May 31, 1921

UNION

Herbert John Mackie

Unionist

Mr. MACKIE (Edmonton) :

I was paired with the hon. member for Compton (Mr. Hunt). Had I voted, I would have voted against the amendment.

Main motion agreed to, and Bill read the third time and passed.

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DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT AMENDMENT


The House again in Committee on Bill No. 130, to amend the Dominion Elections Act.-Mr. Guthrie. Mr. Boivin in the Chair:


L LIB

Georges Henri Boivin (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Laurier Liberal

The CHAIRMAN :

When this Bill was last before the committee, all the clauses and schedules of the Bill had been considered and adopted. The hon. member for Waterloo North (Mr. Euler) had moved that the following clause be added to the Bill as clause 22 thereof:

22. "Subsection (2) of section 29 of the Dominion Elections Act, chapter 46 of the Statutes of 1920, is hereby repealed."

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L LIB

William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EULER:

When the committee last debated the amendment which I had moved, I had not quite completed the observations that I desired to make. Before I continue

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them I would like to inquire of the Acting Solicitor General (Mr. Guthrie) with regard to some changes that have been made in the Bill as it is now before the committee. To illustrate, I think it is a fact that once names are entered on the voters' lists, it becomes difficult to remove those names should it be considered that they ought to be removed. In the previous form, -I think it was form 13-certain questions were asked which have now disappeared. For example, the question was asked of the prospective voter whether he was naturalized, how he was naturalized, and if naturalized by process of law, whether such person had a voting certificate. I notice that, in the new form, that has disappeared entirely. I would like to ask the Acting'Solicitor General whether, under those circumstances it becomes possible for names to be placed on

11 p.m. the list by the registrar, and then in case some one objects to the inclusion of those names on the list, *what oath may be submitted to him. I gather that it would be the oath in form 32; yet in the oath in form 32 no reference whatever is made to the disability contained in clause 29 to which I have taken objection. If the minister could give me an answer on that point, I would appreciate it.

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UNION

Hugh Guthrie (Solicitor General of Canada; Minister of Militia and Defence)

Unionist

Mr. GUTHRIE:

It was found that many of the forms in the Act passed last session were defective. During the interval since last session the Chief Electoral Officer has himself gone very carefully over the forms in order to make them agree with the Act where, in many instances, formerly they disagreed. The new form of oath is form 32. I think the point is covered in the second paragraph of that oath which reads:

You swear that you are not within any of the classes of persons who lack qualification.

That is the general statement.

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L LIB

William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EULER:

May I say in reply, that in section 29 no reference is made to classes of persons whatever. Section 29 reads as follows:

For the purposes of this Act the allegiance or nationality of a person,

and so forth, and it speaks throughout of a person, not of classes of persons. Is it not the fact that the phrase "classes of persons" in the new Form 32 refers entirely to such classes as Indians and people of that sort? If so, that oath would not cover the point to which I refer.

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UNION

Hugh Guthrie (Solicitor General of Canada; Minister of Militia and Defence)

Unionist

Mr. GUTHRIE:

I think this oath was made as a general oath to cover everything

in the Act. I will read the second paragraph: *

That you are not within any of the classes of persons who lack qualification or are disqualified by reason of appointment to judicial office, employment for pay or reward in reference to the election, place of birth, race, crime, mental incapacity, the receipt of public charitable support or disfranchisement for corrupt or illegal practices.

That you have not already voted at this election and have not been guilty of any corrupt or illegal practice in relation thereto.

At the first meeting of the Select Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections we had the assistance of Mr. Alexander Smith, who has long been identified with hon. gentlemen opposite, and who is known as rather an expert on election law. He drew the attention of the committee to some difficulties in the oath w'hich appeared in the Act which passed last session, and as a result, the Chief Electoral Officer undertook to prepare an oath that would cover generally all kinds of disqualifications, in order that it might be put to electors when they came to the poll. This oath that is now in the Bill is the one that he prepared, and the one that the committee assented to.

