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Manitoba History No. 89

No. 89

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Manitoba History: Shovelling Out the Unemployed

by Barbara Roberts,
University of Winnipeg

Manitoba History, Number 5, Spring 1983

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

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Long before the Great Depression of the 1930s, Winnipeg and other Canadian municipalities saw indigent immigrants as a problem. The 1906 Immigration Act provided that municipalities could get rid of recent immigrants who had become a public charge by sending deportation complaints to the Department of Immigration. Municipalities complained that it was they who had to pay the costs of maintaining immigrants over whose recruitment and presence they had no control and from whom they derived little benefit. In times of depression, when relief costs and adverse publicity over such deportations mounted, the municipalities found themselves in a difficult position. If they did not get rid of as many indigent immigrants as possible, the propertied classes (whose interests were usually dominant in city politics) would pay higher taxes, and few liked that alternative. On the other hand, a wholesale policy of deportation of the unemployed immigrants seemed at best heartless, and at worst a betrayal of the promises of a better life in exchange for honest toil, which had been held out to lure the same immigrants here in good times. Appeals to the federal government for financial aid in lieu of deportation accomplished little. The Department of Immigration was seldom frank about the whole issue of deportation, claiming that only the undesirable, unfit, and unemployable were routinely deported. These dilemmas and evasions were not a product of the 1930s; each period of economic depression had seen them. Yet it was not until the extreme and protracted social and economic dislocations of the 1930s that deportations of the unemployed occurred on such a large scale that the issue could not be confined to correspondence between municipal governments, irate members of various factions, and the Department of Immigration. In the Great Depression, the issue became and remained a matter for hot debate in municipal politics in several places; Winnipeg was one of them.

Immigrants arriving at the Canadian Pacific Railway station, Winnipeg, 1927.
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Foote Collection 466, N2066.

The problem had early worked its way into official policy. By the fall of 1929, the Union of Canadian Municipalities was circulating letters to cities across the country, soliciting information about the costs of relief for indigent immigrants, and recruiting support for an appeal to the federal government to pay these costs. [1] Not surprisingly, Winnipeg City Council supported such attempts. [2] As unemployment became worse that autumn, City Council became more concerned. Unemployment meant higher relief costs on the City, and Council sought several ways to alleviate the burden on the City. In December 1929 City representatives tried unsuccessfully to get the CPR to rehire laid-off workers. When that failed, Council voted (9-8, departing from its usual patterns of voting splits) to send the CPR a bill to reimburse the City for relief costs for the 80 families of the laid-off men “in view of the fact that the Company enjoys freedom from municipal taxation.” [3]

Relief costs escalated sharply. In 1927-28, Winnipeg had paid out $31,394 for relief; by March of 1930, the yearly cost had climbed to over $1,683,386; [4] and Winnipeg joined other municipalities in the West and Ontario to ask the federal government to pay some of these costs. The Cabinet’s alternative proposal, however, was to order increased deportation of the unemployed and an internal Department of Immigration directive to that effect was issued in the summer of 1930. [5] Needless to say, this was not a matter of public record or public knowledge.

This move was a harbinger of the future and a clever sop to the municipalities, for deportation had always been a way to quiet municipal grumbling about federal immigration policy. [6] Deportation proceedings could be put in motion by a written complaint from a municipal official to the nearest office of the federal Department of Immigration, which would then investigate, hear the case before an administrative tribunal (often made up of the same officials who had carried out the investigation), process any appeals, handle all the paperwork, and ship the deportees (the ‘deports,’ in Departmental parlance) to a port to be sent back whence they came. [7]

As the financial pressures of unemployment relief became more intense, the municipalities increased their initiations of deportation cases. As early as the spring of 1930, some Western cities were requesting deportation for receipt of relief payments as low as $2.00. [8] The Department of Immigration occasionally balked at such requests, but by and large deportation of the unemployed as public charges became automatic during the Depression. [9] At Winnipeg, it also became a regular practice for the Relief Department to report to the local Immigration office the names of any immigrants (of less than 5 years) who received relief. This practice at first was not seen as contentious by City councillors whether of right or left leanings, perhaps in part because they, like most Canadians, had little idea of the numbers of or the reasons for deportations, or of how devastating they could be for the people involved. As well, Councillors were probably wooed into such a reaction by the revelation that the City had to borrow money to pay its relief costs. A motion to deport all those liable on account of becoming public charges was initiated in June of 1930 by councillors R. Maybank (a Liberal who was often pro Labour) and Thomas Flye (Independent Labour). [10] Flye would later become one of Council’s fiercest opponents of this policy.

This policy continued largely unnoticed, unquestioned, and unexamined until 1932, when several outside events jolted Council members into a closer examination of the issue. By 1932, Winnipeg’s per capita unemployment was the second highest in Canada. In January, Council was approached by the City of Montreal to join in a scheme for “voluntary repatriation to their native lands” of all unemployed aliens. Council accepted the idea in a 9-8 vote. In March a skirmish at a Council meeting over reporting public charge immigrants sparked great debate and much maneuvering, and although it did not clarify or modify practice, the debate did reveal some of the splits that were developing over the issue of deportation of the unemployed. The question came up in the 29 March meeting when M. A. Gray (Ward 3, Independent Labour Party) moved to instruct the Unemployment Committee not to report for deportation those on relief due solely to unemployment. E. D. Honeyman (Ward 1, wealthy lawyer, KC, and Civic Progress Association stalwart) countered with a motion to tell the Committee to request deportation of those eligible. Arguments flew hot and heavy. Pro Labourites J. Blumberg and Gray held forth against wholesale deportation of the unemployed, supported by W. B. Simpson, James Simpkin and Flye who argued that lawbreakers should not be protected from deportation but that it was ‘inhuman’ to deport desirable immigrants who simply could not find work. Although the issue became tangled up in arguments over relief policy, for the Citizens’ side, there was a good deal of concern about the high cost of supporting all those who might stream into Winnipeg if it became known as a relief haven. C. Rice-Jones (Ward 1, Citizens, a bond-broker with a background in farmers movement grain company management) urged limiting eligibility for relief to keep outsiders from coming into the city. Some Councillors suggested forcing the unemployed to work on the land, and ensuring that the colonization companies or the federal government take back the immigrants they had sent to Winnipeg. Nobody on Council wanted to see Winnipeg pay the penalty for problems created by the policies of the federal government.

Amid much recrimination from all sides the parliamentary maneuvers proceeded apace, with Simpkin moving to turn the whole question over to the Unemployment Relief Committee for consideration, a tactic which succeeded, supported by a curious ensemble of left and right. None could yet muster strong evidence of the actual deportation practices of the City, but this debate marks the point after which some council members began to suspect there was something deeply disturbing in the situation. [12] And indeed there was. In the early years of the Depression, Manitoba’s per capita deportation rate in fact exceeded that of Ontario, which was itself notorious for having the most deportations during the Depression.

The issue re-emerged briefly in Council as a result of the sudden arrest and removal of several Winnipeg residents who were to be deported for their political ideas and activities. [13] Councillors Blumberg and Simpson were disturbed by civil liberties issues raised by the procedure. Their motion requesting Council to ask the Minister of Immigration not to repeat such questionable actions was, however, defeated. [14] But the majority of deportations, and the most visible, were of the unemployed.

