March 29, 1922

CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

We did not permit the provinces to disfranchise soldiers, but with that exception, where a province disfranchised because of race, that disfranchisement was carried into the federal act.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. NEILL:

That is precisely the point to which I wish to direct the attention of the House-the question of disfranchising Asiatics-or enfranchising them, rather, for that is what it amounted to. I charge the late government with proceeding against the wishes of the people of British Columbia by enfranchising orientals in the late election. Quite a number of Japanese enlisted from that province during the war and went overseas with our troops. Some of these men were naturalized and some were not. When they came back they made application to the legislature of British Columbia, which was then sitting, for permission to vote. The matter was brought up by the G.W.V.A., and through four soldier members of the provincial House, in consultation with the government, and it was their joint opinion that whatever British Columbia owed these Japanese who had gone to the front with our men and had in many cases fought with them, we did not owe them the vote; that it was for many reasons-for a thousand reasons that I need not go into, but largely on account of the precedent it would create,-not desirable to grant them the franchise. I am not here to deal with the merits of that point; I am

Elections Act

merely emphasizing the fact that that is what the G.W.Y.A., the soldier members of the House and the government decided was in the best interests of British Columbia; and of those interests they were best qualified to judge. Therefore the application of the Asiatics to vote was disallowed and the act remained as it was before, disqualifying them. When the Dominion Government came to pass this Franchise Act, they were advised, presumably by members represent [DOT] ing the Coast districts, that it might be expedient to allow these Japanese to vote. We had also the same complaint that my friend from George Etienne Cartier (Mr. Jacobs) mentioned, and in addition the then government were advised that it would be policy to let these Japanese vote; therefore it was so arranged.

Now, the leader of the Opposition has said that where certain persons were disqualified by provincial enactment on account of their race, a similar disqualification was made effective by the Dominion,-soldiers, of course, being excepted. I will read what the act says:

Persons who, by the laws of any province in Canada, are disqualified from voting for a member of the Legislative Assembly of such province in respect of race, shall not be qualified to vote in such province under the provisions of this Act: provided however that the provisions of this paragraph shall not disqualify or render incompetent to vote any person who has served in the naval, military or air forces of Canada in the late war and who produces a discharge.

You will observe, Sir, that this provision applied not simply to those who had fought in France, but to any who could produce a discharge. Some Asiatic may have been peeling potatoes at an internment camp, and if he could produce a discharge from the military forces he would be enfranchised under this provision. Or an Asiatic might have been engaged on one of the naval boats which carried supplies, oil and coal, to the various lighthouses, and which came under the naval service; if he could produce a discharge from that service, he was allowed to vote,-contrary, as I have intimated, to the express and determined wish of the people of British Columbia. I am not surprised that the Dominion Government wer >

ashamed to put that provision in plain black and white in the act; for instead of putting it among qualifications of electors in section 29 they stuck it among the disqualifications of electors in section 30, by means of a double negative. I was challenged on one platform to turn over from beginning to end the leaves of that book containing the Dominion Elections Act and show

where it was stated by any possible construction that the Japanese were permitted to vote. The ordinary man or woman wouh. find it impossible to discover any such provision, it was so subtly incorporated among the disqualifications. I therefore strongly hope that when the act is revised-and the leader of the Government (Mr. Mackenzie King) has indicated that there will be revision-this provision and many others of a similar character will be eliminated.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
LIB

Herbert Meredith Marler

Liberal

Mr. HERBERT MARLER (St. Law-rence-St. George) :

