Quotations From Saint J.S. Woodsworth (Part 2)

Quotations From Saint J.S. Woodsworth (Part 2)

The purpose of this bulletin is to provide more historical context for the immigration issue in Canada.

The quotations come from James Shaver Woodsworth’s “Strangers Within Our Gates” which was published in 1909. As most Canadians know, Woodsworth was an ordained Methodist clergyman and the founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (the CCF), the predecessor of Canada’s New Democratic Party.

Woodsworth was a strong nationalist and should appeal to Canadians of all political stripes. In many ways, Canada’s political left or left-of-centre, which pays homage to J.S. Woodsworth as either a saint or great inspiration, has abandoned him and the Canadian workers and families he represented.

Multiculturalism and Diversity ideology has conditioned many Canadians to dismiss the immigration-restrictionist views of our ancestors. In fact, many multiculturalists seem to think that they are superior to our ancestors and that they can see and think more clearly than them. J.S. Woodsworth’s immigration-restrictionist position in Canadian history should present the left-leaning, in particular, with a severe problem.

The quotations demonstrate clearly that Woodsworth was an immigration-restrictionist. In fact, his views are very similar to those of Canadian immigration-restrictionists today.

(The views recently published by The Conference Board Of Canada seem to be the extreme opposite of those advocated by Woodsworth. We will deal with the Conference Board’s views in the near future.)

As we tried to demonstrate in “Quotations From Saint J.S. Woodsworth (Part 1)”, here are some of the major points Woodsworth makes:

(1) Canada’s historical traditions have to be preserved. Immigration must not overwhelm those traditions.  Immigration limits have to be applied on countries whose traditions are very different from Canada’s. Numbers matter. If some ethnic groups enter Canada in large numbers, Canadians have good reason to believe that those groups will impose their views on Canada–with the intention of displacing our traditions.

(2) Canada has to elevate unity to the position of a major national goal. If immigration divides Canada, it is of no use and should be abandoned.

(3) Canada’s immigration policies exist to benefit Canada. Canada cannot be a dumping ground for the problems (health, criminal, economic, etc.) of other countries. In 1909, with the data available, immigrants constituted a significantly larger drain on Canada’s charitable institutions, its hospitals, and its jails, than Canadian-born. Immigration cannot be a social assistance programme for the world.

(4) Canada’s immigration policies do not exist to enable cheap-labor contractors and other employers to undermine the wages of Canadian workers. They do not exist to enable transportation companies to profit from the sale of tickets to foreigners nor to enable real estate companies to sell land. The purpose of Immigration policies should be to protect Canadian workers from unfair and unnecessary competition and to allow them to acquire and maintain a decent standard of living.

(5) The experiences of other immigrant-receiving countries (particularly the U.S.) and the studies done by public institutions and individuals in those countries can be used to assist Canada in making important immigration decisions. Since immigration has the potential of having profound effects on Canada, immigration policies have to be based on careful and sensible consideration of the immigration picture, not on anecdotes and shallow thinking.


The following are quotations and notes taken from J.S. Woodsworth’s “Strangers Within Our Gates”. (Pp.158-208)

(1) The Problem Of Immigration :

Woodsworth provides a table illustrating immigration to the U.S. from 1790 to 1900. The highest U.S. intake occurred in the two decades between 1880 and 1900 when 5.2 million and 3.6 million arrived. In 1882, immigrants from south-eastern Europe started to come to the U.S. in large numbers. (P.163)

Preston F. Hall (Immigration And Its Effect Upon The United States) writes: “In 1869, not 1 percent of the total immigration came from Austria-Hungary, Italy, Poland and Russia; in 1902, the percentage was over 70.” (P.164)

In comparing immigration to the U.S. in its early years (1790-1840) with immigration to Canada in its early years (1890-1900), Woodsworth observes that Canada’s immigration in its early years was much higher than that of the U.S. in its early years. (P.168)

Woodsworth says: “Fancy a family increased suddenly by the presence of several strange children. What a problem to feed and clothe them–to train them and educate them—to instill into them the family traditions and impart to them the family spirit.” “How shall we weld this heterogeneous mass into one people? That is our problem.” (P.167)

(2) The Causes Of Immigration :

“Overcrowding, oppression, taxation, persecution, compulsory military service—these are the great causes of emigration.” (P.172)

Why do these people come to Canada? America, generally, has had a time of wonderful prosperity (new land, vast, resources, freedom, hope, cheap transportation, commercial advertising, advertising by letters from new immigrants). Dr. Allan McLaughlin: 40 to 55% of U.S. immigrants have their tickets prepaid by friends in the U.S. (P.173)

1903 “Report Of The American Commissioner General of Immigration”: There are 2 kinds of immigration to the U.S.:

(a) Natural: Immigrants to the U.S. send unprecedented amounts of money to European relatives and friends. This induces them to come to the U.S.