Debate on the issue was given further impetus by questions raised in a letter of 23 June 1932 from the Winnipeg Consuls of Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Norway, Poland and Denmark. Noting the substantial numbers of their nationals who had been deported as public charges, the Consuls asked several questions: What City regulations provided that immigrants resident in the City more than 12 months were deportable solely because they were on relief due to unemployment? What were the provisions for those resident less than 12 months? The Consuls had learned that many of their nationals had appealed their deportations, yet it was said that Winnipeg deported only if requested to do so by the prospective deportee. Was there a City regulation that those public charges who were willing to work could only be deported voluntarily at their own request? [15]

Council’s attempts to provide answers to these questions produced some curious descriptions of the procedures followed by City officials. Council queried J. D. Fraser, head of the City’s Relief Department, and City solicitor J. Preudhomme KC. Fraser’s report (which may have been drafted by a subordinate in the Relief Department) [16] misrepresented the actual practices and policies of his Department. Although it is unclear whether this representation was intended or due to ignorance, if the concealment was deliberate, neither Fraser nor his subordinate were alone in wishing to avoid pointed questions. Department of Immigration officials at Ottawa were manipulating, stretching, distorting, and indeed creating a variety of evidence to support their campaign of misinformation about their deportation practices, using many of the same devices as Fraser (or the unknown informant) in Winnipeg. Ultimately, whether or not it was Fraser who wrote the memo, he presented it to Council over his signature, and it could be argued that he continued to misrepresent his Department’s practices on future occasions. [17]

The memo to Council from Fraser’s Department stated accurately that there was no City bylaw specific to the Consul’s question, but that the federal Immigration Act provided that anyone not a Canadian citizen or domiciled immigrant (5 years residence) could be deported if he/she became a public charge, upon complaint by municipal officials. Every deportation case, it said, was “thoroughly gone into” by a Board of Inquiry of the Immigrant Department, and if necessary, “special conditions would receive special consideration” by the Board. Were these deportations voluntary, that is, at the request of the deportee? The memo evaded the issue. The Immigration Act, it said, did not require the deports themselves to apply for deportation. However,

Last year we had many letters from persons on relief asking for deportation, and as a matter of convenience to them and for the purpose of having a uniform application form for deportation, the present form in use was adopted.

Here the memo hedged and shaded the truth. People on relief did sometimes ask to be sent back to their homes in Canada or overseas, when they had prospects of work, or families or friends who would help them. However, it was not necessary to apply for deportation to be sent back; it had become normal policy for the City to provide all or part of the transportation costs in order to get people off the relief rolls. The memo concluded with a statement that was only marginally true, and was arguably deliberately misleading.

The City of Winnipeg does not propose deportation other than in cases where the same has been voluntarily asked for except in exceptional cases, and then only for good cause. [18]

Fraser’s additional letter to Council claimed that the Unemployment Relief Department had “no fixed rules or regulations” on deportations. When an “application for deportation” was received, he said, information about the place and date of birth, arrival in Canada, next of kin, place of residence, etc., was obtained from the “applicant.” This information was used to determine whether they were “bonafide residents.” A copy of the information was sent to the Winnipeg office of the Department of Immigration, where it was verified, and officials there decided if they should request permission from their Ottawa headquarters to hold a Board of Inquiry to enquire into the circumstances and to decide whether the deportation should take place. The “applicant” could be accompanied by legal counsel at the Board of Inquiry. Once the Unemployment Relief Department had sent the information about “the party asking for deportation” to the Immigration Department, the Relief Department had no further interest in the matter, unless Immigration asked for further information such as a change of address or the “amount of relief he (sic) has obtained from the Department,” Fraser concluded. [19] The implications of this mixture of truth, half-truth, and misrepresentation will become clear in the light of subsequent events.

Preudhomme’s reply was similarly long-winded and consistent with Fraser’s. Preudhomme explained that unemployment relief work was done by the Unemployment Relief Committee under the control of three governments, and since the City had control over only its one-third of the Committee, it could not be held totally responsible for the Committee’s actions, or regulations, unless these had been separately approved by Council. Council had neither passed any regulations about deportation nor “officially taken any action” in this area, so there was no municipal regulation whereby immigrants resident in Winnipeg for any period were subject to deportation as public charges or for any other reason. Immigration, he emphasized, was a federal matter and the Immigration Act a Dominion Statute in the hands of the federal government. Of course, he added, the federal representatives on the Unemployment Relief Committee would be influenced by Department of Immigration policy. As for the procedures followed, to him they seemed merely a matter of keeping records up to date.

The form which is being used by the Unemployment Relief Committee, is something which, I take it, has been adopted purely for keeping on record the fact that individuals making voluntary applications to be deported have done so to the Unemployment Relief Committee, so that this Committee can have on record the names of persons who have been on relief and should be on the nominal roll of the Committee and may in consequence of deportation be removed therefrom. I can see no other reason for the matter going through the Unemployment Relief Committee. [20]

The Committee of which Preudhomme spoke was dominated in numbers by Council members, but in practice and policy by the Provincial Government representative, Public Works Assistant Deputy Minister Arthur MacNamara. [21] The sole federal government representative seldom interfered. The Committee did not oversee all deportation cases, and in fact probably had been and remained ignorant of the specific procedures followed by Fraser’s Relief Department. The Committee did hear frequent appeals from people turned down for relief, seeking reinstatement, or, infrequently, requesting that deportation proceedings be halted. However there is no evidence in its minutes that its knowledge went beyond this ‘tip-of-the iceberg’ of deportation. Moreover, after 1932, Fraser became the Secretary of the Committee, and as such had control over much of the information reaching the Committee, including reports of the workings of his own Department. There were frequent complaints about Fraser, his staff, and his methods, but most of these were dismissed after superficial investigation. Despite occasional and usually veiled criticism of Fraser by Committee members and others, he easily retained control of his Department and had virtually unquestioned power over relief matters, throughout and beyond the 1930s. [22]

Wood for delivery to those on relief, 1932.
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Foote Collection

On the basis of the information provided by Fraser and Preudhomme, Council authorized a reply to the Consuls to be drafted by Preudhomme. The reply explained the municipality’s inability under the British North America Act to legislate concerning deportation, and claimed incorrectly that the City had

no power to propose deportation on any grounds; but of course, if any resident appeals to the officials of the City to be voluntarily deported, then the only thing the City Official can do is to submit the appeal to the proper authorities of the Dominion Government.

