July 10, 1903 (9th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Adam Carr Bell

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. A. C. BELL (Pictou).

I suppose that what is said by the Minister of the Interior that he has no precise knowledge of the relations between Mr. Barr and the colonists, and particularly of their financial arrangement, must be accepted as a very strong reason why there is not ground at this moment for an investigation. At the present time the matter of immigration is of such great importance, perhaps the most important matter we have engaging our attention, that it will excuse a certain amount of solicitude on the part of the members of this House in seeing that nothing whatever should be done to prejudice what is by far i the most desirable class of immigrants we

could hope to receive in this country. Of course, the House, perhaps, knows even less than the Minister of the Interior as to the financial arrangements made between Mr. Barr and the persons whom he induced to come to this country. But from statements I have seen in the press, I would infer that there must have been something unsatisfactory in the financial arrangements made by Mr. Barr with them ; for if I am not mistaken, I have seen it recently stated that Mr. Barr, in arriving at a settlement with these colonists at Saskatoon, or some point in that neighbourhood, had refunded to them, or to some of them, certain sums of money which he had no doubt received from them. Now if that be the case, there must have been some ground for dissatisfaction on the part of these immigrants, as apparently their reasoning prevailed so far with Mr. Barr, the promoter of this movement, that he found it expedient to refund certain moneys that he had received at their hands. That being the case, it seems to me the government, or the department over which the hon. gentleman presides, should at once make it their business to ascertain as quickly and as completely as possible if there was anything improper in the relations which existed between this gentleman and the immigrants whom he induced to come to this country. The great care that is being taken by the government, and in which they are supported, I think, by every one wishing well to Canada, and hoping to see the growth of Canada made as rapid as possible in the future, would show how exceedingly important it is that we should do nothing whatever to prejudice any one of British birth or nationality, who may be looking forward to leaving his home, against coming to Canada. Now the proportion which we are to-day receiving of British immigrants is very satisfactory, we are apparently gaining at a very rapid rate in the proportion in which our immigrants of British origin bear to immigrants who are at this time going into the United States, and, of course, the United States is our great rival for that class of immigration which we consider so very desirable.
There is one thing which apparently the British immigrant, when he goes abroad, is exceedingly prompt to take advantage of, and that is the columns of the British press. In the mother country we find that journals of the very highest class, the London 'Times' and other first-class journals, seem to look upon it as a duty to open their columns to anything whatever in the nature of a complaint that may be offered by any British subject who has recently gone abroad. It would seem to be quite characteristic of these British immigrants to resort very promptly to this means of ventilating any grievance, either real or imaginary, which they conceive to exist. The consequence is of course, that, having this habit of appealing to their fellow citizeus at home through the press, and through the most respectable journals of that country, one or two dissatisfied immigrants coming into Canada are capable of doing an enormous amount of harm in prejudicing the people of the British islands against Canada ; they are capable of doing an enormous amount to nullify the great and proper efforts being made by the Department of the Interior, for the government of Canada, to secure the confidence of the British people and to turn the feet of intending immigrants in this direction. I think we ought to pay the greatest possible attention to anything that may even unwarrantably excite suspicion or dissatisfaction in the minds of immigrants. The Minister of the Interior has very properly, to my mind, observed that difficulties or comparative hardships that may be looked upon by our own people as trifling matters of every day occurrence, might be regarded by people coming from the old country, and by a class which perhaps never had occasion to rough it, as great hardships. No doubt a short acquaintance with Canada and a short experience in our western country has already taught these people to look with comparative indifference upon circumstances and upon features of apparent hardship which perhaps to them at first seemed very disagreeable indeed. The main point is this, that while receiving their first and early impressions at a time when they have not acquired such experience as would enable them to judge carefully and to speak impartially, they are prompt to speak without waiting to acquire that experience or that maturity of judgment ; they become so dissatisfied that they are at once placed in a position in which they become capable of exciting a strong feeling of dissatisfaction and suspicion on the part of the great mass of people in the mother country who, we have reason to believe from time to time, are thinking about changing their homes and coming to this country.
Now it would seem to me that, with the very large and well organized machinery which the government has instituted in the mother country for the purpose of reaching the ears of intending immigrants, a machinery which covers to a large extent the whole of the British islands, there is no reason why any gentleman should be allowed to take a position in connection with immigrants to this country which Mr. Barr seems to have taken. I would imagine that the middle man, the organizer of such an expedition, is entirely unnecessary at this moment in handling the immigrants who are looking towards Canada. In fact it would appear from what has transpired in connection with the Barr colony that there is a great and real danger that the interference of such a person is misehievi-ous, and that the immigrants would be in

