Robertson, E. Blake (1877-1940)

Edward Blake Robertson was a senior Canadian immigration official at the time of the Komagata Maru. He was a second generation Scots-Canadian  whose his father, William, was postmaster in the half-century old Lowland Scottish settlement of Lanark, near Ottawa. When Robertson was still a child his family moved west to Manitoba, settling in Marquette and then Selkirk; in his early twenties he worked as a clerk in nearby Gimli. He described himself as a skeptic in the 1891 census, although he was nominally a Congregationalist. He joined the Canadian public service in 1901 and became Assistant Superintendent of Immigration in 1906 and stayed in that position until 1921. He then left public service to go into the private sector but continued living in Ottawa where he died at the age of sixty-three in 1940. It was Robertson who issued an official press release explaining the government’s decision to bring in the cruiser Rainbow to intimidate the passengers of the Komagata Maru; a press release in which he referred to the possiblity of handcuffing all of them if necessary. After the Komagata Maru had left, he came to Vancouver for a month to relieve the Immigration Agent, Malcolm Reid of his duties and to move him elsewhere in the immigration service. Reid believed that his tough stand on Asian immigration was the reason, but Robertson was most concerned about Reid’s poor relations with his staff and his closeness to the MP H.H. Stevens.

Sources:  Ontario, Birth records;  Manuscript Census of Canada, 1891 and 1901; Auditor-General’s Reports in Sessional Papers, Canada, 1900-1921; Library and Archives Canada, Immigration Files, RG 76.