GENERAL ARTICLES

School for Citizens

Andy Korneliuk wanted to become a Canadian, but he didn't know the land or its language... Naturalization school was the answer

ISABEL DINGMAN June 1 1946
GENERAL ARTICLES

School for Citizens

Andy Korneliuk wanted to become a Canadian, but he didn't know the land or its language... Naturalization school was the answer

ISABEL DINGMAN June 1 1946

School for Citizens

GENERAL ARTICLES

ISABEL DINGMAN

THERE WERE a lot of people in the courtroom, some tense, some smiling happily. The happy ones knew that they had passed the test The tense people were still waiting for it.

Andy Korneliuk’s name was called Andy was sixtyish, born in the Ukraine though a resident of Canada for over 30 years. With him was his Canadian born daughter, Mary, her English accentless, her dress and hat as smart as those of any other Canadian girl on the streets of Windsor, Ont. Mary was Canadian and proud of it. She had talk«! her father into applying for naturalization

But Andy never had bothered to learn more than fragments of English. He was flustered by the atmosphere of the courtroom. And when Judge Albert J Gordon asked him who was premier of Canada; where was the capital of this country. Andy just gaped and

swallowed wordlessly. Even when his daughter translated for him, he could make no answer. He knew that he lived in Ontario; that’s all.

Nobody in the court was surprised when the judge said: “I can’t Continued on page 38

Andy Korneliuk wanted to become a Canadian, but he didn't know the land or its language... Naturalization school was the answer

Continued from page 19

recommend your application for naturalization. You don’t know English well enough to become a citizen. But I would advise you,” he added, “to go to the (Imperial Order, Daughters of the Empire) classes for new citizens, which helped many of the other people here today. These classes are doing very good work—and I’m sure you’ll have better luck at another court later.”

There’s nothing new about night school for New Canadians. The Winnipeg School Board has had such classes since 1903; has even now up to 150 adults a year attending them. The Toronto Board of Education has 387 students enrolled. Various churches and local service clubs have at different times shown—both much and little— interest in educatingthe New Canadian. But even some of the people who ran these schools felt they weren’t doing enough. An example is W. J. Sisler, retired principal of Strathcona school in Winnipeg, who spent 40 years in teaching the foreign-born, sometimes in night classes of 500 to 600. “Even yet,” he says, “not sufficient interest is given to citizenship training . . . It’s I too simple a matter—getting citizenship.”

Harry H. Monkman of the Toronto Board of Education, whose classes have risen from an enrolment of 50 to 387 in three years, feels that citizenship training is so important that he’d like to establish a fourto five-year course for New Canadians with classes twice a week for six months of each year.

Large areas of this country—the Maritimes, parts of Quebec and British Columbia—have few facilities for Canadianization of the foreign-born.

In Alberta and Saskatchewan, where there are large concentrations of Central Europeans, the problem has been recognized, and Adult Education organizations recently have started “Basic English” courses for them; slant these toward the teaching of good citizenship. Regina has 17 students. The Mennonite settlement of Wymark, Sask., has mustered 60. Alberta offers five-week courses in spring and fall in some of the cities of the province. Attendance is low.

The Canadian Jewish Congress, concerned with the assimilation of Jewish refugees, have sponsored Canadianization classes for them in Montreal and Toronto. Less than 50 students attend classes in Montreal, about half as many in Toronto.

In the last 10 years 182,000 persons have been naturalized. Since Confederation about 600,000 new Cana{ dians have obtained citizenship.

2,000,000 Foreign-born

But Canada, according to the 1941 census, has slightly over two million residents who were born outside its borders. Half of this total were born in the British Isles. But 654,000 were born in continental Europe; 312,000 in the United States and about 50,000 I in Asiatic and other unspecified couni tries. Not more than half of this non! British category have become Canadian j citizens. Last fall Hon. Paul Martin, j Canada’s Secretary of State, introduced i a bill in the House of Commons to j establish a Canadian nationality and I “to provide facilities to enable appliI cants for citizenship to receive instruc; tion in the responsibilities and privj| leges of Canadian citizenship.” Later j it was explained unofficially that the j Government still w'ants the help of j voluntary organizations in providing ! this training.

This is the background against which

the Windsor Citizenship School was developed. Originator of the idea is Mrs. G. L. Hamilton, a woman who doesn’t look like a crusader—but whose looks are deceptive. She is slight, blond, almost shy in manner—and, curiously enough, she became a fervent believer in the dignity of Canadian nationality through her contacts in daily work with Canadians who sought to leave this country.

“I happen to have a job,” she told me, “which gives me a chance to see some of the faults in Canada’s naturalization system, and they got under my skin. Though I am a Canadian, for the past 15 years I have been inspector and secretary to the U. S. Public Health Services Medical Adviser at the American Consulate in Windsor. I have been present at the examination of over 50,000 persons applying for visas to enter the United States, and among them were several thousand naturalized Canadians.

“When I started the job I was pretty vague about how Canada granted citizenship, but I took it for granted that nobody got to be a Canadian citizen without deserving it. Imagine my surprise when I found that people came along with Canadian naturalization papers in their hands though they couldn’t speak more than a few words of English. Others, whose English was fair, knew little more about Canada than the day they arrived from Europe.

“Understand, plenty of these naturalized Canadians were fine people, with a good education and good knowledge of English,” Mrs. Hamilton pointed out. “But hardly a week passed without several bad specimens, and it worried me.” That’s when Mrs. Hamilton started digging. She found out that Canada requires nothing more than five years’ residence or a minimum of one year here and the rest in some other Commonwealth country, a working knowledge of either English or French and a report from the RCMP that the applicant had not been in serious criminal trouble, that he had no subversive tendencies, and that he entered the country legally.

