April 22, 1918 (13th Parliament, 1st Session)


Matthew Robert Blake


Mr. M. R. BLAKE (North Winnipeg):

Mr. Speaker, that we have had trouble with the alien enemy and foreigner within our gates goes without saying, but everybody has been beating about the bush instead of going directly to the point. If a man comes to me with a pain in his side or some other ailment, my first idea is to find out what is wrong, and then suggest a cure. The foreigner is not so much to blame for this trouble as our own people. It is a very sad fact that very few people, not only foreigners but men in every walk of life, can meet with but a small measure of success without having their heads turned. That, of course, applies to the foreigner also. When war broke out I had the honour of being medical officer to the 106th Regiment of Winnipeg, and I had hundreds of applications from these men whom we now call foreigners, to enlist. They were the first men to come into the recruiting office, but through the orders of the G. O. C. for the district we hesitated to take them lest they might be spies, or at all events not turn out satisfactorily when they got to the front. We were asked for 500 men from our regiment, and we took 685 to Valcar.tier, and I am satisfied we could have taken a full regiment if we had been able to enlist men of alien birth. But now matters have changed; these men have been receiving good wages, they have taken the place of our boys, and are enjoying prosperity such as they never knew before; they have achieved a gTeat pleasure of success and many of them have gained a competency. But that is not the only thing that has put them wrong. We have also to take into account the English-speaking so-called leaders of labour. Hon. gentlemen will all remember the time when, for whatever reason, the price of grain on the Winnipeg market went over three dollars a bushel.
Three men at least that I could name in Winnipeg-so-called leaders and directors of trade unions-went, down among these aliens and said: " Look at the tremendous price farmers are going to get for their wheat. Do not think of working for them unless you get five dollars a day during the harvest," and that disrupted the whole labour situation. We ought to have more stringent laws for dealing with seditious utterances such as these men have made. One of these men I had the honour of defeating in the last election; he has been converted since and is now in khaki; but the other two are still at it, though a little bit more quietly than they used' to be. I think it is high time the Government took these men in hand at once; it would certainly relieve the situation for Manitoba. These aliens are open to persuasion. The I. W. W. may have worked some influence among them-probably in the way of German propaganda-but they are docile at heart. I have the honour of representing probably the most cosmopolitan constituency in this Dominion, for in Winnipeg North thirty-seven languages are spoken.
I know these aliens well; they may fight among themselves, and1 many a head I have had to sew up, but they are not given to pursuing any aggressive policy against the English-speaking people who have been in this country for years; they are very amenable to argument and to direction, and have great respect for the law; they can easily have the fear put into them, and if these labour leaders who have set them wrong were put down for two or three years, or until the termination of the war, they would soon come right.
With regard to the curtailment of unnecessary industry, sixty per cent of the wheat in southern Manitoba is in the ground to-day; in probably three weeks more it will all be sown, and in ninety days more, which is the usual time from seeding to harvest, the fields will be ripe. There is therefore plenty of time for the Government to give careful consideration to what the hon. member for Neepawa (Mr. Davis) has said with regard to curtailing unessential industries. If these industries were closed down on July 31 that would give two weeks before harvest, which usually comes about the middle of August, for the men thrown out of work to rush to the farms and save the crops. We have heard1 all over this country talk of conscripting these men, and it comes mostly from people who have given very little thought to the subject and have little foreseen the

consequences of enforcing conscription among the foreigners. If these men were conscripted to the farms we have no means of making them do a reasonably good day's work. It is an old saying that a volunteer is worth two pressed men, and these men would undoubtedly take life very leisurely unless we had some way of keeping them on the go. If some one suggests that a returned soldier be sent to look after one or two men, there are very few farmers who want to be bothered with three men to do the work of two. It is an impossibility to conscript these foreigners to the farms, as far as the West is concerned, and it is for the West I am speaking; only on farms where they could be used in vast numbers would the scheme be practicable at all.
I have said that these labour leaders were of English-speaking origin, and I think that applies not only to the leaders of farm labour but to the labourers in mines as well. There are two main things to which our attention should be directed, and they are food and men. I believe that the men will not be got by the application of conscription to the foreigners, but I think our system in Winnipeg of registering alien enemies is a fairly complete one; I do not think there are many alien enemies living around Winnipeg who have not registered at the district registration office. That is not the whole number though. I have no doubt that those who are alien enemies are being looked after, and that there will be no trouble, by means of a registration system properly pursued, in getting every man and woman in this country registered.
The member for Winnipeg Centre (Mr. Andrews) has said he has had the pleasure of seeing France and England awaken, and I hope he is going to have the pleasure of seeing Canada awaken shortly. He has said that if the contemplated measures are put through we shall double our production by proper organization. I have no doubt, Mr. Speaker, that such are the facts, and that by closing non-essential industries it will be possible to send many men to work on the land. It has been said that of the men who will come under this draft, aged from nineteen to twenty-two, sixty per cent will be physically unfit. That does not give any very alarming figures, when we think of the possibilities in connection with the cultivation of the land, as well as development along other lines, by registration, by direction and by proper organization. To turn men into channels which will produce the

necessary food supplies is, to my mind, as essential almost, if not quite so important, as to secure the men.

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