Cosgrain and the Quebec Scheme

Since 1920 Cosgrain had been working on a scheme meant to encourage a Maltese settlement in the French speaking province of Quebec. Dr. Augustus Bartolo was a Maltese politician who in future years was to become minister for emigration. He was also the editor of an influential Maltese daily newspaper which was printed in English. Dr. Bartolo and his newspaper were very much in favour of emigration to Canada because that country was part of the British Empire.

In 1920 an Imperial Press Conference was being held in Ottawa and Dr. Bartolo was to be the Maltese representative. On his way to Ottawa Dr. Bartolo stopped in London where he had a discussion with Colonel L.S. Amery who was then the Colonial Under-Secretary. Amery contacted the Canadians about Maltese immigration and he assured Bartolo that there was no discrimination in Canada against the Maltese on grounds of nationality. During the same visit to London, Dr. Bartolo called at the Canadian Emigration Office and there he conferred with the Superintendent, Colonelj. Obed Smith, who was very interested in attracting Maltese emigrants to Canada. Obed Smith told Dr. Bartolo that the Canadians preferred farm workers. The Colonel also stated that during July and August between fifty and a hundred Maltese were passing through England every week on their way to Canada and the U.S.A.

Amery and Obed Smith informed Bartolo about the scheme Cosgrain was working on, by which it was intended to settle a number of Maltese immigrants in Quebec province. In 1920 Cosgrain had submitted a memorandum to the authorities of Quebec under the title:

"Memorandum respectfully submitted to the Minister of Colonisation of the Province of Quebec by the Abb6 Philippe Cosgrain, C.M.C , Director of the Catholic Immigration Association of Canada on a proposed settlement of Maltese immigrants in the Province of Quebec".

In 1919 Cosgrain had already met a few hundred Maltese who had arrived in Quebec in the summer of that year. He himself had gone to the place where they had disembarked to meet them. He wrote to the Malta Emigration Committee about these arrivals from Malta: "I saw them when they arrived and they seemed to me to be a remarkably clean, strong and healthy looking lot of men. They were, for the most part, artisans and farm labourers and were going to Ontario to join some of their compatriots who had settled there before the war. None of them appeared to have experienced any difficulty in finding immediate employment. This fact is a good sign, for it shows that the Maltese have already acquired the reputation of being industrious. The Maltese possess the essential qualifications which go to make good settlers for they are industrious, sober, have large families, are excellent Catholics and their women are accustomed to hard work".

In December 1920 Cosgrain wrote to the Maltese authorities and assured them that the Province of 1 Quebec was willing to welcome settlers from Malta. Cosgrain suggested that the Maltese should send a representative to Quebec to examine the conditions prevailing in the province. The Catholic Immigration Association agreed to defray half the expenses incurred by the representative. Cosgrain said that the Association preferred men and women with large families to settle on the land. The Maltese would give a much needed boost to the population of Quebec and would also strengthen the Catholic element in the land.

The Canadians were willing to help, but in Malta there was no enthusiasm for the scheme. When the Superintendent of Emigration in Malta, Henry Casolani, was in London in 1922, he almost entirely ignored Cosgrain's scheme. Casolani tried to excuse his lack of initiative by noting that "it would be presumptions on my part to embark on a discussion of this important question without a definite mandate and within the brief time at my disposal".

Casolani did in fact mention the Quebec Scheme in a discussion he had with Lt. Colonel P. Pelletier who was then the Agent General for Quebec in London. Pelletier was a Quebecois himself and he knew Cosgrain very well. Pelletier expressed his wish to see considerable numbers of Maltese settle in Quebec rather than in Ontario or in other English speaking regions of Canada.

Pelletier thought that the authorities in Quebec should prepare farms for the Maltese, with one or two acres of land and with some buildings to provide shelter for the settlers. But Casolani refused the suggestion by the somewhat trite objection that "only a man who is Canadian born can stand the rigid and hard conditions of the forest country of Quebec".

A very serious offer backed by the highest authorities in Quebec was allowed to come to nothing. The only consolation Casolani was able to offer was that "in regard to Canada, we have only for the present, to mark time". He did have enough time to mark. Canadians were reluctant to admit Maltese to Ontario and to the cities. Only some twenty-three years after Cosgrain's offer, was there to be some relaxation regarding the entry of Maltese into Canada.

Source: The Great Exodus by Fr Lawrence E. Attard. (C) P.E.G. Ltd - 1989.

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