March 29, 1922 (14th Parliament, 1st Session)


Alfred Speakman

United Farmers of Alberta


I should like to say just a few words on this subject, because I believe it affects the Prairie provinces probably as much as any other part of Canada, as we have to assimilate perhaps a greater percentage of that population than most other provinces have. I should like to say just a word as to the way in which the act has actually worked out in the permitting of women, who were absolutely qualified in every way to vote, to exercise the franchise. I am not going to go into the question of whether men and women should all be admitted to citizenship on an equal basis. That is a question of personal naturalization, and it hardly comes into this discussion; it is a question of amendment of the Naturalization Act. I have not considered the matter sufficiently to say whether or not I would oppose an amendment to the Naturalization Act, putting every man and woman on an equality as regards becoming naturalized, and eliminating the right of naturalization by marriage. The point is this: whether intentionally or not, that act prevented a large proportion of foreign-born women, who had been in this country a sufficient number of years to have assimilated our customs and acquired our language, from casting their ballots when election day arrived. Why did it do so? Partly, because of the distances which had to be traversed in that country in order that they might reach a judge. I am not reflecting on anything the hon. member for North Toronto (Mr. Church) or any other hon. member has said. Many members have no realization of the actual conditions which prevail in those prairie constituencies; they have no realization of their size, or the distances which must be covered, or the hardship which is inflicted on women who have to travel to meet the judge on a day which the judge has set, and obtain their certificates. We know that in the actual working out of that act, it was almost impossible, because the district was so large, to obtain judges to issue those certificates when the certificates were required. In all parts of those constituencies, in all parts of that prairie country, there were women requiring those certificates within a certain time, and with the number of judges we had, it was probably impossible for them to reach convenient points adjacent to all those women. In my

Elections Act
constituency-and I am speaking of. that, not because this it a personal matter, but because conditions in my constituency are probably much as they are in other large constituencies in the Prairie provinces- when it was possible to get a judge to come down, women had to travel anywhere from ten to fifty or sixty miles in order to meet that judge and get their certificates. The practical working out of that meant that they were debarred from obtaining those certificates, and they were thus debarred from voting.

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