Can Canada Do Without the Immigrant?
Here is an observer who thinks this country has been wrong in trying to import population. He believes we would be better off if we all answered “YES” to the question:
A. R. M. LOWER
THIS article was designed as an attempt to clear away some of the mist that hangs about the allimportant topic of immigration. It is an examination of the loose generalities and empty shibboleths which for time out of mind have done duty as the basis of the country’s immigration policy. It is in particular a direct denial of the widely held assumption that immigration is necessary to increase the population of this country. It will seek to prove that the rate of growth of the population of Canada is not subject to much control, that immigration for the most part contributes strikingly little to that rate of growth, and that the whole organized attempt, governmental and private, to induce immigration is, lock, stock and barrel, a waste of good money and from the national point of view not beneficial but exceedingly harmful. It will endeavor to show that not only has the country never succeeded in keeping more than a fraction of the immigrants who have been brought here, but also that those who have stayed have been turned into citizens at a cost great to themselves and unnecessary to the nation.
Dealing with our chronic bugbear, emigration to the United States, it will seek to demonstrate that immigration of whatever sort, foreign or British, is one of its chief causes; that this hemorrhage which year after year
“The native-born Canadian, undercut by the immigrant, tends to emigrate to the United States in greater numbers than he ivould if there were no immigration.”
drains away the country’s best blood to the south, is not staunched but occasioned by the unceasing flow of newcomers from abroad; and that the result of our expensive introduction of strangers is mainly to orive our own people over the border. The sole purpose of the article is to shed some light on the obscurities of the present situation and to induce clear thinking on what must surely be the supreme object of statesmanship, the determination of who shall be our citizens.
“Jobs Make People”
ALL Canadians are apt to be haunted by two very ■T*. obvious facts; the first, that this is a very large country; the second, that it has a very small population. The easiest inference is that it ought to be filled up, that human beings should be poured into it like water into a pail. A little reflection should show that a country is
not exactly like a pail and that filling it up is a process much more complicated than the mere holding of a pail under a pump.
Underlying the desire for more population is the assumption that more people mean more production, more wealth, greater social amenity. The problem immediately to be determined is whether population accounts for production—that development of our natural resources of which we hear so much—or production accounts for population.
Before a solution can be arrived at, some analysis is necessary of the conditions under which Canadian wealth can increase, that is, of the conditions under which our natural resources can be made the most of.
There is one outstanding characteristic of Canada which she shares with most new countries and that is the preponderant relation which imports and exports bear to total trade. Our foreign trade is very large in proportion to our population. We produce more newsprint paper than does the United States, but we export all except a small amount of it. Our problem is therefore one of markets. So long as we can continue to sell more and more of our products abroad, we shall naturally continue to produce more and more at home. To the foreign or overseas demand our growth is thus closely geared.
The application of this principle to the question of the increase of population in Canada can easily be made. Its operation is evident at several periods in our history but perhaps never more clearly than in the few years following the war, years which are still fresh in the memory. Every great war has meant for this country a sort of drunken spree of temporary prosperity and has been followed very naturally by a “morning after,” during which we have had to go about with a cold water bandage round our national head. The last was no exception. After a brief boom came the reaction. European markets fell to pieces and our productive machine slowed down.
The effect on our growth, both in population and in other ways, was evident at once. The index number of employment fell rapidly. American immigration figures indicated that large numbers of people were leaving the country. These figures have ample confirmation in our
own 1926 census of the three prairie provinces. The uncertainty of the European situation, with its reflection in the low prices obtainable for agricultural produce, had its perfectly natural result upon the growth of the three provinces. In the period 1916-1921 they increased by 15.19 per cent; in the period 1921-1926 they increased by 5.46 per cent, or 111,600 persons. During this last period natural increase, the surplus of births over deaths, was about 150,000 and immigration about
180.000, a total apparent addition to the population of about 330,000. But the actual addition as shown by the census was 111,600. The difference, about 220,000, represents the approximate number of people who went away from the three prairie provinces during the trying years 1921-1926. It is evident that, during the years in question, economic conditions and economic conditions alone determined the rate at which the population of these provinces increased, and that the efforts made to dam the outgoing flood by compensating for it with immigration had no effect whatever.
Our situation as regards population boils dowr. to this: when other countries need our wares and can afford them, they will come and buy them.
