August 20, 1917

LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

Does the minister not call it a new principle where he permits *a soldier to ear-mark his vote for any constituency under certain circumstances?

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

I respectfully submit that questions of this kind, although I would be very glad to answer them, are questions which would naturally come up in committee.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

I think it is a principle.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

I do not consider it a question of principle.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

There is not much principle about it.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I did not have the good fortune to be present when the minister made his explanation of the principle of the Bill and of the differences between this Bill and the present Act. May I be permitted to say that I think the proper time for making such a full explanation as the House is entitled to under such circumstances is upon the second reading of the Bill. However, the minister has seen fit to take the other course. The suggestion of my hon. friend from Moosejaw (Mr. Knowles) was not an objection to the form in which the Bill has been introduced. I think he would agree, as I would, that it would be very much better to introduce the Bill in this form than in the form of an amendment. But his point was, if I caught it aright, that the minister, seeing fit to introduce the Bill in this form, should make to the House the same explanation as to the differences in principle as he would necessarily have made had he introduced a Bill in amendment to the present Act. This is a long Bill, it is intricate in many respects and members will have considerable difficulty in comparing its provisions with those of the previous measure. Therefore, the House is rightly entitled to consideration at the hands of the minister. While we can deal with certain of these matters of detail in committee of the whole, we make up our minds as to the merits of the measure on the principles laid down in the discussion on the second reading. Those of us who had not the privilege of hearing the minister on the introduction of the Bill are hardly in a position to deal with the subject to-day as it should be dealt with. It is all the more impressed on my mind from the fact that repeatedly from the other side of the House, from the lips of the Prime Minister as well as, I think, other members, it has been stated that it was a practical impossibility to take the soldier's vote overseas.

That being the case, ana a new measure being introduced, it is particularly in order that information should be given why if it was impossible to take the soldiers' vote under the existing measure, it will he possible to do so under the measure now introduced, This is a measure of very great and far-reaching importance. Everybody will agree that a citizen of Canada, entitled to vote in Canada, should be entitled to vote when he is serving Canada in a military capacity, although he may be outside its limits. So far as that principle is embodied

In the Bill, certainly it will have the support of myself and, I am sure, of every hon. member of this House.

But there are other principles involved in a franchise Act besides the principle of providing for the casting of the vote. There are principles connected with ensuring that the vote shall be counted as it has been cast. There is the principle of the right of the several parties who are concerned in the voting to be sure that, first, the vote is cast secretly; second, that it is cast without pressure of fear or favour; and, third, that, having been so cast, it shall be counted as it was cast. I am unable to say whether these principles are provided for in the Bill, and I would say to the minister that I do not consider them details at all; I consider each one an essential principle. If they are not provided for in the Bill, there is a possibility that, instead of the privilege of the franchise being exercised as a right and a duty, the intention of the voter may be diverted from its proper purpose, and, instead of being of assistance in expressing the mind of the people of Canada, it may be a means of misdirecting the minds of tne people. I can only hope that the minister, in the preparation of the Bill, has had these points in. mind. I am not able to say /whether they are properly safeguarded or not, as I have not had tne opportunity to discuss the Bill, and in any case would not be able to form an opinion on these points without having the minister's explanation.

There is, however, one feature that I find in section 3 in which, following the suggestion of the hon. member for .Moosejaw (Mr. Knowles), I must say I cannot see an evidence of good faith on the part of the minister or the Government in the preparation of the Bill, and if this provision of which I speak is a fair sample of the Bill's provisions throughout, I would be compelled to take very strong exception to it and to say that it may have been that the fact that the Government did not have a majority in the Senate was a protection to the public interest in the passing of the other Bill; but 'that now that the Government has a majority in the Senate, it feels free to introduce such a measure as it pleases and as it thinks may best serve its purpose, whatever that purpose may be. The liberties and rights of the people of Canada are involved in this measure, and I can only take the provision of subsection 3 of section 3 as a deliberate and intentional and very serious and far-reaching attack upon the

rights and privileges of the. people of Canada in the expression of their vote. The provision of the section of which I speak is:

(1) Every military elector shall be qualified and entitled to vote at a general election.

