If there is to be a referendum, the law would have to be passed by this Parliament, and this Parliament could as easily give a vote to the soldiers on a referendum as on an election, and I would be the first to vote for it, and, I suppose, so would my hon. friend. The objection that a soldier could not vote on a referendum has no weight. It would imply that this Parliament refused him the right to vote, and nobody would suppose that. Moreover, a3 I said a moment ago, in Australia there have been both an election and a referendum upon this very question of conscription, and the soldiers voted upon both issues. That I do not know personally, but I am told it, and I have reason to believe it is true. More than that; in British Columbia there has been an election and there has been a referendum on the question of prohibition, and the soldiers voted on the referendum and in the election also. Are we to be told that what can
be done in British Columbia, Australia and New Zealand cannot be done in Canada? To state such a proposition is simply to refute it. Furthermore, to-day I heard my hon. friend from Assiniboia (Mr. Turriff) tell us that he was against referendum because he was sure it would not carry. In other words, he said that a referendum would be defeated. Well, Sir, I ask, is that a reason why a referendum should not be taken? Again I ask: Where are we living now? Is it Canada, or is it Prussia?
Topic: MILITARY SERVICE ACT-1917.
Subtopic: THIRD READING OF THE BILL.
We want no more hypocrisy. If that is the position, no more can it be said that we are fighting to maintain t'he government of the people, for the people, and by the people. Sir, we have a vast country composed of different nationalities, brought here by the force of circumstances. We have opened our doors to all the working people of Europe to come here and help us build up this country, to develop it and bring it up to the standard we hope it will attain some day, and are we to be told that in this year 1917 we are going to deny a vote to the men whom we have made British subjects under the law? That is not British, policy. It is the policy of Paul Kruger, the very policy which started the war in South Africa. When Kruger, after inviting British subjects to come and live in that country, denied them the privileges he promised them, and after giving them the privileges of citizenship, took away their right by an Act of Parliament, the war ensued. For my part, I do not believe in such doctrine as that. My hon. friend from Assiniboia (Mr. Turriff) said a few minutes ago that, if there was to be a referendum, the whole of the French province would vote against it; the foreign voter would be against it, and the slacker would be against it. I do not want, in this country, to hear of any such division. I stand upon the broad line of Canadian citizenship.
Topic: MILITARY SERVICE ACT-1917.
Subtopic: THIRD READING OF THE BILL.
I know very well that the same feeling does not appeal to all Canadians. I know that the majority of French Canadians have a certain way of looking at these things. I know that English Canadians look at them in another w'ay, but when you tell me that all French Canadians are on one side, and all English Canadians are on the other side, I do not
believe one statement or the other. It has been said that all the French Canadians are on one side and all the English Canadians are on the other side, and if that be so the English Canadians are more numerous, and they would carry the vote. It is not by such appeals as this that we can hope to settle this vexed question. It is simply by appealing to the better instincts of the people, and for my part I hope that the day will never come-and I am sure it will never come-that I shall appeal either to the prejudices of one man or to the prejudices of another.
Referring to the position which I have taken upon the floor of this House on this question, if I cannot defend it in Ontario as well as in Quebec, I want to lose my name as a French Canadian citizen, as an English Canadian citizen, and as a Canadian. I am prepared to defend my policy. I may be''right or I may be wrong, but at all events I am sincere in my belief, and when a man speaks the voice of his conscience, there is no part of Canada where he should fear to state his views. T have been told that there is no constructive feature in the policy of a referendum. On the contrary, I say it is the most constructive policy which has yet been presented in this debate. I do not know how the vote will go. I have taken my pledge, and I repeat it again to-day with more fervour than before, that if the vote had gone for; conscription the verdict would be accepted in every part of Canada, even in the province of Quebec, where it has been said it would not be accepted. When the people had .spoken by way of ia referendum, I believe that those who voted against it would, had it been carried, come forward to do their duty and uphold the law. If it were defeated, a duty would be imposed on all, and there would be a new basis, and a new appeal to the whole people of Canada to lend their best endeavours in the defence of a noble cause. But my hon. friend said that the minority must govern sometimes. I do not admit that proposition at all. If you admitted the policy that the minority could govern, you could say goodbye to representative institutions. My hon. friend was very badly advised when he referred to the referendum on prohibition in 1898. Let the hon. gentleman look at Hansard. I have not looked at it for twenty years, but he will find that the Government stated that they would not be satisfied with a bare majority, even if prohibition were endorsed, unless there was behind it such a body of public opinion as would insure its success.
