March 30, 1927

CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

Or the British parliament.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

Yes, this parliament

also.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

I hope that promise will be kept.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

I have heard in this

House, not in the course of this debate, but in the course of the debate on the address, that it was important to keep this parliament, in some state of subordination because of the possibility of a foolish government in Canada enacting crazy legislation which would affect

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Imperial Conference-Mr. Lapointe

certain rights and privileges and then having no safeguard to prevent this legislation going into effect. Those who use this argument should apply the other end of it too: it might well be that the crazy government instead of being on this side of the House might be on the other side. Possibly there are people in Canada, especially among the friends of hon. gentlemen opposite, who would like to be subject to the control of a parliament in Great Britain which might not represent their own views. During the great strike two years ago in England, all the newspapers declared that Britain was on the verge of having a communist government at the head of the country's affairs. I do not think all Canadians, even on the other side of the House, would care to be under the control of or to be in any way subordinate to a communist parliament on the other side of the Atlantic. It is my honest belief as a Canadian that we stand in less danger of having a foolish government in Canada than do the people in any other part of the world.

The work of the Imperial conference of 1926 has been accepted everywhere, not only in Great Britain but -in the dominions, as having been of great value. It is commended in all quarters. I should like to have the time to quote many expressions of opinion in that regard, for even men who went there far from being satisfied left with a sense of satisfaction which means something to those who have at heart the preservation of the empire. Here is what General Hertzog said before leaving London:

I feel that nothing has ever before been accomplished so calculated to lay a deep and enduring foundation for national cooperation between members of the British commonwealth of nations and insure real good feeling between us all.

A very influential American newspaper, the Washington Post, commenting on the conference, wrote:

It may be observed that if the government of George III had possessed the wdsdom of the government of George V, there would have been no declaration of independence, and the United States would now be part of the British commonwealth. The evolution from an empire to a commonwealth is accomplished by mutual consent, and no written constitution will follow7 to bind the bargain.

Mr. Amery, who I need not say is a strong imperialist, has the following to say:

The conference marks the acknowledged coming-of-age of the younger nations of our commonwealth, and that is a great fact in history which it is worth while pausing a moment to recall. I think the time will undoubtedly come when the growth of the younger British

nations in the bosom of the British commonwealth will be recognized to have been at least as great an event in the history of the world as the coming into existence of other nations during the last fifty or sixty years which have attracted much more public attention, because they have come into existence as the result of wars, whether rvars that have led to unity, as in the case of the coming into existence of the united Italy or the united Germany, or wars which have broken up older organizations, as those which have created the new countries of central and north-eastern Europe. . . . What it does mean is that each partner in the empire is equally entitled to exercise every function of national life, and if any such function is carried on for it by some other part of the empire, that is a matter of consent, of convenience, of mutual arrangement, and not evidence of subordination on the part of one partner in the empire to another.

In this country, unfortunately, the situation is not what it is in Great Britain and some of the other dominions of the empire. Before I commit myself may I be allowed to quote certain words from an important periodical in this country, the Dalhousie Review,-all the more important, perhaps, in that the hon. member for West Calgary (Mr. Ben-nett) is numbered among its directors. At the conclusion of a very clever and significant article on the work of the Imperial conference the writer says:

No one appears to have any serious complaint to make against the decisions of the conference with reference to Canada. Then why a Tweedledum-Tweedledee partisan wrangle over them? Why not accept gratefully what has been accomplised, and devote our united efforts to perfecting the good work in all its details?

This is the first time in Canada, as I believe it is the first time in the history of the British commonwealth of -nations, that an amendment has been moved in the shape of the one submitted in this instance, and speeches have been delivered outside of parliament such as have -been made in this connection, as a result of the work of an Imperial conference. Heretofore when the Prime Minister of Canada and his colleagues were attending an Imperial conference-and the leader of the opposition (Mr. Guthrie) was at one time a -member of a government that took part in such a conference-did parliament take exception to their work? Did anyone ask that the approval of parliament -be granted? I ask you, Mr. Speaker, and those who were members of the House of Commons a.t the time, to bear in mind the words of hon. gentlemen, -that these were sacred issues which ought not to be made the subject of political propaganda and partisan discussion.

