July 10, 1917

CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

How does it apply unless there are more men available, after all useful and necessary occupations have been filled, than the number of men required? Does my hon. friend think there are more men available after all useful and necessary occupations have been filled, than are required here?

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I am sorry to say that I do not. I think the condition of our country at the present time is such that we need all the men we have. But, very properly, we have made up our minds to send more men, and in doing that I say that we should be scrupulously exact in making our selection on principles of absolute fair play. But when I look into the Bill and make inquiries of the Solicitor General I find that there is no provision whatever in the Bill for fair play as between man and man, as between occupation and occupation, or as between section and section of our country. Now I say, unless it is possible to so embody the views of the Government in regard to selective conscription as to give that assurance to the people, they should not have brought in the system, or they should'bring in some other system under which it would be possible for us to guarantee fair play to those we represent. I am sorry to say, I am not able to do this under the provisions of this Bill, because I have not, as a matter of fact, the same faith in the fair dealing in any act of administration on the part of my hon. friend and his colleagues as I would have in what the Premier calls the blind system of choice by ballot.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I have only to observe that I failed to get any statement from the member from Edmonton as to how he would divide the one hundred thousand men among the different provinces of Canada. Secondly, I was not convinced that under a state of affairs where we required all the men not necessary for the essential productions of the war, the introduction of a system of luck is going to add to

the fairness in getting the men who are required. I simply laid these two sentences before the House. I do not think the matter admits of further discussion.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

My hon. friend has stated that this provision is based upon the British law, and he says that in as much as the British law has worked well under corresponding circumstances, this law should work well here. I had the honour to read to the House some little time ago what appeared to me to be reliable information as to the working of the British law, and I may perhaps be pardoned if I re-read some part of this information. I think it will be agreed that if this information is even measurably correct, it not only bears out everything I have said in expressing doubts as to the possibility or the probability of fair play in the administration of this measure, but it absolutely assures that fair play is not to be expected under that administration.

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CON

John Hampden Burnham

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BURNHAM:

The hon. gentleman

is laying an indictment on a most important question before the House, and does not specify one thing. In broad general terms he sweeps the whole Act right out without specifying a single thing. Surely the indictment must be gone into and the evidence submitted to a grand jury like, this, or the complaint will not hold.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I like to hear the sound of my hon. friend's voice. The evidence I desire to bring before the House in regard to the administration of this unrestricted selective provision in England is contained in the correspondence of one Lacey Amy, which appeared in the Toronto Saturday Night of June 16. Mr. Amy says:

Tribunals all through the country continue to hand out exemptions to huntsmen, variety artists, store managers, clerks, luxury manufacturers, frankly declaring that their mission is "to protect local industry." One district alone granted 30,000 exemptions during the past fourteen weeks.

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CON

Martin Burrell (Minister of Agriculture)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BURRELL:

Will my hon. friend permit me. I think this is rather a serious criticism, and the House is entitled to know the status of Mr. Amy. That is a very sweeping statement to make.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

A very sweeping statement, Mr. Chairman, in regard to a very important question. I am not responsible for Mr. Amy. He is the regular correspondent of Toronto Saturday Night, and I presume is a reputable person. Saturday Night has a very wide circulation throughout the Do-

minion of Canada as a reputable paper, and I presume its correspondent in London is a reputable man. At any rate, on my responsibility as a member of this House, I placed those words on Hansard some two or three weeks ago, and it was within the province of the Government to verify or secure a contradiction of the statements made Iby Mr. Amy, in the interval which has elapsed. Apparently this has not been done; therefore, I must ask that Mr. Amy's indictment stand.

There is another side to this question, which is. perhaps, even more important than that which I have already mentioned. I wish to quote what Mr. Amy has to say in regard to it:-

The failure to comb out the eligibles in the munition factories is a bit of inside history that should be made public for the enlightenment of those who would use drastic measures.

It will be observed, we are proposing to pass a law heie which contemplates the exemption of employees in munition factories; you will notice, Mr. Amy is speaking about the failure to comb out eligibles in munition factories in England.

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CON

William Humphrey Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. W. H. BENNETT:

Where is the exemption of employees in munition factories to be found in the Act?

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

It is contained in subsection (a) when read in connection with the last clause on the first page of the preamble. It either means that, or the preamble has no purpose at all. Mr. Amy's statement is a somewhat lengthy explanation of a very serious situation, but I desire to place it before the House, because I consider it has a bearing on the situation in which we find ourselves in Canada, not in exactly the same connection, (but in another which I consider closely parallel:-

The political strength of labour in England is too well known to need elaboration here. Only the harsh necessities of war, backed by a coalition government, could have enforced the policy of dilution of labour early entered upon. Labour responded' willingly enough, especially as it did not carry with it at that time any policy of substitution. For with dilution came a guarantee not to conscript the members of the twenty-five unions concerned.

But unforeseen difficulties cropped up, and events approached a crisis in the fall of last year. The unions, in what they considered self-protection, had insisted that the new men should join the unions and receive the union wage. And gradually the new blood outnumbered the old; and as it was made up of youthful fellows, the majority of whom had entered the factories to escape khaki (and they admit it with shocking complacency) its principles, and methods slowly crept into the ascendency. And, of course, its main object

was to continue to draw five pounds a week) in clover instead of a shilling a day before the German guns.

