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


George Randolph Pearkes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. G. R. PEARKES (Nanaimo):

Mr. Speaker, the majority of those who have spoken in this debate have been men born in this country. Forty years ago, in the spring of 1906, I left England to take up residence in Canada. Had the phrase been coined at that time I should have then been called a non-Canadian British subject. It is a phrase used in this measure. Perhaps it is a somewhat cumbersome one, and the minister might wish to follow a procedure frequently followed in the army, and refer to that group of people as N.C.B.S.
When I left the old country I was the product of the ordinary English public school. By present standards I do not suppose my education was considered high. I was well grounded in history. I had a keen interest in games; perhaps to my love of sports can be attributed the root of a desire I have to compromise. Sometimes I think that in your
Canadian Citizenship

position, Mr. Speaker, you must regard sportsmen as those of a high order because, after all, you are a sort of glorified referee whose responsibility is to interpret to the house the rules of parliamentary fair play. *
I believe that my religious education was a sort of sentimental attachment to the school chapel. I arrived here in Canada, and went at once to the western province of Alberta. There I arrived in a strange world. In that country were groups of people of many nationalities. I remember well in my neighbourhood a group of Icelandic people, and other groups of Welsh, American, English, Swedish, Norwegian, and down-east Canadians.
I lived in Alberta for some considerable time before I realized that there was anything else but a down-east Canadian. It was not mentioned in disrespect, but those Canadians in Alberta forty years ago were regarded as immigrants, in exactly the same w7ay as I was regarded as an immigrant. They were settlers. It was a strange world into which I was inducted-and inducted not as a Canadian but as a westerner.
I wanted to be one of the gang, and therefore went out and bought myself a pair of chaps and a wide-brimmed hat. I became a westerner, and remained such until I went overseas during the first great war. It was on the slopes of Vimy ridge I first became a Canadian. I do not say I should not like to have become a Canadian before that date, Hut it had scarcely occurred to me that there was such an organization.
As I say, I -wore the garb of the people of western Canada, and because of that, with the additional fact that I wore a Stetson hat, I was considered one of them. Had there been a more dignified method of welcoming me into the family of Canada I should have been delighted to follow it, by going before either a mounted police officer, a justice of the peace, or even a bishop. I should have welcomed whatever method might have been laid down.
But until now, so far as I know, no such methods have been laid down. As I have said, it was on the slopes of Vimy ridge, where I had the great honour of serving with a regiment recruited from the province of Quebec, that I first became a Canadian. I have been out west most of the time since the close of that war. No longer does one hear in western Canada the expression, "A down-east Canadian." One hears the expression, "Canadian." World war II has cemented that spirit of unity which, as far as I was concerned, was first sown when we fought on the slopes of Vimy ridge.
I believe that throughout this dominion there is a wide desire for Canadian citizenship to be defined and clarified. To me Canadian citizenship is not incompatible with being a British subject. After all, Canada is a nation in the British commonwealth, of nations and as such I can be a Canadian citizen and still feel that I am a member of the British commonwealth of nations.
As I understand the present bill, a nonCanadian British subject may reside in Canada and remain a British subject if he so desires, or he may express a desire to become a Canadian citizen and by carrying out certain formalities laid down in the bill he can become a Canadian citizen. Provision is made also for the Canadian citizen who is travelling among other nations of the British commonwealth of nations still to retain his British citizenship. Therefore, if a nonCanadian British subject comes here and desires to become a Canadian citizen, to my mind he undergoes an act of renationalization rather than naturalization. I think there is a difference. He still remains a British subject; he gives up his nationality of Englishman, Scotsman or Australian and becomes a Canadian by nationality. That would have met with my early desires as a boy, which I expressed a few minutes ago, to be permitted to become one of the gang.
The average non-Canadian British subject coming here who is born in one of the other nations of the British commonwealth has been steeped in the history of the commonwealth. He is familiar with the system of government and the customs of our institutions, customs and institutions which in the main are uniform in 'every nation of the British commonwealth of nations. He will have learned about magna charta, he will know of habeas corpus and the bill of rights, and he will know something of the statute of Westminster. He is of the breed and, being of the breed, he knows the breed; he is prepared to take the worth of the breed for granted. Those things which are closest to the hearts of many are seldom found readily in their mouths.
I referred to the willingness to. compromise. There is much in this bill that I can accept, but there is one point which I do find it difficult to take readily. I refer to the necessity of a non-Canadian British subject having to serve the same period of apprenticeship when he comes to Canada that must be served by a man who has not been brought up in the traditions, who is not familiar with the customs and the system of government of the British commonwealth..
[Mr. Pearkes.)

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