Conditions of Entry into Canada

Between April 1, 1920, and March 31, 192 1, the number of known emigrants from Malta was established at 6,186. Of these 147 had decided to settle in Canada. During that same period, 2,768 had gone to the U.S.A., while 1,458 had opted for North Africa. Canada had taken the smallest amount of Maltese emigrants. The Emigration Office in Malta did not encourage intending migrants to seek entry into Canada unless they had been already offered work on farms in Ontario or in Manitoba. Besides the Literacy Test, the condition that migrants to Canada had to carry on them the necessary landing money, was enough to deter many from going there.

Those 147 emigrants to Canada had satisfied the conditions. They carried each a valid passport and a letter of approval from the Department of Immigration and Colonisation in Ottawa. By 1920 the Immigration Act required three important conditions to let permanent settlers into Canada:

  1. A good conduct certificate from the Police.
  2. A good health certificate.
  3. A declaration stating that they had been passed by the Emigration Committee and that they fulfilled all the requirements of the Immigration Act, 1919.

Since 1919 all entrants into Canada who were 15 years of age and over had to submit to the Literacy Test. This meant that they had to satisfy immigration officials that they were able to read at least in their own language or dialect. Maltese was recognised as one of these languages.

An order in Council of 1921 reiterated the need for immigrants to carry on them sufficient landing money, but the same Order admitted a few exceptions to the rule. Exempted were: persons having Canadian passports or showing that they had Canadian domicile. Also exempted were those who had been promised jobs or were going to live on farms. Women who were to work as domestic servants and wives who had their husbands in Canada did not have to show landing money. Also exempted were those who showed letters proving that they had relatives in Canada willing to help them. This also applied to children who were oining their parents. The same applied to parents wishing to join their children and to brothers and sisters who wished to join the rest of the family.

In addition to landing money an emigrant had to have a ticket or a sum of money which was considered sufficient to purchase a ticket for transportation for him and for those accompanying him to the final destination. More important still was the warning that no immigrant was permitted to land in Canada unless he had travelled by a continuous journey from Malta upon a through ticket purchased in Malta or prepaid in Canada.

Passports for Canada had to be presented within one year from the date of issue. Shipping agents often required a landing card from the Department of Immigration and Colonisation in Ottawa or from the Superintendent of Emigration for Canada in London before they issued a contract ticket. The agents insisted on having this card to ensure that they were not held responsible for passengers who on their arrival in a Canadian port were certified as unfit for entry into the country.

Such conditions for entry applied to all those who wished to emigrate to Canada, irrespective of nationality or race. It is true that the Literacy Test was introduced to hamper the free entry of Asians into the country, but since a Maltese who could read in his own language was considered as eligible for entry, no Maltese felt that the Literacy Test was discriminatory.

Dr. Augustus Bartolo toured Canada in 1920 as Malta's representative at the Imperial Press Conference. The eloquent lawyer was also a convinced Loyalist and his exhuberant Imperialism sounded like sweet music to Canadian ears.

On August 27, 1920, Dr. Bartolo was in Vancouver, B.C. He was asked by the President of the Vancouver Club, Mr. Long, to address his members. Bartolo's speech was widely reported throughout British Columbia. Three days later Mr. Long sent a telegram to Malta. Among other things Mr. Long's telegram stated: "Carried away by his impassioned and wonderful oratory, by his splendid sentiments and thrilling, patriotic, peroration. The audience accorded Dr. Bartolo a remarkable tribute in a repeated outburst of rousing cheers lasting several minutes. References to Malta thrilled the audience, firing everyone with enthusiasm. The audience fell under the spell of his oratory. Henceforth the name of Malta will acquire a new significance".

Malta and the Maltese needed all the positive publicity they could get from important and influential Canadian quarters. It seemed at that time that not all Canadians were enthusiastic about the entry of some types of aliens into their country.

British Columbia in particular was very sensitive of its Anglo-Saxon heritage and there was a marked aversion to newcomers who were not distinctly British. The province, like all the other provinces, clamoured for new settlers, but was selective about who should be encouraged to share the nation's bounty. Maltese newspapers, like the, one owned by Dr. Augustus Bartolo, wrote copiously on Canada's need to increase its population. A number of Maltese were very willing to emigrate to Canada and Dr. Bartolo encouraged them to do so.