Mr. Speaker, what I have to say with reference to the resolution now before the House will be in a very few words. I rise not for the purpose of discussing any election or proceedings at elections, but merely to attempt to place before the House what seems to be a very grave injustice now imposed upon certain Canadian citizens in this Dominion. As I understand the situation, it is this. Under the Naturalization Act of 1914, which is, I believe, the law at present in force, with some minor amendments, it is provided that the wife of a British subject shall be deemed to bo a British subject. There is practically the same provision in our civil code in Lower Canada, in Article 23, and if I mistake not, the provision is general practically throughout the world. Now when the Elections Act was framed, British subjects were given the right to vote with the exception provided in subsection 2 of section 29, the effect of which was simply this: many foreign-born women married to Canadian citizens, naturalized or native-born, and therefore themselves Canadian citizens, were deprived of the right to vote unless they went before a judge and obtained a certificate in the form set out in the act. That is the situation as it held at the time the lists were in preparation. As my hon. friend from South Wellington (Mr. Guthrie) has very clearly explained, possibly a situation may have existed then that does not exist now, but he also stressed very clearly that this provision of the act certainly imposed some other liability on these foreign-born women although Canadian citizens at the time. Some of the arguments used in the debate were that these foreign-born women did not understand our laws, our language, or our customs and temperament of the Canadian people. If that is the case, if these foreign-born women do not understand our laws, our language, or our temperament, how do they understand

Elections Act

them any better by going before a judge and getting a certificate entitling them to vote? It seems to me that when they can get a certificate by going before a judge that argument falls to the ground.

All that any fair-minded person could ask in regard to this section of the Elections Act is that these women be placed in just the same position as other Canadian citizens, so that they will not have to go before a judge, but before the registrar the same as every other voter, and the registrar can inquire into the facts and accept or refuse a particular person's claim to the right to vote. That is all that this resolution seeks to do, and I am therefore in favour of it. There was, without the slightest shadow of a doubt a great deal of injustice done to women in the division which I represent owing to the operation of this section in the last election. These women had lived there not one, two, or three years, but for many years; they understood our language, and affairs in this country and were quite as capable of exercising the franchise as many others who were placed on the voters' lists, but instead of being able to go before the registrar as the ordinary citizen could, and simply give their name to the registrar and then be permitted to vote, they had to go before a judge of the Superior Court or one having jurisdiction in naturalization proceedings and obtain a certificate, and then present themselves before the registrar. That, of course, placed great difficulties in the way of very many women, who had the right to vote, exercising their franchise. It is quite true that many of them took advantage of this provision in the act, but I claim that there was, and is, an injustice placed upon these women, who are Canadian citizens just as much as many other women who are placed on the electoral lists. For that reason I think this subsection ought to be repealed.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister) :

Before this resolution carries, I should like to present the view of the Government on this matter. In a word, I might say that I think my colleagues and I agree with every word uttered by the mover of this resolution, the hon. member for North Waterloo (Mr. Euler). He has stated the case so clearly that' anything that might be added would simply be in the nature of reiteration.

As to the relation between the franchise and citizenship, I think we ought to do all we can to see that our citizenship is kept strong and well selected; but once a person becomes a British subject, I think we should do all in our power to instil in him or her a pride in British citizenship, and the first duty of every citizen is to take an intelligent part in governmental affairs. No one can exercise the full privilege of citizenship if he is deprived of the right to vote under the conditions prescribed in the electoral law. If, therefore, Mr. Speaker, the House will approve of this motion, I would say that the Government will at a later stage bring in an amendment to the Elections Act with a view to giving effect to the intention of this resolution.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. H. H. STEVENS (Centre Vancouver) :

I hesitate very much indeed intervening in this debate. I rise, not with any desire to question the good faith of my hon. friend from North Waterloo (Mr. Euler).

I listened with intense interest to his very able argument to-day, as I have done to his arguments during the past two years.

I do think, however, that the House is perhaps losing sight of an important point.

