For Labour Day, Quotations From Saint J.S. Woodsworth (PART I)


Most Canadians are aware that James Shaver (J.S.) Woodsworth was the father of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (the CCF)), the predecessor of the New Democratic Party. Many within the modern NDP have elevated him to the status of a Saint. His positive contribution to Canada is recognized by Canadians from all political backgrounds.

This bulletin presents a number of quotations from Mr. Woodsworth's “Strangers Within Our Gates”. They provide important insights into his character and into the justifiable immigration concerns of Canadians in 1909. They also provide a strong contrast to the immigration views of today's politically correct—many of whom, ironically, revere Woodsworth.

An ordained Methodist minister, Mr. Woodsworth wrote this book in 1909 as a result of his work with immigrants at the All Peoples' Mission in North Winnipeg. Readers will see clearly that Mr. Woodsworth believed in immigration restriction and that he applied these restrictions to many countries, including the U.K. He strongly advocated the assimilation of immigrants to Canadian ways. He also believed in protecting Canadian workers from the effects of cheap labour and in shielding Canadians from being overwhelmed by large inflows of outsiders.

Two groups should take careful note:

A. Canadian labour leaders who have inherited Woodsworth's mantle, but who have abandoned the interests of Canadian workers and Canada's unemployed and who are now concentrating on getting new union members from the ranks of new immigrants and temporary workers.

B. Elected officials at all 3 levels of government who cheerlead high immigrant inflows and who have disregarded the environmental, economic and cultural interests of Canadians in order to acquire the recent immigrant vote.



(1) Within the past decade (1899-1909) Canada has risen from the status of a colony to that of a nation. A national consciousness has developed –that is, a nation has been born.There has not been sufficient time to develop a fixed Canadian type, but there is a certain indefinite something that at once unites us and distinguishes us from all the world…. (P.16)

(2) …Canada gives no cold or niggardly reception to desirable settlers who seek her shores in response to her invitation. At the same time, it is always well to have it understood that we fight shy of criminals and undesirables generally. Canada is not a healthful or inviting country for them to come to, and they are gently but firmly turned back, for their own good and ours. (P.35)

(3) Almost half a million (UK immigrants–41% of all immigrants between 1900-1907) have migrated to this part of the Greater Britain beyond the seas. …..In India, it is said that English regiments are necessary to 'stiffen' the native army. We need more of our own blood to assist us to maintain in Canada our British traditions and to mould the incoming armies of foreigners into loyal British subjects. (P. 46)

(4) Generally speaking, the Scotch, Irish and Welsh have done well. The greater number of failures has been among the English. Someone has said that 'the English are the least readily assimilated of the English-speaking nationalities'. But the trouble has been with the class of immigrants who have come. ..England has sent us largely the failures of its cities. ..In any case, many of the immigrants are culls from English factories and shops. These cannot compete with other English-speaking people and often not with non-English, despite the latter's disadvantage in not knowing the language. On many western farms, certain Englishmen have proved so useless that when help is needed, 'no Englishman need apply'. (Pp.47-48)

(5) Let us analyze our English immigration. The majority are those who are anxious to better their condition or to give their children a better chance, and so seek the advantages of a new country. These are quickly absorbed by Canadian society; they form no separate class. Their children are as Canadian as our fathers were English.

But there are several classes that stand out more prominently and whose record is less favourable. These are the 'younger sons' and remittance men, and ne'er-do-weels, who are shipped to Canada…to be got rid of. Useless at home, they are worse than useless here. The saloon gains most largely by their presence. (P.49)

(6) Then we have the assisted immigrants. Statistics compiled from the immigration arrivals in Canada of a year ago show that 12,260 immigrants were sent to Canada by organizations (Salvation Army, et al) whose aims have been entirely good, but the results of whose endeavors have been looked upon with more or less disfavour by the immigration authorities, both in Canada and Great Britain…. We sympathize with these poor people, but we are glad that the Canadian gov't is taking steps to prevent the 'dumping' of these unfortunates into Canada. (P.51)

(7) Another large class are the juvenile immigrants. (Woodsworth quotes Mr. Bogue Smart, Chief Inspector of Immigrant Children and Receiving Homes In Canada : 'An average of 2000 children is annually emigrated to Canada in organized bands. During the past five and thirty years (1867 to 1902), it is estimated that at least 50,000 children of Anglo-Saxon origin have been sent to Canada under the auspices of organized societies and accredited agencies.' (Pp.51-52) We do not doubt that the change is generally good for the children. We do not deny that many have succeeded; we would not refuse to help the needy. But we must express the fear that any large immigration of this class must lead to degeneration of our Canadian people. (P.54)