(b) Unnatural: A large number of greedy and unscrupulous agencies and sub-agencies in the U.S. and abroad induce people to come by offering them tickets on an installment plan. Some advertise to obtain cheap labour or to sell land. (Pp.173-174) Contractors have sent to Europe for their men. Here in Canada, the presence of such large numbers of Hindus and Japanese is doubtless due to inducements offered by those seeking cheap labour. (P.174)

Charitable organizations (Salvation Army, Church Army, Childrens’ Homes and Jewish societies) and gov’ts have assisted people to leave the UK. This has been a way of getting rid of the poor.

The Canadian gov’t has become an advertising agency (immigration offices in many countries, pamphlets and exhibits made available, splendid displays at exhibitions, lecturers). “…most effective of all, a bonus of $5.00 is paid on each immigrant from certain countries who is booked to Canada”. (P.174)

The Canadian Superintendent of Immigration (W.D.Scott) reported the following: “In the nine months ending March 31, 1906, … 226,358 requests for information…were attended to, and 2,957,027 pamphlets, etc., were sent out.” Here are some specific pamphlets and the number ordered: The Canadian West (100,000); The Story Of Western Canada Crop (300,000) ; Reduced Rates For Settlers (100,000) ; How To Succeed In Canada (200,000) ; Canada, Work, Wages and Land -English (200,000) ; Canada, The Land Of Opportunity-English (200,000) Last Best West (375,000) (Pp.175-176)

(3) The Effects Of Immigration :

(a) Racial Effects : “America is not American. Canada will not remain Canadian.” (P.181) We can see the possible effects of immigration on Canada by looking at the U.S. where already a physical and social difference is noticeable. Because of high immigration from Germanic countries where independence of character, the importance of family life and the home is the ark, there is an independence from gov’t. Some other peoples (Latins in particular), prefer to discharge the functions of thinking and wishing upon others. With them, “the State acts for the individual”. (P.182)

Woodsworth says: “There is an unfounded optimism that confidently asserts that all this mingling of the races is in the highest interest of our country. We get the strength of the North, the beauty of the South, and the wisdom of the East; such is the line of thought presented in after-dinner speeches.” (P.182)

“We too must confess to a certain optimism, based not altogether on natural law, that ultimately a higher type may be developed. The older civilizations are more conservative and stationary. The newer nations are in a state of unstable equilibrium. Will the change be for better or worse? (Pp.182-183)

(b) Economic Effects : Preston F. Hall’s exhaustive study in the U.S. concludes: “Foreign labor stands as a constant menace to the progress of the American laborer, and a check to his advancement. The moment foreign labor can do no harm to the native standard of living, it ceases to come; while the moment conditions here improve, immigration comes to share in and limit the improvement.” (P.184)
“The general law seems to be that cheap labor tends to drive out higher-priced labor and lower the standards of living.” (P.184)

F.J.Warne, in his study of the Slav invasion in the U.S., describes its effect on the English-speaking miner : Many voluntarily left the industry, other workers were forced out, many had their standard of living lowered, others were prevented from raising their standard, many battled to get the necessaries of life. In order for some families to survive, young male and female children had to work. The competition “determined the number of births in a community, as well as influenced powerfully the physical and mental qualities of those born into the world under such stress of conditions. Like all great fires, it had its beginning in small things–in the desire of the managers of capital to secure a lower cost of production; in the ability of one group of men to live on less than another group.” (P.185)

Woodsworth: “Now there is room for all. Within a few years, the people with lower standards of living will drive out all competitors. The economic question becomes a social question. Can we afford, for the sake of immediate gain, to sacrifice those standards and ideals which we have most carefully cherished?” (P.186)

