January 30, 1958 (23rd Parliament, 1st Session)


John Whitney Pickersgill


Mr. Pickersgill:

I would not have dared to say that a year ago, and the acting minister is also the Minister of Justice and he will no doubt rebuke me later on for having said it, but I do believe that some of these matters are intrinsically difficult. However, I do not think, taken by and large, there are any more devoted people in this country than the people engaged in the education of the Indians. No doubt, as in any other group of teachers, there are some poor ones amongst them, but for the most part they are good and devoted teachers.
I think most of them, furthermore, would agree that even if it meant disturbing the tenor of their own lives it would be better to have these Indian children educated and brought up with other children wherever it is physically possible and wherever the environment can be made satisfactory.
I think it is also terribly important, particularly in the case of children in residential schools, many of whom come from broken homes and have no one to look after them on the reserve to whom they might return, to consider this aspect of the matter. One of the most tragic things about this matter is that these children are educated to the age of 15 or 16 years and then they go back to the reserve where there is no future for them. That is one gap of which we were very conscious in the department and which we were seeking to do something about.
This brings me to another subject about which I would like to say a few words. Several years ago a gentleman who was formerly private secretary to the leader of the opposition was given a post in the Indian affairs branch of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration at the time when my predecessor was the minister. This gentleman was given the special responsibility of doing exactly what the hon. member for Skeena said ought to be done, namely the responsibility of seeking to place Indians in a position where they could live as other people, where they could earn as other people and where they would be accepted in ordinary employment. He did a wonderful job and I have nothing but praise for what he did. He had a great deal of initiative and whenever he heard of any new development anywhere adjacent to Indian reserves or in the north country he was there, on the spot, trying to interest employers in giving the Indians the first preference and giving them a start. A number of most useful developments were started, although I am not going to take the time of the committee to describe them now.
It so happens that, because of a change in the wheel of political fortune, that gentleman is now otherwise occupied. I do not know that I would say he is as well occupied

now as he was when he was in the department. But even though he is not occupied at the present time in seeking to advance my political fortunes, I am perfectly certain that he is doing a good job wherever he is.
I want to say, sir, that I do hope sincerely the minister will see to it, now that Mr. Jack-I might just as well mention his name -is no longer with the department, the work he was doing is being followed up by someone else and that the best person possible will be secured for that job.
Next to education the most important task of the department is to help the Indians to get into the stream of employment, to help them to live as other people in an ordinary way and gradually to get rid of segregation.
I could not agree more heartily with anything that has been said in the house this session than with what the hon. member for Skeena said about that. I think it is the moral duty of all Canadians to do everything they can, while respecting the rights of these people to their reserves and every other right they have and while doing nothing to force this development, to give the Indians the feeling that they are going to have a better life in the ordinary world with the rest of us.
This is something that a government cannot do alone but it is something with respect to which a government can give a lead. It is something with respect to which every member of parliament can give a lead. The hon. member for Skeena is a new member of the house and I do not suppose he and I would agree about everything. Perhaps there are many things we would not agree about but there are some things on which I think we do agree and certainly believe he made a very valuable contribution to the debate this afternoon. Although some of the things he said may have been a reflection upon my administration of the department, I will leave the defence of the department to my successor and with a good deal of confidence, too.

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