(2) If he can state the electoral district

wherein he last continuously resided during at least months of the year immediately preceding his appointment, enlistment, enrolment or calling out on active service, or so particularly specify a place or places within an electoral district whereat during such period of time he so resided that such electoral district can therefrom be ascertained, he shall be deemed an elector of the electoral district so stated or to be ascertained, and his vote shall be applied thereto.

(3) If he cannot, because of non-residence or otherwise, so state or specify, he shall be deemed an elector of, and his vote shall be applied to, such electoral district as he may indicate.

I can only characterize such a provision as a deliberate outrage on the right of expression of opinion by the people of the country. It creates a possibility of the massing of an unknown or untold number of votes, strictly under law, in any constituency against any candidate. To place such a power in the hands of a government which has necessarily the whole direction and control of the operation of this measure is certainly an attack upon the rights of the people such as we have seldom seen, even at the hands of this Government.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. E. M. MACDONALD:

Mr. Speaker,

it will be recalled that the Prime Minister some months ago, shortly after the opening of the session, declared most emphatically that it was not possible for the votes of the soldiers who are in France to be taken in a general election, and this statement was made in such a definite and positive manner, without any reservation at all, that I think it is due to the House that, before this Bill passes the second reading, the Prime Minister should say to the House what change has occurred in the meantime which enables the votes to be taken when apparently it was not possible to take them before.

Then again I think it is in order that the minister should inform us what .understanding, if any, has been had with tlie British authorities in France as to the taking of the vote in the way proposed in the Bill. I assume that, in view of the fact that it has been clearly shown that the control and direction of overeseas forces while on the soil of Great Britain is vested in the Canadian military authorities as represented by the overseas Minister of Militia, there can be no

doubt about the capacity of having these votes recorded in Great Britain or in any other part of the world, within the Empire, where they may be. But as regards France, the statement of the Prime Minister was so definite and positive on the subject that I think some explanation is due to the House and the public as to what change has taken place in the meantime. I quite agree with the hon. member for St. John that, while the men who are overseas have a right to the franchise of this country and should be given an opportunity of exercising that franchise, and while we should all endeavour in this House to prepare and put through a reasonable Bill which would be absolutely fair to all parties, ensuring the honesty of the vote and the certainty of its proper recording, it is a novel principle to say that a person who was not a resident of Canada, who had no interest whatever in our internal affairs or conditions, and no knowledge in fact of what is best for Canada as a whole, or for airy part of it, merely because he had the franchise in some other part of the Empire, or in the United States, where, if he chose, he could exercise that franchise, should be entitled to vote as a Canadian soldier in a Canadian election. There are numerous cases of men who have never been in Canada, who have been transferred to Canadian forces. At one stage a large number of soldiers were transferred to the Canadian forces-men who had never been in Canada and who, I suppose, never expected to be here. The question as to whether or not such could exercise the franchise intelligently in regard to Canadian affairs is not arguable, leaving aside the question as to whether they could determine whether the individual candidate might or might not be a proper person to represent a constituency in Parliament. To say that a person who had never been in Canada should be permitted to determine as against the votes of the people of a certain locality, who live here, and whose interests are here, and who ought to be the persons to say who should represent them in Parliament, seems to me a very unreasonable proposition. There are other matters of detail in connection with the Bill, but, as the minister intimated that he would hear suggestions, I presume we might discuss very frankly in committee these points which are entirely apart from the principle that a soldier should have the right to exercise his franchise. I think we should hear from my hon. friend on that point.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

The minister has the right to reply now, and should he do so that will close the debate.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

