June 3, 1921

UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I think that when I give the circumstances that have surrounded the treatment of this question since the discussion which has been quoted by my hon. friend from Maisonneuve (Mr. Lemieux), the hon. member for Nicoiet will agree that there was no justification for introducing this amendment at this time. The discussion referred to undoubtedly took place. It appears that, last session,the Senate placed a clause in the Bill providing that there should be certain holidays, and no others, and these particular holidays inserted by the Senate did not include the four days embraced in this

amendment. When the Bill came before Parliament objection was taken to it in that form, particularly on the part of the hon. member who has just sat down, the hon. member for Quebec (Mr. Lapointe), and the hon. member for Beauce (Mr. Beland).

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L LIB
UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I did not recall his

objecting to it. The Prime Minister at the time, the right hon. member for King's (Sir Robert Borden), argued that these days had not hitherto been statutory holidays, but that, by virtue of custom and convention, observance had been given to them within certain limits, and he gave his assurance that whatever observance had been given them in the past, would be given in the future. The question came up last fall, while I was absent in the West, orders were given that they should be observed as in the past and these orders were interpreted as extending the privilege of attending religious observances on these days. I am not certain that they were uniformly interpreted in all departments, but, at all events, they were interpreted that way in some. Consequently-I do not know what day it was, but it was a day last October or November-

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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

- they were instructed to be observed in the same way as in the past. Some complaints arose, I think, chiefly because the interpretation given was not uniform by the various deputy ministers, and, when the House opened, a question was found on the Order Paper, placed there by the member for Chambly-Vercheres (Mr. Archambault). On looking carefully into the matter, it seemed to me that the words of my predecessor (Sir Robert Borden) might possibly have been understood to mean that, whatever might have been the extent of observance accorded these days in the past, they were to be holidays in the future, that is to say, whole holidays, because, as a matter of fact, they had not been observed as such, even in Ottawa, in previous years. Certainly they had not been observed as such in all the departments, although, I think, they were in some. Owing to the words of the Prime Minister being susceptible of the interpretation I have stated, making the holidays wider than previously, extending the custom, and making them whole holidays in the city of Ottawa, the question

of the hon. member for Chambly-Vercheres was answered by assurance that, pending any revision of the law, the full and wide interpretation would be given to the promise that the Prime Minister had made. It has so been given ever since. Now, what I want to emphasize will illustrate how inappropriate it is for the hon. member to plunge the House into this discussion at this time. When instructions went out to the effect of the assurance given by myself in answer to the member for Chambly-Vercheres, protests came from various departments that it meant a degree of observance that had never obtained in the past, and that was utterly unnecessary; and it was represented that it meant a cessation of public service that could not very well be allowed. Notwithstanding these protests, however, we went ahead and gave the entire holiday. The custom outside Ottawa has never been affected. The custom in Ottawa, instead of being restricted, has been amplified, and amplified against the protests of the deputy ministers. I think I have said enough to show that the Government has approached this subject in no narrow spirit, and the words of the member for Maisonneuve generously accord that to us. Consequently, there certainly was no need of introducing this question now. I may add that it is the purpose of the Government to have this subject thoroughly reviewed. I do not pretend to be a judge of these matters at all, hut I am informed that there are many church holidays now observed which, according to the laws of either faith, are not required so to be observed or wholly observed. Possibly there may be some; I have not heard of any that should be observed that are not. However, it is the intention of the Government to review the entire subject with a view to bringing about this result; that no employee shall be required in any way to break the tenets of his faith by working at a time when those tenets call upon him for religious observance. At the same time you have this result: that there shall not be unnecessary waste by holidays not called for by the religious tenets of people's faith. We hope to bring that about in an amicable, friendly, and generous way, but meantime, while the law stands as it is, the assurance given to the hon. member for Chambly-Vercheres (Mr. Archambault) having been observed in the past, will be observed in the future.

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L LIB

Ernest Lapointe

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

I am sorry that we

have come to the point that we must plead

for what seems to me to be elementary. Surely at the time of Confederation nobody would have thought of refusing a request so elementary as that which is made by my hon. friend from Nicolet (Mr. Trahan).

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UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

What is there now that is not as wide or wider than anything given either by law or by custom at the time of Confederation?

