Hon. FRANK OLIVER (Edmonton):
Mr. Speaker, I wish to take this opportunity of giving a very direct contradiction to a statement that appeared on Wednesday, January 24, in L'Evenement, a newspaper published in the city of Quebec. I would have been able to correct this sooner, had I been better acquainted with the language in which the statement was originally printed. The article begins with large headlines:
Hon. Mr. Oliver, late Liberal minister, requests immediate conscription in Canada. This Liberal leader lets the cat out of the bag. He declares that if the Liberal party came
back to power, conscription would be enforced at once. Mr. Oliver reproaches Mr. Sevigny for not preaching immediate enlistment to his
constituents during the campaign.
The article goes on:
It ill becomes Mr. Cannon to charge the Conservative Government with the intention of enforcing conscription in Canada. It is evident to those who follow the debates at Ottawa that were a Liberal administration in power conscription would come at once. Hon. Mr. Oliver, one of Sir Wilfrid's first lieutenants, let the cat out of the bag when in the warmth of his oratory he stated:
'The true policy to follow, and which the present Government should Immediately adopt, would be to enforce conscription throughout Canada. Recruiting is not satisfactory, and this expedient would settle the whole question.'
That is the Opposition.
-seemed to receive this declaration with marked satisfaction.
Further to confirm Mr. Oliver's remarks we find the following extract in the report of yesterday's sitting, which is very significant. Mr. Oliver criticises the Government for his apparent lack of organization, and the system followed in recruiting men, and declares that, in his opinion, had things been managed differently, Canada could to-day count her 500,000 men. "We must not forget,' says he, 'that more than 50,000 men who had enlisted since the beginning of the war, have been later rejected for physical unfitness. Our duty is to send to the firing line half a million men absolutely fit from a physical standpoint.' The only possible solution, according to Mr. Oliver, is the establishment of conscription in Canada. Mr. Oliver was particularly aggressive throughout his speech which can be summed up thus: Conscription is necessary in Canada.
Mr. Oliver then alluded to the campaign now being waged in Dorchester, and made it a pretext to attack Jdr. Sevigny because he did not choose to make of his electoral campaign a recruiting tour. Here is how Mr. Sevigny addresses his constituents; said he: 'Every
one has a duty to perform in the present war. Some have enlisted to go to the firing line, but those who remain have nevertheless a very important duty to fulfil, that of providing for our agricultural needs, and other requirements.' Mr. Oliver felt indignant at such manner of speech, and claimed that Mr. Sevigny ought to have impressed upon his electors the necessity of enlisting for active service. Mr. Oliver judges that the Government has not the question of military enlistment much at heart, and reiterates his request that conscription be enforced.
I desire to say that the assertion contained in this article is absolutely untrue; and if I would be permitted, I would like to read from the speech referred to the only remarks of mine that included the word "conscription" or related in any way to that matter. It will not be very long and I wish to have the matter absolutely settled. On Tuesday, January 23, 1917, on
page 80 of the Unrevised Hansard I am quoted as saying:
Voluntary service has never had a chance in this country under the administration of our friends. For my own part I have said in this House before, and I am prepared to say it again, that in the case of such a world struggle as we are now engaged in National Service is the only logical service; National Service, I say, that will call up the manhood of the nation for military service. But it must be recognized that there are many things that are right in theory that it is not possible to put into practice. I do not challenge the Government because they have not put conscription in force, although they talked it, hinted) at it, and tried to get credit for it without doing it. The fault I have to find is that, depending on voluntary service, we never gave voluntary service a fair chance.
Subtopic: STATEMENT BY HON. MR. OLIVER.