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


Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Leader of tlhe-Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. Secretary of State (Mr. Rinfret) has stated the case with great clearness. I ventured to rema-rk to tlhe Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) a moment ago that this is one of the most difficult of all matters that we could undertake to deal with, and tlhe Secretary of State has clearly explained the reason. So far as the second section of the resolution is concerned, I think upon reflection its sponsor will see that to adopt it would make us more or less ridiculous. T-he hon. member for Lisgar (Mr. Brown), as well as the Minister of Immigration (Mr. Forke) has made that abundantly clear.

Canadian Nationality
I think the hon. member for Springfield (Mr. Bissett) when he drafted his resolution overlooked two words in the definition of Canadian nationals-the words, " British subjects". That is the only difficulty as I see it at the moment, and as the Secretary of State has pointed out. There can be no such word as " national " applied to a Canadian citizen in the sense in which it is used in this resolution; it would be applicable only if Canada were an independent state. That is the reason why in the statute defining Canadian nationals the word " British " precedes the word " subject ", as brought to our attention by the minister. We are British subjects; we are Canadian citizens. And bo long as Canada continues within the empire we are British subjects, although we may be and are at the moment Canadian citizens. The problem of defining a Canadian national was one which the former minister of justice endeavoured to deal with in the statutes of 1921, and the reasons need not now be adverted to that compelled him, in the very nature of things, to define it, just as the minister has indicated, in section 2:
The following persons are Canadian nationals, viz;- .
(a) Any British subject who is a Canadian citizen-
Mark the word " citizen."
-within the meaning of the Immigration Act, chapter 27 of the Statutes of 1910, as heretofore amended.
(b) The wife of any such person.
That is merely an expression of the common law of England that the domicile of the wife is that of the husband, as decided by the Privy Council.
(c) Any person born out of Canada whose father was a Canadian national at the time of that person's birth-
A Canadian national being, of course, a British subject, defining that term as in the preceding portion of the section.
-or. with regard to persons born before the passing of this act. any person whose father at the time of such birth possessed all the qualifications of a Canadian national as defined in this act.
The essential word in all that definition is the word " British," which precedes the word "subject;" and so long as we remain a dominion within an empire-that is to say, the British Empire-our position is that of British subjects and Canadian citizens. I do not think there is any method by which that question can be dealt with by this parliament except that to which the minister has just referred and which, as he has pointed out, was so fully explained by the Right Hon. C. J.
Doherty when as Minister of Justice he introduced this measure shortly after the war. There is, however, this to be said. At the imperial conference of 1926 a committee of legal experts was to be set up, and among the many matters with which they would necessarily have to deal would be the question as to the position, for purposes of definition if no other, of citizens of Australia, of South Africa, of Canada, of New Zealand; and the question of citizenship relates, of course, to the territorial area in which one makes one's home, the question of one's allegiance being determined by the crown, or the head, or the authority to which allegiance is owed. In this instance, as I have said, we are British subjects because of our allegiance to the British crown.
I think that my hon. friend who has moved the motion has very properly directed attention to this matter, because it is one of great difficulty, and I do not think this parliament could adopt the resolution without doing violence to the legal principles that govern and surround us at the present moment, having regard to our position as the minister has indicated it.
I agree with the suggestion made by the minister, which is one, I think, that might well be acted upon by the hon. member; and inasmuch as he has directed the attention of the house to the difficulty-a difficulty well known to the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) and to those who attended the imperial conference of 1926-the whole question will then be later dealt with.
The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth) drew attention to the reasons that have governed heretofore in the various census columns in dealing with a matter of this kind. The desire for scientific knowledge as to the effect of the fusion of races and the characteristics that have marked people, by reason of their origin and the intermingling of races, is something which to the historian is of tremendous importance in the light of the scientific information which we are now gathering. The knowledge that has been stored away in the census reports of bygone years is now coming to be regarded as more and more valuable as the history of various races is being prepared and written.
I have been recently reading a book called The Stream of History, which perhaps some hon. gentlemen have seen, and one begins to realize how valuable indeed it is to us to have a record of the past and to have a clear understanding of the causes that have brought
Canadian Nationality

about the results which are now apparent. In the tracing of facts back to primal causes scientific knowledge is, of course, attaining to great accuracy; because, after all, science does not create new facta but merely discovers what facts are, and in the light of the knowledge we possess in our census returns we are able to make more accurate generalizations, if I might use that term-although, possibly, "generalizations" is too wide a term to employ with respect to scientific knowledge touching these matters. I suggested to the Prime Minister that in our census returns we might- and I fancy we shall-make provision whereby it will be abundantly clear that the persons who are .being enumerated are Canadians or were born in Canada, and that their ancestors have resided here for a considerable number of years. The racial origin of Canadians is still important, and that, I understand, is why the census returns are given as they appear.
So far as the second branch of the resolution is concerned, I am sure that upon reflection the hon. member will realize the impossibility, by act of parliament, of accomplishing what he has in mind. There is no doubt that there is a growing sentiment in the country, a sentiment which manifested itself, as the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre said, when he was a 'boy-and I may remark that it was equally manifest in my youth-for one born in this country to describe oneself with pride as a Canadian. I had no hesitation when .recently in Central Europe in describing myself as a Canadian. I did so with much pride, and I am bound to say that I received from those with whom I came in contact a courtesy and consideration which would not have been accorded me had I described myself as a resident of another part of the American continent. I leave it at that, remembering, as I. trust we shall all of us remember, that the passports we carry, while Canadian in their origin, are in the ultimate analysis valuable because we are British subjects and Canadian citizens. That fact should never be overlooked.
The acceptance of the second part of the resolution would leave the children of some Canadians rather nondescript, inasmuch as they could not properly be described as Irish, or Scotch, or English, and not being of the third generation they could not be described as Canadians. In other words, they would be in no man's land, impossible of designation within the census. For these reasons, without elaborating them, and without at greater length discussing the legal difficulties, I heartily agree with the suggestion made by
the Secretary of State, that the purpose which the hon. member has in mind has been served and that the resolution be for the moment dropped. This might well' be done, having regard to the .character of the resolution and the legal difficulties that surround the enactment of the measures contemplated, and in view of the fact that the minister charged with responsibility with respect to the census will, as was stated in a public journal not long since, take steps to see that in some column will be made adequate provision to record the information so much desired by the hon. member.

Full View