June 25, 1925

LIB

George Newcombe Gordon (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

I may say to the committee that there was an error on that occasion. Some confusion occurred as to the amendment submitted by the hon. member. He spoke to me immediately after the vote had been taken, and apparently the result of the vote was not understood either by him or by others.

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Subtopic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT AMENDMENT .
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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. NEILL:

If I may be permitted. I

will present the amendment. I move, seconded by the hon. member for New Westminster (Mr. McQuarrie) to amend section 30, subsection (g) by striking out all the words after the word " act " in the fifth line. As I say, this is a very important matter for British Columbia. The Dominion Elections Act as it stands at present gives a certain number of orientals in British Columbia the right to vote-those who had a discharge from the army during the late war. That feature is very objectionable to British Columbia. because that province does not allow any oriental, for any reason whatsoever, to vote in the provincial elections, and does not want anything of the kind carried into the Dominion elections. I wish particularly to avoid introducing into this discussion any altruistic consideration as to whether it is Christian, or wise, or right, or friendly, or kind, to refuse to a naturalized British subject the right to vote. We do not need to go into that, because the matter has been discussed and decided again and again. Let me quote one sentence from a member of the late government which puts the matter in a nutshell. I quote from Hansard of April 29, 1920. He says:

There is a popular impression both in the House and outside that in some way or other the mere fact that a man is a British subject entitles him to vote. That is wholly a wrong impression. British citizenship carries with it no right to vote. So far as I know citizenship in no country carries with it the right to vote. The right to vote is a conferred right in every case.

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Subtopic:   DOMINION ELECTIONS ACT AMENDMENT .
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PRO

Thomas Alexander Crerar

Progressive

Mr. CRERAR:

From whom is my hon. friend quoting?

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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. NEILL:

The hon. member for South Wellington (Mr. Guthrie) who was Solicitor General in the late government when he used that language. Thirty years ago British Columbia passed an act in which it was provided that no oriental should vote. It was

(Mr. Neill.]

(a very important decision and the Japanese nation appealed it through every court in the land, and finally took it to the Privy Council. A written decision was given by the Earl of Halsbury who was one of the ablest jurists of that century. I shall not, quote his judgment, but it was in the case of Cunningham vs. Tomy Houma in 1903. He reiterates what the hon. member for South Wellington said, and he deals fully with the subject. He points out that it has been recognized in all times, even under the British constitution for many years, that the right of a naturalized British subject does not carry with it the right to vote. So we may take it for granted, on the authority of the highest courts of the empire, that British Columbia has the right to refuse a naturalized alien subject the right to vote. We need not, therefore, discuss that issue; in any case, it is not the point of my argument. Now, as regards these returned men, we dealt with that subject fully in the British Columbia legislature in 1919. At that time the Franchise Act was being amended. A committee of these Japanese returned men met a committee of white returned men, members of the House and members of the government, and they came to the conclusion, which was unanimously adopted, in the Franchise Act, that whatever British Columbia owed these men it was not wise and not in the interests of both races-that was emphasized-to give them the vote, because it would lead to friction, entanglements and trouble in ways that I will indicate later on. In addition to putting it in the Franchise Act they adopted the following resolution uninmously:

That this legislature is strongly opposed, on econom c and social grounds, to allowing any oriental to vote in this province, either in provincial or dominion elections, and therefore urge the Federal government to take no steps that would interfere with the undoubted right of the province to prescribe the form and extent of its own franchise, and further urge the government uf Canada, when defining its Dominion franchise, not to enfranchise orientals.

This is not some opinion of my own; it is a resolution unanimously adopted by the legislature of British Columbia, numbering, I think, forty-eight members elected from all over the province. Then there is the usuat paragraph with regard to copies being forwarded to the Dominion government. Now we have not done an unfair tthing by these returned Jap men. For a number of years, as the committee is aware, the policy of the government has been to restrict the number of Japanese holding fishing licenses in British Columbia in favour of white fishermen, and they are gradually being eliminated. But the

Elections Act

government, at the request of the members from British Columbia in this House, made the provision that that exclusion would not apply to a Japanese fisherman who was a returned soldier. So as long as they live these Japanese will have the right to fish, a right that is not given to a white man simply because he is a returned man. That is a consideration which, capitalized, is worth perhaps a couple of thousand dollars to each man. I only mention that to show that the British Columbia members have not been prejudiced or narrow or unfair in their treatment of this matter, but they agree with the legislature that it is not wise, that it is not in the interests of either race, to begin to open the door by giving to orientals the right to vote. These are the indisputable facts; they can be easily verified.