I am not desiring to reflect on the intelligence of the House at all, but sometimes we stress one point and lose sight of another which perhaps may be of greater importance. There is no desire on my part whatever to interfere with the widest privileges of the franchise being given to foreign-born women citizens of Canada. I do not desire that at all, and I never have. I know that this question has exercised my hon. friend from North Waterloo in sessions gone by very, very much, but I think that the House must take this point into consideration, and if, later on, the act is amended, it certainly ought to be provided for. If this clause is repealed, we shall be giving to women aliens who enter Canada the right to exercise the franchise irrespective of the length of time they have been in the country and of their knowledge of our language and affairs, without any qualification whatsoever except one, and that is that they are married to a naturalized or native-born Canadian. Let us examine that from a practical standpoint. I put an extreme case to my hon. friend a moment ago, not for the purpose of misleading the House, but to illustrate the case as clearly as possible, but he took advantage of the fact that the rules of the House forbade me to speak, and rather ridiculed the idea. Let us look at it just

Elections Act

for a moment, because I think it very vitally affects the question. If a woman immigrant, I care not where she comes from, enters Canada and, as very frequently happens, joins the sweetheart who preceded her and who has probbaly established a home in this country, it makes no difference whether they are married that very day or within six months or one or two years, that woman, if this resolution carries, could vote within a week or a month after her arrival and marriage in this country.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
PRO

Thomas Wakem Caldwell

Progressive

Mr. CALDWELL:

Two months' residence in the riding is required.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

Two months' residence in the riding and a year's residence in the country but the point is-

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
LIB

Herbert Meredith Marler

Liberal

Mr. MARLER:

Take the case of an

American citizen coming into the country and marrying a Canadian naturalized subject. She would under the law become a British subject but she might not be able to speak our language any more than a person coming from a foreign land in Europe. What about a case of that kind? I am simply asking for information.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

If my hon. friend will be patient with me I will come to that in a moment. All I suggest is that the woman should acquire the right to vote on precisely the same grounds on which the man acquires that right. I appeal to the Prime Minister and the Government-because the former made a rather disturbing statement a moment ago-is it not reasonable and right that we should require the woman to comply with the same regulations that the man is called upon to comply with? On the other hand, if we allow the woman to vote simply by virtue of being married to a Canadian, she is given a privilege we have never extended to the man. If that point is fully met I have no objection to the disappearance of this clause and would vote for the resolution, but I certainly could not vote for the motion as it at present stands.

Now my hon. friend from St. George-St. Lawrence Division of Montreal (Mr. Marler) raised the question of the rather peculiar provision in the clause which really relates to persons coming from the United States. Well, my hon. friend knows exactly why that is in the act. He knows and the Minister of Railways also-

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
LIB

Samuel William Jacobs

Liberal

Mr. JACOBS:

Knows what?

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

Both these hon. members were on the committee that considered the legislation and both of them were the originators of that provision-

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
LIB

Samuel William Jacobs

Liberal

Mr. JACOBS:

Who were on the committee?

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

-but there is no reflection on them on that account.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
LIB

Samuel William Jacobs

Liberal

Mr. JACOBS:

May I point out to my hon. friend that the hon. member for St. Law-rence-St. George Division came into the House as a result of the last election; he never was here before.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

I ought to have said that my hon. friend for George Etienne Cartier was one of the originators of the proviso in this clause. It was to meet his views very largely that the proviso was put in, and the hon. member knows it.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
LIB

Samuel William Jacobs

Liberal

Mr. JACOBS:

May I tell my hon. friend that I am ndt complaining about the concessions which were wrung from the late government but of the things we failed to obtain.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

The proviso is more or less absurd. I grant that, but if, as he says, it is a concession which was wrung from the government he was responsible for it. Now he is complaining about its inequality; now he bases his whole argument this afternoon upon the fact that it is- what shall I say?-a discriminating proviso. But that is not the point. The point is whether or not the right for women to vote in Canada is to be upon the same basis as the right for men to vote. That is the broad general ground, I think, that we must stand upon; and we must also insist upon the right of women to the franchise being surrounded by the same safeguards that obtain in the case of men. The Government ought to be very careful before allowing this resolution to pass, because we do not want them to put themselves in the position of saying when the bill comes before the House "Well we are committed to the principle by this resolution." I think the suggestion made to let the resolution stand until the bill comes down is a good one. Then we can take the clause up under the illuminating intelligence of the hon. members who now occupy the Treasury benches and we will be able to work out something that will be satisfactory. Personally, I do not want to seem 5 p.m. to vote against the general idea behind the plea of my hon. friend