Preudhomme reiterated the procedures outlined by Fraser’s letter to Council, and concluded by explaining the structure of the Unemployment Relief Committee and the City’s subsequent lack of responsibility for the Committee’s actions and policies. He claimed, incorrectly, that

the Unemployment Relief Committee cannot take any effective actions towards deportation. The matter is an entirely Dominion matter ... the City does not propose deportation and cannot decide on what grounds deportation will be ordered. [23]

The statements to Council from both Fraser and Preudhomme reveal a certain preoccupation with ‘forms.’ These were the papers that were filled out by persons applying for relief at the Relief Department. Among other information they requested the length of time the applicant had been resident in Canada. Thus immigrants eligible for deportation could be easily identified. The collection of much of this data was contentious; when more of the story of the actions of the relief officials later became known, Council would oppose the collection of such information. However, there were other forms to be completed when applying for relief, such as one promising to repay the amount of relief received, on penalty of seizure of property. Council knew about this form; in fact it had passed the motion to authorize the policy, shortly after learning that the 1931 relief bill was $2,408,474 ($788,728 of which was paid by the federal government). [24]

What Council did not know was that the Relief Department was forcing immigrants to sign forms requesting to be deported, as a condition of getting relief. [25] It is unclear how this practice began, although it may have originated in a 1931 federal policy to have British immigrants give written consent to their deportations, after they had been ordered. The Department of Immigration, however, needed such documents to use in its public relations campaign to cover up its deportation practices. [26] City officials outside the Relief Department apparently did not know of this practice; certainly the City Solicitor, and probably the Council, did not. The strongest evidence of this ignorance is provided by the vehemence of Preudhomme’s reaction when he found out.

Sometime in January 1933, Solicitor Preudhomme found documents showing that the Relief Department had made recipients sign the form requesting deportation, and had been using the form to threaten immigrants in order to enforce repayment of relief, as well as to initiate deportations. In the cases which came to Preudhomme’s attention, the Relief Department had asked the Department of Immigration to halt deportation proceedings against two immigrants who had begun to repay the moneys received in relief. Preudhomme was furious. He exploded (in a letter marked Confidential) to Fraser,

It is very startling to see that this contract was made, and perhaps some of the aldermen would be astounded to know that the facts as set forth in the contract have occurred. This question of deportation has come upon the floor of the Council on several occasions and charges have been made and denied that the Unemployment Relief Department has taken any action whatsoever in deportation proceedings. The agreement in the very first recital states that the Unemployment Relief Committee is ‘minded and disposed to enter a stay of action in the deportation proceedings’ ... clearly indicating that the City of Winnipeg did take proceedings for deportation and was in a position to stay these proceedings ... [27]

Preudhomme warned Fraser against continuing the practice and advised that the Unemployment Relief Committee (which he presumed had directed Fraser—an assumption not wholly warranted by the evidence) should be guided by policy established by the City Council. Preudhomme sent copies of the letter to the City Clerk and to Councillor H. Andrews, who was Chair of the Unemployment Relief Committee. There is no clear evidence that members of the Council or the Committee saw the letter or knew the complete details of the situation. The Minutes of Council show no discussion of the letter, which was never read into the record as correspondence received. The Minutes of the Unemployment Relief Committee show some discussion of the two specific cases to which Preudhomme refers, and a decision to continue to press for repayment without resort to legal action. As Fraser was Secretary, he in all probability presented a precis of the situation to the Committee. He wrote the minutes of the discussion, and as the minutes show the matter as nothing more than a routine and common decision, it seems likely that the members of the Committee did not see the letter itself, and never received more than a judiciously edited account of its contents. Incredible as it may seem, it appears from the documents that Councillors were ignorant of the actions and operations of the Relief Department in this regard. [28]

It would not be surprising if Fraser or members of his staff were not eager to reveal their methods to Council. City Departments and bodies concerned, with getting rid of immigrants who had become public charges had reason to fear interference. In one case, Mayor R. H. Webb had acted to suspend deportation proceedings for nonpayment of a hospital bill. The Winnipeg Hospital Commission tried unsuccessfully to reinstate the proceedings. The head of the Commission angrily argued with the Department of Immigration that because the deportation order had been suspended, there was “not the slightest chance of ever collecting [the debt] although such a chance always remained as long as deportation was possible” as the debtor had relatives in Canada described as “property owners and responsible citizens.” [29] As well, the Commission feared a precedent would be set. Arguing that no one but the Hospital Commission should be able to withdraw or suspend a deportation application once submitted by that body, he insisted

unless its authority is sustained in this particular instance, the road will be open to any one to intervene and all future deportation will be affected thereby. [30]

If such a view existed in one part of the City administration, why not in another? A charitable interpretation of the apparent secrecy of Fraser’s operations would be that he feared that interference by Councillors or other outsiders would make it impossible for him to do his job and would be against the best interests of the Relief Department and of the City.

The actions and motives of Fraser, the knowledge of these by Councillors, and the events themselves, remain unclear. Crucial documents are missing and existing records not conclusive. For whatever reason, the issue of deportation blew up in Council two months after Preudhomme’s angry letter was sent. Why, and why then? Did members of Council or those on the Unemployment Relief Committee see or hear informally of the contents of Preudhomme’s letter? Did the Labour group (which had three members sitting on the Committee in 1933) get wind of the situation from Preudhomme or from other sources? Were the stories told by frightened immigrants, occasionally repeated in the press, beginning to form a pattern that could no longer be dismissed as exceptional instances of injustice or unfairness?

One explanation may lie in the flood of deportation complaints received by the Winnipeg Department of Immigration in the spring of 1933, apparently aimed at getting public charge immigrants deported before they gained domicile after five years residence and thus become immune. [31] Councillors heard stories about these cases, and some became convinced that injustices were occurring. [32] Councillor Andrews, Chairman of the Unemployment Relief Committee, came back from a national conference on unemployment with curious statistics offered by the Department of Immigration to conceal its actions in shovelling out the unemployed. Andrews denied to his colleagues on Council that deportation was being abused, and repeated Ottawa’s claim that 2153 of 5532 public charge deportation cases between 1 November and 31 October 1932 had requested deportation and only 6% of all cases had been appealed (14% was the appeal rate for the “foreign-born”, as non-British immigrants were designated). [33]

Gradually the trickle of sad stories became a flood; ‘left wing’ Councillors from immigrant wards were being “besieged” by people under order of deportation. [34] In June the issue became a public concern as over 1,000 people marched on the Winnipeg office of the Department of Immigration [35] in a demonstration organized by the Canadian Labour Defence League, the Neighbourhood Council Movement, the Unemployed Ex-servicemen’s Association, and the Committee of the Single Unemployed. The group protested the City’s practice of forcing unemployed immigrants to sign voluntary deportation requests before granting them relief, and demanded the Department put an end to this practice. [36]

It is not clear if this was all news to the local Immigration Officer who forwarded the protest to Ottawa. The Departmental officials in Ottawa denied that such a practice was in force. [37] The Winnipeg Immigration Officer was requested to obtain documentary evidence. He called on the Relief Department and gathered a copy of the form in question (the same form Preudhomme had enclosed in his letter to Fraser), an admission that the form had been “in general use” until the end of 1932, and a string of rather limp justifications: it was only used for those who wanted to be deported, and anyway it was no longer used, and the man who had put it into use was no longer in the employ of the Relief Department. [38]

It is possible that the Immigration Official had been unaware of at least some of the procedures followed at the Relief Office. For example, soon after he sent to Ottawa copies of the deportation request form and other forms routinely used by the Relief Department, he wrote to his superiors asking about the use of other agreements in use by the Relief Department. Since January 1932, relief recipients had to sign a promise to repay “on demand” the full amount of relief received. Was this, he wondered, a promissory note and was the signee legally deportable for failure to honour it? [39] Ottawa’s reply is not on record but Preudhomme believed that such agreements were illegal and unenforceable as contracts, and the Relief Department had no authority to enter into them or to take subsequent action based on these spurious agreements. It is also clear that the Relief Department and the Hospital Commission, at the very least, were routinely using deportation as a threat to extract money from those who “owed” the City. The Unemployment Relief Committee minutes show several cases where the Relief Department was told to request suspension of proceedings in deportation cases, after the immigrant agreed to repay relief. [40] And if such immigrants were in a position to repay relief, had they ever really needed it in the first place? Might there not be assets that had been concealed? It must not have been too difficult to avoid uncomfortable questions, at least for a time.

