March 29, 1927

IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I rise to a question of

privilege. In my opinion, attacks on living members of the court of last resort in the British Empire are out of order in this parliament.

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IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

Well, Mr. Speaker, I

have done with that question. But I wanted to bring forward some arguments to prove that after all opinions must be formed not only on great formulas and declarations but also on facts; and I desired to show to this House that, in the province of Quebec as elsewhere, there are reasons for desiring the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council. There are people who, not being barristers, have no interest to go yearly to London at the expense of their clients, people who, not being members or directors of great companies, have no interest in discouraging the small pleader, the labourer who seeks compensation, the widow who claims some small amount in damages, from taking the opportunity of having their rights vindicated. Because there are clever lawyers who can advance constitutional arguments or questions of future rights and all the rest of it, the small pleader is dragged from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. I happen to know of a case which occurred in Hull, a poor individual having been killed by a railway engine. The company was sued by his dependents and judgment was given in their favour by the superior court, by a majority of the court of review, by a majority of the court of appeal, and finally by a majority of the Supreme Court of Canada. Appeal was taken, however, to the Privy Council and the claim was disallowed. Judgment was rendered against the plaintiff, the astute lawyers of this great company having found that there was a constitutional issue, which resulted in this poor devil having to pass through five jurisdictions.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I recall the case against

the Hull Electric and I may say the decision

was precisely the opposite. The judgment of the Privy Council went finally in favour of the plaintiff.

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IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

Possibly; nevertheless

there is no sense in dragging a poor pleader in a small case of that nature before a tribunal outside of this country, a tribunal which cannot conceivably be as well versed in our municipal and civil laws generally as our own Supreme court and which can know much less of the facts than our own judges.

There was another case the details of which I know perhaps more intimately than my hon. friend. This was the case of a disagreement between a farmer in the province of Quebec and the Canadian Pacific Railway. This farmer was represented by the law firm of the then premier of the province. Compensation was claimed under the civil law, while the company claimed powers derived from the parliament of Canada on the ground that it was engaged in a work for the general advantage of Canada. There was a constitutional issue at stake. In order to make sure that they would get judgment in their favour the company paid the claimant the full amount of his damages upon receipt of a signed agreement that he would not appear in the appeal. The case was taken to the Privy Council-this time I am sure of the facts-and there adjudicated upon, and judgment was given in favour of the company in what was practically an ex parte case. This is the situation. Surely then, in face of such facts, it will not be contended that appeals should be taken to the Privy Council, merely for the protection of minorities, especially when one thinks that in such cases there is no sanction.

I repeat, I do not blame the Privy Council for not seeing to it that on constitutional questions their judgments are not enforced. Does the leader of the opposition or any other defender of minority rights, beginning with the hon. member for Frontenac-Adding-ton (Mr. Edwards), claim that the King of England should send a regiment to force Catholic schools upon the province of Manitoba, for example, in consequence of the judgment rendered in 1894? The leader of the opposition has spoken of the possibility of the French language being abolished in this House. The French language is guaranteed by the Manitoba Act just as firmly as it is guaranteed in the British North America Act; but it has been abolished by the legislature of that province in violation of the constitution; separate schools have been abolished in Manitoba in violation of the most solemn

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promises given to the minority. One judgment has been rendered by the Privy Council; it has not changed the position, and I repeat that the reason is because there is no sanction. We of the province of Quebec, the living men of to-day and of to-morrow, do not want to rely indefinitely upon a so-called protection of this nature. We are manly enough to be prepared to discuss in the future with our fellow citizens of Canada, whether Protestant or Catholic, whether French or English, whether from the west or from the east, every one of those rights which we claim to be ours, not because they are contained in a few articles of law in a printed book, but because we know that in the hearts of all right thinking Canadians there is a desire to see that justice is done. And if we are to maintain that unity of which the leader of the opposition has spoken, it is not to be done by declarations of law or the adjudications of a tribunal either in Ottawa or in London, but by the desire of all thinking Canadians to maintain the spirit of confederation and the constitution of Canada.