But when we found that prohibition had been carried by a vote of only 10,000 out of more than half a million, we thought we were not justified in putting it in force. I have been asked as to what my policy is.
I may say that it is the same as it has been from the first. I am in this war to the finish.
Topic: MILITARY SERVICE ACT-1917.
Subtopic: THIRD READING OF THE BILL.
I am in this war under the voluntary system to the last. I am in 'this war as Australia is in it today. Australia voted against conscription but still she is in the war. I am sorry that on an occasion of this kind I cannot see eye to eye with my hon friends on the other side. I do not want to speak severely of anybody. I do not want to introduce any bitterness that it is possible to avoid. I respect the convictions of all men, and I hope my own convictions will be respected.
In the position that I occupy on this side of the House, I am part and parcel of the machinery of the Government, and up to the 18th May no man occupying a position similar to that which I occupied, in any country, whether in England, France, New Zealand, or South Africa, gave to the Government a more consistent support than I gave them. But when the conscription measure was proposed I had to oppose it, and why? Because, presented as it had been presented, before the country, it had been made an instrument of coercion.
It is a denial of those principles of democracy which we hold dear and sacred. I oppose this Bill because it has in it toe seeds of discord and disunion; because it is an obstacle and a bar to that union of heart and soul without which it is impossible to hope that this Confederation will attain the aims and ends that were had in view when Confederation was effected. Sir, all my life I have fought coercion; all my life I have promoted union; and the inspiration which led me to that course shall he my guide at all times, so long as there is a breath Left in my body.
Topic: MILITARY SERVICE ACT-1917.
Subtopic: THIRD READING OF THE BILL.
Mr. Speaker, nothing was farther from my mind when I entered the House this afternoon than to speak upon the third reading of this Bill. I am constrained to do -so, however, because of the most remarkable performance of the leader of the Opposition (Sir Wilfrid Laurier). I am afraid that his many thousands of erstwhile friends in Canada who have been so profundlly disappointed at the course of his
can, but for the life of us, we cannot tell what we think about conscription ourselves? We should immediately be asked: what is your policy? Where do you stand on conscription? And, unless we could answer definitely, we should be rightly sent back to our places and told to do our duty. The only initial step any government can take in any matter of public 'policy is to announce its position and appeal to the'people to follow. Then we get the reading of the people's will, and the Government does not evade but discharges its obligations.
We are told by the leader of the Opposition: You have brought in your policy of conscription and then you have asked for coalition. He says: I do not like the priority; I do not like the order of precedence; you should have asked me for coalition first and then brought conscription in next. I have heard other hon. gentlemen say that we should have consulted the leader of the Opposition about coalition first and announced conscription next. But the leader of the Opposition himself says that no matter when we consulted him about coalition, he never would have come into coalition upon a policy of conscription. Where is the difference between going to the leader of the Opposition and saying: We invite you into coalition on a policy of conscription which we intend to announce, and going to the leader of the Opposition and saying: We are for conscription;
we invite you to come in and cooperate with us on that policy? Had we on the other hand gone to him and said: we do not know where we stand, but we would like you to come in and help us in this matter of getting soldiers; his immediate reply, and that of his followers would have been: have you not the courage to take your own position, to pronounce your policy?-pronounce your policy first; that is the duty of a Government; then we will say where we stand.
We took the full responsibility. On no other basis than that of compulsory service, could coalition have been of any service to this country. That alone was the basis, and on that ground we took up our position. Then it was the duty of the leader of the Opposition to elect his course. He elected his course, and the tragic election he made is the reason of whatever disunion may exist to-day.
He tells us further-and I am surprised that the leader of the Opposition should use the sentences he does when referring to this subject-I cannot agree with you now that
you introduce conscription, because you promised us you would not. And he went so far as to say that the leader of the Government, in January, 1916, stated that under no circumstances would the Government resort to compulsory service in Canada. The Prime Minister said no suoh thing. The leader of the Gdvernmen.t, on every occasion when the subject has been discussed, whether in Parliament or before labour organizations, or before delegations of any sort, has been scrupulously careful never to say that under circumstances that might be conceived, conscription would not be introduced. In January, 1916, he said that there was no compulsory service Bill in contemplation by this Government. That was the absolute truth in letter and in spirit. Why? Because then-the necessity for compulsory service had never arisen in the smallest form on the horizon of this country; because at that time we were recruiting men at the rate of 1,000 a day; because there was no necessity to supplement the army of this country in Prance by the adoption of a compulsory law; because the State would not be imperilled by the continuance of the voluntary system, for that system was then successful. That is a long way from saying that under different or other circumstances there would not be a resort to compulsory service.