Elections Act

from North Waterloo, but I am certainly opposed to giving the franchise to women-* alien women coming to this country-on any other conditions than those which apply to manhood franchise. It is upon that point that I personally desire to protect the act and in order to protect the principle I shall feel myself called upon regretfully to vote against the resolution of my hon. friend.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
CON

Thomas Langton Church

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. THOMAS LANGTON CHURCH (North Toronto) :

Mr. Speaker, the object of this motion is to repeal section 2 of section 29 of the Act of 1920. This legislation was passed only after the most mature, ample and thorough discussion in this House and in the country. There was a demand for it from the returned soldiers and patriotic organizations. I regret to have to differ with what has been said on the other side of the House to-day. Those who argue for this motion advance the doctrine that naturalization and the franchise are kindred subjects. Not so. No party since Confederation ever adopted that basic principle as a franchise test and hon. gentlemen who have argued in favour of that doctrine were themselves parties to the disfranchisement of many citizens of this country. The Act of 1920, gave the franchise to British subjects and no man or woman who was not a bona fide British subject, under this act, had a vote.

I have known .some of those who have had the ballot taken away from them. Many of these persons were of alien origin who came to Canada years ago, in infancy, and grew up with the country in the belief that they were British subjects. But, after careful legal inquiry, they found it impossible to show that they were British subjects. Under the Act of 1920, no citizen of any country but Canada, whether man or woman, had a right to vote. I am not aware of any country in the world, or of any British possession, that applies any other principle to its franchise legislation. No country that I ever heard of has ever called on anyone not a citizen to take up arms and defend the country, and no country in the world ever gave the franchise to any person not a bona fide, legal, citizen. No British legislature that I am aware of ever gave the franchise to any one not a citizen.

I regret that this matter has come up at the present time. Hon. gentlemen opposite, in looking over the country, find a lot of people without the ballot and they are

anxious to get them on the list because they believe that those who were left off under the Act of 1920, will vote for them and will vote in the way they want them to. That is why they now seek to repeal section 2. There is no demand for this legislation and it is too soon to repeal its provisions. It was not even an issue in the late election. This enactment was . a war measure. This is a British country, it is going to continue to be one and that is a fact that we want to make sure of.

Under the operation of the War-Time Elections Act in England no citizen of any other country than Britain was allowed to vote; only a British subject was permitted to cast a ballot. Practically the same thing was adopted in this country; the franchise, under the War-Time Elections Act was denied to all but Canadian citizens. The indispensable requisite before being allowed to vote is that a man shall be a Canadian citizen. That is the primary condition of the franchise in every country in the world. Certainly, it is the law in the United States. Over there they assimilate their population; a man must be an American citizen and fight for the United States, no matter what country he comes from, before he is allowed to cast his ballot. I admire the American people for the firm manner in which they carried out their draft law during the war; everybody had to toe the mark, obey the law and become an American citizen. Citizenship is really one of the principles of the American constitution; if you want to live in that country you must be a citizen and be prepared to fight, and if need be, die for the Union.

I think the hon. member's motion should go to the Committee on Privileges and Elections. Such a provision as this should not be allowed to be passed without mature consideration, or before all classes are heard from and given an opportunity to present their views. We are here to give effect to public opinion. This proposition, I repeat, was not an issue in the last general election and there is no demand now from the people of Canada for the repeal of this war time measure. In his addresses to the people of North York the Prime Minister never even referred to the subject and the Government have no mandate to repeal this provision of the statute.

