For the sake of argument

New Canadians have a duty to take out citizenship

BRIAN GREGGAINS October 24 1959
For the sake of argument

New Canadians have a duty to take out citizenship

BRIAN GREGGAINS October 24 1959

New Canadians have a duty to take out citizenship

For the sake of argument


Having completed five years’ residence in Canada, I filled in and sent off my application for Canadian citizenship. A month ago I got it. Many other people in this country should do likewise.

If Canada entered a war tomorrow — and it could happen — she would find a million and a half people within her borders who have not committed themselves to support her government. In a population of seventeen and a half million, this figure is too high for complacency.

From 1946 to 1958, nearly 1,800.000 immigrants came to Canada. Even allowing for deaths and departures, this means that between one in twelve and one in fifteen people in this country are recent New Canadians.

Canada’s patience is wonderful

Not all of these people are eligible for Canadian citizenship. The Canadian Citizenship Act says Canadian domicile is “acquired . . . by a person having his place of domicile for at least five years in Canada.” Those who arrived since 1954 can't yet claim domicile.

Figures are not readily available on the number of citizenship registrations for 1958. They are available, however, for both immigration and citizenship for 1946 through 1957. In that time, there were 1.669,340 immigrants. Of this number, approximately 1,000.000 were not eligible for citizenship by 1957 as they had not yet met domicile requirements. This still leaves more than 600,000 who were eligible. Yet actual registrations of certificates prepared for recent immigrants were only 352,662 during the period 1951 through 1957 — ’51 being the first year ’46 immigrants could claim domicile. And some of these were undoubtedly for people who had arrived before 1946.

One wonders at the patience of the government. Like the trusting woman who shares her bed on

promise of marriage which never comes, Canada has good reason to feel aggrieved and betrayed.

A man is not quit of his responsibilities when he has earned his wages and paid his taxes. Gross national product and government services are important but there is another national product which depends on spirit more than sweat, duty more than dues. This product is the nation itself.

I am against militant nationalism. But I am for the confidence and heart’s ease which comes from unity of spirit within an established nation. To this unity, the lazy, the indifferent and the chauvinistic immigrants contribute nothing!

We who are New Canadians came of our own accord. Since, in coming here, most of us had largely materialistic motives, it was not to be expected we would disembark at Quebec or Malton filled with a sense of vocation about Canadian citizenship. If residence in Canada were solely a matter of a better standard of living, a car instead of bus rides, even five years might not bring this about. One does not sell one's soul for a slice of buttered bread.

But the main issue it not materialistic, nor even Canadian citizenship. It is whether a moral man can evade the responsibilities of communal living, here or anywhere. To pretend these do not exist is akin to being like the whining child whose parents insist on his contributing to family life: “I didn’t ask to be born.”

We did ask to be born—again— as Canadians. For, citizens or not, that is what we became when we arrived here as landed immigrants. At that time, we were welcomed because we intended permanent residence. And this intention would have been meaningless if, at least implicitly, this did not mean we would take out citizenship later.

We enjoy benefits and services provided by Canadian authorities. Not merely those tangibles like water, electricity and paved roads.

continued on page 100


For the sake of argument continued from page 12

“I think we British immigrants have it too soft; our privileges annoy other New Canadians7’

continued from page 12

A hermit hiding in a Rocky Mountain valley enjoys a freedom many other countries would not allow. These benefits have been built into Canadian life by people who discharged their civic duties. We have an obligation to share these duties—and this we cannot do fully until we are Canadian citizens.

There are other good and, this time material, reasons for taking the step. In Citizen, published by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, a recent article was called "Why Become a Canadian Citizen?" It said: “The alien in Canada is subject to all the responsibilities with respect to law that are encumbent upon the citizen. At the same time he enjoys only limited rights. His interests are taken care of in government by elected representatives, but he does not share in choosing the representatives. He must obey every law, but he has no voice concerning the institution of such laws. He pays all taxes, but he has no control over the taxing bodies. He is living under a considerable disability which merely serves to accentuate the fact that he is, indeed, a guest and nothing more than that.”

The largest single employer—the Government of Canada — generally restricts employment to Canadian citizens or other British subjects: so, also, do some provincial governments, and certain professions such as teacning and law. An alien may not own a Canadian aircraft or ship, or operate a radio or television station. He has problems at borders when he travels abroad. Canadian citizenship is almost a prerequisite for a long-distance truck driver.

If the burdens borne by aliens bring a self-righteous glow to the hearts of my

fellow British DPs, I hope I’ll be able to cool you down slightly.

From 1946 to 1957, 531,852 British immigrants entered Canada. Nearly a third of total immigration for that period. Yet, we find British registration for Citizenship from ’51 to ’57 totaled 23,230. This is about ten percent of the 203,210 souls from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales eligible.

“But w'hat difference does it make?” you ask. “I can vote. I’m a British subject. So is a Canadian.”

It makes this difference. All Canadians are British subjects, but not all British subjects are Canadians. In the oath of allegiance for Canadian citizenship one swears not only allegiance to the British Crown, but to “faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen." Don’t you think we

owe these latter assurances to the country we’ve chosen to live in?

British subjects or not, let’s not forget we live here by privilege and not by right. One aspect of this privilege is the Canadian passport. This, as an ex-Scot, now Canadian, says “is the best card of introduction anywhere abroad I’ve ever known. It wins more acceptance than both U. S. and U. K. passports.”