When they do, we will set to work to produce and will enjoy a healthy period of prosperity and of expanding population. But it will be our prosperity which will expand our population and not vice versa. Population, in other words, does not account for production but production accounts for population. If there are more people, that is no guarantee that there are going to be more jobs. People do not make jobs, jobs make people.
A Population Paradox
TF THE increase of our population depends on
the increase in our opportunities for living, that is, on production, it is evident that the mere process of pouring people into the, country cannot, unless they live on charity after they get here, add to our numbers. Only so much water will go into the pail and additional pumping will only make it overflow. So with population. A country will hold only just as many people as it can use. Above that point they will flow away, either by the easy process of emigration or the more painful one of starvation.
An apt illustration of this is afforded by this country’s experience during the decade of the 1880’s. This was a time when no new sources of wealth of importance were available in Canada, and when, therefore, population could not increase very fast. However, in the ten years some 900,000 immigrants sought our shores. Yet the immigrant-born population increased only by some
40.000. Obviously the remainder had to go away again. The country could not use them.
We have had the same experience in every decade since Confederation, not excepting the period during which the West was filling up.
From 1901 to 1921 there came to us 3,230,000 immigrants. Of these there went away again just under two million. The amount of vain effort and the waste of human material resulting from the trampling over our land of this immense transitory army appalls the imagination.
The regrettable feature about it is that it has been so unnecessary. Since Confederation we could have got on very well here in Canada and have come out substantially at our present position, had we never had a single immigrant come to us. This statement will not be very novel to students of the subject of population.
In the first place, our situation prior to the opening of the West was such that we could not increase very fast, and our natural increase was more than .sufficient to provide us with all the people we could use. If it had not been so, we would not have found it necessary during these years to export hundreds of thousands of our people to the United States. In the second place, there is nothing more remarkable than the way in which a hardy young pioneer stock will fill up new and fertile territory, and this propensity of the pioneer would have taken care of our needs of population in the opening West. That section possibly would not have had quite the enormous rate of growth that it experienced just prior to the war but it would undoubtedly have filled up quickly and in such a way as to be free from some of the very serious problems which confront it today.
There is abundant proof for the position. In the old thirteen colonies of the Atlantic seaboard, population from 1640 to the Revolution, with remarkably little aid from immigration, doubled in every twenty-five years. The population of New France did the same, also without immigration. In Australia, where immigration as compared with Canada is a minor matter, the annual rate of increase for the last forty years, has been
slightly higher than our own—1.88 per cent to 1.81 per cent. Evidently Australia does not need immigration to enable her to keep up in the race with Canada.
One of the strongest illustrations comes from nearer home. Population began to go into the province of Manitoba about 1871. For twenty-five years, or until about 1896, the newcomers were overwhelmingly native-born Canadians from the east. After that date British and foreign immigrants came in increasing numbers. The remarkable fact is that coincident with the coming of the immigrant the annual rate of increase —not the absolute increase, of course—in the province of Manitoba begins to slow down. Despite some 60,000 immigrants in the five years 1921-1926, Manitoba could only increase her population by 29,000, or less than five per cent. In the five years 1886-1891, with virtually no immigration, she increased it by 44,000, or over forty per cent. Had our doors not been open so wide after 1896 the native-born could have supplied all the man-
power that Manitoba has needed to develop her territory without the assistance of a single immigrant, the province would have been approximately the same size as it is and have possessed sounder and more energetic citizenship than it does today or, seeing that the harm is done, ever can do.
Immigration the Cause of Emigration
' I 'HERE is no doubt that the British stock already in the country, if it were left to itself, would rapidly enough fill up all our fertile vacant spaces, always providing that the primary condition of Canadian growth were present, i.e., increase in the outside demand for our products. Failing that, they cannot be filled up anyway, try as we may to pour population into them by artificial means.
“Bad money,” said old Sir Thomas Gresham in the far-off days of Queen Elizabeth, “will always drive good money out of circulation.” The monetary law which he thus enunciated, ever since called Gresham’s Law, might well with a slight change of words also be applied to questions of immigration. If for “bad” we read “cheap” and for “good” we read “dear,” Gresham’s Law will apply exactly to problems of population. “Cheap men will always drive out dear men,” Sir Thomas might have said with perfect truth.