Imperial Conference-Mr. Lapointe

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

The Prime Minister assured us that these decisions of the Imperial conference were not binding unless ratified by parliament. How else, then, can we obtain sanction for these decisions except as a result of free discussion in this House?

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

I have no complaint to make about free discussion, but I think the amendment goes a little further than free discussion; and I say that my hon. friends of the Conservative party, by the voice of their leader and the moving of this amendment, have sounded the first discordant note in the British commonwealth with regard to the Imperial conference. Are they sincere? Is my hon. friend sincere? As I have said, never before was any motion introduced in parliament such as the one now proposed, and my hon. friend never before protested against such a course as we are now following. Do hon. gentlemen think that they help to preserve the empire by adopting such an attitude? Do they think they are adding to the value of the Imperial conference? Last fall after the general elections, which I believe were held on September 14,-the conference was to open in London in October-views were advanced that under the circumstances Canada could abstain from attending the conference: it was an arduous undertaking for men who had been during the course of two years in the thick of a political fight which we all recollect. Conservative newspapers and Conservative public men expressed the view in no uncertain terms that it was the duty of the government returned to power to attend that conference; it was a sacred duty, and we would have been strongly and bitterly criticized if we had not done so. We did go there, with no preparation of any kind; I do not complain of that, but we were there six weeks, during which time we endeavoured to represent Canada as best we could, and I do not think Canada has reason to complain of our work.

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UFA

William Irvine

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. IRVINE:

Might I ask the minister

a question?

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

Would my hon. friend

let me finish?

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UFA

William Irvine

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. IRVINE:

I am very sincere in this.

I want to know if there is any good reason why this report was not brought before parliament at an earlier date?

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

I do not see why I

should be asked such a question in the middle of a sentence which concerns an altogether different matter. I say that we were there

trying to do our duty, and I think we did our duty. Is it fair, after coming back to Canada with the sense of having been loyal to our task and of having fulfilled it to the best of our ability that I, for instance, should be confronted with the statement that I have neglected and compromised interests which are dearer to me than they are to th'e leader of the opposition? If he will permit me to say so, I believe in my modest way that I am just as able to protect those interests as he is. I believe it is not fair;

I believe it is not conducive to empire building, and I believe that if Canadian public men must face that kind of warfare perhaps some of them might very well come to the opinion already held by others that they should not attend these conferences but should look for the settlement of Canadian questions on this side of the water, by Canadians and in this country only. That is where my hon. friends are leading with the warfare they are now waging, and I claim it is not fair.

Mr. Speaker, the rights of the minorities in Canada and the rights of the minority in Quebec can, I believe, be safeguarded by myself quite as well as by the leader of the opposition. He is afraid for the future, and for those who will come fifty or one hundred years from now; let him unite with me to correct the present evils instead of looking so far ahead. This is not a fair way to conduct political warfare on a question of this kind. I do not wish to say more in that regard, but I resented very much and still resent the implications contained in the speech of the leader of the opposition and in the amendment which he brought forward. I have done my duty, and I think I can still do my duty.

I know this attempt will be futile, however, and I will forget it altogether in order to bring my remarks to a more pleasant and happy conclusion. There is no such thing as an indefinite status quo in national life; populations grow, conditions of life change, and it is the part of wisdom for governments to legislate for present and future requirements. The British Empire is composed of men of almost every race; it includes nations developing their destinies under various racial, economic and political conditions peculiar to themselves. In our membership we have elements which, outside of the empire, would often lead to war, but the aim is to evolve a system by which various interests, even though at first sight they may seem opposed and antagonistic, may be coordinated in such a manner that individual national sentiments and industrial and economic development may be fully promoted and encouraged by the

Imperial Conference-Mr. Lapointe

various means and policies best suited to the respective peoples, at the same time engendering sympathy and good feeling towards one another. Such was the spirit which animated the men who took part in the conference of 1926. The British Empire has been founded and is maintained on and by compromise. There could not be a more striking illustration of that than to see a Dutchman from South Africa, a Frenchman from Canada and an Irishman from the Free State meeting on an equal footing with the public men of Great Britain, and cooperating with them in an endeavour to find the best mode of preserving the association of our nations.