Fully to appraise the menace of this condition, one should remember that these men were guaranteed exemption, that they control the unions which control the make-up of the dismissals for service. The attempt of the Government to overcome that obstacle by ruling that only the skilled should be exempt was frustrated by the unions demanding of the company managements that all employees be termed skilled-even the porters and workmen about the yards. A few were combed out here and there, but very few.

Finally the Government and the leaders of the unions devised a scheme. It was intended to nut an end to the domination of the new blood^-whose shirking did not commend itself to labour leadership, an essentially loyal body of men in the main-and to secure for the army the needed recruits. The Government announced the cancellation of all trade union cards and war service certificates. The plan was to re-issue them only to the skilled. It looked good. But the shirkers were wise. Working strictly in local bodies only, for the leaders would not sanction it, the stewards put it bluntly to their managers. I know of factories where the entire body of workers threatened to strike if a single man was taken by the Government. They knew that not one could be combed out without the consent of the manager; and local fealty had cemented the old and the new membership through previous wage troubles.

It is clear that the experience in England does not justify leaving the discretion and the authority as to the enforcement of the principle of compulsory military service under this Bill to the tribunals appointed and empowered as these tribunals are expected to he. It has not worked in England, and if it did not work in England it certainly will not work in this country, because there is a respect for constituted authority, for precedent and for right doing because it is right, in England, that, I am sorry to say, does not exist to the same extent in this country.

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CON

John Hampden Burnham

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BURNHAM:

I do not believe that. That is a libel on this country.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

Perhaps it is and again perhaps it is not. At any rate, I am standing here on my responsibility as a member of this Parliament to say that the rights of the people are not properly safeguarded under the provisions of this Bill. I am asking that they be safeguarded. If they cannot be safeguarded under the provisions of this Bill, the Government has no right to put through suoh a Bill, and they should bring forward some other Bill based on principles that would permit the safeguarding of the rights of the people, and which would give us an assurance that there would be equal justice between man and man,

between industry and industry and between section and section of this country.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

There is no doubt at all that in the working out of the British Act difficulties were encountered, and they did not succeed in obtaining all the results aimed at. I do not know of any Act in Britain or in Canada that ever did succeed in attaining all the results aimed at. But I cannot understand the state of mind of a member of this House who concludes that because somebody writes to the newspaper, even the Toronto Saturday Night, that there were imperfections in the working out of the British Act, the Act is valueless and worthless. If the hon. gentleman is to reach conclusions on the face of a letter in a newspaper written by some one he does not know, I am afraid he will be driven by his logic to very strange conclusions regarding himself. We can put in a nutshell the difference between my hon. friend's suggestion and our own. He refers to essential industries such as munition works, and he has in mind other essential industries such as agriculture. He alleges that in England, owing to the weakness perhaps of some of the tribunals in certain spots, there were exemptions of variety artists, pool room artists and the like of that. That may well be. If these things did happen they are being cured by appeals to the central tribunal. The same things may occur here, but they will be cured in like manner. But take the system proposed by my hon friend-here is a farmer with 200, or 160, acres of land all alone on that farm. Right beside him, in the neighbouring village, there is a pool room loafer and the question comes as to what is the best method of selecting one or the other to go to the front for military service. We have the tribunal named under the method proposed here. We place the pool room loafer and the farmer side by side and we leave it to the tribunal to decide which of the two ought to go and which ought to remain at home. Is there a common sense man in this country, is there a member of this House, who would doubt what the decision of the tribunal would be? The pool room loafer would go and the farmer would stay at home to work his farm. What would my hon. friend do? He would take these two men, stand them up side by side, take two straws and have some one there to see who gets the longer straw and who gets the shorter. If the pool room loafer draws the longer straw, he stays safely at home and the farmer goes to the front. That is what my hon.

friend says is absolutely fair and has been found to be the right method of getting men to go to the front.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I do not want to interrupt my hon. friend but I would like to interject for the benefit of Hansard that I did not suggest any such thing.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I venture to say that no hon. member understood him to suggest anything else. He wants to follow the lot system. Let the hon. gentleman tell this House how he intends that system to work out. He wants us to divide these 100,000 men among the provinces of Canada. I would ask him again to say how he is going to divide them among the provinces and how many to each?

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

My hon. friend is giving me a great deal of personal attention and I shall be glad to give him the information he wants. The authorities were good enough to hand out the other day a statement as to the population of Canada, giving the number of people of Canadian birth, of British birth, and of foreign birth, and the different ages-the ages, I presumed, that are covered by the Bill. My suggestion in regard to the levy would be this: I would make up my mind how many of these classes I propose to call.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

What classes would my hon. friend call?

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

Whatever number of

classes I considered necessary.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Would the hon. gentleman have any objection to saying what classes he would call?

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

It is not necessary, it is not to the point but I have no objection. Incidentally, and without further consideration, I would say that I would begin at the youngest class and call successive classes until I had covered as many as I thought would be needed. Then, according to population as here laid down, if I were willing to take that estimate, I would credit to each province the number of men that it had enlisted and who had gone overseas or were available for overseas service. Then I would require of each of the several provinces the balance of the men necessary to make up the quota.

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July 10, 1917