As this is only the first session of this Parliament, I would suggest that the hon. member allow this motion to go to the Committee on Privileges and Elections, pending the introduction of the bill, so

Elections Act

that we can have a fair discussion of the question before the proper tribunal. I know that in the constituency from which I come very strong objection is taken by different patriotic and soldier organizations to the repeal of this legislation. During the election campaign in my constituency I was asked if I was in favour of the repeal of the War-Time Elections Act and I said that I was not. I do not agree with the hon. member for Southeast Grey (Miss Macphail), whom we are always glad to hear from. I understood her to say that she claimed no special privilege for women. She thought all they desired was to be considered equal with men in relation to the franchise. That is all very well as far as it goes, but it does not touch the principle involved here. Let me say to the hon. member that she does not represent all the women in this country, or all the women of Ontario, or even all the women of Southeast Grey. The women in the constituency from which I come, and the women's patriotic organizations, are thoroughly opposed to this proposed amendment.

The act was a war measure; it was passed after most mature consideration and it was favoured by a patriotic body of soldiers who had just returned from the front and been demobilized and who had seen the condition of affairs in the old land. It was at their request and at the request of patriotic organizations throughout Canada that this legislation was placed on the statute book. Therefore, if no reasons are given, I do not know why some of my hon. friends are so anxious that this motion should carry. It may be that in our country a large number of people do not have the vote and perhaps the hon. gentleman thinks they will vote for him. It seems to me that something might be said in reference to that. I think it would be far better as the session is early yet, and we have been here only a few days, to go slow and postpone consideration of this resolution. I regret very much that this matter has been brought up at the present time, because we want this country to continue to be a British country with British institutions flourishing and we do not want to be unfair to any citizen, no matter who he is. I think, therefore, it would be far better if the hon. member would allow his motion to go to the Privileges and Elections Committee, so that the various soldiers and patriotic and other organizations could be heard from in order that we might see whether there is any demand for this proposed legislation. I

I Mr. Church.]

am thoroughly opposed, Mr. Speaker, to any repeal of this statute and will vote against the motion.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
UFA

Alfred Speakman

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. ALFRED SPEARMAN (Red Deer):

I should like to say just a few words on this subject, because I believe it affects the Prairie provinces probably as much as any other part of Canada, as we have to assimilate perhaps a greater percentage of that population than most other provinces have. I should like to say just a word as to the way in which the act has actually worked out in the permitting of women, who were absolutely qualified in every way to vote, to exercise the franchise. I am not going to go into the question of whether men and women should all be admitted to citizenship on an equal basis. That is a question of personal naturalization, and it hardly comes into this discussion; it is a question of amendment of the Naturalization Act. I have not considered the matter sufficiently to say whether or not I would oppose an amendment to the Naturalization Act, putting every man and woman on an equality as regards becoming naturalized, and eliminating the right of naturalization by marriage. The point is this: whether intentionally or not, that act prevented a large proportion of foreign-born women, who had been in this country a sufficient number of years to have assimilated our customs and acquired our language, from casting their ballots when election day arrived. Why did it do so? Partly, because of the distances which had to be traversed in that country in order that they might reach a judge. I am not reflecting on anything the hon. member for North Toronto (Mr. Church) or any other hon. member has said. Many members have no realization of the actual conditions which prevail in those prairie constituencies; they have no realization of their size, or the distances which must be covered, or the hardship which is inflicted on women who have to travel to meet the judge on a day which the judge has set, and obtain their certificates. We know that in the actual working out of that act, it was almost impossible, because the district was so large, to obtain judges to issue those certificates when the certificates were required. In all parts of those constituencies, in all parts of that prairie country, there were women requiring those certificates within a certain time, and with the number of judges we had, it was probably impossible for them to reach convenient points adjacent to all those women. In my

Elections Act

constituency-and I am speaking of. that, not because this it a personal matter, but because conditions in my constituency are probably much as they are in other large constituencies in the Prairie provinces- when it was possible to get a judge to come down, women had to travel anywhere from ten to fifty or sixty miles in order to meet that judge and get their certificates. The practical working out of that meant that they were debarred from obtaining those certificates, and they were thus debarred from voting.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink
LIB

Samuel William Jacobs

Liberal

Mr. JACOBS:

That was why the law was enacted.

Topic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT
Subtopic:   ENFRANCHISEMENT OF WOMEN OF ALIEN BIRTH
Permalink

March 29, 1922