So, Mr. Speaker, I for one do not think we need be afraid that our constitution is going to be affected because of this involved and very obscure report of the last Imperial conference. Everyone is agreed upon one point; it did not pass laws and could not pass them; it did not amend our constitution and could not do so. Therefore the fact that we discuss the report to-day does not mean that we agree to it; on the contrary, it would have been impossible for the Prime Minister or the leader of the opposition or any member of this House to bring forth a concrete resolution either to adopt this report or to set it aside by a formal declaration. You could not do that without disallowing some things in which you believe or approving some things to which you do not agree. It has been framed in such a way that every one can take something out of it but no one can take the whole of it, and I think that is what Lord Balfour meant. I do not want to be too hard; I do not want to leave the impression that there is nothing in the former part of the report to satisfy those who aspire to freedom, who look upon full-fledged independence in time to come as the only outcome for a self-respecting people of various origins but united upon the basic principles of British liberty; I admit that in these declarations there is a slight advance towards that goal. But no one need be afraid; for my part I am prepared to be patient. I am not in a hurry to sever relations with Great Britain, but I think we should take out of that report those

ideas which are encouraging to that fastgrowing number of Canadians who aspire to be Canadians first and last; who aspire to stand by Canada in its relations with foreign countries and also in its relations with other British countries, as Liberals and Conservatives did some sixty years ago. The Canadian spirit has not yet been destroyed by the new imperialistic doctrine borrowed from Prussia by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain. I think those who have kept that ideal, both Canadian and British, will find some consolation in this report because, as the Prime Minister said, for once at least all the representatives of the self-governing portions of the empire have agreed upon certain principles which will be the landmarks of our advance towards the goal which we have in view.

But with regard to foreign relations and matters of war, not only has there been no progress but there is a marked retrogression even from the conference of 1923, and it is there that I find the triumph of British diplomacy; or rather I should say of Tory imperialist diplomacy, because it must not be forgotten that at present England is governed by a Tory imperialist government. I felt somewhat scandalized this afternoon when I heard the Prime Minister shelter himself under the maternal wing of good old Lord Balfour. I would not have thought that the grandson of William Lyon Mackenzie, fresh from his victory over the combined forces of imperialism, Toryism and colonialism, would have looked upon Lord Balfour as his angel guardian in these matters. I think, however, the right hon. gentleman did not do it so much to express his own thoughts as to perhaps throw a little confusion into the consciences of' hon. gentlemen opposite; but he would be better to not do so. I think he has not, I have not and no one has found the way into the conscience of some at least of these hon. gentlemen; and he would do [DOT]better to appeal to the feelings of his own friends, to the growing spirit of Canadianism in this country. That is the advice of a disinterested friend.

In that report, let us see how Lord Balfour prepared that scientific combination of the principle of equality of status with the exercise of sovereign powers in foreign affaire:

Equality of status, so far as Britain and the dominions are concerned, is thus the root principle governing our inter-imperial relation. But the principles of equality and similarity, appropriate to status, do not universally extend to function.

Now we begin to have the fine distinction:

Here we require something more than immutable dogmas. For example, to deal with

Imperial Conference-Mr. Bourassa

questions of diplomacy and questions of defence, we require also flexible machinery- machinery which can, from time to time, be adapted to the changing circumstances of the world. This subject also has occupied our attention. The rest of this report will show how we have endeavoured not only to state political theory but to apply it to our common needs.

In the House of Lords, when questioned by Lord Parmoor,

whose authority I would rather accept, not as a Liberal but as a Canadian with Liberal tendencies, than that of Lord Balfour,

Lord Balfour defined the situation in the words quoted by the Prime Minister this afternoon, practically the same words as used in this report, but a little clearer. There were no colonials there, so he thought he could speak a little more openly, I suppose. He said:

There cannot be, of course, equality of function in this empire. That must depend on the circumstances of the moment. At the moment and for many years to come-many, many years to come-

Let the leader of the opposition think of that when he foretells the revolution that is coming so soon.