I think we’ve got it too soft: voting rights after a year: preferential immigration treatment: it’s all too easy. Even in our citizenship applications, we get special treatment. For us the application fee is only five dollars. For all others it’s ten dollars. We can mail in a notarized application. Others have to attend court three times in the course of becoming citizens — once to fill out an application; next to stand examination by a judge on

general fitness for citizenship; finally to take the oath of allegiance and receive the certificate of citizenship.

These privileges we treat so lightly arouse much envy and annoyance in other New Canadians. It is my hope they will be rescinded. In time, this will happen almost inevitably anyway. Post-war British immigrants are heavily outnumbered by people from other countries. In 1958, for the first time, the British were not the largest single group entering the country. Italian immigrants outnumbered us by nearly two thousand. Although aliens are still not applying for citizenship in the numbers they should, they far outstrip Commonwealth arrivals. They are winning and exercising the right to stand for public office. Once in office, they’ll press for an end to inequalities.

I have talked to a number of United Kingdom settlers about citizenship. The apathy, ignorance and unwarranted pride I have met is appalling. Here are three typical reactions:

From an Englishman here three years: “I’m still not quite certain I’ll stay, although I suppose I shall. I’ve been English for forty years and I’d think it demotion to swap my English passport for one of a junior member of the Commonwealth.”

From an Ulsterman here eleven years: “But I thought we automatically became Canadian citizens after five years. Anyway, I’ve already got a vote.”

From another Englishman here six years: “I’m quite pleased with what I’ve accomplished here in Canada, but I’ve no overwhelming urge to take out citizenship. As a matter of fact, I think that would be bootlicking.”

There is still a tendency for the British

to congregate with their own kind. And we haven’t the excuse of other immigrants who band together in communities. They don’t speak the language of the country and often stick together for good economic reasons or to bolster each other’s confidence.

Perhaps the British have the impression the Canadian government really doesn't expect them to take out citizenship. The policy of the government has always been not to pressure people into this step. They don't want conscripts. But they naturally hope and expect the gesture to be made. Members of the Citizenship Branch work quietly at “encouraging a fuller acceptance of citizenship responsibilities on the part of all Canadians.” One official at the U. S.-Canadian border recently left a British immigrant, of seven years’ standing, red-faced and speechless. The latter had just come back from a holiday in the U. S. The official looked at the man’s papers and said chidingly, “You could be a Canadian citizen, you know.”

It’s a mistake not to make British immigrants attend citizenship courts for, at least, the oath taking. I attended the ceremony in Toronto some weeks ago. The court was packed with fifty-three prospective citizens, their friends and relatives. Most of them were wearing their Sunday best — some men wore heavy suits despite a sweltering eighty-seven degrees outside. Other things showed the importance these people attached to the occasion; the trembling hands of an applicant, one upraised, the other on the stack of three Bibles; the emotion which made another speechless, so the judge had to help him through the oath; the three people — two women and a man — who had practiced so often they took the oath looking not at the printed card but at the picture of the Queen behind the judge; the reverent, church - like silence throughout the fifty-minute ceremony; the absence of restlessness among participants and observers.

The solemnity was added to by the serious mien and official robes of the judge and clerk of the court. One knew that, although this is sometimes a thricedaily affair, for them it never loses its significance. Color was provided by two

RCMP constables in full uniform flanking the judge. The finale came when all stood and full-throatedly sang O Canada and God Save the Queen. Attendance at such a ceremony might give some of the potential citizenry a glimpse of the value of citizenship.

The government itself must be blamed for some of the apathy toward official integration. Although the Citizenship Branch does its best to spread the gospel, there are only ten citizenship offices in Canada. The editor of a foreign-language paper I spoke to complained that government advertising on citizenship had stopped. “The Government used to put advertising in all foreign-language papers — would explain when people would be ready for citizenship — what they should do.”

Why confine advertising to foreignlanguage papers, anyway? Why not put the case of citizenship to the public at large and let moral pressure go to work?

The employer of New Canadian labor is sometimes another minor villain of the piece. Many New Canadians wait for their summer holidays to take the Oath because this saves them loss of wages. If employers encouraged citizenship by paying employees during their court appearances, over-all registration would almost certainly go up. And the yearly pattern of attendance would level out. Most employers wouldn't miss the few extra dollars, but the money might make all the difference to those who hold back because ten dollars means half a week's groceries for the family.

If we wait long enough, our children will settle the integration problem. But parents should be setting the pace and example.

At all events, I think it is time a lot of us put up or got out. If Canada is the country for us, let us say so in the most positive way. If Canadian citizenship isn’t as good as that of the country we left behind, why don’t we go back there?

At the end of the oath-taking ceremony I attended, Judge W. M. Cory made a short speech. It has application for all New Canadians and perhaps some of the old Canadians too. He said:

"( itizenship is the highest honor a nation can confer upon an individual who has not been born into this heritage. Without citizenship much else is meaningless. There is no country in the world of which its citizens have a greater reason to be proud than Canada. There are older countries: there are larger countries: but no country holds today a

higher place in the esteem of other nations. As Canadians we belong to each other and our future success depends on the unity with which we work together for the common good." if

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