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Ernest Lapointe

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

I will show my hon. friend. In the Civil Service Act no holiday was mentioned in a special way. What was observed was what the Interpretation Act states must be considered as a holiday, and those days mentioned in the amendment of my hon. friend from Nicolet, are in that clause of the Interpretation Act. It was better to leave the Civil Service Act as it was than to introduce this amendment which was introduced in the Senate, for the purpose-and it was so stated in the Senate, and it can be seen in the Hansard- of refusing those holidays mentioned in the motion of my hon. friend from Nicolet. Now, Mr. Chairman, those days, under the laws of the Catholic religion are obligation days, which means that those who are of the Catholic faith must observe those days as they must observe Sunday. They cannot work on those days. It is a duty to conscience, and they must observe those days as holidays. Why should any gentleman in Canada object to that? Who is injured by that? Why should we be bound to plead for this? A few years ago an Act was passed by this Parliament prohibiting many things being done on Sunday, the Lord's Day, because people who believed that those things must not be done en Sunday petitioned this Parliament. There was a large number of the population of this country who thought that this law was too strict, and that many things had been forbidden which should he tolerated by law, but because it was contrary to the religious feelings of a large portion of the people of the country, that law was passed and accepted by everybody. Why refuse-not this concession-to sanction by law what has been done since Confederation? Why refuse to recognize that those employees of the Government should not be obliged to work on the four days mentioned in the amendment of my hon. friend from Nicolet? It is all right to say that they shall be granted a holiday, but that is not very certain, and they cannot reiy on that. At the last minute before one of these holidays, last fall, an Order in Council was passed, but, as my hon. friend from

Maisonneuve (Mr. Lemieux) says, it only applied to Ottawa, and I received protests from many electors of the city of Quebec stating that they had been required to work on that day. Under the circumstances, Mr. Chairman, I feel bound to vote for the amendment of my hon. friend from Nicolet.

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UNION

Robert Laird Borden

Unionist

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

I would like to make it quite clear to the hon. gentleman that I gave no pledge last year, except that the past custom which wals not based on any statutory enactment, (would not be interfered with in practice in the future. That was the only pledge I gave. I did not give any pledge whatever as to future legislation.

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L LIB
UNION

Robert Laird Borden

Unionist

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

I gave a

pledge that the custom would be observed, a custom that has been carried out for more than fifty years without any enactment. My hon. friend from Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe) asks why he is obliged to come here and plead for this. His party were in power for fifteen years, and they allowed the matter to stand as a custom and usage, as it had stood for many years previously. Why did he not plead then?

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Rodolphe Lemieux

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX:

There was then no

amendment of the Act by the Senate.

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UNION

Robert Laird Borden

Unionist

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

I pointed out

last year that although the custom in respect to certain days had been converted by the Senate into a statutory enactment, it was not intended that the custom fn respect of the other days should be interfered with. I made that perfectly clear, and thS Prime Minister has pointed out that not only has the pledge which I then made, been fulfilled, but in one respect where there was 'some doubt as to the scope and meaning of the language used, the benefit of the doubt has been given bo the officials of the Government, and they have enjoyed their privileges unimpaired, perhaps even greater privileges in this respect, than they previously enjoyed; so that I do not think my hon. friend from Quebec East adopts a fair tone when he represents these officers as being obliged to come here and vainly plead for something which has not been granted. It is granted now, as it had been granted for many years.

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UNION

Robert Laird Borden

Unionist

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

I do not understand my hon. friend's argument. The hon. member for Quebec East says

that they are required to come here and plead for their rights. They are not required so to plead. The usages and practice which have prevailed since Confederation are being observed now as they have been in the past. There is absolutely no occasion for reproach or suggestion of unfairness. The only difference is that in respect to certain days, usage has been converted into law, and in respect of other days usage is carried out exactly as it has been carried out in the past.

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UNION

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Unionist

Mr. MACLEAN (Halifax):

I have been interrupted for the last half hour. I thought the amendment proposed by the hon. gentleman from London (Mr. Cronyn) was before the committee, and I want to direct the attention of the committee to the last clause in that amendment. That clause reads:

The provisions of any statute or regulation-

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Georges Henri Boivin (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Laurier Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

I fear that the committee will get all tangled up if it attempts to discuss more than one clause or amendment at the same time. That to which the hon. member is now referring was carried some time ago.

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UNION
L LIB

Georges Henri Boivin (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Laurier Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Ten minutes or more.

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UNION

Alexander Kenneth Maclean

Unionist

Mr. MACLEAN (Halifax) :

It could

not have been carried by the committee, for the moment I sat down my hon. friend at the other end rose and commenced speaking on another subject. The motion I am sure was not put and declared carried by you, Sir.

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June 3, 1921