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New Lives / The Vivante Precedent dossier

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A letter from Prime Minister Mackenzie King to actress Ruth Draper, regarding the release of internee Arturo Vivante.

A letter from Prime Minister Mackenzie King to actress Ruth Draper, May 10, 1941. Mackenzie King writes that the Director of Immigration fears that granting Vivante’s release would set a precedent for other internees to also be released into Canada.

- © Government of Canada. Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada (2011).
Source: Library and Archives Canada/William Lyon Mackenzie King fonds/Reel C-4862


[Stamp] 256872

May 10, 1941
Dear Miss Draper:

First of all, let me say how sorry I am to have been so long in acknowledging the receipt of your kind letter of the 29th ultimo. When it was received, I immediately asked for a report concerning Arturo Vivante. I let it be known that I had entire confidence in any representations which you might make, and that I was interested in seeing as favourable a decision of the matter made, as speedily as [written in margin in pencil] might be [typewritten] possible.

As was to be expected, in the report received, I have been told that the information contained in your letter has been checked with the information available, and it appears to be completely correct. Indeed, Vivante’s case might even be more strongly defended. His internment and transportation to Canada are clearl [sic] the result of a blunder.

The chief difficulty, thus far, has been that the Immigration Department have only agreed to admit to Canada, refugee internees who have either first-degree relatives in Canada or those whose services are required for war work. The Director of Immigration has been reluctant to go beyond these categories as he fears that a precedent might be established which might

[Second page]
[Stamp] 256873
result in the release, in Canada, of a large nnmber [sic] of refugees [one line typed over] problems of settlement and adjustment. I have taken up the matter, by letter, with the Minister of the Department, and have pointed out wherein I regard Vivante’s case as, in many ways, exceptional. I have, in addition, let the Department of Immigration know that I so view the matter, and have expressed the hope that it may be settled in accordance with the justice of the case without further delay.

While, at this moment of writing, I cannot definitely promise Vivante’s release, I think I can go so far as to say that I, myself, am hopeful that the matter may be adjusted to his satisfaction and your own within the next day or two.

So much for the first disappointment and my not being able to send an immediate reply to your letter which would have met your wishes to the full. Now for the next which is, I assur [sic] you, deeply felt, I was keenly disappointed not being able to be present at either of the performances you gave in Ottawa, or to accept Lady Redfern’s kind invitation to meet you at Rideau Cottage which, for me, holds many happy memories of my meeting you there, a year or two ago.

My absence in the States during the week immediately preceding had thrown me much behind in many pressing obligations, and with Parliament re-assembling on Monday, I had to prepare, in the last forty-eight hours, among other matters, a review of the situation in the Balkans. This I was, in fact, unable to complet [sic]
[Third Page]
Stamp [256874]

up to the moment of speaking in the house. I had just to leave part of what I had intended to say of the account, altogether. I can assure you I would have been prepared to make any sacrifice other than that of this public duty, to have had the pleasure of seeing, hearing and talking with you again.

Had it been possible for me to attend one of the performances, I should have like to have expressed on behalf of the government and the Canadian people, our profound appreciation of your great assistance in the country’s war effort.

Please allow this line to bring with it, the assurance that your generosity has been deeply appreciated from one end of Canada to the other. Please allow it to bring, as well, the kindest of remembrances and best of good wishes to you from myself.

Miss Ruth Draper
66 East – 79th Street,
New York City