Now, our claim is that that same restriction which we impose in British Columbia should be carried into the Dominion Elections - Act. I should like to quote a sentence or two from the utterances of prominent statesmen of Canada bearing upon this subject. Here is one of them:

It is well known that the dominion franchise is in principle based upon the franchise acts which exist in the various provinces throughout the country.

The dominion franchise is based in principle upon the provincial franchise.

The effect is to recognize the right of the province, to make its own franchise and the principle of the provincial franchise is the one we adopt.

Again we find another man saying:

It was a settled matter that we should adopt the provincial qualification with as little variation as it was possible to allow. I think that it is the opinion of the House and the people that we should have regard to the wishes of the province of British Columbia in this matter.

And here is the opinion of a man that will not be challenged in this House, that of the present Minister of Justice:

I do not wish to be misunderstood. I favour the adoption of the provincial franchise for Dominion elections.

Here is another one:

All that is asked is that parliament shall respect the franchise law of British Columbia, as it respects the franchise law of any other province.

Mr. Bureau: Hear, hear.

I find that Sir Wilfrid Laurier said the franchise originates in the province, and must be carried into the Dominion. The right hon. leader of the opposition spoke as follows:

Does the hon. member say that in British Columbia there has been a breach of faith because for years past if not since the birth of that province they have refused the franchise to British subjects naturalized by the very same certificate, the Japanese and men of alien birth?

Is it a breach of faith that those two provinces

have done thus for years? There is not a shadow of a breach of faith.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Hear, hear.

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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. NEILL:

Finally I have the right hon. Prime Minister speaking along the same line:

Our Dominion is a federation of provinces, that in the distribution of seats in this House regard is hid primarily to the provinces, each province being allowed a certain proportion in relation to the others, and thut at all times the provinces of the Dominion have had regard for each other's problems, that nothing could be more unfortunate than that an effort should be made on the part of any province or group of provinces to coerce, so to speak, any other provinces in regard to any matter which was of great concern to it, that the federal government could not afford to ignore tiie prevailing sentiment in any province.

My amendment simply carries out the views I have quoted of the statesmen of the present day in Canada, that and that only. It affects Orientals only.

Now, the suggestion is made that this may create friction in Japan. Is it better to create friction in Japan, or to create friction in British Columbia? But there is no reason under the sun why there should be any friction in Japan. It is in the very best interests of the relations between the two nations that my amendment should carry, for this reason: If this amendment is not adopted, there will be friction and riot, and possibly bloodshed, in British Columbia. I know of what I speak. It very nearly happened at the last election. A bunch of husky loggers came to the poll at ten minutes to six and found ten or fifteen Japs there waiting to vote. They were not familiar with voting, they had never voted before, and these white men were anxious to cast their ballot. There was a good deal of friction, and it might have led to bloodshed but for the good sense of the returning officer, who broke the law and said, "I will put my watch back ten minutes and let you all vote." There is the danger of friction arising in British Columbia, and we do not want that. [DOT]

Another thing: Have the Japanese asked

for this? Not at all. Has their government asked for it? No. They were content with taking the test case to the Privy Council in 1903, and when they found that the highest court in the British Empire decided as I have indicated, they have since then made no application.

Now, what is the situation in Japan? Can a wdiite man vote there if he is naturalized, if he is a returned man? Not if he were a whole regiment of returned men in his own person. Not only can he not vote for a member of parliament, but he cannot vote in the most trivial election in a village or a rural district. He cannot even become a member of a chamber of commerce in Japan. Japan-I have a

Elections Act

synopsis of the Japanese law here-very properly says, at least it is within their power to do so: We do not think a naturalized subject

has the same patriotic instinct in him as the natural born. They are perfectly within their rights in doing that. They say no naturalized white man shall even be eligible to be a member of a chamber of commerce, let alone vote in an election. I am. only asking that the Oriental in British Columbia shall be put on the same plane in regard to federal elections as he is on, and has been on for almost thirty years in regard to provincial elections in British Columbia. I am only asking that he be put on the same plane as the white man is put on in Japan. I am (only asking that British Columbia's wishes as expressed in the unanimous resolution of the legislative assembly should be carried out. I am only asking for what I think is British Columbia's right to be allowed to prescribe its own franchise as indicated by the British North America Act and confirmed by nearly fifty years of precendent.

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PRO

Robert Alexander Hoey

Progressive

Mr. HOEY:

Do the Hindus in the province vote in the provincial elections?