Everyone will recognize the validity of the law in one special application, that is, in the case of Orientals. The white man has a higher or “dearer” standard of living than the yellow man and hence cannot compete with him. The only way, therefore, to prevent the country from being swamped by Asiatics is to keep them out altogether. Everyone knows this because there is an element present which even the blindest can see, the element of skin color. It is more difficult to grasp the application of the principle in the cases of persons whose skin is the same color as our own. But whether they be of different color or not, whether they speak a different language or not, “cheap” men will always drive out “dear” men. Roughly speaking, all immigrants are “cheap” men in this sense, for it is inevitable that a man arriving in a new country must take what he can get. He is in no position to bargain. Immigrant labor is, therefore, unavoidably cheaper than native-born labor. In this respect people from the Motherland differ only in degree from other immigrants. Their standard of living is probably higher than that of foreigners but it is not as high as that of the native-born, for if it were, there would be no inducement for them to come here. They compete with the native-born and innocently displace him in many walks of life. The result is that the native-born Canadian, undercut by the immigrant, whether that immigrant is English-speaking or not, tends to emigrate to the United States in greater numbers than he would if there were no immigration.
From the point of view of the employer the immigrant’s handicap is an advantage, for he gets a man who must hold his job. Very likely too, especially in the crafts, he gets a better workman. Between peoples of more or less the same type, labor is most efficient where competition is keenest. Old-country craftsmen are, as a rule, better trained than Canadian. Canadians, on the other hand, receive a warm welcome in the United States, the reason being the same in both cases. In the Motherland a man must be efficient if he is not merely to hold his job but to survive. In Canada, the fear of being out of work is not so great; a willing person can always make a living somehow. Hence the greater independence, and from the employer’s point of view the lesser worth of the employee. In the United States conditions have advanced a stage further still. One can always make a living, and as a rule also get a job more or less to his liking. Hence a still greater independence on the part of the employed person. Hence the warm welcome accorded Canadians, who are described as “reliable;” which means that, coming from a land where opportunities though great are not as great as those in the United States, they are less willing to take a chance or throw up what they have, than is the native-born American.
The application of this duel of competence versus independence is very wide. For instance, for many years practically no Canadians have, until lately, entered such a craft as carpentry, the reason being that we have been drawing oui supply of carpenters from the Old Country, There is no reason to assume that Canadians have an inherent objection to becoming carpenters; there is simply no need for them tc become such when there is already a supply of Í better-grade carpenter on hand. The skilled Ole Country workman, from the point of view oi craftsmanship, is undoubtedly a gain to the country and no nation would be so foolish as altogether to refuse the accretion of skill which men like him represent. Or the other hand, as long as his importation in large numbers continues, it forces just that many of our owr youths to seek their living in other channels, mosi probably across the line.
The same holds good in many other walks of life. Oui banks, for example, bring over young men fron Scotland who are “steadier,” that is, who will take les: pay and fear more the loss of their positions than d( Canadians. The more independent individuals of ou: own young men of the bank clerk class either geto some occupation giving greater rewards or get out. Verj often they get out, for it is only in our periods o prosperity that we have opportunities for everyone Continued on page 70
Continued on page 70
Continued from page 4
Comes the suggestion of a depression, our opportunities are curtailed, and the “dearer” man, the man who is willing to take a chance rather than to take low wages, hits the trail for the border.
A like process is at work in the small but important sphere of our universities, and indeed in any profession which is not “closed.”
An additional and pointed example is apparently afforded by a class of persons who, it would seem, would be the most representative Canadians—our poets. In an anthology of Canadian verse published a year or two ago, short biographical notices were given of various poets whose verses were included. The outstanding fact about these men collectively was that almost the majority were either living in the United States or had been born in Great Britain.
If the substitution is viewed purely from the standpoint of vocational training, the balance is probably in favor of the newcomer, at least in the more skilled occupations, for this western continent has not yet been under the necessity of gauging the man as accurately to his task as have the harder pressed countries of Europe. There is another side, however, and that an important one. If Canadians wish to see Canada possessed of all the best attributes of nationhood, and if the chief result of immigration is to drive out the native-born, it is evident that much evil must come from this constant renewal of blood, generation by generation.