-the main burden of defence must necessarily fall upon this country. For many years to come-perhaps for an indefinite period-owing to our geographical position, the leading part, and at present by far the most important part, of the conduct of our foreign affairs must also fall on this country.

Now in explanation of this, in the same passage a part of which the right hon. gentleman read this afternoon, he added a quotation from his previous declaration before the conference, in the month of July:

Personally I think the duties of all the other members of the empire to us are not less than our duties to them, l>ut as to the particular conditions under which that great duty is to be exercised, I do not believe anything is gained by inventing hard cases beforehand.

Now, Sir, let us reduce that to common human language as used in the colonies, and in the light of past experience. What does it mean? It means that while acknowledging in right and in fact to the self-governing dominions all the powers of internal government they wish to exercise, while acknowledging to them the right to exercise their independence in external affairs when they wish to do so, Great Britain claims, in a delicate and careful manner, on account of her geographical position, the right to conduct the foreign affairs of the empire, and counts upon the dominions to give her their free cooperation when she has need of it in diplomatic affairs but mainly in war operations that may follow a rupture of diplomatic relations. That has been the whole history of the relations between Great Britain and the dominions ever 32649-107

since the South African war. Now the question is: Are we going to go back to the basic principle of the policy enunciated at confederation time? That is, are the duties and responsibilities in regard to war matters to correspond with the duties and responsibilities with regard to the conduct of world's policies? The leader of the opposition was told during the debate on the address that he had confused equality of status and equality of stature. But that is not the distinction that is made by Lord Balfour, that is not the distinction that is made by leading imperialists in England. It is a difference between status and function. And what do they mean by " function "? They mean the right, and quite properly so from their point of view, to initiate and conduct all foreign relations; they mean the full liberty to deal with those relations according to the situation which England occupies in the world, not only as a European power in her dealings with continental nations- with France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Greece, Poland or other countries-but also her dealings with the great powers of the world on account of her position as the vastest empire that has ever existed, an empire which brings England in constant difficulty with one nation or the other. Now I ask every true Canadian in this House: are we responsible as a people for that situation? What responsibility have we for the conquest of India by England in the eighteenth century? What responsibility have we for the adoption by modern England of the policy propounded by Cecil Rhodes of painting Africa in red from the Cape to Cairo? What responsibility have we for the fact that England at the present time believes she is bound to remain mistress of the seven seas? It is said at times: Oh, but Great Britain with her mighty power protects us. How, and why, and from what danger? In that partnership of free cooperation, of coordination of forces, that has been laid down in this last conference, and upon which we are told all the representatives of the empire have agreed, what are the relative positions of the partners? There you have Great Britain, the mightiest power on sea, and in some respects on land, that exists to-day- the power that was to a certain degree the cause of the last war, not because she wished it, but because her situation in the world forced her in this instance as she has been forced, or believes she was forced, in every instance during the last three centuries, to curb the power of any nation that threatened her supremacy on the seas as well as her commercial supremacy. Are we responsible for that? England has carried out wars, and has

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won them to a large extent, to maintain her supremacy on the seas. We are told that that supremacy is our protection. I ask again: Ever since the one hundred and sixty years that Canada has been a British possession, when has a gun been fired by England for the defence of Canada because of a Canadian cause? When has a British vessel set to sea to go and meet some enemy of Canada aroused to anger by some action of this country?

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CON

Leon Johnson Ladner

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. LADNER:

What about the events of the war of 1812?