By the autumn of 1933, the Winnipeg Immigration official had pieced together enough information from gossip, hard luck stories, and press reports, to make some shrewd speculations about what had been going on behind the scenes in municipal politics. He thought that the Relief Department had been trying to use the Immigration Department as a buffer between it and some of the City Councillors. Because of pressure from these Councillors, the Relief Department had interrupted its practice of sending over deportation requests for all immigrants on relief. When a backlog of cases of immigrants on the verge of acquiring domicile had accumulated in the spring of 1933, the Relief Department dared delay no longer—hence the flood of deportation requests, [41] and hence also the subsequent uproar.

By December 1933 the local press was featuring stories about deportation scandals. The Councillors, who were the source of much of this information, began to offer specific details. Flye gave the names of four Britons, all of whom had been here nearly five years and who had been told they were going to be deported because they were on relief. None of them had committed any other offence, although the Winnipeg Immigration office was “adding fat to the fire” by repeating Ottawa’s official claim that no one was ever deported solely for being on relief. The Immigration Officer labelled as “fantastic” the charge that the Department of Immigration wanted to deport all who were on relief, and claimed that only in 5% of all cases was deportation actually carried out. In any case, he added, deportation originated in written complaints from the City; his Department only carried it out. [42]

All of this came to a head in a tumultuous Council meeting in mid-December, with the discussion revolving around three issues: the deportation policies of the Department of Immigration; the practices of officials connected with the City of Winnipeg; and the legal position of the City in regard to deportation. The crux of the first issue was whether or not the Department of Immigration was routinely deporting otherwise desirable immigrants who were on relief solely because of unemployment. At the outset, some Councillors reiterated the Department of Immigration’s oft-repeated claim that it did not deport people merely for being on relief. J. A. McKerchar, popularly dubbed “watch dog of the treasury,” invoked Mayor Webb’s statements “again and again that no one was being deported for being on relief alone.” Such assertions rang hollow in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. Flye described recent visits from 13 people on unemployment relief, who were being “badgered and harried” and were to be deported. He had consulted J. S. Woodsworth, who had assured him that such cases were common, and that deportations were being encouraged by the municipalities. Flye spoke of one family he knew who had turned away much needed relief after being threatened with deportation, and who were being kept alive by neighbours until their 5 year residency would keep them safe from deportation. Blumberg added to Flye’s list. He knew an English family, here 4½ years, who had come to Canada with $5,000 in cash. Gradually they had used up their capital, and eventually had been forced to seek partial relief.

They had been ordered deported. The family was devastated, the wife “nearly crazy with worry.” Blumberg assured his colleagues that this was not an unusual case, and that people in these circumstances were often “driven to desperation.” The example of this family, said Blumberg, showed why relief deportations must be stopped. [43]

Other Labour members gave evidence. J. A. Berry (also of Ward III), recited a number of similar examples. Such arguments may have swayed skeptics. Skepticism began to turn to shock, and finally outrage, in the face of irrefutable documentary evidence. Flye passed around a sheaf of Department of Immigration documents and correspondence given him by people appealing for help. Simpson read out an actual deportation order. W. B. Lowe believed that the Department of Immigration was trying to send out as many as possible. This was a “blot on the good sense of Canada and the officials responsible for a policy of this kind.” Lowe’s reaction is not surprising; he was an Independent Labour Party and Councillor and voted with the left. But his moral outrage was echoed by other less obvious allies. Rice-Jones, who probably spoke for a number of the rightists, expressed “alarm” over injustices, and concluded that this policy was “almost incredible” and he could not understand “how any government could get away with that policy!”

Little time was spent on the second and third questions; sufficient moral outrage had been invoked by the early discussion to avoid inquiring too closely into the activities of the Relief Department. The outcome of the discussion was twofold. First, there was a demand that the Minister of Immigration declare publicly that nobody would be deported solely for being on relief. Secondly, the Council would try a course of “passive resistance.” [44] This position was not unanimous nor was it easily reached. Originally, Flye and Lowe wanted Council to tell Immigration to stop proceedings in cases of “reliefers” with no criminal charges against them. Andrews and C. H. Gunn, concerned with the consequences of refusing to carry out the City’s legal obligation to report public charge immigrants to the Department of Immigration, amended the motion to demand that first the Minister of Immigration make a public statement outlining Departmental policy, and secondly, failing this, to request him to relieve the City of its obligation to report. The amended motion passed only when Acting Mayor McKerchar broke the tie by voting with Yeas. (The split was more or less along traditional party lines.) Finally, council agreed to request that the Unemployment Relief Committee eliminate from relief forms questions concerning length of residence in Canada. A final motion affirmed that Council was opposed to the deportation of “reliefers” with no other charge against them. [45]

Mayor and Councillors, Winnipeg City Council, 1932.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

The issue was raised again by the left in the Council meetings after the New Year. Blumberg inquired if the Unemployment Committee had arranged the alteration of the relief forms. He, Flye, Gray, and J. Penner (the newly-elected Communist member) presented further information about federal deportation policy and activities, and made it clear that they were not prepared to drop the matter. [46] The local Immigration official took note and wrote to Ottawa suggesting procedural and policy changes. If the policy was in fact not to deport immigrants on relief solely due to unemployment, as Ottawa had been claiming, he pointed out that those deported as public charges were in effect labelled as undesirable without ever being charged or examined as such. He suggested relief cases no longer be processed; such cases, whether deportation was actually carried out or only suspended, were politically dangerous and people who were treated like this became “centres of propaganda very unfavourable to Government.” [47] Ottawa did not respond, and Council’s demand for an official statement on relief deportations went unheeded.

Having challenged, Council now had to act. Public opinion was aroused by publicity about individual cases, as well as about policy. Many of these cases concerned hard luck stories of struggling, respectable families, British and non-British alike. The press raised embarrassing questions about the deportation of the unemployed, about the actions of Fraser and his Relief Department, and about the responsibility for and the substance of the orders under which he had been acting. The increasing ire of the “respectable” lent weight to that of the radicals, the unemployed and the “foreigners.” And in addition, there had been a slight shift in the balance of power on Council: the 1934 Council had 9 Citizens’ coalition supporters, against 8 Labour members (mostly ILP) and 1 from the Workers’ Unity League. [48]

In January, Andrews and Flye introduced the motion that was to become official City policy. Because the Minister had not made an official statement on deportation policy, they said, the “onus for the deportation of residents of the City of Winnipeg has been placed on the City of Winnipeg.” Henceforth, unless the City was officially notified that it must do so, the City would cease to report any cases of public charges due solely to unemployment.

