I have noticed that certain
gentlemen in this country who are admittedly in favour of the early independence of Canada and of breaking the light ties of association which bind us to Great Britain and the other dominions, speak of Canada having become in fact though not in name an independent and practically sovereign state. The Imperial conference of 1926 took an entirely different view; as I read it, and I have read it time and again, it seems to me that those who directed the drafting of that report were insisting that all matters which relate solely and exclusively to this Dominion should be under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the parliament and the administration of this country. So, in the negotiation of treaties, our minister or representative abroad, in those matters which relate solely and exclusively ito our interests and to our well-being, would have exclusive jurisdiction, but when our interests also become matters of interest to the other dominions, to the United Kingdom and to the empire as a whole, it is implied in the Imperial conference report that as far as it is possible for honourable and intelligent men so to do, those representing the various parts of this empire, should strive to reach a concurrent view by consultation and concession, so long as they make no sacrifice of the vital interests of any part, in order to promote the general interests of the autonomous dominions and of Great Britain.
That is my hope, because in my opinion there is no doubt that at present we 'have not the political strength which will enable us to stand alone as an independent sovereignty and protect the rights which we have so jealously guarded during the last sixty years. I wish to say nothing offensive to our great neighbours to t'he south, but especially is that fact true in view of the confidence and consciousness of that great republic that their political power and their financial and material strength are not only paramount on this continent but becoming paramount throughout the world. While personally I will be pleased to see representatives of this country, in the future as in the recent past, engaged in the negotiation of conventions and treaties for the settlement of difficulties and the solution of the problems which may arise between Canada and the United States, still I have a lingering belief that the co-operation, advice
Foreign Relations-Mr. Cahan
and assistance of the government of the United Kingdom and its ambassador at Washington may yet be of vital interest to us and to our success in such negotiations. Therefore I feel persuaded that the government of Canada, looking at the whole matter, though determined to preserve our autonomous rights, will always be equally determined to preserve the political unity of this empire to which we belong, believing that under present conditions and as far as human minds can see into the future, it is in the paramount interests of Canada that we should preserve that association with Great Britain and the other dominions.
On the other hand, why introduce an element of discord into this country? The speeches which have been made on various platforms throughout Canada, in which it has been suggested that we are an independent sovereign state, with the implication that we are about to pursue an independent course and separate from Great Britain, have really deeply wounded the sentiments of hundreds of thousands of thinking people throughout Canada. It is a fact which must be recognized, that a great body of our people, and they are not confined to one race, believe in maintaining that association and that bond of empire, however light it may be; they believe that the existing ties are more honourable to both great races in Canada than any other political alliance which we might now form with any other foreign power, that the existing political association is more compatible and more consistent with the best traditions of our forefathers, some of whom actually fought to establish the constitutional liberty of this country. Those thoughtful patriotic men who preceded us, endeavoured year by year and decade by decade to mould British institutions to adapt them to the particular needs of our country, and we have now attained a position in the British Empire which I am sure will enable us to have an adequate voice in all matters of imperial concern which affect our interests; a voice which as we grow in strength will, I hope, enable us to influence the foreign policy of that empire so that it may be more consistent, if that is possible, with the views entertained by the intelligent and patriotic citizens of this Dominion. I look forward' to the future when this Dominion, autonomous, it is true, will nevertheless influence in a large measure, by consultation, by advice and by co-operation, the future policy of the government of the United Kingdom and the governments of our associated dominions.
Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to go into this question at greater length, but I suggest that in respect of those imperial statutes which were enacted years ago and which still apply to this country, the solution of our difficulties, if I may be allowed to say so, may be found to a large extent in adopting the policy recommended in the report of the last Imperial conference. It should be done, so far as possible, by concurrent legislation between the United Kingdom and the various dominions of the empire. It was by concurrent legislation that Canadian citizens born and bred, and Canadian citizens who had procured naturalization in this country, obtained the rights of natural born British citizens in every British community throughout the world. I am proud to say and glad to admit that the Imperial Naturalization Act of 1914 was based largely on the proposals made by the late Sir Wilfrid Laurier at the Imperial conference of 1911.
I do not think that it detracts one iota from our status, that it detracts one iota from our dignity as self respecting British citizens, that when matters of general interest arise representatives of our government should enter into amicable negotiations with the government of the United Kingdom and the other dominion governments to devise reciprocal legislation which will assure to us, as Canadian citizens, all the rights of British citizens throughout the world, and thus ensure to us that protection-I am not merely talking of naval protection-which comes through the proper exercise of the political influence of a commonwealth such as ours.
I have had occasion to look into the statutes of the parliament of Great Britain which still apply to us, and, the longer I pursued my investigations, the more statutes and treaties I found which directly affect us. I would suggest to the government that when they come to consider the modification of these statutes they will find their ramifications so extensive as almost to appall them. Before the next Imperial conference this government should make haste slowly, and, by such expert assistance as is available, should probe these matters to the bottom. They should do this not with a view to organizing some method of taking this dominion out of'the commonwealth, but to devise ways and means by agreement and concurrent legislation, and, by new conventions where legislation is not necessary, for the purpose of keeping this Dominion within the British commonwealth. Let us keep Canada in the empire as a dominion fully conscious of its rights and privileges,
but also conscious that we must play our parts, man for man and government for government, with those of the other dominions of the commonwealth in maintaining the political unity of the empire to which we now belong.