Volume #12 - 563.|
PASSPORTS AND FRONTIER FORMALITIES
Memorandum from Diplomatic Division2|
to Head, Diplomatic Division
October 22nd, 1946|
There is a marked trend at the present time toward a relaxation of travel restrictions throughout the world. Proposals are coming from many different quarters running the complete gamut even as far as the complete abolition of all passport and visa requirements.
A careful study of the Canadian position would, I think, be desirable as soon as possible in order that the various government departments concerned and indeed the different members within each department may be fully informed and adhere to a single Canadian policy. The following departments are concerned:
External Affairs — Diplomatic Division
A communication† was received about two months ago from the Secretary General of the United Nations concerning a proposed meeting of experts to prepare the ground for the meeting of a world conference on the subject of passports and frontier formalities. The meeting was to be held before the end of 1946 and apparently had in view a general meeting on the subject sometime in 1947.
The United Kingdom and French Governments have just concluded an agreement providing for the reciprocal abolition of entry visas. We have been invited to join in the agreement but have not replied pending advice from the Director of Immigration. I think our reply will have to be that we do not wish to join in the agreement as it is premature from our point of view, but we cannot overlook the fact that Canadians who hold passports describing them as British subjects will undoubtedly be able to enter France without a visa under the terms of the agreement between the United Kingdom and France. France, I may say, has traditionally been anxious to relax border regulations.
During the first week of October, there was a meeting in London of the International Conference of National Tourist Organizations. Canada was represented by an Assistant Trade Commissioner on the staff of the High Commissioner in London. Canada was elected to a Committee to discuss the formation of a proposed International Tourist Organization to be a sub-Committee of UNESCO. The memorandum submitted to this Conference by the United Kingdom delegate indicates that the United Kingdom is bent on a policy of letting down the barriers. Such a policy would be in accord with Mr. Bevin's description of his foreign policy as "being able to go down to Victoria Station and buy a ticket for anywhere in the world and to hell with passports and visas".
As I recall, the head of one of our missions in South America reported a year ago that he had attended a meeting of representatives of a number of the South American Foreign Offices and they felt favourably inclined toward an easing of passport and visa restrictions. A recent unilateral announcement by the United States -stated. that Canadians might enter that country without passports for periods up to six months, which indicates, I think, that their general feeling in the matter is becoming more liberal.
Two subjects which cannot be kept separate from passports and visas are immigration and the provision of haven for refugees. Although Canada may in many respects agree with other countries regarding passport and visa questions, as soon as the problems of immigrants and refugees are introduced, Canada finds herself largely alone. The countries of Europe are not likely to be selected by would-be immigrants in such proportions as to have a marked effect upon their culture. The United States too already has a large population and what is more its frontiers have largely disappeared. Canada has a small native population, an internal language problem, and its frontier districts are still many. Under the circumstances, Canada may appear in the role of a dog in the manger unless the whole question is handled with great care.
From the point of view of the Department of Trade and Commerce, especially the tourist season, abolition of frontier formalities is no doubt desirable.
History repeats itself.
Prior to the war of 1914-18, I understand that passport and visa formalities were slight. During the war, largely for reasons of security, the restrictions became more and more severe. After the war with the advent of the League of Nations and high hopes for a world at peace, many endeavours were made to get rid of all border formalities. In fact, restrictions on visas were in some measure removed. Pressure was brought to bear time and again in order to develop a reciprocal arrangement among the nations so that there should be the utmost freedom of travel. There was little endeavour to prevent westerners from travelling to any country in the world except the bíte noire of Russia. With the outbreak of war in 1939, restrictions once more became severe. Now the reaction is setting in.
There are many matters to be considered before a final policy can be decided upon. I feel that as much information as possible should be obtained at once from all Government departments interested. This information should be pooled and then an interdepartmental meeting held to make a final decision on policy.
1Un Bill concernant l'Article 41 fut présenté à la Chambre des communes en 1947. La troisième lecture a eu lieu le 24 juin et l'assentiment royal fut donné le 27 juin 1947.
2De J. H. Cleveland.