image of the aristocratic society of eighteenth century England; a colony which was to be a little England overseas. For the most part that experiment was a failure. Simcoe's squirearchy never really took root, and his established church was never established in the minds of the people. But one English export did flourish in this new environment. In 1791, the new province of Upper Canada was endowed with representative political institutions and the Upper Canadians took to politics, if I dare use the homely simile, like ducks to water.

And it is obvious that, if. English political institutions had not been established successfully in the Canadian provinces, there could have been no Canadian Confederation and no Canadian nation as we know it today. And if there had been no Canadian nation there would have been no Commonwealth as we know it. For the real germ of the modern Commonwealth is Responsible Government as our Canadian forebears worked it out here on Canadian soil. And in working out Responsible Government, the Canadians of a century ago also learned that Canadians were not just Englishmen overseas.

You all remember that after the rebellion of 1837, Lord Durham was sent out from England to prescribe a cure for the ills of the Canadian provinces. Durham's prescription was to unite the two Canadian provinces into one, with only one official language, and with the deliberate intention of turning the French-speaking inhabitants into Englishmen. But, in order to turn the French Canadians into Englishmen, and in order to keep Upper Canada within the British Empire, Lord Durham also recommended that the people of the new united province of Canada, like the people of England, should, in all domestic matters, be allowed to govern themselves, and that the executive authority in the province should be responsible to the elected assembly. In other words, Durham recommended what the Canadian and the Nova Scotian reformers had been demanding and what we have ever since called Responsible Government.

Now the union of 1841, which Lord Durham had recommended, was the real beginning of the Canadian nation, but it did not take the Parliament of the new Province of Canada long to decide that one of Lord Durham's prescriptions would never work. French-speaking Canadians just could not be turned into Englishmen. And that is why, with rare political wisdom, the Canadian Provincial Parliament with an English-speaking majority seized the first opportunity to restore to the French-speaking minority in that Parliament the right to use their language as one of the official languages of Canada. That action laid the real cornerstone of the Canadian nation.

In the quarter century between the union of 1841 and Confederation, the people of Upper Canada and the people of Lower Canada began to accept the fact that French-speaking Canadians and English-speaking Canadians were going to go on living in these two provinces side by side for so far ahead as one could look, and that each group would continue to speak its own language and maintain its own culture and traditions. That was the first and perhaps the hardest lesson we Canadians had to learn if we were to have a united Canadian nation. But if one of Lord Durham's prescriptions failed to work there was no doubt about the success of the other.

After the first shock to the old Family Compact, Responsible Government was accepted by all Canadians. And as the Reformers like Robert Baldwin had always maintained, once the Canadians gained the right to manage their own public affairs for themselves, there would be no further desire in any part of Canada to end the British connection. And we have maintained the British connection only because there was no further attempt to limit our right to manage our domestic affairs; and because, after Confederation, as Professor Creighton shows in his new book "John A. Macdonald-The Great Chieftain," the public men of Canada promptly set about achieving Responsible Government for Canadians in our external affairs. Canadians of British descent, precisely because they are of British descent, simply had to govern themselves. But our Canadian national sentiment might have developed side by side with a traditional loyalty to Empire based on blood and race, much as national sentiment has in New Zealand, if our Canadian historical development had not been so very different from New Zealand which, in many ways, could remain a Britain overseas.

From the time British Columbia entered Confederation in 1871 we Canadians have had the gigantic task of creating a single united community out of a small scattered population spread thinly for four thousand miles across a continent; and living constantly in the shadow of the most dynamic nation in the modern world. Even today we have barely completed the process of making Canadians, spread thinly across half a continent, feel they are really one people with only one homeland. The unity of the country was still largely formal at the turn of the present century, when the Western plains were opened up for mass settlement not merely from the older parts of Eastern and Central Canada, but from every country in Europe. Without the settlers from Ontario and Quebec and the Maritime Provinces who went west early in the twentieth century, there could have been no enduring Canada from sea to sea.

Even as it was, the newcomers from the continent of Europe - the Germans and the Scandinavians and the Slavs - came so quickly and in such large numbers that many of the older Canadians of a generation ago sometimes doubted whether so mixed and apparently so incoherent a society could be transformed into a really united political and social community. But most of the newcomers were adaptable people and there were enough older Canadians from the east to provide a Canadian background and to serve as the bond to keep the west and the east united as one country.

We did not succeed in turning the Icelanders and the Germans and the Ukrainians and the Poles into Englishmen, or Scots or Irishmen, but they did become Canadians; and the present generation in the west is just as proud of Canada, and just as much attached to Canada, as the farmers of Quebec who have lived for three centuries on the same piece of land, or as my cousins in Norfolk County who are still farming the Loyalist grants they received before the end of the eighteenth century. Though the settlers of the west did not become Englishmen, they have become attached to our heritage of English political institutions, to our heritage of British justice, just as they have also learned to cherish the Canadian tradition of live and let live which is the foundation of our national partnership. We older Canadians are inclined to take for granted this gradual evolution of Canada from a colonial relationship to a partnership with Great Britain as equal member nations of the Commonwealth; but that evolution is not always understood outside Canada, and it is often misunderstood by the newcomers to Canada.