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UNION

Levi Thomson

Unionist

Mr. THOMSON (Qu'Appelle) :

Will the forms be taken up one by one and discussed after we have disposed of the amendment? There are so many changes in the forms that I think it would hardly be safe to lump them altogether. I understand that the intention is to discuss them one by one.

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UNION

Hugh Guthrie (Solicitor General of Canada; Minister of Militia and Defence)

Unionist

Mr. GUTHRIE:

I do not think it has ever been the practice in this House to go over the forms one by one. If my hon. friend has a little time to spare and would go over the forms and point out anything he thinks is wrong, I think that would be better.

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UNION

Levi Thomson

Unionist

Mr. THOMSON (Qu'Appelle) :

There

are so many radical changes in the forms that I think they should be very carefully considered at some stage.

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UNION

Hugh Guthrie (Solicitor General of Canada; Minister of Militia and Defence)

Unionist

Mr. GUTHRIE:

I am not an expert on the forms myself, I must admit, but I would be very much obliged if my hon. friend would let me have a note of any changes he would suggest, and I would arrange an appointment with Colonel Biggar, the Chief Electoral Officer. It requires a thorough knowledge of the Act to appreciate the forms, and I think it would be much better to go over them with Colonel Biggar than to have a discussion of each form in the committee.

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UNION

Levi Thomson

Unionist

Mr. THOMSON (Qu'Appelle) :

When I got this Bill I went over the forms, as I suppose did other hon. members, and made notes opposite each of the alterations, and of what struck me most at the time. There are so many alterations in the forms that I think they should be gone over one by one, and if the minister will arrange for an opportunity for those who have gone over the forms to deal with them I shall be satisfied.

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UNION

Hugh Guthrie (Solicitor General of Canada; Minister of Militia and Defence)

Unionist

Mr. GUTHRIE:

All right.

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L LIB

William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EULER:

My reason for drawing attention to the form was because I thought that if my view of the form and the significance of the oath was correct, it would directly affect the substance of the amendment which I had submitted. If the minister will say that the forms will be considered afterwards, I am quite content to go on and speak for a few minutes on the principle of the amendment before the committee.

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L LIB

Georges Henri Boivin (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Laurier Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

The Chairman must point out to the committee that we must observe some semblance of order. The forms were adopted when the Bill was last before the committee, and the Chairman so informed the committee this evening. It was only after the schedule was adopted that the hon. member for Waterloo (Mr. Euler) introduced his amendment to insert an additional clause which is now being considered. It is, of course, competent for the committee, by unanimous consent, to return to the consideration of the forms after the matter now before the committee has been disposed of, but it is certainly impossible for the committee to consider two absolutely different matters at the same time.

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L LIB

William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EULER:

I am quite content to leave the discussion of the form till a little later on, if we shall have opportunity then. In the meantime I would like to complete the remarks I had in mind some three weeks ago, when this debate was adjourned in order thht the Budget might be presented by the Minister of Finance. As a considerable time has elapsed since then, I think I should briefly refresh the minds of the committee as to the nature of the law as it stands, and the significance of the amendment which I have submitted.

Under our naturalization law as it is now, any woman of foreign birth, no matter of what nationality, as soon as she marries a British subject, becomes herself a British subject, or she becomes a British

subject so soon as her husband obtains naturalization. Boys and girls, minors, the sons or daughters of a naturalized British subject become naturalized by virtue of the naturalization of the father. Now these married women, and these men who were naturalized as children, by reason of the naturalization of their father, have not under the Dominion Elections Act of last year the right to vote. except under certain conditions, although they are British subjects. I want it clearly understood that in all this discussion there is no plea made for any one who is not in law a fully qualified British subject in every w