Locally, Council’s decision was applauded. The Tribune spoke of the previous policy of automatic reporting and automatic deportation of reliefers, as an abuse and misapplication of the deportation clause of the Immigration Act, and expressed particular concern that nearly 90% of the relief deportations of the past three years had been British immigrants. [49] (In fact, automatic public charge deportations were perfectly in accord with the provisions of the Act; but few people outside the Department of Immigration ever realized that.) [50]

The response from the Department of Immigration was a mixture of concern over potential bureaucratic difficulties, irritation at the persistence of the issue, and an apparent determination that the Winnipeg City Council would be given enough rope to hang itself. The Winnipeg Department of Immigration office complained to Ottawa that because the City was no longer supplying it with the names of reliefers, it could no longer send in reports of immigrants on relief and under investigation for deportation. [51] Ottawa gave the City Council what it asked for. The Commissioner of Immigration at Ottawa wrote to his Winnipeg subordinate acknowledging the City Council’s decision to cease reporting reliefers, and its request to halt deportation proceedings underway. The Minister, and the Commissioner, had agreed to discontinue all proceedings, and had said he would not order the City to report relief recipients. No public charge deportations were to be undertaken from the City of Winnipeg. [52] In effect, Winnipeg was to be frozen out.

The situation was by now part of a national issue. Were municipalities required by law to report public charge immigrants to Ottawa? Technically, the answer was affirmative. Winnipeg M.P., A. A. Heaps suggested in the Commons that it be optional for municipalities to report, pointing out that the legislation requiring such reporting “was framed before the war, when unemployment was a social crime in the land.” But Minister of Immigration Hon. Wesley Ashton Gordon K.C. opposed the proposal, claiming that he reviewed all cases and did not authorize deportation until he was satisfied that the individual could not obtain gainful occupation. [53] To change the policy to allow reporting at the decision of municipalities would create a situation in which the law would not be enforced in an equal and consistent fashion throughout Canada. Further, “control would be transferred from the federal to the municipal” level of government, which was contrary to immigration law and policy. [54] Apparently preferring to see the law flouted rather than changed, the Minister offered as consolation the information that no municipality in Canada was now reporting all of its cases of immigrants on relief. [55] This claim raised questions about the motivations and actions of the municipalities. As Saturday Night tartly pointed out, if municipalities now reported selectively, this meant that civic authorities were in fact using discretion, while hiding behind the compulsory reporting clauses and “using the statute as an axe over the heads of unfortunate non-citizens.” [56]

The freeze on deportations from Winnipeg meant that the City could not get rid of any immigrants who had become public charges. Deportation complaints had stemmed from four sources. The first was the Municipal Hospital Commission, which reported cases where immigrants had run up unpaid bills for medical treatment, or had become inmates of asylums and other medical institutions at the public cost. In theory, these cases could be deported for medical reasons, but public charge deportation was simpler. For the former, it was necessary to gather a good deal of medical evidence, and a solid case usually depended on proving that the medical problem had existed before entry to Canada. For the latter, all that was needed was to prove that the immigrant was resident in Canada for less than five years and had become a public charge by reason of an unpaid bill for services by a publicly funded institution. The second source was the Social Welfare Commission, which dealt with relief for the unemployable. This was not a contentious group; at the height of Department of Immigration attempts to put a good face on deportation activities, it claimed it deported the unemployable, not the unemployed. [57] Even though many might feel pity for those unemployable due to age, ill health, injury or hard luck, few would challenge immigration policy designed to admit (and retain) only those who had something to contribute to the country. The third and fourth sources were the Unemployment Relief Committee, and the Relief Department, in charge of the unemployed. The number or percentage of complaints contributed by each of these sources is unclear but evidence suggests that the Relief Department, unbeknownst to City officials, was responsible for the bulk of them. [58]

City Council’s maneuver “boomeranged.” Council had been reacting to wholesale deportation of the unemployed over which it had little control. It was not necessarily opposed to deportation of those who had become public charges because they were medically or otherwise unfit and unemployable. Council soon found that it had no more control over deportation now than when complaints had poured out. By the end of March 1934, half a dozen or more immigrants on relief had appealed to be deported. The Unemployment Relief Committee or Social Welfare Commission were willing to approve these specific requests, since the people clearly wanted to go home and there would be no question of injury to any party. Yet, because of the Council’s January resolution, they said their “hands are tied.” The Unemployment Relief Committee asked Council to reconsider. [59] Councillors Andrews and Gray (Citizens’ and Labour respectively), long time Committee members, moved successfully for Council to authorize the City Relief Officer (designated as Mrs. Stewart-Hay, a social worker formerly Secretary of the Unemployment Relief Committee, currently with the Social Welfare Commission) to report to the Department of Immigration as specified in the Immigration Act, those cases in which the immigrant had satisfied the Unemployment Relief Committee that he or she truly desired to be deported. [60]

But Ottawa refused to relent and the embargo was maintained. Frustrated, Winnipeg officials tried other tactics. Minnie Watt, and others like her, wanted to go home. Watt was a 28 year old Scot who had arrived in 1929 with a partially subsidized passage under the provisions of the Empire Settlement Act, designed to increase the flow of British immigrants to Canada and the other Dominions. A linen factory and restaurant worker in Scotland, she had worked in hospital and school laundries in Winnipeg until June 1933, since which time she had been unemployed and on relief. Her family wrote that they had found a job for her at home. Officials of the Women’s Division of the City Relief Department, of the Unemployment Relief Committee, as well as City Councillors, agreed with her request. Mrs. Stewart-Hay called at the Winnipeg Immigration office to request Minnie Watt’s “repatriation.”

The rebuff was sharp. The Department of Immigration did not “repatriate” it said; it “deports,” and the transportation companies responsible for bringing over defective immigrants had to return them at company expense. Companies would not pay for “repatriation.” Moreover, the Winnipeg office could not deport Watt because Ottawa had ordered there be no public charge deportations from Winnipeg. If City Council would withdraw its refusal-to-report motion, perhaps the Department would be in a position to act, said the Winnipeg Commissioner. [61]

At the next meeting of Council, Andrews and McKerchar moved that the January motion be rescinded. After some debate, their proposal was allowed to stand as notice of motion until an early April meeting, when it was soundly defeated. Those in favour of rescinding were Rice-Jones, Andrews, Gunn, McKerchar and Margaret McWilliams. All were Citizens’ stalwarts, and except in the face of the explosive revelations of the previous winter, all had consistently supported the interests of the business and professional elite. Perhaps now they had become persuaded by the few requests to be sent back home, that deportation had been after all as Fraser had described it in 1932, a matter of fulfilling the requests of “applicants.” Certainly such a view was less disquieting. But the thirteen who voted Nay were unconvinced. The predictable 9 Labour and Communist votes were augmented by 4 from the ranks of the Citizens’ group. [62]

By July the impasse was broken with a compromise. Andrews and McWilliams moved that the January motion be rescinded and replaced by a modified policy, allowing carefully selected deportations to be initiated in “isolated cases” by the Unemployment Relief Committee (on which they sat), the Social Welfare Commission, and the Municipal Hospital Commission. The Relief Department was specifically to be forbidden to initiate deportations unless instructed to do so by the Unemployment Relief Committee. The motion was allowed to stand as Notice of Motion until two weeks later when it was passed 10 to 6, in the curious absence of Blumberg and Penner. Both had been present when the motion was first introduced; both would have voted against it. Yet in fact their votes would have made little difference in the face of the defection of Simpson and Lowe, who normally voted with the labour group. Still, the issue was not clear cut. There had in fact been a few people asking the Unemployment Relief Committee to be deported, and even the most die-hard anti-deportationist would likely have conceded that these people should be allowed to use that method to go home if they wished. The Unemployment Relief Committee had the option of providing funds to send home such cases, an alternative they routinely used. Yet this cost money (albeit possibly less than continued relief with no end in sight), and deportation was free—and final. There was no unified “left” position on the question. [63]

