June 2, 1947 (20th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Major James William Coldwell

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


Mr. Speaker, I should explain at the outset that I am introducing this motion for the adjournment of the house in order that we may discuss this matter, which is of urgent public importance in view of the reports which have been appearing in the press that industrialists have proceeded to the displaced persons' camps in Europe in order to select persons for their industries in Canada. I should also like to say that I regret that the hon. member for Beauce (Mr. Dionne) is not in his seat this afternoon. I did send him a note before lunch telling him that I was going to raise this question, and I was hoping that he would be present this afternoon.
If we look over the correspondence which has been tabled in the house and the various reports which have appeared in the press, it will be evident at, once why it is that we have thought it well that the House of Commons should have an opportunity of discussing the policy which underlies the movement of these persons to Canada at this time. The other afternoon I asked a question of the Minister of Labour (Mr. Mitchell) and referred to the Alien Labour Act, which is chapter 109 of the revised statutes of Canada, referring him particularly to section 2. I said at once that I knew there were certain sections in that act which gave the government power to do anything that was necessary in order to promote immigration into Canada; but I would draw the attention of the house to what I believe has been the traditional policy not only of this parliament but of the parliaments of the British commonwealth. Section 2 in its principal words says:
It shall be unlawful for any person ... to prepay the transportation or in any way to assist, encourage or solicit the importation or immigration of any alien or foreigner into Canada, under contract or agreement ... to perform labour or service of any kind in Canada.
So I submit at the outset that this action on the part of the government in permitting industrialists to go to Europe at this time and bring labour into this country under contract is a violation of the intent of this law. I say at once, of course, that I do not regard the bringing into Canada of persons by their relatives, under permission granted by this house through orders in council that have been tabled, as a violation of this law; but I also want to say that from time to time we have had individuals asking for the admission to this country of their relatives, and we have found it very difficult indeed to obtain permission for them to bring their relatives to this country, for a good many reasons. Yet in this particular instance, and in the instances now under discussion in the country, every facility is being given for medical examination, immigration inspection and so on, in order that these people may be brought into the country under contract.
I would draw the attention of the house to the letter written to the then Secretary of State on October 9, 1946, which was included in the correspondence tabled at my request, and to which there was no reply. In that letter the hon. member for Beauce said:
We are producing about two carloads, nearly one-third of the machineries are idle and there is such a turn-over of female help that we are practically operating with learners most or the time. For instance, last year we had a turnover of 555 girls in this plant.

Labour Conditions
At the time that struck me as being a large turnover. If we turn to the Montreal Gazette of Saturday last, May 31, we find a statement attributed to the hon. member for Beauce,
I think in error, since I believe it should have been attributed to his manager who was making the statement surrounding it, as follows:
There are about 425 employees in the plant, and all seem to be quite satisfied with their working conditions.
If there are only 425 employees in the plant and in the previous year, according to his own words, there was a turnover of 555, I submit that careful investigation should have been made before this permission was granted. In the same letter to which I have just referred we find this statement:
The situation here is very bad regarding female help. Last year I built ten nine-apartment houses to take care of large families. I have kept a man with an automobile travelling all over the province since a year to gather poor families that could not find their living in the agricultural places, and which had four or five girls for a family. Up to date I have been successful to bring only seven families.
Then this very interesting sentence follows:
The trouble seems that the people have too much money to spend.
That should have immediately warned the government that the reasons for bringing in these girls might not have been those which have been stated across the country. "The trouble seems to be that the people have too much money to spend."
It is our opinion that under no circumstances should the government permit an individual employer to go abroad and import contract labour into this country. We want to see every facility provided for bringing to this country' displaced persons who are suffering in the displaced persons' camps; but we think that should be done under the most careful supervision of the department of immigration, of the proper officials of the government and of this House of Commons, and not left to any individual or group of individuals who have a vested interest in the labour of distressed people, who may desire to go overseas and bring back contract labour. In the Montreal Gazette of last Saturday I find that the manager of the plant made this statement to the press:
After the girls have paid back their fares, approximately $300 each, they are free to leave at any time.
One of the girls stated:
We signed a contract to work for Mr. Dionne for two years. We are not allowed to leave or get married during that time.
The statement of the girl herself is that this is part of the contract. I say immediately that I saw a denial of that in the paper today.

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