There is another point. When these people appear before the various judges throughout the country, we are not assured that there is any definite standard by which they shall be judged. One judge may consider it incumbent upon him to make the questions which he will submit to the applicant very much more onerous than other judges will. I do not think that these people to-day know exactly what they will have to answer

or what the requirements will be; whether they shall have to bring their husbands' naturalization certificates, and their marriage certificates to show that they are married to British subjects, and prove that they are qualified for naturalization. During the course of last year's debate, and this year's debate, I may say with all due respect to the Acting Solicitor General and other gentjemen on the other side who took part in the discussion, there was not offered one single reasonable ground why these people should be submitted to the necessity of obtaining the certificate. I will make one qualification in this respect, and I mentioned it the other day. The hon. member for Algoma (Mr. Nicholson) made the statement that, if my amendment were adopted, foreign women, immediately upon marrying British subjects, would themselves become British subjects, and thus obtain the franchise without having completed any definite period of residence in Canada. That is a valid objection. 1 believe that all citizens of Canada should comply with the ordinary residence clauses of the Naturalization Act, and that these women, if they come from a foreign land, and marry British subjects, should not be permitted to vote until they have complied with the ordinary residential requirements.

I am quite prepared to substitute, in place of the clause I have moved to strike out, another clause to the effect that under all circumstances these British subjects, whose rights we are now discussing, shall comply with the ordinary residence clauses and any other requirements usual under the circumstances.

Now, the question has been surrounded with difficulty, merely because of the anomaly of having two laws which are diametrically opposed to each other. It is entirely unnatural that one Canadian law should provide one thing, and another Canadian law state directly the opposite; and that is the fact in this case. In our Naturalization Law we say that these people are British subjects. And that is the law not only in Canada; it obtains throughout the whole of the British Empire. We have, then, a law which states that when a woman marries a British subject, or if her husband of foreign origin becomes a British subject, she herself is a British subject, and then we say in the Dominion Elections Act, passed last year, that she is not a British subject. I say the whole thing is irreconcilable and absurd, and it is because of the fact that we are legislating in direct opposition to another law that we fall into the difficulty in which [Mr. Euler. I

we are now. I think there is only one cure for that; one law must give way to the other, and I leave it to the good judgment of the committee as to whether the law which has stood for years and which is the law throughout the whole of the British Empire, the principle of which is observed in every civilized nation in the world, should not be the one to stand, and that the law which this Parliament has brought into conflict with that old well recognized statute should give way. If that is done, we shall fall in line with the amendment I have submitted.

My amendment means, in effect, that instead of placing British subjects of foreign origin in a separate class, distinct from other British subjects, we remove all these differences we ourselves have created, and which did not exist in the past, and place all British subjects on the same basis, deciding that once a man or woman is a British subject that fact carries with it the greatest privilege of British citizenship, namely, the right to vote without any obstacles being placed in the way. That is what my amendment means. Now, I know there is a disposition on the part of some members opposite to resist that motion, I believe also that many hon. gentlemen on the other side concede that the cause I plead is an absolutely just one; but those who still feel that what I ask for in the amendment should not be granted, I suggest, have wrong ideas of the citizens whose rights I want to maintain in this committee. The Acting Solicitor General (Mr. Guthrie) stated in a previous debate that, after all, there is nothing wrong with the law as it stands because, as he says, we are not taking anything away from these people. I want to correct him in that statement, because, as a matter of fact, men who were naturalized as boys many years ago, through the naturalization of their fathers, have voted for many years. I know of many of them; I think my hon. friend from North Perth (Mr. Morphy), knows of some, and I know that other hon. members are aware of others. They have voted for years; they voted in the election of 1917. Now, under the present Dominion Elections Act, you take away from them that privilege which they have enjoyed for years, except on the condition that they obtain this certificate. It is perhaps true that with regard to the women, those who were naturalized by the naturalization of their husbands, you are not depriving them of anything through the Act passed last year. But if you do not take anything away from them, you do something that is