We are celebrating this year the sixtieth anniversary of confederation; the work of building a nation in Canada has been achieved, and no more evidence of that fact is needed than the debate which is now proceeding. We may say with pride that on the whole the task of the statesmen of 1867 has been successful. Our country', as well as the British commonwealth of nations, is founded on compromise. There may be some who are impatient for changes in the pact which was agreed upon in 1867, and I would be the last to suggest that some modifications might not be made which would improve conditions. I fully agree that the problems of 1927 must be settled in the light of conditions which exist in 1927; that the questions of to-day must not be settled as they would have been settled by the men who lived sixty years ago, but as they would have been settled had those men been living to-day. But certain essen-tional and inherent conditions of our national existence require the greatest care and prudence in their study, and whatever suggestions may be considered the basis of the pact of confederation must be maintained at least in so far as our internal affairs are concerned. Sir, the principles and fundamental ideals which underlie that' pact are the fuel necessary that the torch may burn brighter and illuminate through the darkness of our conflicts and difficulties the road to peace, progress and nationhood in this country.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. C. H. CAHAN (St. Lawrence-St. George):

I can cordially congratulate the hon. Minister of Justice upon the strength and vigour of his argument, and in many respects we on this side will, I am sure, quite heartily agree with him. A large part of his address comprised the reading of selections from orders in council passed and statements made by members of Conservative administrations from Dime to time since the day's of Sir John A. Macdonald, down to the present. I yield to no man, Mr. Speaker, in my advocacy of a

[Mr. Lapointe. J

self-reliant, strong and vigorous national life in Canada. I yield to no man in advocacy of the cutting off of every antiquated encumbrance which would prevent, or tend to prevent, the development in Canada of a national life of the highest character and the greatest intellectual vigour. This country comprises half a continent. Our population numbers nine millions of people. We have resources available to us such as no other population of like number in the wide world possess to-day. We have problems of every kind and description-political, social, educational and industrial-to solve for the great advantage of the country to-day, and for its material and moral prosperity and progress in the future. Therefore we on this side are as strong nationalists in all that pertains to the development of Canada and its national life as were our predecessors-Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir John Thompson, or any other of the old leaders of the Conservative party to whom the minister made reference this afternoon. But we on this side, and the party which we represent throughout the country, do conceive that the best aspirations and traditions of the two great races that originally founded the Canadian confederacy-and the men of all other races who have come in and declared themselves brothers of the blood with us in building up and developing Canada will find this to be the case-that we are true to our best traditions, that we will be carrying out our highest and best ideals, that we will best ensure the integrity and stability of this country for all time, by maintaining our political unity, not only with the British crown but with Great Britain and the other dominions beyond the seas; and whatever difficulties and problems we may encounter in working along that line, I say that the end to be attained is far more consistent with our best traditions of the past, is far more honourable to the two great races in Canada, than to form any other conceivable connection with any other political power for the purpose of securing our national defence and the maintenance of the integrity of this country. But those are not the only issues which are presented to us to-day.

We have heard the Prime Minister of this country make the definite statement to the House that this report of the Imperial conference would be submitted to parliament with a recommendation that it be approved by us; but there is the further consideration that the new policy which he introduced last session can only be affirmed and continued by the carrying out of that program to which he pledged himself on December 13 last, in the debate on the address, when he said that

1717 [DOT]

Imperial Conference-Mr. Cahan

the report and every portion of it, as' it was written, would be submitted for the formal approval of this House. He speaks about other imperial conferences having been held in times past and no decision having been taken thereon by the House of Commons. But at the very last session of the House he introduced a new resolution, dealing with the report which had been adopted by the Imperial conference of 1923. He then declared that that report had been unanimously approved by the government's representatives at the Imperial conference, but that was not sufficient. He stated that not only did the ministers of the other self-governing dominions take the same position, in giving their assent to these resolutions, that what Canada had done with respect to a certain particular treaty was done in the right and proper way, but that the conference had further stated with respect to certain classes of treaties in the future that the procedure then adopted should hereafter be followed. Therefore he came before the House and declared that he required from the parliament of Canada a resolution which would express the definite approval. of the program enunciated at the Imperial conference of 1923, whereby the action of future governments of Canada wou'd be restricted to the scope of the resolution and the schedule which he then presented to parliament, and he declared that for all time in the future, until parliament had ratified amendments or modifications thereto, these resolutions would be binding upon the successive governments of Canada, in conformity with the principles announced at the Imperial conference, with regard to the negotiation of treaties and the extent to which they would be binding upon this parliament-