“You would have to see them to believe what poorly qualified people made the grade,” Mrs. Hamilton continued. “For instance, in conducting a medical examination, I would ask a man to step on the scales. He would look blank. I would point at the scales, say, ‘How much do you weigh?’ and he would still stand.

“Often I had to take people by the hand,show them how to stand onscales, then lead them down again. Many people couldn’t tell me their age. Either they didn’t know what I meant when I said, ‘How old are you?’ ‘How many years have you?’ etc., or they didn’t know the English figures for their age.

“Many a time I have asked a man or woman, ‘Who is premier of Canada?’ and been told, T don’t know.’ I’ve got the answer ‘Churchill’ more than once. Others didn’t know what the capital of Canada was, and never heard of Winnipeg or Vancouver, couldn’t tell what Party was in power, didn’t know who was mayor of their town—in fact, some didn’t know what a mayor was.

“Yet all these people had votes, and most of them had voted. I have often asked, ‘How did you know whom to vote for?’ and they would say, ‘Oh, the man next door, he tell me.’

Mrs. Hamilton did some investigating, found that in the United States textbooks in beginners’ English cost only a few cents; correspondence courses in citizenship are available and that many cities offer night school courses in English, U. S. history and government. Candidates for citizenship had to pass stiff examinations in Continued on page 40

Continued, from page 38 these subjects. Even well-educated Canadians were finding it worth while to attend the special night schools for some months if they wanted American citizenship.

Convinced that similar methods were needed in Canada, Mrs. Hamilton went to the 1,000 members of the IODE in Windsor and Essex County. To them she suggested that they should start a citizenship school in Windsor. They liked the idea. Later that year she told her story to a provincial meeting of the order. They promptly appointed her Immigration and Canadianization convener for Ontario. Sixteen thousand members in the province were pledged to support her idea.

First—the Textbook

First came the matter of compiling a textbook which people with a rudimentary—sometimes a fragmentary— knowledge of English would understand. Mrs. Hamilton wrote that textbook.

It’s small. Its language is clear. It includes an outline of Canadian history; an outline of Canadian geography. It summarizes the BNA Act; tells how elections are held, how political Parties operate, how the Government is made up, how laws are passed, how cities are governed, what taxes are for and how they’re collected.

Next came the business of getting in touch with the people who would need this condensed course in citizenship. Here Mrs. Hamilton got a break. Up to 1943 only three months’ notice was required of foreigners who wanted to become naturalized. In that year the law was changed. A year’s notice was now required. It meant that she could consult the list, get in touch with her prospective pupils and promise to help them.

Where could she hold classes? There the Windsor Board of Education cooperated. It provided a classroom and an auditorium. The city council chamber was made available for an opening meeting, to which all prospective citizens in Essex County were invited. On the appointed night the place was crowded, and, through an interpreter, Mrs. Hamilton explained

the setup so effectively that practically all present signed up for the school, which opened late in January of 1945.

There were 53 altogether, representing 10 nationalities—Croatian, Polish, Ukrainian, Yugoslav, Czechoslovak, Norwegian, Romanian, Italian, Austrian and Russian. Ages ranged from 20 to 65, and 15 occupations were listed—housewife, dry cleaner, postmasters assistant, assembler, butcher, shoemaker, laborer, foreman, tool and diemaker, and others. The students had come to Canada anywhere from 1908 to 1939.

It isn’t easy for adults to go to school at night after a hard day’s work, but every Tuesday for the next four months found nearly all seats filled.

The volunteer teacher was another IODE member, Mrs. J. R. McHattie, who already had a full-time public school job, but though she was often tired too, she says she never failed to feel inspired and refreshed by the students. One woman already was naturalized, but said, “Canada has been good to me. I want to learn more.”

The night I dropped in, the students all looked like normal middle-class Canadians—well-dressed and well-fed. The four women there looked particularly smart. All could speak some English, and most could read, though some could not write when they first started. Intelligence ranged from average to extremely high. One star pupils was a Norwegian who had gone to school both in Canada and Norway.

Canada’s place in the British Commonwealth was discussed during my visit. The class was much impressed with the fact that Canada could do what she liked, with no dictation from England.

Even those who could not read mastered the textbook’s contents when they heard it read, and passed “true or false” tests with flying colors. During the last few weeks of the course special attention was given to reading, writing, spelling and improvement of pronunciation. The man of 65, a laborer, learned to write for the first time in his life. And later one candidate for naturalization told Judge Gordon, “When I started to the school I could not speak much English and could not Continued on page 44

Continued from page 40 read. Now I speak better, and read the paper every night.”

Several special projects were undertaken by students. They enjoyed a mock trial in the police court, where a speaker from the Essex Law Society discussed Canadian laws, and provided the script for a trial, assigning parts to those who could read well.

The scholars got tremendous kicks out of being judge, prisoner, prosecutor and jurors, while those who formed the audience had a wonderful time too. The Junior Chamber of Commerce conducted a mock election in the middle of May, of special interest because of

Dominion elections in June. Groups of students visited the city waterworks, city council, and school board meetings, then reported back to the class on what they had seen and heard. Special films about Canada were shown, and the Hugh Beaton school presented an Empire pageant.

The final test came when the first class “graduated” into citizenship on the recommendation of Judge Gordon.

The test had been a success, so now similar schools are planned by the IODE for Toronto, Hamilton, Brantford, Preston, Kitchener, Sarnia and St. Catharines—later, perhaps, in all major Canadian cities.