After a bit of procedural tidying up over the next few weeks (the City Clerk had to countersign all requests to show that they were indeed authorized),the deportation machinery again creaked into motion. [64] Internally, it appears that Council members kept a closer watch, particularly those who sat on the Unemployment Relief Committee. Immediately following the Council’s motion to resume deportation, the Unemployment Relief Committee told the Relief Department that any deportee must make a written application for deportation to the Committee before it would hear such cases; the Committee had to be satisfied that the person truly wished to be deported. In fact, cases subsequently applying for deportation often appeared personally or made representations before the Committee as well as submitting requests in writing. Occasionally the Committee was not convinced that the application was completely voluntary. For example, there were three married couple cases in September 1934, involving application for deportation. In the first, the man applied (not in person); the Committee decided to check with his wife to see if she desired deportation, and if so, to authorize the request. It turned out that she did not, that she was no longer a City resident and was no longer living with her husband. The Committee denied the request. In the second case, because both spouses had signed a letter requesting deportation, the Committee consented. In the third case, the man was asked to appear in person to discuss the case; at a subsequent meeting he did so and satisfied the Committee that he and his wife wished to go home. [65]

Rally of the unemployed, April 1931.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

At first not everyone concerned was satisfied with the procedures. Gray and Penner, who had fought against the procedure to have the City Clerk countersign authorized requests, unsuccessfully attempted to stall the issue until the next meeting (when presumably there would be more allies present) and finally stood alone in opposition. [66] Gray then served Notice of Motion that the three bodies authorized to deport be told to deport only those who were asking and that all other cases be heard by City Council. Gray was not opposed to voluntary deportation; his motive in this particular maneuver remains unclear (the proposed motion was laid over for several meetings and never moved). He seems to have been satisfied with the new screening methods of the Unemployment Relief Committee (on which he sat). Presumably the proposed motion was aimed at establishing similar controls over the deportation of the unemployable and the medically unfit. It is unclear if he got sidetracked by the autumn’s municipal elections, gave up in the face of Council’s disinterest, or changed his mind. [67]

Whatever the explanation, Gray’s abortive motion represented the final attempt to exercise control over the situation. From August 1934 on, Ottawa resumed deportations from Winnipeg. The City’s surrender was timely; belt-tightening was in order, and the City cut off relief to 500 families and 1600 single men (mostly Central Europeans) who had arrived in Canada after 1 January 1929. [68]

By 1935, deportations from Canada were falling. In Winnipeg, numbers on some form of relief were reduced, and fewer were deported. In the absence of similar local studies of other municipalities it is impossible to say to what extent the situation in Winnipeg was representative. However, certain tentative conclusions can be drawn. It seems fairly clear that most members of Council did not know in 1932 that Fraser’s Relief Department was forcing immigrants to sign deportation requests in order to get relief. Nor did Councillors know the extent of relief deportations, that is, that the Relief Department was routinely reporting for deportation all those here less than five years who were on relief. This ignorance was reinforced by the misleading information about procedures and policies given by Fraser in his 1932 report to Council. It was not until late 1932 or early 1933 that sufficient evidence accumulated to convince the majority of Councillors that improprieties and injustices were too frequent to be the result of oversights, accidents and exceptions to the general rule.

Some details remain obscured. Did Fraser conceal from the members of the Unemployment Relief Committee certain damning parts of the City Solicitor’s angry letter? As the Committee’s secretary, Fraser was probably in a position to do so and if there were a single villain in the piece, it could be argued that it was Fraser. But single villain explanations are partial at best, and the City after all was reacting in accordance with well established legal and policy precedents.

The 1906 Immigration Act had provided that municipalities could get rid of public charge immigrants by sending deportation complaints to the Department of Immigration. Before and after that time, municipalities complained that it was they who had to pay the costs of maintaining immigrants over whose recruitment and presence they had no control and from whom they derived little benefit. It was only in times of depression, when relief costs and adverse publicity over such deportations mounted, that this system was challenged. Ottawa was seldom frank about the question, claiming that only the undesirable, unfit, and unemployable were routinely deported. It was not until the unusual social and economic dislocations of the 1930s that the issue became and remained a matter for hot debate. And even in that atmosphere the complete facts remained concealed behind a curtain of misunderstanding and misinformation about the procedures of the Immigration Department and provisions of the Immigration Act. The Department’s misrepresentations made the system doubly difficult to investigate let alone to challenge.

In Winnipeg it was for the most part the Labour Councillors who made such a challenge. The budget conscious representatives of the Winnipeg political and economic powers were only briefly recruited to the anti-deportation side, and probably swayed by a combination of emotional reactions over the apparent betrayal of British principles of fair play and justice, and the calculation that it was politically dangerous to support knowingly what was widely regarded as morally outrageous (and possibly legally questionable). After the outrage died down and the mists cleared from the eyes, Council found itself blackmailed by Ottawa. Pressures from within, such as mounting relief costs, pleas from a few immigrants to be deported, and Ottawa’s “blockade”, led to second thoughts. The final compromise policy after seven months of boycott was successful because it was politically and morally palatable. The “desirable” unemployed were safeguarded, and only the “unfit” were liable to be deported without their consent. Council could again evade a distasteful and tragic question.


Numerous friends and colleagues have assisted in the unravelling of this still-tangled tale. Ed Rea’s suggestions, Mike Goeres’s generosity with his research, and his discovery of crucial documents, David Millar’s helpfulness in every aspect, all contributed greatly. Mary Jambor and Mitch Kolbuck of the City Archives were models of inspired assistance as well as good company. This research was partly supported in its initial stages by a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, and later by a small research grant through Secretary of State Multicultural Programme’s Visiting Professorship of Ethnic Studies, under which auspices fellow-Visitor David Millar and I have enjoyed two years at the Department of History, University of Winnipeg.

1. Council papers, File 14645. Letter from S. Baker, Secretary Treasurer, Union of Canadian Municipalities to Winnipeg City Council, 30 September 1929.

2. Resolution of Unemployment Relief Committee (of Winnipeg City Council), Minutes of Council, 28 October 1929; Resolution of City Council, Ibid., 12 November 1929.

3. Council papers, File 14692: Extract from minutes of the 12 November 1929 meeting of the Unemployment Relief Committee, 25 November 1929; Mrs. Stewart-Hay, Unemployment Relief Committee, to Council, 3 January 1930; City Clerk to Mrs. Stewart-Hay, 7 January 1930; Minutes of Council, 6 January 1930; on voting patterns, see E. Rea, “The Politics of Class: Winnipeg City Council, 1919-1943”, in R. Cook & C. Berger, eds., The West and The Nation (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1976). Council not infrequently deviated from the patterns noted by Rea on deportation issues. Hereafter, the right wing group will be designated as “Citizens.”

