HC Deb 17 March 1890 vol 342 cc1001-2
DR. M'DONALD (Ross and Cromarty)

I beg to ask the Lord Advocate whether his attention has been directed to a letter, published in the Scottish Highlander newspaper a fortnight ago, signed by four of the crofters sent out by the Government to Canada in the spring of last year; if so, whether he can inform the House as to the truth of the following statements contained in the said letter, namely:— We were left (alter landing) at Halifax for 27 hours en one slice of bread and a small bit of cheese, which told on the health of the women after sea sickness with suckling children. Of every thing which Mr. MacNeil promised us before we left, not a single word was fulfilled. Some of us were obliged to stop in cars for three weeks, some six and seven families in each during that time. They (the Canadian officials) would tell us Mr. MacNeil had not the least authority from the Board to make such promises. Families came to a very unhealthy state for the want of accommodation"; whether he will inquire into the truth of these and the other allegations in the said letter, as to the men being compelled to work for nothing till they protested and got 1.80 dollars a day, but most of them nothing, that half of the food given them was eaten up by vermin and destroyed by wind and rain, that all the money granted to them was now spent and that they are on the verge of starvation, and that funds and clothing were collected for them at Winnipeg; and whether he will take care that for the future any promises made to crofter emigrants are fulfilled?


My attention has been directed to the letter referred to. I am informed that there was some unavoidable delay at Halifax; but there is no reason to believe that there was any scarcity of food, as the agent who met the crofters was provided with funds for their support until their destination was reached. Printed particulars of the emigration scheme were supplied to the crofters, and the Colonisation Board are not aware of any promise made by Mr. MacNeil which has not been fulfilled. As some of the emigrants were dissatisfied with the land allotted to them they lived in the cars until they had selected allotments for themselves. There was, unfortunately, an insufficient supply of car accommodation, and this, combined with the very long journey, may have to some extent temporarily affected the health of some of the crofters. The only work the emigrants were asked to undertake was moving the timber for their own houses and other small matters connected with the settlement; some refused to do this without payment, and money was advanced to them which was deducted from the grants. There is no reason to believe the allegations in the latter part of the question as to the food, and it is not the case that they are on the verge of starvation. It is the case that the original advance of £120 has been expended, and I have already stated in the House that some extra clothing had been supplied to them from Winnipeg. As regards the last paragraph of the question, I have no information to lead me to believe that the promises made to these crofters have not been fulfilled.