The purpose of this despatch is to propose that Canada establish facilities in Cairo for granting immigration visas to selected applicants resident in the U.A.R. At present such facilities do not exist. I think we should establish an Immigration Section at this Embassy as soon as practicable. I believe not only that this would be an important humanitarian service to fellow Christians of Western orientation and culture and (in most cases) Western origin, who are faced with disturbing long-term prospects here, but also that this course would be in Canada’s economic and social interest. I believe that if we took in between two and three thousand immigrants per year, we could get significantly better immigrants than many that we are at present taking from Europe.
2. I am not here arguing that Canada should take in a larger proportion of immigrants of South European and Mediterranean origin rather than North European. Nor am I necessarily proposing any increased total immigration to Canada, though personally I believe this would in the long-run prove advantageous to our country. But my point here is that we are being unrealistic as well as rather inhuman in not giving serious consideration to the possibility of admitting immigrants from the elite minorities who have been resident in Egypt and who now for reasons described below want to get out. We could get better qualified Italians and Greeks from this country than the corresponding number of marginal immigrants which we do take in from Greece and Italy, for example. We could also obtain a number of well-qualified and easily assimilable Christian Armenians of Western outlook, and of Westernized white immigrants of Syrian-Lebanese origin. The potential immigrants I have in mind include many specialized technicians, tradesmen, and persons of demonstrated initiative, who could fit well and easily into the Canadian economy and society. They would be immigrants of essentially French or British culture, with a cosmopolitan outlook, mostly between the ages of 20 and 35, and with a good knowledge of one or in most cases both Canadian languages. All would be able to pay for their transport. Most would have sufficient funds to help in settlement and many would have significant capital which they would hope to transfer to Canada.
3. I am attaching a memorandum† outlining statistically and analytically various categories of would-be immigrants, setting out some background information on the reasons why they wish to leave Egypt, and outlining the difficulties they are now facing here. The memorandum also outlines something of their qualifications. In this covering despatch I will merely summarize briefly the motivations for migration and the problems which the would-be immigrants face if they remain in the U.A.R., deal with the question of security, and say something about the political implications of the sort of scheme I am proposing for our relations with the U.A.R. Government.
4. Basically the potential immigrants to Canada are members of the Westernized minorities who have long been established in Egypt, and who have until recently had a rather privileged position here economically and socially. At present with the rise of Arab nationalism, and particularly since the Suez affair in the autumn of 1956, these minorities find themselves being squeezed economically, socially and educationally, and most of them consider that the outlook for their children at least is unpromising and indeed disturbing. The minorities have had access to universities and have usually enjoyed a higher standard of education and living than most of the indigenous population. They have been well organized and prosperous, and many types of business activities have been in their hands. Hitherto they have tended to occupy managerial, technical, clerical and “white collar” positions far out of proportion to their relative numbers in the population as a whole, and it is clear to them that this will not be possible for young men and women now about to enter employment or for their children. The U.A.R. Government claims, with considerable reason on a population basis, that restricting (by informal directives) “white collar” jobs for Christians to eight or ten percent of the total in government and large organizations is not discriminatory: but in practice this proportion is considerably below the percentage of such jobs held by these people in the past, so that the squeeze is nevertheless a real one, quite apart from any estimate of the prospects of more far-reaching efforts in the future at assimilation and favouritism of indigenous Muslims. Some examples of hardships imposed are given in the attached memorandum. I might mention here that in practice many young Christian girls are being faced with the prospect either of marrying Muslims and having their children compulsorily brought up as Muslims, or accepting the prospect of marrying into and living in a much lower social and economic status than that in which they have been brought up.
5. The security problem has in the past few years been cited by Ottawa as a reason for not considering most immigration applications from the Egyptian region of the U.A.R. Immigration to Canada from Egypt was stopped early in 1957, the reason given being that facilities for Stage “B” security clearance no longer existed: Stage “B” had consisted of a check against U.K. Embassy files. But the U.K. Embassy is now happily being re-established.11And even during the past two years the Australians (through the Australian Interests Section of the Canadian Embassy) have continued to accept immigrants from Egypt, with security clearance against U.K. files in London. Moreover, this Embassy has already suggested alternative security clearance procedures (e.g. in our letters 448 of August 5, 1957 and 355 of July 9, 1958) which in our opinion would provide a relatively satisfactory security clearance. The suggestion included obtaining character certificates from leaders of well-organized communities and churches in Egypt, excerpts from police records, and checks against U.S. Embassy files of Communists. Moreover I would think it by no means impossible that I could arrange with Zakaria Mohieddin, the U.A.R. Minister of the Interior, whom I know fairly well, to have the names of immigrant applicants checked against his list of Communist suspects, if the Canadian Government thought this desirable. Prospective immigrants hesÉtate, for understandable reasons, to let it be known by the U.A.R. authorities that they are contemplating emigration. But since U.A.R. exit visas would in any case have to be obtained, I am inclined to think that asking U.A.R. security clearance at the last stage of our consideration of applications is a risk that would-be emigrants would have to face and that we could discuss the whole procedure fairly frankly with the U.A.R. Government.
6. I do not think that a policy of allowing immigration to Canada of members of minorities from Egypt would in practice raise difficulty with the U.A.R. Government, if it were frankly but discreetly discussed with them in advance. Egyptian Muslims in any case do not as a rule consider emigration, even to the Syrian region of the U.A.R., and I do not think that we would be likely in practice to receive many immigration applications from Muslim Egyptians. We might wish to consider accepting a small proportion of Egyptian-stock immigrants, but those who applied would likely be Catholic Copts who have already been westernized in cultural orientation. I understand that Egyptian Muslims have hardly ever applied for immigration to Canada in the past, and it is by no means certain that the Egyptian Government would in any case permit native Egyptian Muslims to emigrate. On the other hand, the U.A.R. Government would I think probably be discreetly happy in fact to see the emigration of some of their Christian minorities, since their overall policy is in the direction of assimilation and since these minorities are relatively indigestible.
7. I would be grateful if serious consideration could be given to this proposal that Canada plan to establish facilities in Cairo for selection of appropriate immigrants from this country. I look forward to an indication of the Government’s views on this matter and if, as I hope, it is in principle favourable, then I would suggest that we consider the desirability of discussing the question confidentially with President Nasser sometime after I return from Christmas leave.
11Voir/See Volume 26, document 369.