4. “Minutes of an interview of representatives from certain municipalities in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, and of the Provincial Governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, with the Cabinet, 26 February 1930 to 1 March, 1930, Ottawa”, cited by D. Avery, Dangerous Foreigners (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1979), p. 113. Figures for 1931-33 are from Mike Goeres, “Disorder, Dependency and Fiscal Responsibility: Unemployment Relief in Winnipeg, 1907-42,” Unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Manitoba, 1981, pp. 193-4, 199, 229.

5. D. Avery, Ibid.

6. See B. Roberts, “Purely Administrative Proceedings....”, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Ottawa, 1980, on deportation, passim and especially chapters 3, 6, and 12.

7. Ibid., chapter 1.

8. Public Archives of Canada, Record Group 76, File 563236, Ottawa’s Department of Immigration office to the Division Commission of Immigration at Winnipeg, 27 May 1930.

9. B. Roberts, op. cit., chapter 6.

10. Minutes of Council, 9 June 1930.

11. See T. Peterson, “Ethnic and Class Politics in Manitoba,” in M. Robin, ed., Canadian Provincial Politics (Toronto: Prentice Hall, 1972) p. 90; Minutes of Council, 18 January 1932; Council papers, File 15357, Council to Honore Parent, 19 January 1932.

12. Minutes of Council, 29 March 1932, is virtually incomprehensible. See Winnipeg Tribune, 30 March 1932, for a clear account. The Unemployment Relief Committee was a tripartite body with federal, provincial and municipal representation. As Louise Carpenter points out, it “supposedly exerted control over recommendations for the deportation of public charges.” (“Supposedly” is the operative word here.) Louise Carpenter, “Deportation of Immigrants during the Depression.” unpublished paper, University of Manitoba, 1973, p. 20. Thanks to Ed Rea for a copy. However other committees and bodies reported deportation complaints: the Municipal Hospital Commission, Social Welfare Committee, and Relief Department, all apparently acting more or less independently and in the case of the Relief Department, without the knowledge of or scrutiny by City officials. On Simpkin’s resolution, yeas were Andrews, Cuddy, Flye, Bardal, Simpkin, Simpson, Gray, Blumberg and Ferley. Minutes of Council, Ibid. On deportation rates, see Carpenter, op. cit., p. 15.

13. See accounts in the Winnipeg Free Press, 10, 13, 16, 18, 24, 26, 28 May 1932. For political deportations in Canada, see B. Roberts, op. cit., chapters 4 and 6.

14. The motion was ruled out of order. Minutes of Council, 10 May 1932, p. 406.

15. Minutes of Council, 4 July 1932, p. 597.

16. The memo in Council papers, file 15488, is headed to J. D. Fraser. Yet it is taken in subsequent discussions as being a memo from Fraser. The papers of the Relief Department are not available. The answer to this question awaits further research.

17. On Ottawa’s version, see B. Roberts, op. cit., chapters 2 and 6. On Fraser, the present head of the social welfare services in Winnipeg felt that he should never have wielded such power over people. This man’s father, a 1930s official in a neighbouring municipality, detested Fraser and passed on stories of unpleasant episodes to his son. Personal communication, R. Hooper, 15 December 1981. Fraser consistently misled the Unemployment Relief Committee. For example: Mr. Fraser: “We do not report them for deportation. Our information is given in accordance with the [Immigration] Act.” Ibid., 23 November 1933.

18. Council papers, File 15488, “Memo to J. D. Fraser”, 27 June 1932. My emphasis. For paying transportation costs, see Unemployment Relief Committee Minutes, 1932-35 passim; only rarely were such requests refused.

19. Council papers, Ibid., Fraser to Council, 4 July 1932. My emphasis. Louise Carpenter interviewed G. V. O’Brien who started work as a typist in the Relief Department in this period. He spent most of his first few weeks typing up reports on how much relief had been given out to persons eligible for deportation (partly to keep records for repayment purposes). He says he did not realize the “implications” at the time. Carpenter, Ibid., p. 23. There is not a shred of evidence that the Unemployment Relief Committee knew of the existence of these long lists, or their utilization. Carpenter shares my opinion that Councillors did not know or did not want to know how widespread deportation was.

20. Ibid., Preudhomme to Ryley, then in the Chair of the “Special Committee on Unemployment Relief” [sic]. (Various names were used.) 29 June 1932. My emphasis.

21. MacNamara was not a liberal-minded man. For example, in a draft agreement for unemployment relief for 1933-34, MacNamara drew up a clause which suggested the federal government should pass laws “similar to those of war days, giving authority to commit men, who refuse work, to special camps where they could be maintained under discipline, which regulations could also be made to apply to agitators.” Leftwingers on the Unemployment Relief Committee were aghast and insisted the vote on Clause 7 be recorded. It was Yeas: Andrews, Simonite, Davidson, Gunn; Nays: Simpkin, Ferley, Gray. MacNamara modestly abstained, since he had written the clause. Unemployment Relief Committee Minutes, n.d., but mid-to-late-April, 1933.

22. The Minutes of the Unemployment Relief Committee are loaded with complaints against Fraser and his subordinates. For example, in one of the recurring altercations at the Woodyard, where Fraser had been Superintendent in 1920s relief programmes, and where men were still forced to work for relief, several teamsters were reported to have conspired to “take care of” Fraser as soon as “the dark of winter” offered concealment; one of the accused workers told Fraser “to go ‘f***’ himself” [sic], according to the account recorded (by Fraser acting as Secretary) in shocked tones in the minutes of the Unemployment Relief Committee, 2 November 1933. The obscene language was regarded as of equivalent offense as the threat. The men were cut off relief.

23. Council papers, File 15488, dated 11 July 1932 and signed by the City Clerk.

24. City Council Scrapbook, 16 January 1932; the motion was 11-6, the vote more or less along party lines, 26 January 1932.

25. Council papers, File 15488, copy of form.

26. PAC, RG76, File 563236, Department of Immigration, Ottawa, to Winnipeg Commissioner of Immigration, 1 May 1931.

27. Council papers, File 15488, City Solicitor to J. D. Fraser.

28. Minutes of Council show no reference in the period. Unemployment Relief Minutes of 16 February 1933 note the communication and simply record a decision to press for repayment without resort to legal action.

29. Council papers, Finance Committee File F6006, Hospital Commissioner Stoker to Department of Immigration, Winnipeg, 2 July 1932; Immigration Officer Smith to Stoker, 14 July 1932.

30. Ibid., Stoker to Smith, 21 October 1932.

31. PAC, RG76, File 563236, Winnipeg Commissioner of Immigration to Ottawa, 26 July 1933, and 18 December 1933.

32. City Council Scrapbook, 11 September 1934.

33. Ibid., 25 May 1933.

34. Ibid., 19 September 1933.

35. PAC, RG76, File 563236, memo from Winnipeg to Ottawa office, 27 June 1933. The local Department official estimated there were between 1,000-2,000 demonstrators.

36. Ibid., Joint Committee of Winnipeg to Department of Immigration, 23 June 1933.

37. Ibid., Commissioner of Immigration to Winnipeg office, 6 July 1933.

38. Ibid., Winnipeg office to Ottawa, 14 July 1933.

39. Ibid., 26 July 1933.

40. See Preudhomme’s letter of 1 February 1933 cited above. See also Unemployment Relief Committee Minutes, for example 4 May, 16 May 1932, and passim 1933 and 1934.

