IMMIGRATION RESTRICTIONS: A Political Opinion
It will be recalled that two years ago there came from the Opposition in the House a demand both loud and long that more restrictions be imposed on immigration. The demand was vigorously echoed by the opposition press. The active immigration propaganda, we were then told, was succeeding all to well; was filling the country with misfits and undesirables, was crowding Canadian-born workmen out of jobs; was contaminating the blood of the nation with that of paupers from over-seas; was filling the jails, asylums and poor-houses with those who had contributed nothing the country's wealth and became charges on its workers.
These gentlemen got what they asked for; got it on both counts. The restrictions were made more restrictive, and directed at what they declared to be the points that needed amendment. It had never been the policy of the Government to induce immigration of classes other than agriculturists and household servants. But in response to the demand from the other side, the regulations in this respect were made more stringent. And to prevent the "dumping" of the alleged slum-created misfits against whom so many warnings had been raised, it was provided that each new-comer must have twenty-five dollars over and above the price of transportation to his destination, as security against his becoming a charge on the public.
But the papers supporting the Opposition do not seem to think much of the regulations imposed at their solicitation and on their demand. They denounce them roundly, and on both counts. It is now an outrage to them that artisans and industrial workers should not be "dumped" into the country from the "over-crowded tenements of the English cities," and no less an outrage that new-comers should be required to have a sum in their pockets sufficient to keep them from starvation should they be unable to find work of a congenial sort immediately upon arrival at their destinations. From exclusionists they have suddenly become advocates of the open door policy, and like the Winnipeg Telegram would admit everyone who brought strong muscles and a clean record - regardless quite of his mental or moral status, his disposition to work, or the probability that he would get into and institution maintained at the public cost as quickly as convenient.
It is also to be noted that even the members of the Opposition have not been making complaints recently about the character of the immigrants coming across the water or over the international boundary. They do no tell us now that the jails and poor houses of the country are being stocked with unfortunates from the industrial centres of England, nor that the asylums are populated by the children of starving mothers and besotted fathers from the crowded quarters of London and Manchester, nor even that Canadian workmen are going idle and entire families hungry because men from across the seas have swarmed into the country and taken all the jobs. Yet all this they were saying before the regulations were introduced, and saying it as a reason for demanding more severe regulations. It is necessary to suppose, therefore, that the new regulations have substantially accomplished the purpose for which they were asked and framed.
From "Condemning What They Asked For", Edmonton Bulletin, July 7, 1910.
Courtesy of the City of Edmonton Archives.