(8) This (the) 'American invasion' is a most remarkable movement. During the past seven years (1902-1909) over 300,000 people have come to us from the United States. Some of them are Canadians who moved to the Western States twenty-five years ago. They are returning with their families, and with their flocks and herds, and the possessions they have accumulated in that time. Many (others) are German or Scandinavian Americans whose farms have become too small for their large families of growing children. … Government agents who are operating in 'practically every state from Maine to Oregon, and from the Dakotas to Oklahoma,' and the representatives of land companies are responsible for the great northern 'trek' . (Pp.64-65)

(9) The Mormons form a part of our United States immigration. But though Americans, they are in no true sense American, and their presence is a serious menace to our Western civilization. No one doubts their industry—they have made the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose. But of greater importance to our country than material development are freedom and morality and true religion, and to these the system of Mormon is antagonistic. (P.70)

(10) These (Mormon) doctrines are obviously inconsistent with the teaching of Christianity, and are directly inimical to the welfare of the State. The practice of polygamy will subvert our most cherished institutions. But more dangerous even than polygamy is the utter surrender of personal liberty, and the acknowledgement of the absolute authority of the priesthood. This means the end of all free government, and is the confessed aim of the leaders of the Mormon Church. Can we as Canadians remain inactive while this 'politico-ecclesiastical' system is fastening itself upon our western territory? (P.71)

(11) Woodsworth quotes A.R. Ford (from The Winnipeg Telegram) : (Some 50,000 Scandinavians scattered from Manitoba to the B.C. coast) “assimilate with the Anglo-Saxon peoples and readily intermarry, so that they do not form isolated colonies as do other European immigrants.” (P.76) “Accustomed to the rigors of a northern climate, clean-bodied, thrifty, ambitious, and hard-working, they will be certain of success in this pioneer country, where the strong, not the weak, are wanted.” (P.77)

(12) Few of our German immigrants come from Germany. The great majority are from Austria and Russia. Of the Germans, as a whole it need hardly be said that they are among our best immigrants. (P.84)

(13) British Columbia has an immigration problem peculiarly its own, and a perplexing problem it is–the Oriental question. …As long as immigration from the Orient was confined to a few Chinamen a year…, no particular objections were raised. It was when the Japanese and Hindus started pouring into British Columbia by the thousands that the trouble rose. During the last year and a half, nearly ten thousand Japanese and from four to five thousand Hindus have entered the Coast Province. When it is considered that the population of British Columbia is only 250,000–not even the population of Toronto–it is not to be wondered at that the people of that province, especially white labor, took alarm at the hordes pouring in by the steamer load. (Vancouver Riot of 1907) If this were to continue, the millions of the far East would soon swamp the country west of the mountains. If the cities of Montreal and Toronto were to see a thousand Japanese a week landing on their docks, they would probably have more sympathy with the people of the far Canadian West. (P.142)

(14) The Japanese question is a more recent one than the Chinese. …The Mikado's Government has promised the Dominion authorities that the clause in the treaty in regard to emigration to Canada will be strictly enforced. By this clause, only six hundred a year are allowed to enter the Dominion; these must have passports, and no Japanese are allowed to enter except direct from their native land. This, it is hoped, will stop the influx from the Hawaiian Islands, and prevent an inundation such as threatened British Columbia during the fall of 1907. (P.152)

(15) As for the Hindu problem, it is the most recent…. The uneasiness of the people of British Columbia, face to face with the possibility of the hordes of the Indian Empire swarming in upon them, can be readily imagined. The immigration of the Hindus rests a great deal upon the encouragement they get from the transportation companies. As these are now endeavoring to discourage such immigration, it is expected that it will dwindle down without drastic measures. (Pp.153-154)

(16) Certain objections hold good with regard to all these Eastern peoples. It is true that they may be able to do much of the rough work, for which it is difficult to secure sufficient white labor; but when they enter, the whites are out, and out permanently. They constitute an entirely distinct class or caste. They have their own virtues and vices; their own moral standards and religious beliefs. The Orientals cannot be assimilated. Whether it is in the best interests of Canada to allow them to enter in large numbers is a most important question, not only for the people of British Columbia, but for all Canadians. (Pp.154-155)