The leader of the Opposition tells us that we did not consult the various classes of people in this country. There is not a class of the people in this country that had not made representations to this Government and consulted with this Government on this subject of compulsory service. Those representations had been made and those consultations had between various sections of our people and the Government of the day since a time less than a year after the war began. And if there is one class of the people of this country who are in the weakest position possible to plead surprise on this subject, it is organized labour itself. The great body of organized labour indeed does not complain at all. Two or three office holders cannot speak for the labouring men of Canada. Several months before the policy of compulsory service was announced in Parliament representatives of organized labour came to this Government, and I believe came in the person among others of the very gentleman referred to by the leader of the Opposition this afternoon, and were told that we did not contemplate compulsory service in Canada. They were not satisfied with that, and asked the leader of the Government whether or not he would give an absolute continuing pledge
that he would not put into effect conscription in this country. What did the leader of the Government do? In the plainest possible language he told that labour organization, and told Mr. Watters, that he would not on any account make any such promise or commit this Government to any such a pledge; that, in a word he would have to be governed by events as they transpired, and that whenever it appeared that the safety of this nation depended upon compulsory service he would not hesitate to resort to compulsory service. In the face of that plain intimation-and it is in writing-that the policy of Canada in the war as to the voluntary system or conscription must be dictated by circumstances, just as the policy of every other nation in war must be dictated by circumstances, Where is the organization that can plead surprise? For under the circumstances' that have developed, it appears by the plainest figures ever presented to the mind of man, that unless conscription is resorted to we cannot sustain the defence of this country. No organization can plead surprise or bad faith; the words "bad faith" have no proper place at all in this connection, and I think the leader of the Opposition should never have used such words. No organization can plead surprise. But the gravest charge that could be brought against any administration would have been brought against this Government if in the face of the falling figures of our defenders in France; if in the face of figures that show seven casualties for one recruit in two months; if in the face of the appeal from the General in the field that there was the greatest possible need, the direst necessity for men; if in the face of figures which established that unless an impetus was given that under voluntarism had not been given to recruiting in Canada for ten months at least, our forces could not be maintained in the field; I say the gravest and most damning charge would have been brought against this Government if in the face of those facts we had been guilty of the crime of refusing to resort to any measures for strengthening the arm of this country and sustaining our defence.
We are told that this measure is coercion. It is coercion in the same sense that every law of the land is coercion, and in no other sense at all. Unless there is coercion, that is to say, power, behind a law, there might as well be no law. This is coercion in the same sense that the leader of the Opposition used coercion upon this country when
he tied it up to the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway project; it is coercion in that sense and in no other. And by the way, he tells us that because there was a difference of opinion, or alleged difference of opinion, between two members of the Government as to the method of proceeding in recruiting, we are answerable for anything that may now be complained of in the way of voluntary recruiting. Let me answer him. How wide would be his smile if a member on this side of the House were to rise in his place and say that the unfortunate position we find ourselves in to-day with reference to the Grand Trunk Pacific and the Transcontinental is entirely due to a difference of opinion that existed between the right hon. gentleman and his Minister of Railways in 1903 as to the character the Transcontinental should take! But infinitely more reasonable would be such an attitude than his attitude to-day.
This is no measure of coercion, because the only principle embodied in this Bill has been a principle imbedded in our law since Canada was a country; because his own Government placed conscription on the statute books of Canada in a wider, bolder and more drastic form than is embodied in this Bill; because from the day this nation took its birth in 1867 down to this hour the principle of conscription has been part of our military legislation, and has been applicable to this country at any time upon the word of the Government in a more drastic, extreme and more comprehensive form, by far, than is to be found in this Bill. Where is the coercion in a restricted, a modified, a moderate application of a principle that has been our law for fifty years? If we are to have no coercion-and he alone calls it coercion-if we are to have no force behind our law, better pass no law at all.
