April 9, 1946 (20th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Alistair McLeod Stewart

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. ALISTAIR STEWART (Winnipeg North):

Mr. Speaker, during the course of
this debate the hon. member for Broadview (Mr. Church) posed the question, who is asking for this bill? That question ran like a refrain through all his speech. He said that he had tried to find out in Toronto who was asking for the bill and had been unsuccessful. He stated that it was a belief of his that the bill had been asked for by only a few people, almost all from one province. Had the hon. gentleman gone beyond the confines of Toronto and of Ontario he would have found that the great majority of the people in this country want this bill. The error contained in that belief of his is matched only by the additional error when he said that most of the people who came from Europe are opposed to thhs bill. Again I say, had lie known Canada he w'ould have known how wrong that statement was.
The hon. member for Broadview proved too little, but I think the hon. member for Outremont (Mr. Rinfret) tried to prove too much. That gentleman has drawn a certain amount of fire to-day from hon. members on my right. I do not join with them. I certainly do not agree that he scolded the house. He spoke objectively and fairly and he presented to us his ideas. With some of them I disagree. He said that there are many more whose tongue is French who can speak English than there are those whose principal tongue is English and who also speak French. The ratio, he pointed out, is about ten to one. Perhaps there is a reason for that, and that reason certainly does not include any slur upon one of the official languages of Canada. But in the western stretches of this country there are many of us who have little opportunity of learning French, practically none to talk with in French, little chance to read or 'write in French, and the people will not, unfortunately, go to the trouble of learning a language if they find no opportunity at all of using it. Furthermore, may I say this; as far as we in the C.C.F. are concerned I think the majority of us, if not all of us, when we were asked that question in the census, "Can you read, write or speak French?", answered in the negative. Perhaps we were unduly modest. Certainly most of the members of this party in the house, while we may not understand and appreciate every word which is spoken in speeches in French, do grasp the gist of the argument; certainly most of us can read French papers
with some comprehension. Perhaps we have not the temerity of the hon. member for Eglinton (Mr. Fleming), and I congratulate him on it, in rising in his place in this house and giving a speech in French, but I think before this session is over some of us may have done the same.
The hon. member for Outremont went on to emphasize the efforts made by the Frenchspeaking population to understand its Englishspeaking compatriots and the lack of cooperation given in the other direction. I am sorry he said that. Had he been acquainted with western Canada he would have realized that there we have a great realization of the problems and aspirations of the people of Quebec. I think we have a greater knowledge of them than perhaps the people of Quebec have of our hopes and fears on the prairies. I express this hope too: I should like to see members of parliament from the eastern parts of Canada travel through to western Canada, and they will find there a Canadianism second to none in this country. Because we come from the west does not mean that we do not have devotion or loyalty or a desire to serve our country; and the impression which was given in the speech of the hon. member for Outremont was precisely that.
Then he went on to say, is not a complete attachment to the soil true Canadianism? I do not think so. I think it is part of Canadianism, certainly, but we cannot divorce Canada and Canadianism from its people. To me true Canadianism must have a profound regard for the conditions under which Canadians live. True- Canadianism cannot exist where there is malnutrition. It is not seen in sickly children. It can no more live in slums than can democracy. True Canadianism is not realized where many of our people are poverty stricken and where the vast majority have no economic security. True Canadianism will find its highest expression when we have eradicated these evils from our country. Then, indeed, we shall not need to talk of lack of patriotism, for never does patriotism burn brighter than in a country whose principal concern is the alleviation of human suffering, the constant improvement in the conditions of the people and the maintenance of equal civil and political rights for all.
It has been argued during this debate that we are a nation; that we are not a nation. I myself think that as yet we are not a natiqn. It is true that we have the right to appoint our own diplomatic representatives abroad. It is true that as Canada we can sign treaties, as Canada we can join inter-
Canadian Citizenship

national organizations such as UNO, as Canada we can declare war or maintain neutrality as we see fit. But we are not a nation so long as we are dependent upon an external power for the right to amend our own constitution; we are not a nation so long as we are dependent upon external courts to have the last say as to what our civil law shall be. I hope to see this government rectify these omissions before the twentieth parliament of Canada is finished. I hope to see, too, a Canadian flag, but I do not want to see a Canadian flag which is reminiscent of those things which have divided us in the past; I want to see a uniquely Canadian flag.
There are certain things in this bill which I approve. Naturally, as a member of the C.C.P. I approve the principle of it. As a Canadian I approve the principle. I am especially glad to see that the minister is going to take power at last to instruct our immigrants in the matter of democratic responsibilities and privileges. I only wish that he would go farther and take the power to instruct Canadians in thes^ same privileges and responsibilities; for he has the tools at his hand. Within his department there is a citizenship branch; it is small just now but one which, I hope, will grow. Within the government, belonging to the people qf Canada, we have the national film board. I should like to see the citizenship branch cooperate with the national film board and use it through audio-visual education, with leaflets and pamphlets and speakers going all through the country telling Canadians just what Can-adianism really is. We have the means; we have the trade unions; we have the farmers' organizations, the cooperatives, the cultural societies in this country, and our people are waiting for that sort of message.
While I approve that I cannot approve another section which makes explicit, discrimination in citizenship. Already the government has decided that there are to be two classes of citizens, those who apparently are genuine citizens and those who, at the same time, for reasons which are not always good, can lose their citizenship. I object to that. I feel that I am as good a Canadian as the Secretary of State (Mr. Martin). I may differ from him politically; I undoubtedly do-

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