Now, as you know, I have a special responsibility as Minister of Citizenship to encourage and assist the newcomers to become citizens of our country, and it is not easy to be a good citizen without first understanding the nature of our citizenship. For the newcomers it is really necessary to define many things that we older Canadians are able to take for granted, and that some of us would perhaps rather not define. When a newcomer becomes a citizen of Canada, we ask him to renounce his former citizenship. To give up the citizenship in which one was born and reared should be a hard step for anyone to take, and no one wants to take it unless he is convinced that he is acquiring something of greater value to him and his children in his new citizenship.

At the close of the last war, most of us had reached the conclusion that the status of British subject was no longer precise enough to define our status as Canadians and that is why, in 1946, Parliament enacted the Canadian Citizenship Act. Canadian citizenship today is something we are all proud of, but it is specially important to the newcomers who want to feel that in giving up their allegiance to their old country they are becoming members of a new community. It is true that, under our law a Canadian citizen is also a British subject; and that no doubt helps to emphasize our continuing association in the Commonwealth. But it is interesting to note that, in 1948, the United Kingdom found it desirable to follow our example and establish a United Kingdom citizenship by an Act of Parliament based largely on our Canadian Citizenship Act.

Now, we all know that external, symbolic things do not make a nation-they are only the outward and visible signs that a nation exists. But we should not forget that it is outward and visible signs that are what the newcomers see first before they begin to penetrate into the spirit of the new nation. That, I believe, is why all parties in Parliament welcomed the change in the Royal Style and Titles which was made before the present Queen was crowned: a change which resulted for the first time in our Sovereign being officially described as the Queen of Canada. For the New Canadians particularly the fact that Her Majesty is recognized by name as the Queen of Canada helps them to appreciate the true nature of our institutions. And it is important that the new Canadians should understand the true nature of Canada's association with the Commonwealth of today.

As I said when I spoke to you two years ago, no one knew better than Mackenzie King that, for fifty per cent of Canadians, Britain was not and could not be a Mother Country in the sense she can be for those of us of British descent. We simply cannot expect those whose ancestors came from other lands to respond to the mother and daughter concept of Empire. The Commonwealth of today is a very different thing from the British Empire of 1867 and even from the British Commonwealth of 1926. In 1955 the vast majority of the people in the Commonwealth are Asians. And two of these Asian members of the Commonwealth are republics. Yet no one doubts that the Commonwealth still exists and that it is still a powerful influence in world affairs. The Commonwealth association is, of course, only part of our association with the United Kingdom.

As this country has grown into nationhood, the direct relations between Canada and the United Kingdom, in almost every sphere, have become closer. We have been comrades in arms in the two greatest wars in history. We are partners in peace. We are allies in the North Atlantic Alliance, and it is impossible to doubt that, in a shrinking world, our association will continue to be closer and closer. But that intimacy of association is based far more on community of interest, on common attachment to the same kind of political institutions, and on similarity of outlook than it is upon the relics of a former imperial relationship.

I have already reminded you that more than half the Canadian people today had no ancestors in the British Isles and they cannot be expected to have any attachment to Great Britain based on racial memories or family traditions. Yet the vast majority of these Canadians are attached, and each generation more deeply attached, to our British political institutions. And it is these British institutions and British traditions that we have naturalized here in Canada, that have become part of our environment, that we want all Canadians, whatever their origins, to cherish. I am convinced that it is only through devotion to Canada, to Canadian institutions and Canadian associations, that will bring the new Canadians to share our pride, as Canadians, in belonging to that unique and beneficent world-wide comity of nations which is our Commonwealth.

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The New Commonwealth and New Canadians


The speaker begins by recalling his last address two years ago. Starting today where he left off two years ago. The theme of the New Commonwealth—the Commonwealth Mackenzie King had such a large and decisive part in shaping—the New Commonwealth and New Canadians. An assumption that the older Canadians value and cherish the Commonwealth and Canada's membership in it. Questions posed, including: "But what about the newcomers who have settled in Canada in hundreds of thousands since the war? What is their attitude to the Commonwealth? What do they understand by the Commonwealth?" The importance to the future of Canada, even to the future of Toronto, of the answers to those questions. Toronto as a post-war Mecca for immigrants. Integrating these new settlers into our Canadian community. A description of Canada from "Foundations of Canadian Nationhood" by Prof. Chester Martin. Some British and Canadian history. The influence of English political institutions on Canada and Confederation. The Canadian Citizenship Act. The outward and visible signs that are first seen by newcomers. The importance of new Canadians understanding the true nature of Canada's association with the Commonwealth of today. The Commonwealth association as only part of Canada's association with the United Kingdom. Close relations between Canada and the United Kingdom. Intimacy based on community of interest, on common attachment to the same kind of political institutions, and on similarity of outlook. Canadians today that have no ancestors in the British Isles. How to bring new Canadians to share our pride as Canadians in belonging to the Commonwealth.