41. PAC, RG76, File 563236, Winnipeg to Ottawa 18 December 1933.

42. Tribune, 15 December 1933, and 19 December 1933. See also Free Press, 18 December 1933, “Deportation procedures”, which outlined the steps taken by the federal officials for each deportation and made it quite clear that the procedures were arbitrary and in violation of the rules of criminal justice—all this in accordance with the provisions of the Immigration Act. Careful readers of the daily papers would be aware of this, as would those who were unfortunate enough to be the object of these procedures. “Underlying causes” could be created if none existed. Simonite claimed that if a person of good moral character went on relief, they had nothing to worry about. To be deportable, there had to be some “fault, some failure in their behaviour . . . that was generally the reason for deportation. In some cases I used to think that was made up for the excuse of having a case against the person,” he added. Interview by Louise Carpenter, op. cit., p. 17. Simonite claimed to her that he was against deportation.

43. See accounts in Winnipeg Tribune, 21 December 1933, and 22 December 1933. Louise Carpenter cites other examples of immigrants going off relief despite virtual starvation as the alternative to avoid deportation. op. cit., p. 22.

44. Meeting described in Winnipeg Tribune and Free Press account of 19 December 1933, both of which are in City Council Scrapbooks of that date; see also Minutes of Council for 18 December 1933; and PAC, RG76 File 563236 passim.

45. The City Solicitor had said the City was legally obliged to report cases. Minutes of Council, 18 December 1933. On the first (amended) motion, Yeas: Honeyman, Rice-Jones, Gunn, Andrews, Simonite (all of Ward 1), Davidson (2), Batty (Ward 3, listed as a chief clerk) and Oelkers (Ward 3, an M.D.). Nays: Lowe (1, a printer), Flye (2, salesman), Anderson (2, printer), Bardal (2, undertaker), Simpkin (2,carpenter), and Simpson, Blumberg, and Ferley, (all Ward 3, respectively listed as printer, salesman and notary public). See also Winnipeg Tribune, 19 December 1933, “City Council denounces ‘relief deportation.’”

46. Minutes of Council, 2 January 1934; 15 January 1934.

47. PAC RG76, File 563236, Winnipeg Commissioner to Minister of Immigration, 12 January 1934.

48. For a hard-luck story see Winnipeg Free Press, 20 January 1934, “The Futorski Case.” On embarrassing questions see 27 Ibid., January 1934, and 31 January 1934. On the balance of power in Council, see B. McKillop, “The Communist as Conscience: Jacob Penner and Winnipeg Civic Politics, 1934-35,” in R. McCormack and I. MacPherson, eds., Cities in the West (Ottawa: Mercury Series, Museum of Man, 1975). Because of the crossing of party lines on the deportation issue, partisan power blocs are not as central a consideration here as on other issues. For example, Andrews, a relatively hard liner on Unemployment and relief issues, who had come back in May 1933 from Ottawa full of Government statistics and claims denying relief deportations, by December 1933 was in the anti-deportation camp, where, it must be added, he remained only briefly. Ed Rea suggested that partisan politics may have been a factor; the Liberals (such as Andrews) may have used the occasion to strike a blow at Bennett’s Tories. Personal communication, 15 December 1981. My hunch is that Andrews must have been furious that he had been misled by Ottawa. Of course I do not discount his sincere outrage at the situation, nor do I wish to imply he was not acting on principle. At the risk of sounding naive, I think the Councillors did act mainly on principle, at least in December and January.

49. Minutes of Council, 29 January 1934; see also the 30 January 1934 Winnipeg Tribune.

50. See B. Roberts, op. cit., chapters 1, 3, 6, 12.

51. PAC, RG76, File 563236, Winnipeg Department of Immigration to Ottawa, 3 February 1934.

52. PAC, RG76, File 563236, Ottawa Commissioner to Winnipeg office, 9 February 1934.

53. Saturday Night, 3 March 1934, clipping in Ibid. My perusal of Department documents prompts me to say flatly that Gordon did not—could not—personally authorize all such deportations and probably was only vaguely aware of policy and procedures.

54. Winnipeg Free Press, 23 February 1934.

55. Ibid. This claim may be overstated, however at least some municipalities were selectively reporting. And surprisingly radical little Brandon followed Winnipeg’s lead; they ceased to report public charge cases “where relief extended by the city constitutes the only basis for deportation.” PAC, RG76, File 563236, departmental memo, 14 March 1934.

56. Saturday Night, op. cit.

57. Editor Charles Bowman of the Ottawa Citizen was one of the few skeptics: “what about the other 200,000 unemployed in Canada? Are they similarly unemployable?” he asked. Citizen, 14 February 1931.

58. Former Relief Department employee O’Brien pointed out that the number of deportation requests was greatly diminished when the Relief Department was no longer allowed to report. Louise Carpenter’s interview, op. cit.

59. Minutes of the Unemployment Relief Committee (hereafter URC) 8 February 1934, 2 February 1934; Minutes of Council 26 February 1934.

60. Minutes of Council, 27 February 1934.

61. URC, 8 March 1934; PAC, RG76, File 563236, City of Winnipeg Social Welfare Council to Winnipeg Division Commissioner of Immigration,15 March 1934; Winnipeg Commissioner to Mrs. Stewart-Hay, 16 March 1934; Winnipeg Commissioner to Ottawa, 19 March 1934.

62. Minutes of Council, 27 March 1934, 9 April 1934. Nays were Honeyman, Lowe, Flye, Bardal, Anderson, Stobart, Simpkin, Simpson, Gray, Blumberg, Penner, Barry and Oelkers.

63. Minutes of Council, 4 July 1934, 16 July 1934. Nays were Flye, Bardal, Anderson, Stobart, Simpkin, and Gray.

64. PAC, See RG76, File 563236, Winnipeg Commissioner of Immigration to Ottawa, 17 July 1934, 10 August 1934, 20 September 1934; Ottawa to Winnipeg Commissioner, 3 August 1934; Minutes of Council, 10 September 1934; Unemployment Relief Committee minutes, 17 July 1934, 2 August 1934, 6 September 1934, 13 September 1934, 20 September 1934, 11 October 1934, et cetera.

65. URC Minutes, 13 September 1934, 20 September 1934.

66. Minutes of Council, 10 September 1934. The vote was 12-2. Blumberg, Lowe, Simpson were absent.

67. In fact it was he who had moved that certain occasional deportation requests from individuals be granted. See URC minutes, 22 February 1934. He had been among those opposing the selective reporting policy passed by Council in July 1934. My guess is he couldn’t gather enough support, for he postponed the motion on occasions when others were present—i.e., the 9 October 1934 Council meeting. See Minutes of that date.

68. D. Avery. Dangerous Foreigners, p. 114. The timing is curious; the rate was falling anyway. In March 1934, there were 37,367 persons provided with direct work or work relief in the City (17% of the population); in June this had fallen to 33,348 (15.2%). In November the figures were 31,741, or 14.2%. The previous year, the percentages were 17.4%, 15.9% and 20% for the same months. Perhaps the City was determined to avoid a repetition of the 1933 November high. Figures from Mike Goeres, op. cit., p. 284.

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