The right hon. gentleman started out by raising the shadow of civil dissension if this law should pass. He says that because of the serious cleavage of opinion on this subject, therefore we must retrace our steps. He points to this side of the House and says that there is a cleavage of opinion here; he points to his own side of the House and says that there is a cleavage there. He draws to my attention the fact that I and those associated with me have not been able to convince every hon. member on this side of the House that this Bill is a right and a just Bill. That is very true. What I stated, though, in my speech was not what the right hon. gentleman said I stated. What I stated was that
if every hon. member in this Parliament were to go to his constituents and make clear the meaning of this law, its extent and purpose, then whatever difference of opinion there might be as to the expediency of the Bill, the whole of this country, in every section and in every province, would willingly support it when it became law and there would be no disunion. That is what I stated, and I call it to the attention of hon. gentlemen opposite. I lay that thought especially before the leader of the Opposition, because to no man should this responsibility come home with the force it should come home to him. If hon. gentlemen will lay this Bill-not a distortion of this Bill-clause by clause before their constituents, give the reason for it, the meaning of it, its purpose and its limits; then, though there might be difference of opinion as to the expediency of the measure, there would not be the slightest resistance to its operation, but all would loyally support the law of the land. I do not believe there is a gentleman on this side of the House coming from any province in this country
and now I take his own argument-who would for a moment rise in his place in this House, or rise in any other place in this country, and advocate resistance to this measure once it becomes the law of Canada. It is true there is some difference on the part of a very few of our supporters from Quebec as to its expediency; such as that is inevitable on every principle ever presented to Parliament. But because there is difference of opinion as to its expediency, does that mean there is disunion and that we must retrace our steps and retract our measure? I put another question to him who talks of schism and dissension: If we on this side of the House have not succeeded in demonstrating the justice of this measure to every hon. member who sits with us, what is to be said of the leader of the Opposition who has to an infinitely greater degree failed to convince those on his side of the House of the injustice of the measure now presented? His side is divided almost into two.
But why talk of disunion? From the first hour this Government took office until this afternoon, has there ever been a great measure passed by Parliament that was carried by so overwhelming a majority as was the second reading of this Bill? If ever there was evidence of a substantial majority of the thinking people of 'Canada in favour of a measure that evidence exists upon the measure that is now before the House. Why is it the leader of the Opposition is not able to retain behind
him supporters who through five, ten, and fifteen years have been the most valued of his followers and the bitterest of our opponents? It is because opinion in this country of the substantial thinking people of every race is behind this Bill with such force that these hon. gentlemen cannot believe they are doing their duty to their country if they yield themselves any longer to the solicitation of the leader of the Opposition.
Why is it that this afternoon there rises in his place the hon. member for Assini-boia (Mr. Turriff) than whom there never has been a more valiant-shall I .say a more extreme, a more relentless party critic within the four walls of this House-why does he rise in his place this afternoon and say .that on this issue, which goes to the very root of the defence of our country, which goes to the very question of our existence as a nation: " I hold myself no
longer accountable to the leader of the Opposition, hut I speak for the vast majority of .the people of my country and I stand behind our soldiers in France." Does such a stand as that show disunion? No, it is because there is such an overwhelming majority of the thinking people of this country behind this measure that hon. gentlemen on both sides of this House agreeing with their views are bound to respect their wishes. If hon. gentlemen take this attitude it is because so vast a majority is behind the Government of the day that they would be failing in their duty to their country if they, thinking with that vast majority, did not support the Government on this measure. Why is it that the hon. member for South Wellington (lMr. Guthrie) rises this afternoon and proclaims throughout this country that there is no meaning in the proclamation issued on Friday night out of a certain Liberal caucus in the city of Toronto that they were going at one and the same time to get behind Sir Wilfrid Laurier and win this war? It is because the hon. member for South Wellington knows that although he may talk, and hon. gentlemen may talk till Doomsday about winning the war, you have to get down to a definite, concrete plan, before you can win war or anything else, and because you cannot win this war behind the policy of the right hon. gentleman. Has the right hon. gentlemen ever lost a more faithful-may I say-a .more affectionate supporter than the hon. member for West Lambton? (Mr. Pardee). The hon. member for West Lambton left the leader of the Opposition because there is
such an overwhelming preponderance of sound public opinion in support of this measure that he has not it in his heart to vote against the Bill. It is because the overwhelming mass of his own party, concurrently with his own conviction, is behind the Bill; it is not because there is a difference of opinion but because there is a substantial unanimity throughout this country in support of the measure.
I deplore that cleavage should even be predicted, but I do not believe that there will exist in this country disunion to the extent of resisting the law of the land passed by a majority of the representatives of the people. I see no reason still for such a thing existing; I do not believe it will exist; but I repeat now what I have said before, that I would prefer-infinitely prefer-to have disunion between the forward and the backward portions of this country where we can settle it within our own borders than to have disunion between, this nation on the one hand and this nation's defenders on the other. That is a type of disunion, a kind of disintegration, a tearing up by the roots of Confederation to use the words of the leader of the Opposition-that I do not want to see. There is a backward and a forward portion of the population of every country that ever existed in 5 p.m. this world. You cannot point to any nation, even though it be an autocracy, much less can you point to any nation whose institutions are built on the bedrock of democracy, where there does not exist a distinctly forward and aggressive portion of the people in all national aims, and where there does not exist a portion that lags behind, a class which has to be brought forward and who are rather an impediment than an assistance in any national movement. Does the leader of the Opposition believe that the only way in which we can get on harmoniously is to move just as fast as the slowest? Is that his contention? Is that his position? Undoubtedly that is what he is doing; he is moving with the slowest. In Canada, in the midst of a war that demands the utmost speed that any war ever demanded of a nation, if we can only produce union by walking at the 'Speed of and abreast with the backward portion of the Canadian people, then I do not want union in Canada; I am ready rather to face disorder or dissension. Is our arm in this conflict in which our liberties, our very lives are involved to be measured by the strength of the arm of those who do not want to be in the conflict at all?
