The Immigration Act: St. Ellen’s anachronistic dragon

Peter C. Newman July 2 1960

The Immigration Act: St. Ellen’s anachronistic dragon

Peter C. Newman July 2 1960

The Immigration Act: St. Ellen’s anachronistic dragon



Peter C. Newman

IN THE TWO HUNDRED AND TEN emotionpacked major speeches which John Diefenbaker delivered during the 1957 and 1958 election campaigns, he made sixty-two specific promises. Forty of these pledges have since been fulfilled, at least partially. The balance are turning out to be embarrassingly lough to keep.

During the speech in Toronto’s Massey Hall that opened his 1957 campaign, Diefenbaker bravely assured his audience: “We will undertake a vigorous immigration policy . .. We will revise the Immigration Act . . . We will overhaul its administration to ensure that humanity will be considered . . . We will put an end to the bureaucratic interpretations which keep out from Canada many potentially good citizens.”

Now. three years later, a new Immigration Act has finally been placed before the cabinet. Its provisions are far removed from the prime minister’s idealistic undertakings. The Tories have discovered that operating an immigration policy quickly shatters the best intentions.

Nothing has demonstrated this more clearly than last month’s sensational revelations about the mass smuggling into Canada of Chinese immigrants. The case is now being investigated by sixty-five officers of the RCMP — more men than have been assigned to any manhunt since the arrest of Nazis at the outbreak of World War II.

Chinese immigration into Canada, which began with the Fraser River gold rush, was cut off in 1923 by the introduction of the Chinese Exclusion Act. It was repealed in 1947 to allow into the country the parents and children of Canadian citizens of Chinese origin. During the twenty-four years between 1923 and 1947, oniy eight Chinese immigrants — mostly missionaries — were admitted to Canada. Yet most of the twenty-three thousand Chinese who have come to Canada since 1947 have claimed to be the sons, under twenty-one years old, of Chinese residents in Canada.

The Hies seized by the RCMP in last month’s raids of Chinese communities in nine Canadian cities contain documentary proof that the majority of Chinese postwar immigrants to Canada came illegally. Many of them were exploited by their Chinese-Canadian employers in return for being protected against deportation.

The 'lories are no more anxious than their predecessors to allow a disproportionate number of Orientals into Canada, but to demand the expulsion of close to twenty thousand refugees from Communism is politically impossible. The government will allow all of the illegally landed Chinese to remain in Canada, except those who helped organize the underground railway across the Pacific.

This amounts to a startling admission: If our immigration law can be broken on a large enough scale, it is simply ignored.

A less dramatic but also serious immigration problem is our relationship with Japan. That country is

our second largest wheat consumer, yet we treat its citizens as totally undesirable.

Toru Hagiwara, the Japanese ambassador to Canada, has been quietly negotiating an unusual solution to Canadian complaints that the Japanese dump their manufactured goods here. To gain fairer entry to our consumer market, Japanese industrialists plan to set up factories employing Canadian labor to complete semi-finished or component materials manufactured in Japan. Saskatchewan is anxious to get the factories and the provincial government has been putting heavy pressure on Ottawa to allow into the country the Japanese managers and technicians needed to set up the new establishments.

The present Immigration Act’s failure to provide for this kind of employment-creating entry is only one of its many weaknesses. Virtually untouched since 1947, the act actually deals only in passing with the reception of immigrants.

It is much more concerned with the deportation of those already here, and the exclusion of foreigners bold enough to seek entry.

When Mackenzie King introduced the act on May 1, 1947, he said: “Canada is perfectly within her rights in selecting the persons whom we regard as desirable future citizens. It is not a ‘fundamental human right’ of any alien to enter Canada. It is a privilege.” King also emphasized that the only people who would be allowed to land here were those who would not make any fundamental alteration in this country’s character. (An aim. incidentally, which has been frustrated, despite our exclusive immigration policies. The character of Canadian life and culture has been irrevocably altered by the arrival of two million postwar immigrants.)

King’s legislation worked reasonably well when the kind of immigrants we wanted were willing to come. Without postwar immigration, Canada’s total labor force would have declined during four of the nine boom years from 1946 to 1955, drastically reducing the pace of our economic development.

But the thirteen-year-old act is no longer attracting enough desirable newcomers. The legislation has broken down so badly that Ellen Fairclough now must review an average of fifteen cases a day which do not fall under the act's provisions. Since the Tories have taken over, they have authorized, through orders-in-council, the admission into Canada of fifteen thousand persons who are clearly inadmissible under the regulations. This is a procedure that was once reserved for special cases to allow the entry of badly needed specialists or for admittance on compassionate grounds. Now, the minister of citizenship and immigration is. in effect, forced to break the provisions of her own act fifteen times a day to make up for the legislation’s anachronisms.

The case of Irene Rebrin and similar recent expulsion processes clearly dictate the need for revising deportation proceedings. Mr. Justice Stewart of the Ontario Supreme Court earlier this year quashed a deportation order against a young Hungarian who had come to Canada from Bolivia. The order was issued when immigration officials, after an inquiry conducted among themselves, decided the young man would likely become a public charge. Stewart termed the powers of immigration inspectors “perfectly

shocking and disgraceful ... against every conceivable thing since Magna Carta.”

Immigration inspectors can rule on the spot on the suitability of immigrants. Their responsibility is incompatible with the calibre of men attracted by the scale of their wages. The top salary for the position of immigration inspector is now $4,350 a year; some inspectors are paid as little as $2,670.

Immigration laws have become such a touchy topic in Ottawa that constructive House of Commons debates on the subject are virtually impossible. Immigration has joined the lengthening list of politically untouchable problems that members of all parties agree to ignore as much as possible.

There seems to be no immigration policy, however well meant, that is politically safe. Earlier this year, for instance, the federal government agreed, as part of its world Refugee Year contribution, to take in the first group of a hundred tubercular refugees from Europe. The decision was made at a time when there were more than three thousand unused beds in our sanatoriums.

Instead of the mild public reproaches that might have been expected for our failure to do a little more for these unfortunate people, Ellen Fairclough’s office was flooded with vindictive mail condemning their entry. Several letters contained batches of Christmas TB seals, with notes attached that their writers had discontinued contributing to local tuberculosis associations, because part of the money would now be wasted on the healing of foreigners, ic