February 15, 1929 (16th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret (Secretary of State of Canada)


Hon. FERNAND RINFRET (Secretary of State):

Mr. Speaker, I do not rise to offer any extended remarks on this resolution, for it has already been pretty well discussed. The debate has brought home to us two things: the lofty sentiment and principle involved in the resolution itself, and the confusion that would inevitably ensue if the resolution were adopted in its present form.
The preamble in my opinion points with pardonable pride to the position that Canada has attained as a member of the commonwealth of nations and also as a member of the League of Nations. I join with other members in the view that some day we should be able to describe the citizens of this country in all public documents in a manner consonant with the equality of status which Canada now enjoys. At the same time it has been made very clear that serious difficulties might follow the adoption of the resolution in its present form.
I am afraid the mover of the resolution has been confused on one point. He seems to be under the impression that every person bom in Canada is a Canadian national. This is not so according to the provisions of the act to define Canadian nationals, chapter 21 of the revised statutes of Canada, 1927. Clause 2 clearly defines the following persons as Canadian nationals:
(a) Any British subject who is a Canadian citizen within the meaning of the Immigration Act;
(b) the wife of any such citizen;
(c) any person born out of Canada whose father was a Canadian national at the time of that person's birth, or with regard to persons born before the third day of May, oue thousand nine hundred and twenty-one, any person whose father at the time of such birth possessed all the qualifications of a Canadian national as defined in this act.

It is obvious, Mr. Speaker, that to be a Canadian national it is essential that a person be a British subject.
I happened to be in the house when this legislation was being dealt with, and I remember the object of the then minister of justice, Mr. Doherty, was to distinguish between British subjects in Canada, in Australia, and in other parts of the empire. The house was in a humorous mood at -the time and I recall that an hon. .member during the course of the debate asked whether this was a railway bill or some other kind of bill. It illustrates tlhe practical difficulty at times of giving -a.nj'' reality to the most lofty sentiments. I am in agreement with those hon. members who have stated that we cannot create a race by statute.
I agree with the amendment that has been moved by the member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mir. Woodsworth), but I think there should be a change also in the first part of the resolution, and t-hat instead of reading:
That persons born in Canada (or otherwise defined as Canadian nationals) -
-we should use the term, British subjects.. The paragraph would then read:
That British subjects born in Canada (or otherwise defined as Canadian nationals) shall be described as being of Canadian nationality-
-and so on. This would clarify the clause. Undoubtedly, Mr. Speaker, the principle of' this resolution has much merit, but the apt expression of that principle presents considerable difficulty. Therefore inasmuch as the-member -for Springfield (Mr. Bissett) lhas achieved his purpose by bringing the question before the house, which has resulted in a very interesting discussion, perhaps he will now consent to withdraw the resolution. It, certainly cannot be accepted in its present form, and even if amended as proposed by~ the member for Winnipeg North Centre I would have to vote against it.

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