In regard to the statement by the hon. gentleman from Edmonton (Mr. Oliver) in which he was pleased to refer to certain motives on the part of those who are promoting this Bill, I do not hesitate to say that the hon. gentleman is entirely mistaken in his imputation. There is no desire to do anything, except, so far as may be found possible, to meet the very principles which he himself has laid down. If I did not think it necessary to elaborate those principles, it was because, upon the principles that ought to underlie this measure, there should be substantial agreement. On those principles I am not in disagreement with my hon. friend. The provisions meet whal! is required, viz.: that questions which arise are whether those the soldier,-I am speaking generally- should record his vote, and that proper safeguards should surround the taking of the vote. We are not blind to the fact that, even under this measure, it will 4 p.m. be exceedingly difficult to get a complete vote of the soldiers., but I do not think it is wise, simply because of the difficulty, that we should not make the best effort possible to achieve the end desired. As to the particular instance the hon. gentleman has mentioned: whether a soldier not a Canadian, who has been merely transferred to the Canadian Expeditionary Force, should have a vote as a Canadian soldier, I shall be open to consider suggestions in committee. We shall welcome suggestions towards making the law more workable in securing the soldiers' votes as fully as possible, and surrounding the voting with all the precautions that the conditions make possible.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD:

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

We fully recognize,

that, even after this measure is enacted, the taking of the soldiers' votes will be surrounded with very great difficulties. But by this measure we are endeavouring, so far as possible, to obviate these difficulties, which, without this legislation, in the opinion of the Prime Minister, might make the taking of the soldiers' votes impossible.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

Charles Murphy

Liberal

Mr. MURPHY:

Is there any provision

by which voters' lists will be provided, under this Bill, to the respective parties?

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

No. We gave consideration to and tried to elaborate, a plan by 297i

which we could get a voters' list, but it proved in our judgment to be impracticable, and I may further say that a similar endeavour was made in Australia. We consulted with those who had the administration of the Australian Act, and they suggested to us that it was only an embarrassment, and in a general sort of way, they reported that rigidity in the provisions of the Act would tend to defeat its real purpose. There is no provision for a voters' list.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

Charles Murphy

Liberal

Mr. MURPHY:

Could a copy of the

nominal roll be obtained?

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

Perhaps we could do

better with these questions in committee.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

This is a question of

detail more properly dealt with in committee.

Motion agreed to; Bill read the second time, and the House went into committee on the Bill- Mr. Rainville in the Chair.

On clause 1-application:

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

Charles Murphy

Liberal

Mr. MURPHY:

What is the practical

application of the words "but before complete demobilization"?

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

Charles Joseph Doherty (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DOHERTY:

I understand the word "demobilization" has an accepted meaning, in military parlance, so long as soldiers are still on active service in connection with the war, and are held together as soldiers in consequence of their enrolment for this war, they are mobilized, but when they have been disbanded and allowed to return to their homes, they are demobilized. The committee, I think, will understand that there necessarily will be a period, after the war ends, when our soldiers will still bo in England, or France, or on their way home, or after they have reached here, before they will be demobilized. It will take some time before they can be all dealt with, according to their respective positions and discharged, and the regiments broken up.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
CON

John Hampden Burnham

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BURNHAM:

We can all appreciate the efforts made by the gentlemen responsible for this Bill to provide ample means for the taking of the soldiers' votes.

But it seems to me, and I think it will seem to many other hon. members, that considerations arise in connection with it, such, for example, as have been outlined at a certain meeting held at Joliette as reported in the Gazette of Montreal, of Monday, August 20th, 1917. The report says that a meeting of the Liberal assembly at

Joliette yesterday was a great success. It also gives the remarks, direct as well ,as indirect, of two members of this House, and I would like to call the attention of the committee to some of those remarks, which will have a very serious effect upon the community at large. The article itself is under double headlines and is given great prominence. It says:

Particular stress was laid on the crisis which the province of Quebec is facing to-day by the Hon. Jacques Bureau, M.P. for Three Rivers.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink
LIB

William Manley German

Liberal

Mr. GERMAN:

I rise to a point of order. The hon. member is quite out of order. He is not discussing anything relevant to the section under consideration.

Topic:   QUESTIONS.
Subtopic:   THE MILITARY VOTERS' ACT, 1917.
Sub-subtopic:   SECOND READING OF BILL AND CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE.
Permalink

August 20, 1917