Since the last census, 1921, over one million immigrants have come to Canada. Natural increase accounts for rather more than another million, yet the total increase in population has not been one million all told. That is, since 1921, people, immigrants plus native-born, have been leaving this country at the enormous rate of about 170,000 per year. In other words, the population is essentially shifting and unstable, coming in at one door and going out the other, here today and gone tomorrow. Thus a surprisingly large number of persons who come here never get a real chance to adapt themselves. If they do not move off in the first generation, they do so in the second. What hope is there in this state of permanent social dislocation for the emergence of a national point of view and of a national culture?
Wholesale immigration, by forcing our youth to seek careers across the border, simply renders us a training ground for American citizens. In too many cases Canada is but a preparatory stage for life south of the “line.” It is a rare family in Canada which has not relatives in the United States. It is a very nice thing for the United States to receive the finished product after we have educated it at the public expense and have trained it in the ways of the continent; hence the absence of quota laws against Canadians. But it is a very enervating and very costly process for this country. A nation which lives on a sort of chronic blood transfusion operation cannot be in a healthy state.
Emigration from the country is a movement every true Canadian deplores but one great reason for it is immigration into the country.
Selling our Wares too Cheap
"ROR some seventy years past Canada
has been going out into the highways and byways and by means of inducements of one sort or another, compelling people to come unto the feast. She has beguiled, cajoled and deceived—the word is not too strong—people into taking up their residence on her soil, thereby proclaiming her pathetic lack of faith in her
intrinsic worth. Our neighbors have never spent an official dollar in inducing immigration: we have spent millions. The results have been what might have been expected; they have got the cream and we have got the skimmed milk; to them have gone the independent people, the people with capital, the people of education; to us have come an undue share of the lame, the halt and the blind. Failures elsewhere—and, by and large, all persons willing to take assistance in starting life afresh have been in some degree failures are poor foundation on which to build a nation. Yet as a people, we Canadians seem to have a strong faith in failures and year after year we waste our substance in bringing out persons who are patently unsuited to the hard conditions any immigrant must face. The history of assisted immigration from its beginnings after the war of 1812 is an almost unbroken record of failure. There is no reason to suppose that the present efforts to bottle-feed unsuitable material into becoming sturdy pioneers will have any better fate than have the innumerable similar attempts of the past, and the destitute and derelict humanity that fills our cities every winter is the proof of the pudding.
If our history can teach us any lesson at all, it can teach us this one: that the only man who is likely to be much good to the country of his adoption is the man who relies on himself; in which lesson history is supported by common sense.
Even were all our immigrants successful and readily assimilable, there would still be a grave objection to populating the country in that way rather than by the way of Nature. The newcomer has many difficulties that the native-born does not have to face, and therefore for a greater or lesser period he is not as effective a citizen as is the native-born. The process of adaptation is never very easy. A people must be slowly molded by the forces of Nature, by the soil and the climate before they are true children of the fatherland. The stream of humanity perpetually flowing through Canada, in by the St. Lawrence, out over the border, prevents this, keeping everything in continual agitation, never allowing the particles held in suspension to settle. The country tends always to be like a new house to its citizens, never assuming the intimacy of a home.
There could not have been a better foundation for a state than the strong British yeomanry who, a century ago, pioneered our backwoods. For the modern nation those pioneers and the best of the people who have come since, are responsible. Unfortunately, their stock is being gradually thinned out, as year after year the young people, under the competition of the newcomer with his lower standard of living, flock to the cities of the United States. There is only one way of conserving it, that is, by keeping the most jealous guard over immigration.
“A Form of National Suicide”
THIS article, if it has made its point, has shown that immigration as a means of increasing population is an overrated force. If newcomers are poured into an empty country, as they were into the West before the war, a rapid increase in population will naturally take place. The new population may or may not be desirable; much of that in the West obviously was not. In ordinary times, as at present, the effect of immigration is simply to displace those already here, and usually with an inferior article.
Despite the obviousness of this, Canadians for generations have been pursuing the will-o’-the-wisp of immigration, mo-
notonously reiterating that theirs is an underpopulated country. As if any country could be underpopulated which for three-quarters of a century has had every year to send away thousands of its own people because it could not find them a living at home. That it would be better to have a larger population, we will all agree, but that is quite another
matter and unfortunately one beyond our immediate control. Our population will increase, not according as we dump inmigrants off ships but as the world increases its demand for our products. There is thus no reason for artificial accessions by way of immigration which at best are only so much waste effort, at worst, a form of national suicide.