better bands if they continued to place their confidence in, and to receive their advice from, the officers of the department. For that reneon I think it would require great caution on the part of the government before they entered into any arrangement whatever with Mi\ Barr, or any other gentleman who undertook to do what lie seems to have done in this case, in the direction of assigning to him any portion of the homestead lands of our country, as in this case was done by setting apart certain townships. It would appear from the whole history of this expedition that whatever purpose might have been intended by setting apart these townships so as to keep the Barr colonists together, and to form an all British settlement, it was to a very serious extent at least defeated by the result of the experience of these colonists. If I am not mistaken, a very large portion of the party which set out for Canada under Mr. Barr's leadership, did not eventually settle down in that part of the Dominion which was assigned to them by the Department of the Interior. I understand that only a comparatively limited portion of the party finally took up the lands in the townships which had been allotted to them. If I am not mistaken, I think quite a considerable portion of them found themselves quite as well suited and made settlements at some points some hundreds of miles on this side of that portion of the Dominion which had been set apart for their use.
There is another point in connection with the Barr colonists that seems to be of very great importance and that is the fact that quite a considerable number of these immigrants, instead of proceeding to the lands which were set apart for them and homesteading there, adopted what I think is the much wiser course of going into the employment of farmers already settled in Canada whereby they would have the advantage of acquiring a knowledge of the ways of the country and of acquiring that experience without which no man in the west can hope to be a successful farmer. It seems to me that instead of locating lands in certain portions of the country upon which large bodies of immigrants might settle down in compact bodies of all British settlements it would he much more important and) more likely to conduce to the advantage both of the immigrants and of the country if the opposite course were followed and if an effort were made, instead of placing these men in compact settlements, to scatter them about as much as possible among older settlers who have acquired an experience of Canadian conditions and have learned how to make a success of farming in this country. That process of settlement which seems much more desirable than the one adopted by Mr. Barr is one which would entirely exclude gentlemen like Mr. Barr from this work of colonization. It would be a work which would be more Mr. BELL.
properly done through the Department of the Interior. That department, with all its machinery and with its officials in the mother country and in Canada, could deal with the immigrant individually when he came to this country and it could place him upon a farm where he would have the advantage of Canadian neighbours with a large acquaintance of Canadian conditions, and'better still, it might, if possible, induce him to accept employment with a farmer in this country as a hired man and thus enable him to acquire a knowledge of Canadian conditions which would practically guarantee success when the time came that he could take up his work as a farmer in Canada. The fact which I mentioned in my first remarks tfiat representations had been made that Mr. Barr has refunded certain sums of money to the members of his party would seem to show- that there ivas really something in the contract or arrangement made between Mr. Barr and the colonists which was faulty and it is unfortunate that this was accomplished by Mr. Barr in consequence of the standing and position he secured with the department, which so far endorsed his scheme as to set apart and put into the hands of this gentleman a large amount of Canadian territory for the exclusive use of his party. There cau be no doubt that a gentleman, when he went to a party of intending immigrants, would have a better chance of procuring their consent to his proposal if he went with the endorsa-tion of tiie Department of the Interior and of the Canadian government, and were in a position to say : I have so far acquired
the endorsation of the Canadian government that they have seen fit to interfere with the ordinary course of their methods in settling the lands of Canada by assigning to me certain townships in tlie western portion of the country. It does seem to me to be of the last necessity that the government should never in any case at all set its seal upon arrangements of this character, which, as the lion. Minister of the Interior has very properly observed, are to the last degree unnecessary. There is no occasion for a gentleman like Mr. Barr, with his very limited knowledge of our country, to go into this transaction with the impression that he can better organize a party and better conduct it to homes in the west than the officials of the Dominion government. The facts of this case would seem to argue that the interference of persons of this character is to say the least of it mischievous and that the government, instead of encouraging anything of that kind, would rather be serving the interests of the country if it would discredit the efforts of gentlemen like Mr. Barr, and confine the work of immigration largely to the officials of the department to work with their sanction and consent and for whose actions the government would be held responsible to the people, to this House and to the immigrants themselves. The

whole circumstances would seem to apply the necessity that the government should as soon as possible acquire absolute knowledge of this transaction. There may be very little ground whatever for the statements that are being made, but the fact that they are being made and circulated in the mother country is an important fact, because it is interfering with the success of our immigration system, a system upon which the people of Canada are spending a large amount of money and a system to which they look with a great deal of confidence to fill up Canada with a British population. I do not think I need say anything more beyond this that these irregular immigration agents like Mr. Barr should be discouraged and that everything done with the consent of the department should be done by the officials of the department so that the control of the movement will be in the hands of the government and the government will be responsible for any miscarriage or bad result.

Full View