equivalent; you withhold from them something that is given to other British subjects; you refuse to give them what you freely give to their sister British subjects. You are exercising a discrimination among women who are all alike Canadian citizens; you set one group of British subjects agide in an inferior class as compared with their neighbours. There is absolutely no escape from that. We make them citizens by our own law, and then we say to them: "While you are British subjects by our own law, and while we know that you are no longer subjects of any foreign country"-I am not now referring to the central empires, but to all foreign countries outside of the North American continent-[DOT] "we insist that you are not entitled to exercise the. franchise, unless you are put to the inconvenience and humiliation of appearing before a judge to prove that you are fit to be what you have been for many years." That is the fact: you are to appear before a judge and prove to him that you are fit and qualified to be what you have been for many, many years. I say the whole conclusion is absurd. Now that is a fair statement of the facts, and I say it is not surprising that men, and women too, put to that humiliation will be prompted to refuse to subject themselves to it. I believe that many will decline to apply to a judge for that certificate, and it will be a most natural attitude for free and self-respecting Canadian women to take.

The Acting Solicitor General stated the other day that these people could not value the franchise very highly if they would not go to the trouble of appearing before a judge. Well, I want to say to him if that is correct he would find, if he applied the same requirement throughout to the men of Canada, that the electorate would be disfranchised to the extent of 75 per cent or more. Even to-day when men have their names on the lists and need take no action whatever to get their names on, we find that they do not go to the polls. In our municipal elections, and even in our Parliamentary elections, we find that 50 per cent of them usually do not exercise their franchise at all. I am still of opinion, Mr. Chairman, that a good many of the hon. members opposite have a wrong impression of these people entirely. I am willing to say that because I do not like to attribute any unfair motive to them in withholding the unrestricted franchise from these British subjects; and it seems to me that when they think of these foreign born citizens of Canada they visualize probably groups

of foreigners. I have heard gentlemen on both sides speak of these foreign born citizens of Canada as aliens and foreigners, and yet to-day they are not aliens or foreigners. I am afraid they visualize these, perhaps, as ignorant and illiterate and out of harmony with the rest of the people of Canada, thinking constantly of a foreign land as their home. Such a picture is an undoubted caricature of these people. Among the people that I represent, and among the people in other parts of Canada, there are thousands of persons of foreign birth-many of them in my own constituency I admit-who are of German or Austrian birth, but no inconsiderable number of them have been in Canada for forty, fifty, sixty years, and even longer than that. I know people in Waterloo county who have lived there for seventy years and yet were born in Germany. Many of theft! came to Canada as children. They married and became British subjects, either by reason of that marriage or by reason of their father's naturalization. They reared families of Canadians, native born sons and daughters of Canada. They are Canadians in every sense of the term; they have attended our Canadian public schools and they are saturated through and through with Canadian ideals.

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UNION

Hugh Guthrie (Solicitor General of Canada; Minister of Militia and Defence)

Unionist

Mr. GUTHRIE:

If they are native

born-

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L LIB

William Daum Euler

Laurier Liberal

Mr. EULER:

Just a moment, the point I want to make is this: I say that the mothers of those children who have been educated in the Canadian public schools surely have nio noxious attachment to a foreign land and are in no sense disloyal. Their husbands are Canadian citizens and have the vote, and their children are Canadians, native born. They are just as much Canadians as though they had been born in England, Scotland or Ireland, I contend, and are to all intents and purposes Canadian in thought and' feeling. I know what I am talking about because I know them -they are just as much Canadian as though they had been born in the British Isles. Surely it is fair to assume that the mothers of these children, the wives of these men who were also foreign born, are at least as loyal as their husbands and just as much entitled to the franchise-the whole family is one. I do not think any hon. member will contend for a moment that in a family consisting of father and mother, and children born in Canada, the mother herself is an alien in thought and feeling while the rest of the family are perfectly

loyal Canadians. I do not think that we should suspect the mother of any such feeling at all. There is no divergence of national feeling, as far as the mother is concerned, from the rest of the family.

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UNION

Richard Coe Henders

Unionist

Mr. HENDERS:

The father had come into the rights of citizenship by declaring his desire for citizenship, under certain conditions. The mother comes in by right of marriage to that man. She has never declared her desire on that line. How then would you bring her in?

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May 31, 1921