February 10, 1909 (11th Parliament, 1st Session)


Rodolphe Lemieux (Minister of Labour; Postmaster General)


Hon. Mr. LEMIEUX (Postmaster General and Minister of Labour).

(Translation.) I have no intention of speaking at any length upon the question raised by my hon. friend from L'Islet. I have listened with much interest to his eloquent apneal in favour of the repatriation of our countrymen. It is a matter which must always be of considerable moment to the French Canadian minority in the. Dominion.
What has been the policy of the government since they assumed the direction of affairs in 1896? It would be useless to refer to what took place before that time. It is well known that we were then deploring the exodus of our countrymen to the United States. This has been going on since a number of years, and in spite of the National policy, as it was then called,_ our fair Quebec parishes were being alarmingly depopulated for the .benefit of New England.
Liberals at that time contended that a different fiscal policy might stop the outward flow of population. And what happened when they assumed power? Has the present government succeeded in keeping the people in the country? I refer here more particularly to the province of Quebec. The member for L'Islet may read the statistics published by the Census Bureau and he will find that with the exception of the new provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, the province of Quebec alone has maintained and increased her population. It is due to this that the Ontario membership in this House has diminished bv five or six seats.
To what are we to attribute this result?
Precisely to the attitude of the government. The government altered the fiscal policy of the country in such a manner as to secure the development and the full expansion of national industry which remained stagnant not onlv in Quebec but in every province of the Dominion, until 1896. Never before, Mr. Speaker, had the industries of Quebec flourished as they have in the last ten years. We have maintained and increased the population of our great cities of Montreal, Quebec and Sherbrooke so much so that Montreal occupies to-day the whole of the island of that name, the labouring population having built up all the outlying ground.
Farm lands in the province of Quebec were being rapidly deserted; to-day, thank God, they are in full cultivation, and when they become too congested the people no longer cross the line, they remove to farms in the western provinces. The member for L'lslet cannot have read the eloquent letters published last year by Abb6 Berube, in which he calls atention to the number of French Canadians who have settled in Saskatchewan and Alberta since five or six years, in spite of the tempest which certain parties sought to raise concerning the new constitution. This is so true that in certain western parishes peopled, until quite recently by foreign emigrants, our French speaking countrymen will soon be in a majority.
It may therefore be contended that the government has not only checked the flow of emigration and kept the people in the province of Quebec, but that the population of that province has so increased as to furnish settlers to the western fertile belt. The government did even more-I quite recognize that the member for L'ls-let was perfectly sincere in his remark- they repatriated all our countrymen residing in the United States who so desired it.
Will my hon. friend from Jacques Cartier tell me how many immigration agents we had in New England before 1897? There was not a single one. The government of that day had not deemed it advisable to appoint a single French speaking repatriation agent. [DOT]
Since 1896, under the direction of Hon. Mr. Sifton-a man most unjustly spoken of in the province of Quebec-and at the request of Liberal members, the Department of the Interior appointed a certain number of agents, and among them certain clergymen, to undertake the work of repatriation. I make this declaration, Mr. Speaker, not in a spirit of animosity, but because, in Quebec, our opponents have never ceased to proclaim that our policy was hostile to repatriation. I have not before me the names of those agents, but I know that there are twelve of them, with clergymen among them, at different points in the New England states.

The member for L'lslet has stated that the best method of promoting repatriation would be to develop transportation especially as regards waterways. He also referred to the necessity of establishing industrial and technical schools, in order to keep our population in the province of Quebec. You know, Sir, that such foundations are placed not under Dominion, but under provincial authority.

Subtopic:   RENE DUPONT.
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