If there is one man between the shores of this country who is responsible for the shadow of disunion I say it is the leader of the Opposition. It is only two months ago since an offer was made to the right hon. gentleman, which, if it had been accepted, would have cemented together all, or almost all, in this House and throughout Canada who stand behind this war. That offer he declined-an offer, than which a more generous was never laid at the feet of a political opponent by a statesman in power-and he declined on one ground only: that we should insist on walking in this conflict with those who hold back instead of walking with those who would go forward. Let the leader of the Opposition beware, let him not deceive himself; the coalition that he refused in the Commons and in the Government of Canada has infinitely more effect to-day than he has any idea of. There is a coalition among the people of the country that will astonish the leader of the Opposition when the word of the people is heard. This coalition has gone on among the people, although it has failed amongst the members of this House by virtue of the conduct of the leader of the Opposition-attributable to him, and almost to him alone.-The people that he feign would divide are united now, and they will stay united until this war is won. They will decide that the Government which vigorously carries forward the war is the Government which represente them no matter whether it be Liberal or Conservative, or both. It is the fault of the leader of the Opposition, and on his head the charge wi'jl rest so long as time endures that'in this, the vastest, most perilous struggle in which this or any other nation ever engaged, there was not such a union of those who want to win the war as would produce for the sons of Canada the greatest assistance in their struggle to the death in Flanders. That is a responsibility that I would not want to have becloud my memory after my days on earth are done. It is a responsibility that the leader of the Opposition lightly and airily assumes.
There wa.s a time when the influence of no man in this country, whether in the province of Quebec or elsewhere, was so great as that of the right hon. gentleman. I beg of him this afternoon Ito go where his influence still is great and speak of this measure as this measure is. Let him not speak of it as hon. gentlemen of his own race have spoken of it in recent weeks at Sunday meetings in their province, but let him tell the people of his own province that within
the four corners of this measure there is no word of unfairness and no element of injustice to the French Canadian people. Let him say that although he himself has spoken on this measure in this Parliament on three or four diffrent occasions, he had never alleged for an instant that there was a 6hadow or fragment of injustice in this Bill against the race which he represents and from which he springs. Let him repeat these things to the people of the province of Quebec, to the sane, thinking people of that province, and represent to them their duty to march on with the rest of Canada. Let him, their leader, see that they are sanely led, and I feel satisfied that they will be ready to perform their duty. But I repeat once more that of all the prices we must never pay for harmony in Canada, the price we must most Of all decline, is national dishonour. No nation can survive a cost like that.
We either have national aims, a national will and a -sense of national honour, or we have not. Have we national aims, have we any national will, h-ave we a trace of national honour, if we send 100,000 men into the battlefields of France, into the furnace of war, before the cannon of Germany, and leave them there to be decimated and destroyed, (abandoned by the people of this country?
Let the right horn, leader of the Opposition say now whether the time has not coone for him to take his place beside those who sustain the national will and the national honour of Canada. Let him not be found any longer among those who hold back in this country, whether they be of alien enemy origin or not. Let him be found with those who press on. And if he is found there, then there will not be many hon. members from the province of Quebec or many public men of that province who will, with very much influence, appeal to their compatriots to resist this Bill. Then there will not be found the disunion which he predicts this afternoon; nor will there be encountered a disunion infinitely worse than that which he describes-disunion between the nation at home and its defenders overseas.
The House divided on the motion of Sir Robert Borden for the third reading of the Military Service Act, 1917.
The Bill was read a third time and passed on the following division:
I would like to state that when I voted on the third reading of the Military Service Bill, I was not aware that the hon. member for Missisquoi (Mr. Kay), with whom I was paired, was not in the House. I should, therefore, appear as paired with him.
Topic: MILITARY SERVICE ACT-1917.
Subtopic: THIRD READING OF THE BILL.