Mr. MACKENZIE KIN'G: May I interrupt my hon. friend just to make the point clear as to the scope of the reference he is making? It was one portion of the report, that which dealt with treaties, that was submitted to the House, not the entire report of the conference. I think he will agree as to that.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

Quite so, and I remarked at the time that the resolution on Imperial defence, which was ratified by the right hon. gentleman, was in the opinion of many quite as important, that he had hesitated, to use a mild term, to ratify that portion of the report, but that portion which seemed to be consistent with his own policy,-with regard to the negotiation of treaties-he had brought down and had requested the formal approval of parliament to it. That being so we have

now laid on the table of the House another report of the later Imperial conference of 1923. I submit that it is perfectly clear, as stated by the hon. member for Labelle (Mr. Bourassa) last evening, that this new report as submitted with regard to the negotiation of treaties, amends and modifies in very essential particulars the resolutions which were adopted by this parliament- last year. Under the resolutions of the Imperial conference of 1926 the parliament of Canada may be bound in respect of a large class of treaties by the mere indifference Or neglect on the part of the Prime Minister or the Minister of External Affairs to enter a protest against the negotiation or confirmation of a treaty affecting this country.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I do not wish to interrupt the hon. gentleman, but I am afraid I cannot sit still and say nothing when he makes a statement to which I must take complete exception. I do not in relation to treaties agree with his interpretation of the report or the manner in which he is giving it.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

During the debate on the address I called attention to specific clauses of this resolution dealing with the negotiation of treaties, where for the first time it is introduced into an Imperial conference report that the government of any other dominion or the government of the United Kingdom having once notified us with regard to the negotiation of a treaty in which we might be interested, and the government of this country having neglected to register a protest, we could be deemed bound to adhere to the provisions of that treaty.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

No. If that is my hon. friend's interpretation, he is not reading the report correctly. I might state what my interpretation is and then he can say if he disagrees. Each government is bound to notify the other governments so that they will all be aware of the intention. If no exception is taken by a government, then the government which is making the treaty may assume that it is at liberty to go ahead. Before, however, any particular government will be bound in the matter of obligations under a treaty, it must specifically agree to be so bound. That follows in another part of the same document.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

I cannot give to it the same interpretation which the right hon. gentleman does. With regard to the negotiation of treaties this is the new provision:

When a government has received information of the intention of any other government to conduct negotiations, it is incumbent upon it to indicate its attitude with reasonable

171S COMMONS

lyiperial Conjerence-Mr. Cahan

promptitude. So long as the initiating government receives no adverse comments and so long as its policy involves no active obligations on the part of the other governments, it may proceed on the assumption that its policy is generally acceptable.

Mr. .MACKENZIE KING: So long as its

policy involves no active obligations on the part of the other governments, it may proceed.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

Yes, and we have the definition of the Minister of Justice that the term "active obligations" refers particularly to such obligations as might result in war. There are treaties negotiated and likely to be negotiated which might affect the most intimate commercial relations of this country, which might affect the status of Canadian citizens in any part of the world, which might be prejudicial in every respect to the interests of Canada, and yet for the first time we have it introduced into a report of an imperial conference, in amendment and modification of the principles laid down in the resolution submitted to us last session, that such treaties may become binding upon us; that we may be morally bound to carry them out, even though they have not received the assent of this parliament.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I just ask my hon. friend to be kind enough to read the last sentence of the paragraph from which he was reading. He has omitted, not intentionally, I am sure, the one significant sentence.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

It is like other sentences

in the report in that you can take any meaning you wish out of them.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

The restriction is emphatic and clear.

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March 30, 1927