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PRO
PRO

Robert Alexander Hoey

Progressive

Mr. HOEY:

How many oriental voters

would there be?

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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. NEILL:

I am glad the hon. member

mentioned that. There are under two hundred, and that two hundred are scattered over British Columbia, so this amendment would not affect my political fortunes, for instance, and even if it did, the country could get along without my being elected, but this is vital for British Columbia. It is not the number who will vote here or vote there, but the principle of the thing, because if these men are allowed to vote it will be said oy-and-bye, why not their sons, their brothers and so on? It is the friction that will be produced that we are afraid of, the fear that there will be friction between the two races as a result, as has been the case before in a serious race riot in British Columbia.

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LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Mr. BELAND:

I must say, in the first

place, that I regret extremely that I have to differ with my hon. friend (Mr. Neill) in his intention that the orientals who have thought proper to join the colours and fight the battles of Canada and the empire should be denied the exercise of the Canadian franchise.

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CON

George Black

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BLACK (Yukon):

Was it not the

battles of Japan they were fighting?

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LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Mr. BELAND:

I am not at liberty to

express a definite opinion upon that point.

fMr. NeiU.] .

I am willing to believe, since they have lived in Canada, and many of them, I understand, were naturalized British subjects, that they were fighting the battles of Canada and of the British Empire. However that may be, I have no brief to defend particularly the orientals in Canada. I know that in certain parts of this country there exists a very strong sentiment that our immigration laws should be so framed as to preclude oriental immigration entirely. It has been admitted by the previous speaker (Mr. Neill) that in point of numbers, their right to vote could not be considered serious. In answer to a question which was put to him he said that probably not two hundred orientals would be affected by his amendment, should it pass this committee and the House. I agree with him that in point of numbers it is not a serious matter. On the question of principle I do not agree with him at all. because the real principle which is involved in his amendment is the depriving of the right to vote naturalized British subjects who have shared in the battles of Canada and the British Empire. I say it is proper that these men should exercise the right to vote in a Dominion election.

Representing in the government the returned men more particularly, I would really feel it a slur upon the men who have shared in the Canadian Expeditionary Force if at any moment it was proclaimed not only throughout Canada but throughout the British Empire and the world that in this country men were found good enough to go to the front and expose their lives for the sake of the country, but that when they came back here they were denied the most precious privilege that can be bestowed upon a Canadian citizen, that of the exercise of the franchise.

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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. NEILL:

Why not make it apply to

Americans also?

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LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Mr. BELAND:

Americans are not British

subjects.

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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. NEILL:

Some of these Japanese are

not.

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LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Mr. BELAND:

I am sure they have the

right to vote. Any man coming from the United States, living in Canada, having served in the Canadian expeditionary force and being a British subject is certainly entitled to vote at a Dominion election.

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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. NEILL:

He cannot be a British subject if he is an American. I said: Why

not make it apply to Americans also? Why not give the same right to American citizens, many of whom served in the Canadian expeditionary force?

Elections Act

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LIB

Henri Sévérin Béland (Minister of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment; Minister presiding over the Department of Health)

Liberal

Mr. BELAND:

The primary qualification

of a man who can vote in a Dominion election is that he must be a British subject. My hon. friend has said-and I speak with all due deference; I respect his opinion-that the provincial franchise prevents orientals from voting. That may be so. I am not quarrelling at all with the provincial franchise. But what obtains in this parliament is the Dominion franchise. Moreover, my hon. friend has said: This will not cause any ill-feeling or

friction in Japan. I am certain that with his keen intelligence and his deep understanding of international matters, he will admit with us all that any such movement or action on the part of the Canadian parliament, calculated to deprive former Japanese subjects who have become British subjects and who have fought in the Canadian army under the British flag, of the privilege to exercise their franchise, is likely to develop in Japan a very strong sentiment and to bring about friction which would be utterly undesirable. What I think should be done is, at least, that public recognition be given through parliament to those men who, regardless of their origin or race, fought under the British flag, if they live in Canada and if they are Canadians in the proper sense of the word. The consequences which would attach to an action of this parliament in compliance with the hon. member's amendment are very considerable and serious, and I would think the returned men generally throughout Canada would interpret any such action on the part of parliament as a reflection upon them all individually. That may be pretty strong language, but I am inclined to believe it is warranted by the circumstances should they develop as my hon. friend wants them to develop. Under the circumstances, I would beg hon. members not to support my hon. friend's amendment.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I should like to

support the position taken by the minister (Mr. Beland). The hon. member for Comox-Alberni (Mr. Neill) argues that British citizenship does not carry with it the right to vote. It seems to me that if that is so British citizenship becomes an absolutely empty thing, which none of us wants to see. In democratic countries, we believe each citizen ought to have a part in the conduct of the business of the country, and the citizen who is denied the right to vote is thereby precluded from having any voice in the conduct of the affairs of the country. Under such conditions citizenship would seem to be absolutely of no use.