John R. Commons in March, (1904) Chautaukan: The competition of races is the competition of standards of living. Employers keep going to the lower race. “Europe has been exhausted. Asia has been drawn upon, and there remain but three regions of the temperate zones from which a still lower standard of living can be expected. These are China, Japan and India. The Chinese have been excluded by law, the Japanese are coming in increasing in numbers, and the Indian coolies remain to be experimented upon.” (Pp.186-187)

(c) Social Effects :

(i) Pauperism: It is evident that “immigration means a very heavy burden upon all our charitable institutions”. (P.187)

Report of the Associated Charities of Boston, 1894: Because nearly all those needing assistance are recent immigrants, we feel we have to have changes in our immigration laws. Recent immigrants are inferior to previous ones. (P.187)

Preston F. Hall: Recent immigration has caused pauperism (in our own population) by causing displacement. (P.187)

“Report of the Charity Organization Society of Montreal, 1905”: Immigration has caused severe problems in the past year: 1000 unemployed Italians; 2000 unemployed Jews; many penniless British immigrants. The U.S. Bureau of Immigration reports that it has rejected 10,000 applicants for immigration to the U.S. from Canada. Canada cannot afford to be populated with outcasts from Europe. (P.188)

Mr. Hanna presented the following information in the Ontario Legislature: From 1903 to 1907, the cost of maintenance of foreign-born (asylum) patients had increased from $24,613.20 to $51,744.30. While the foreign-born of the entire adult population were only 20%, the total admissions to asylums from that class was 30%. “The figures showed the necessity of effective methods to prevent the dumping of undesirables by friends and others, aided by charitable organizations, with no other object than to get rid of the responsibility of their maintenance.” (P.190)

Of the Ontario population 16 and over, 20% were foreigners. Of those sent to jail, 38% were foreign. Toronto Asylum showed that a proportion of insane among arrivals was 26 times greater than it should be, and there was a strong suspicion that many were deliberately sent out from Great Britain to be got rid of. (P.190)

A Winnipeg General Hospital report shows that non-Canadian patients “are out of all proportion to their number in the country and…a very much larger percentage of these (non-Canadians) are charity patients”. Immigration “has its benefits”, but it “also brings very heavy burdens”. (P.191)

(ii) Physical Condition : Woodsworth presents tables showing the concerns that physician inspectors and other inspectors had with immigrants arriving at Canada’s ports over a 9-month period in 1906-07. The largest number of concerns were with eye diseases (trachoma and conjunctivitis). Other physical concerns were tuberculosis, insanity, senility, debility, blindness, likeliness to become a public charge, and bad character. (Pp.193-203)

Woodsworth notes that inspectors had to deal with very large numbers of immigrants (sometimes 7000 per day) every day and that clinical examinations of people who did not appear unhealthy did not occur. (P.192) He implies that many health concerns had been missed.

In that 9-month period, 118,746 immigrants arrived. Of this total, 76% were from the UK and U.S. (55,289 from the UK and 34,659 from the U.S.). Only 24% came from other countries. A total of 440 were denied admission. (P.193)

(iii) Literacy : Woodsworth notes that illiteracy of immigrants in English and in their own language should be a major concern to Canada. He uses a Report of The U.S. Commissioner of Education to show illiteracy rates among immigrants arriving from Europe. Northern and western European countries had the lowest rates of illiteracy (0 to 6%). The ones with the highest illiteracy rates (61 to 89%) were Portugal, Spain, Russia, Servia and Roumania. Woodsworth notes that there is a strong connection between illiteracy and poverty. He also says that school must be obligatory in order to increase educational standing. (Pp.204-05)

(iv) Crime : Woodsworth cites the American Preston F. Hall who notes that immigrants “furnish more than twice as many criminals, two and one-third times as many insane, and three times as many paupers as the native element.” (P.206) Woodsworth cites numbers from the police court in Winnipeg for 1907 which showed that 1541 Canadians appeared there while 3707 non-Canadians (well over 2 times) made appearances there. (P.206)

Woodsworth notes that immigrants are becoming a political force and that their interest in getting the franchise and in voting will make them a stronger force in future. He quotes Preston F. Hall on immigrants impact on the U.S. : “The heterogeneity of these races tends to promote passion, localism, and despotism, and to make impossible free co-operation for the public welfare”. (P.208)