September 17, 1917

"THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.


On the motion of Hon. J. D. Eeid for Committee of Supply:


LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Hon. FRANK OLIVES (Edmonton):

Mr. Speaker, before you leave the Chair, I desire to draw the attention of the House to a matter that I brought up some time ago, and I would like to have an opportunity of dealing with it at some little length tonight. It relates to the prohibition of the book called "The Fiddlers." When I brought this matter to the attention of the' House on a former occasion, I asked the Government to specify the portion of the book that was in contravention of the Consolidated Orders in Council regarding censorship. It was a very plain and simple question, but I have not yet received an answer to it. Instead of an answer, the House was favoured by the Prime Minister with a statement Iby Surgeon-General Fotheringham, who made a long report to the Prime Minister, which the Prime Minister presented to the House. The purport of the report was that this book containe-.1 reflections upon the conduct of Canadian soldiers, and, therefore, it was undesirable that it should be circulated in Canada. The fact, if it be a fact, thait the book is according to the description of Surgeon-*Generi.\ Fotheringham, does not bring it within the censorship regulations, and, therefore, the prohibition of the circulation of the book by order of the Government or the censor is a trespass upon the rights of the people of 'Canada that should not be committed by its Government. It is to be supposed that, when a Government has the full power to make a law, as ft has in the passing of regulations regarding censorship, having made provision for the prohibition of undesirable books or other literature, it should be willing to be bound by law that it itself has made, and that it should not undertake to exercise for the suppression of free speech or of the circulation of liter-, ature a power that it does not possess by any authority of any body, not even of itself. I might perhaps read to the House the conclusion of the report by Surgeon-General Fotheringham in regard to this book. He says:

It is submitted,, please, that the above criticisms on the character of the pamphlet in question are fair and represent the general unreliability of the pamphlet as a whole. If I may be permitted to express an opinion based upon my personal knowledge of the situation among the Canadian troops in France and Britain as regards alcoholism and venereal disease it would be that the circulation of statements such as fill the pamphlet in question, among the people of Canada is most undesirable, and should be prevented by any measures open to the authorities, having regard to the interests both of the troops themselves and of the Canadian public. -

It 'will be observed that the Prime Minister does not make that statement. It is made by a gentleman holding a responsible position under the Government; but the Prime Minister takes the responsibility of placing that statement before the House on the authority of this official, and therefore I am compelled to hold the

11 p.m. Prime Minister responsible for that statement. The statement is that the Government, owing to the character of this book, is justified in using any measures open to the authorities to prevent its circulation in Canada, and that such prevention would be in the interest both of the troops themselves and of the Canadian public. The attempt is made by Surgeon-General Fotheringham and the Prime Minister to create the impression that this book is printed for the purpose of libelling the Canadian forces in England. There is no such purpose in the book, either directly or indirectly. The book is for the purpose of calling to account the Government of Great Britain for permitting the destruction, in the manufacture of alcohol, of grain required for food, a subject that is surely entitled to be criticised in any free country, a matter of public administration in regard to a matter of grave public interest. That criticism, I am credibly informed, is not subject to prohibition in England, in Great Britain, in the United Kingdom. There.the book is freely circulated. But in Canada it is made subject to the censorship. Just to give the House the character of the book, on page 4, under the heading "The Shadow of Famine," the writer says-

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
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LIB

William Cameron Edwards

Liberal

Mr. EDWARDS:

I rise to a point of order. Is it competent for the hon. gentleman to quote from a book, the circulation of which has been prohibited in Canada? By placing an extract on Hansard he is circulating the contents of a book which has been prohibited in this country.

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
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CON

Joseph Hormisdas Rainville (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER:

Without having had an opportunity to consult the authorities, I should say that the point of order is well taken.

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

If I may speak to the point of order, I would say that I claim the privilege of Parliament. Under that privilege I claim the right to read this book. I claim there is no prohibition upon the reading of this book by a member of Parliament within the walls of Parliament.

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
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LIB

William Cameron Edwards

Liberal

Mr. EDWARDS:

If the point of order is well taken, surely the hon. meipber cannot discuss it.

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
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LIB

George Perry Graham

Liberal

Mr. GRAHAM:

The hon. member has not read anything from this book yet, so far as I have heard, and he cannot be called to order until he has done so.

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
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LIB

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Liberal

Mr. A. K. MACLEAN:

There can surely be no objection to discussing the point of order. What is the purport of the order of the censor in reference to this book? Does anybody know what his order was? I suppose it was that this book was not to be circulated. But that certainly should not prevent a member of Parliament discussing the book, or the wisdom of the act of the censor. How can the point of order be sustained?

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
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LIB

William Cameron Edwards

Liberal

Mr. EDWARDS:

I take precisely the [DOT]same view as the junior member for Halifax (Mr. Maclean). I would say that the hon. member for Edmonton was quite in order in criticising the censoring of this book, and I only rose to a point of order when he undertook to place on Hansard the contents of a book which bad .been prohibited in this country.

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
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LIB

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Liberal

Mr. A. K. MACLEAN:

This prohibition does not extend to Parliament.

