Mr. MACKENZIE KING:
This resolution was passed at a meeting of the Canadian Association of Garment Manufacturers held at the Chateau Laurier, Ottawa, on March 11 and 12, 1925.
I just want to interject a word here, which I will amplify later. Up to that time Hon. Mr. Bureau was actively administering the affairs of the department. His health broke down in the early part of last year, thereafter
he was largely absent from the department on the advice of his medical adviser, and the department was administered by an acting minister. I just interject that point at the moment to make clear the relationship, as it. was understood by the government, that existed at that time between the Commercial Protective Association and the then Minister of Customs and Excise. A resolution of thanks was passed by the association of which Mr. Sparks was the head, for the co-operation that its officers and members were getting from the department and from the minister.
I will not read at the moment but will quote one passage from a letter of April 8r 1925. In this letter Mr. Sparks says:
I beg to enclose herewith a memorandum covering proposed amendments to the Customs Act, as recently discussed with you-
Showing that while these letters were not answered he was coming to me as Prime Minister. I had suggested to him to get his amendments drafted and that I would see that the government would put through the legislation that was requested and I was expediting and facilitating the move in every possible way. In the same letter Mr. Sparks goes on to say:
These suggested amendments have been submitted to the officers of the department, and, while they do not feci it their duty to express an opinion as to their desirability, they do state that they present no administrative difficulties. The object of nearly all of these amendments is to increase the penalities against those proven guilty of infractions of the Customs Act.
Hon. gentlemen may ask why these amendments were discussed with me? I have just given the reason. The minister of the department was away, and I took the responsibility as Prime Minister to see that the evils complained of were as far as might be possible effectively remedied. I was determined that this parliament should go just as far as it could possibly go in the matter of prosecuting those guilty of smuggling and infractions of the customs law. The letter says elsewhere: While these suggested amendments may appear drastic, I would like to point ouit that legislators have never before been called upon to deal with such a situation. The condition exhibited by the United States, a nation with about sixteen thousand miles of border or coastline, along practically all of which smugglers (commonly called bootleggers) by the hundreds of thousands are endeavouring to evade the laws of the country, creates a situation entirely unprecedented in the history of the world.
That is the view Mr. Sparks took of the problem the government had in hand-"a situation entirely unprecedented in the history of the world."
Smuggling on this continent has become a huge industry. Along the international border between Canada
Customs Inquiry-Mr. Mackenzie King
and the United Slates thousands of men are making their living by illicit trade. The step between smuggling from Canada into ithie United States and from the United States into Canada .is a short one, and a large part of the smuggling of commodities into Canada is directly due to the fact that smuggling has become a profession dn which there are many adepts.
After months oif investigaition by trained investigators we have no hesitation in saying that this traffic constitutes a rtational problem of the very first importance. Our investigations have proved to our complete satisfaction that the only successful way in which this traffic can be discouraged is by the imposition of the most severe .penalties. Along a border of neardy four thousand miles the physical act of bringing goods from the United States into Canada will never be difficult. To-day it is neither difficult nor dangerous, owing to the insufficiency of the penalties. We believe that no legislation will add much to the difficulties, but the legislation which we propose certainly will make it dangerous for those who are caught.
We believe there are certain matters of administration in the matter of enforcement which could be greatly improved. However, until the act is amended along the lines suggested the departmental officials, no matter how efficient, will be unable to cope with the situation.
Now there is the note which the Commercial Protective Association, as I said before, was sounding continually. It was impossible for the officials of the government to deal with the matter until the legislation itself was changed, and the legislation, as I have said, was changed in accordance with the methods which this association thought were most advisable. The correspondence goes on to show that the draft bill was submitted first of all to the Department of Customs and Excise for their approval or rather for their comment. I had undertaken to see that the bill would be put through but there were some technical considerations of administration and drafting that had to be met. After a reference to the Department of Justice the bill was drafted and full approval was given to it by Mr. Sparks on behalf of the Commercial Protective Association before it was brought into the House.
Now may I quote in support of this statement a letter, dated April 17, which was addressed to Mr. Farrow and signed by Mr. Lemaire, Clerk of the Privy Council:
Dear Mr. Farrow,
I am directed by the Right Hon. the Prime Minister to forward you the enclosed communication which he has received from Mr. R. P. Sparks, chairman of the executive committee of the Commercial Protective Association, and to which is attached a memorandum covering certain proposed amendments to the Customs Act.
It is the desire of the Prime Minister that you should go carefully into this matter at the earliest moment and forward it with any comment which you may deem necessary to the Honourable the Minister of Justice by whose department as agreed by council the necessary legislation will be drafted.
E. J. Lemaire,
Clerk of the Privy Council.
That course was taken and the bill was brought into the House. I desire to read one other communication which will indicate how Mr. Sparks felt with respect to my own attitude towards the association. This is a letter which was written to the Premier of Quebec, in which Mr. Sparks sets out his view of the manner in which the government at Ottawa was co-operating with him. This letter is dated March 5, 1925 and reads as follows:
Hon. L. A. Taschereau,
Prime Minister and Attorney General of Quebec* Quebec, P.Q.
Dear Sir,-I am taking the liberty of writing you on behalf of the executive committee of this association in reference to the prosecution of smugglers in the courts of the province of Quebec and with special reference to the case of Abraham and Israel Lenetsky* arrested on March 2nd.
I shall omit the next paragraph but the following is pertinent:
You expressed the view that the most satisfactory solution of the difficulty would be an amendment to the Customs Act making a jail sentence compulsory in cases in which wholesale smuggling had been proven. This recommendation has been put before the federal government, and the whole matter of amendments to the Customs Act is being dealt with by a committee of the cabinet, of which the Prime Minister is a member. Mr. King is taking an active interest in this matter, and I am taking the liberty of suggesting that, if you felt disposed to write him expressing the opinions which you expressed to the delegation in reference to this matter, he would appreciate it. I can assure you it would be greatly appreciated by the whole business community.
I was taking an interest in the matter because in the first place the minister was absent much of the time, but primarily because I regarded this as probably the greatest problem which the country has . before it at the present time.
In his speech the other day the member for West Hamilton (Mr. Bell) said that the Commercial Protective Association, together with the boards of trade of Montreal and Toronto, had appealed to this government but had appealed in vain. The hon. member was speaking in support of the amendment of my hon. friend (Mr. Stevens) which says that the Prime Minister and his colleagues have been indifferent in this matter. Well, I happen to have a communication from the Toronto Board of Trade. It is not dated April or May but bears the much later date of July 13, 1925.
I will read this communication, which is signed by the president of the Toronto Board of Trade.
Subtopic: REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE-MOTION FOR CONCURRENCE AND AMENDMENTS THERETO