There was one difficulty which was obvious but few dared to air it openly. To Canadian eyes the immigrants from the Mediterranean island of Malta were positively alien in race, culture and religion. In spite of their belonging to the same British Empire, the Maltese were not AngloSaxon. In spite of his intense pride in the Empire Dr. Bartolo realised this. After all he was Maltese, spoke English with a foreign accent, and had family and blood connections not with Canada but with the neighbouring island of Sicily.

One important speaker at the Imperial Press Conference in Ottawa was the Premier of Ontario, the Hon. E.C. Drury. According to Drury, Canada needed both capital and men and those men were to be of British extraction and ideals. When Drury told his listeners that in his province of Ontario there was room for five times its actual population, he also implied that it was his wish that his province should retain its Anglo-Saxon character.

This point must have made its impact on the mind of Dr. Bartolo who knew that the Canadians did not classify him or the Maltese as British in the ethnic meaning of the term. The Conference had to be told in clear terms the kind of immigrants Canada was asking for. Drury's message was made more specific by his Provincial Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. M. Manning, who declared that the Ontario government was about to launch an intensive campaign in England to attract settlers from that country. Mr. Manning said that the Government and the Press in England should see to it that the tide of emigration from England to Canada flowed unhindered.

Six years after the Imperial Press Conference had been convened in Ottawa, the Vice-President in charge of colonisation, agriculture and natural resources of Canada, Mr. W.D. Robb sent a message to English newspapers in which he stated that he needed 350,000 men every year to assist in the development of gold, zinc, bauxite and copper mines.

Mr. Robb also said that the pulp and paper industry was seriously undermanned. The same situation prevailed in the field of hydro-electric power. Mr. Robb appealed for British immigrants. His appeal ended with a personal warning: "Unless we can get British settlers we shall be forced to go to Europe, because our work must be done and our population must be increased".

Drury, Manning and Robb knew that they had a serious problem on their hands. Towards the last three months of 1920 Canada was losing people because more persons were leaving than coming in.

Italians and East Europeans were returning to their countries of origin to participate in the reconstruction of Europe. Poles and Lithuanians were inspired by the independence acquired by their countries and were leaving Canada in droves. From Montreal over 200,000 foreign workers left for Europe after they had accumulated enough capital to start their own businesses in their own countries.

From the English-speaking provinces came the news that the economy was slowing because there were not enough workers. The construction of railways, the running of mines and expansion of the building industry were being delayed because manpower was short. Millions of dollars were lost in the preparation and stocking of camps which were not operational because no one was able to obtain sufficient workers.

Fort William, Ontario, reported in October 1920, that operations on the new pulp paper mill as well as ship building plans on new Government vessels, were being greatly hampered by the scarcity of labour. The mill-builders were asking for 2,000 men on their works. They had tried unsuccessfully to lure unskilled men by offering anything between eight and ten dollars a day.

The loss of immigrants was being felt by the Atlantic provinces. In the West immigration was kept on a more regular pattern because of new arrivals who crossed the border from the U.S.A., immigrants from Great Britain who preferred British Columbia, and the constant flow of immigrants from the Far East. Figures for July 1920 showed a total of 12,178 person who entered Canada from ports and another 4,300 who had crossed the border. The British remained the most numerous of all the newcomers. Some 30% of the British immigrants had stated that they intended to settle on farms, while the rest were mechanics and labourers.

In January 1922 Colonel J.S. Dennis, Chief Commissioner of Colonisation and Development of the Canadian Pacific Railway, was in England trying to recruit workers. On January 23, he was the guest speaker of the Canadian Club of Great Britain. The Colonel followed the official trend in Canadian immigration policy when he told his listeners that Canada and the C.P.R. preferred people who were British by birth and tradition.

Col. Dennis expected Great Britain to provide Canada with all the workers and settlers which were then needed. Only through a sustained programme of migration from the Mother Country could the Empire be assured of Canada's complete loyalty to the Crown. The speaker also said that between 1922 and 1932 it was the intention of Canada to increase its population by ten million. Preferably these new Canadians were to be agriculturists of British stock. It was imperative, Dennis said, that the Anglo-Saxon element should maintain its preponderance in the complexion of Canada's population.

Great Britain was not in a position to furnish Canada with all the immigrants that were needed. Immigration from Great Britain and from Europe kept falling. Figures published in Ottawa for the year ending in March 1922 showed that the total number of immigrants for that period was lower than the prediction which had been made by Dennis. The number of entrants was 90,000. This meant a total 39% lower than that of the previous year and the British intake was only 39,000. Ottawa must have noted that while immigration from Great Britain and Europe was decreasing, that from the Far East was on the increase.

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

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