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
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LIB

William Cameron Edwards

Liberal

Mr. EDWARDS:

Does my hon. friend

suggest that a member of Parliament is above the law of the land?

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
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LIB

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Liberal

Mr. A. K. MACLEAN:

No, the censor

can censor newspapers and censor Hansard, but surely he cannot prohibit discussion of any matter in Parliament.

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
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LIB

William Cameron Edwards

Liberal

Mr. EDWARDS:

That is not the point. My point is that the hon. gentleman has no right to place the contents of this book on Hansard, when the circulation of the book has been prohibited in this country.

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
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LIB

Charles Avila Wilson

Liberal

Mr. C. A. WILSON:

Parliament has full control of Hansard, and it is up to the Debates Committee or the Government, whichever is the proper authority, to prevent any particular issue of Hansard being circulated, if that is desired. But certainly we have the right to discuss the action, of the censor. We have also the right to let this matter be placed on Han6aTd, and then it is for the government to decide whether this particular issue of Hansard shall be circulated or not. I have often heard the Prime Minister intimate that certain things should not be reported in Hansard.

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
Permalink
LIB

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Liberal

Mr. A. K. MACLEAN:

The censor is not empowered, under the Order in Council to prevent Parliament from speaking. That is one thing, and preventing the circulation of a book is another and an entirely different

5&44

tiling. I frequently notice in the British Parliamentary reports, debates respecting the acts of the censor. I cannot give any concrete case, hut on many occasions I know that specific acts of the censor have been discussed, in the British Parliament.

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
Permalink
LIB

William Cameron Edwards

Liberal

Mr. EDWARDS:

The hon. member for

Halifax persists in misstating my point of order, and I say that advisedly, because he must have understood what I said. My point is not that the hon. member for Ed-[DOT] monton (Mr. Oliver) has no right to discuss the acts of the censor, but that he has no right to quote from a book the circulation of which has been prohibited under heavy penalties in this country, thereby circulating through the medium of Hansard the very material which the censor has declared must not be circulated.

. Mr. SPEAKER (having taken the Chair): I am taken somewhat at a disadvantage in not having been able to follow the discussion from an earlier stage. As I understand it, on the motion to go into Supply the hon. member for Edmonton rose with a view to discussing a publication called " The Fiddlers." In my judgment it is not competent for an Order in Council to override the authority of Parliament, and it seems to me that it is peculiarly a matter for Parliament to determine what shall he done as to the discussion on a given matter in a given case. With the facts I have before me, I do not think the point of order raised by the hon. .member for Frontenac (Mr. Edwards) is well taken.

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I desired to read only a short extract from the bock to .show that it was not of the character at was represented to be by the report of Surgeon General Fotberinghaim. It is a criticism of the policy of the Government of Great Britain in regard to a matter of serious importance, and not a criticism in any degree of the conduct of our troops in England. I will read just a short extract from page 4, under the heading, "The Shadow of Famine":

"We have to face this grim menace,'' says Lord Davenport. "We are taking no chances," says the Prime Minister, and the nation will hope there is some meaning in the words. It is the tragic irony of this solemn time that so many men in high places have talked like kings and ruled like jesters.

The nation looks to Mr. Lloyd George to he equal to his words.

The Prime Minister blames the late Government that let slip the greatest opportunity in British history, for helping famine on; but it will not do. The new Government has been bringing famine nearer every day; it has allowed the destruction of enormous quantities

TMr. A. K. Maclean.]

of food, and those who are guilty of this crime have no stones to throw at others. The Prime Minister came into office with the food shortage in sight; it was his first duty to build up the great reserve of food we might have had now in our granaries if the drink trade had not destroyed it. We could have laughed at submarines, for our barns would have been filled to overflowing, and we could have lived in comfort for a year if no ship reached us.

Let us see how much food drink has destroyed since the war began. We will take it from August 4, 1914, to April 30, 1917. It is 999 days of the war. The quantity of grain and sugar destroyed for drink has been:

Tons.

Grain for bread 4,400,000

Sugar for beer 340,000

It is not easy to realize what this means, but it will help us if we think of one or two examples.

The biggest thing ever set up on earth is the great Pyramid. It is 80,000,000 cubic feet. The food destroyed by drink during the war would make two great pyramids, both bigger than the pyramid of Egypt.

The longest British railway is the Great Western. It is over 3,000 miles, but it would not hold the food destroyed by drink since the war began. If every inch of it were crammed with wagons, the Great Western railway would need hundreds of miles more line to hold the train loads of food destroyed.

So vast is this incredible quantity of food destroyed by an enemy trade while famine has been coming on. We should have saved it all if Parliament had followed the King, and it would have given the whole United Kingdom its flour rations for nearly a year.

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
Permalink
LIB

William Cameron Edwards

Liberal

Mr. EDWARDS:

Mr. Speaker, I call your attention to the fact that there is not a quorum present.

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
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CON

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

I see myself that there is a quorum present. The hon. member may proceed.

Topic:   FORBIDDEN CIKCULATION IN CANADA.
Subtopic:   "THE FIDDLERS"-STATEMENT BY HON.
Sub-subtopic:   FRANK OLIVER-AMENDMENT NEGATIVED.
Permalink

September 17, 1917