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IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

The hon. gentleman is simply anticipating my argument. It is said that England in her dealing with foreign affairs, in her war preparations has to take into account her geographical position, her supremacy-

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I rise to a point of order. It is not competent under our rules to attack in this House a friendly power.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

What is the point of order?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

The point of order is this. We have a rule that it is not competent in this House to attack a friendly power. If England a friendly power, is to be attacked in this way and made responsible for war I ask the chair for its ruling.

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IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

On the point of order I wish to say that I am simply arguing-

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

There is a point of order raised.

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IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

I have a right to speak on the point of order. The hon. gentleman is not yet the kaiser of this House. He may become the kaiser of the Tory party next fall but even when he occupies that position there will still be some freedom of speech in this House; I can tell him that. I was simply developing the circumstances-historical, geographical and political-in which Great Britain finds herself to-day, and if the hon. gentleman had been patient enough he would have seen that I was preparing to render to the British government and the British nation a much more thoughtful and reflective homage than he has ever thought of doing by simply worshipping, in words at least, English power while dealing with American financiers.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Mr. Speaker, the hon.

gentleman has made what he says is an observation on the point of order. He says the point of order is raised upon his "homage"

to England. I rise to direct the attention of the presiding officer in this chamber, namely Your Honour, to the fact that an attack has been made upon a friendly power. If we have equal status-and we assume we have-then an attack in this House on a friendly power is out of order and has been out of order from time immemorial. Observations with respect to the member of the House who raises the point of order hardly answer the point of order although they may bring deafening cheers from those who agree with them. The point is: how far shall we in this House permit any hon. member to attack a friendly power?

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LIB

Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

What did the hon.

member for Labelle say which was an attack on a friendly power?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Did my hon. friend not

hear him? It is not the first time this session that this has been said in this House by the same hon. gentleman, and I made up my mind that I would direct the attention of the chair to it the next time it was said. England was held to be responsible for the Great war; English statesmen were being attacked for their attitude and policies towards this country, and reference was made to what we had suffered by reason of the imperial, grasping attitude of English statesmen. The attack was very definitely delivered, but it certainly was an attack that we would not permit to be delivered against a friendly power as, for instance, the one to the south of us.

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LIB

Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

I am sorry I was not

listening to the particular remarks of the hon. member for Labelle. If imperial questions and policies are to be discussed in this House, surely members have the right to criticize as well as approve them.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

To attack measures has

always been legitimate, but to attack, in the terms used by the hon. gentleman, a friendly power such as Great Britain, is, in my judgment, wholly without the rules and I have heard Your Honour so rule with respect to individuals. Judges have been attacked in this House to-night. The Lord Chancellor who has to sit in judgment upon our cases has been attacked in this House. He never visited this country while he was Lord Chancellor. He has been held up to ridicule. When I raised the point of order then, Your Honour was not in the chair. I think the point has now been reached when we should call a halt. I am quite content with whatever Your Honour may decide.

Imperial Conference-Mr. Bourassa

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LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Rule 19 reads:

No member shall speak disrespectfully of His Majesty, nor of any of the royal family; nor of the governor or person administering the government of Canada; nor use offensive words against either House, or against any member thereof; nor speak beside the question in debate. No member may reflect upon any vote of the House, except for the purpose of moving that such vote be rescinded.

Then some cases are cited under that rude in Beauchesne and Bourinot. I find nothing in the rules and in the proceedings, customs, and usages of the House of Commons whereby a member is prevented from discussing from an historical or even from an appreciative point of view the policy of a friendly power. I do not know that by his remarks the hon. member for Labelle has insulted or libelled the nation which was said by the hon. member to be a friendly power. I am quite sure that it would be out of my power to prevent an hon. member from criticizing or discussing or appreciating the policies of Great Britain or the policies of the government of Canada. Surely if a member was speaking of or criticizing even severely the government of Canada, he would be much nearer home, and yet the freedom of speech which we enjoy in this parliament must go so far as to allow criticism of His Majesty's government in Canada provided that such criticism is made in the proper terms.

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March 29, 1927