With regard to the men who fought overseas, in Stanley park there is a very fine monument to the Japanese who fell during the war. We 313

heard a good deal of criticism last night of the hon. member for Southeast Grey (Miss Macphail) because she suggested that we should have other types of monuments than those of stone. I presume there is no objection to having that stone monument to the Japanese who fell. But I would suggest that a much finer monument that could be erected side by side with it would be to give those who returned the right to take their share with the rest of us in the affairs of Canada, the Canada in whose interests they thought they were fighting. Now we understand that these men are to be rewarded by receiving some fishing licenses. Is that any reward for the risks they took or the part they played? I imagine a large number of returned men throughout the country would not be satisfied that some little material concession such as a fishing license should be considered a suitable reward for the action those Japanese took at that particular time. I would rather see an exhibition of what some of us have been instructed is British fair play, some little sense of gratitude in this regard, and a recognition of services rendered. Personally, I would by no means confine the voting privilege to this particular class. If Japanese are to be allowed to enter into our British citizenship at all, they should be allowed all the rights and privileges which ga with that citizenship. The hon. member for Comox-Albemi has referred to the irritation of some loggers at the polls when some Japanese were trying to vote. I would suggest to him

and I think I know the loggers on the Pacific coast fairly well, that a large number of them are quite sympathetic with their fellow workers, the Japanese. I know they do not want a lowering of their standards. I know that in the past oriental workers have been imported in the attempt to lower the standard of white workers. I join with them in insisting that the standards of white workers ought to be protected. I would protest against tha recent action of employing orientals at Nanaimo to help break the strike. But if these men are to be allowed in and to take part in building up our country, they ought to be given their rights. This is not entirely a provincial matter. I take it that citizenship in Canada ought to extend as far as Canada extends, and that the man who has a right to vote in Alberta, a Chinese or Japanese resident, if his business causes him to go to British Columbia, ought to retain that right in British Columbia. I hope the time may come when we shall amend our present laws so that citizenship in any part of Canada is good in all parts of Canada and carries

Elections Act

with it all the privileges which it may have in any one part. Undoubtedly, there are international complications. We have been told that the number of votes involved is not very great, but the effect in further irritating the Japanese may be quite serious. As I understand the matter, what the Japanese object to in the treatment which they have received at the hands of the Americans, is primarily the discrimination which brands them as an inferior race.

I received a few months ago a very interesting paper from Japan, the Japanese Times add Mail, of October 21, 1924, which contains a message from Japan to America and goes very thoroughly into the viewpoint of the Japanese with regard to their treatment on this continent. I will quote one paragraph which perhaps indicates their point of view. It reads:

But Japan does resent a clause that, while not mentioning Japanese specifically, affects Japanese alone of al! the races heretofore eligible to enter (the United States and which, in an act of Congress, stamps Japanese as of an inferior race.

Japan has no discriminatory legislation. Her laws regarding land ownership by aliens applies to all aliens. He- laws respecting the right of immigrants of the labouring classes to enter the country apply to the labourers of every, land alike. No right or privilege is withheld from American citizens in Japan that is not withheld from all aliens, and the citizens of no land have any privileges whatever in Japan that are not shared in equally by the citizens of the United States.

Here the reference of course is to the United States, but the same criticism applies to the treatment of the Japanese by Canadians. If it is not an unfair advantage, I would like to quote a sentence from the remarks of my hon. friend for Comox-Albemi yesterday. He said:

A man who would have good neighbours must be neighbourly himself.

I wish the hon. member would extend that very sound principle to the oriental-a man who would have good neighbours must be neighbourly himself. That applies not merely to the United States neighbours, but to our neighbours across the Pacific. It seems to me that, since it is recognized very generally that in the future the great conflicts are liable to be on the Pacific ocean, it is there that we shall have to work out our new principles of world brotherhood. The least we can do in a matter of this kind is to show Ourselves neighbourly. The existing legislation does not affect any very large number of votes. It Is, however, a gesture of good-will which I think is appreciated and will be reciprocated by those on the other side of the water.

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June 25, 1925