King, W.L. Mackenzie (1874-1950)

William Lyon Mackenzie King organized the Canadian Department of Labour and became its first deputy minister in 1900. In 1908, he was elected to parliament and in June 1909 he entered the cabinet as Minister of Labour. He was Canada’s longest-serving prime minister, in office for twenty-one years between 1921 and 1948. While still a deputy minister, in November and December of 1907, he undertook two royal commission inquiries and, in the process, became familiar with the question of Indian immigration to Canada. The first concerned the anti-Asiatic riot in Vancouver the previous September and the second the immigration of labour from Asia to Canada. In March 1908, the Canadian government sent him to Britain to discuss the Asiatic immigration issue with the secretaries of state for the colonies, India and foreign affairs. He was seeking a commitment from the Government of India to restrict emigration to Canada so Canada would not have to do it; his inability to get the British and Indian governments to act led immediately to the Canadian government’s use of the Continuous Passage Regulation to stop Indian immigration.  

Sources: The Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1988); Confidential Memorandum Accompanying Report of W.L. Mackenzie King (Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1908).