May 18, 1931

CON

Wesley Ashton Gordon (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GORDON:

They may have passed

such legislation, but I doubt if it has accomplished what this preamble seeks to accomplish. For instance, I should like to know what nation in the world to-day is not troubled with unemployment. Those countries may have solemnly passed such legislation, but probably it is just as effective as some of the resolutions which we pass concerning the abolition of war and establishing the world on a permanent peace basis. In section 2 of part XIII I find the following:

The high contracting parties recognize that differences of climate, habits and customs, of economic opportunity and industrial tradition, make strict uniformity in the conditions of labour difficult of immediate attainment. But, holding as they do, that labour should not be regarded merely as an article of commerce, they think that there are methods and principles for regulating labour conditions which all industrial communities should endeavour to apply, so far as their special circumstances will permit.

Now undoubtedly that and other sections of the treaty were designed to take care of just such a situation as we have. Remember, I am not quarrelling with the spirit of the resolution at all, because if by conference or by arrangement with the provinces and with industry, yes, with agriculture, we can bring about a state of affairs that will enable us to lend assistance to any class of people in this country, then I am sure the government would work'towards that end, and I believe it would receive the support of every hon. member. Some effort has been made in this direction. True, ten or twelve years have passed since this treaty was signed, and I do not know whether any conferences were called in view of the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1924. But at any rate, whether we like it or not, our constitution divides certain powers between the Dominion and the (Mr. Gordon.]

provinces, and how we can get away from that division and still preserve the rights of the provinces I have not yet heard anyone suggest.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

What was the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1924?

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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CON

Wesley Ashton Gordon (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GORDON:

The substance of their

judgment in 1924-

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

1925.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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CON

Wesley Ashton Gordon (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GORDON:

My colleague says the decision was given in 1925. Its substance was that under the British North America Act the Dominion government did not have complete power to bring into being or establish the principles contained in the treaty and render them binding upon the provinces, as no doubt my friend from Comox-Alberni (Mr. Neill) knows, on account of the division of authority between the Dominion and the provinces under certain sections of the British North America Act. At any rate, at least it is hopeful to see that the federal government has passed legislation going as far as the government of the day felt they could go towards making the law applicable to work undertaken by the Dominion and to employees of the Dominion government. Probably it is to be regretted that steps were not taken to confer with the provinces sooner with a view to investigating the situation within the various provinces in the hope that common ground could be found where joint action, if necessary, could be taken by the federal and provincial authorities in order to satisfy, in so far as it can be satisfied, the principle laid down in the treaty.

So far as this government is concerned, certainly we will not be unmindful of the rights, of those who would be concerned with the acceptance of the spirit of this resolution. There are some matters in connection with it which undoubtedly would give trouble, other than the division of legislative authority. Personally I know that in a number of industries a very considerable number of workers would not be satisfied with the eight hour day. The workers to whom I have particular reference are those working on community contracts. They would prefer to work longer hours in order to get the additional remuneration which would result from those longer hours of labour.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

What kind of work are they engaged in?

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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CON

Wesley Ashton Gordon (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GORDON:

I have particular reference to those engaged in contract mining.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

In metalliferous mines?

Treaty of Versailles-Eight Hour Day

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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CON

Wesley Ashton Gordon (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GORDON:

Yes. They do not constitute any large class, but there are other classes of labour who carry on in the same way and by whom complaints undoubtedly would be voiced.

I am not here for the purpose of criticizing any government of the past for not having gone further than they did go; I think criticism of that character would serve no useful purpose. There may have been good and sufficient reasons why the matters were not investigated further in the past. On behalf of this government I can only say that this whole situation will be given consideration and study in the hope that something may be evolved which will be at least a partial solution of the subject matter of this resolution.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Leader of the Opposition):

I am sure the

country will appreciate the promise made by the minister that at least consideration will be given this important matter by the government, but if consideration is along the lines of the early part of my hon. friend's speech, I am afraid the result will not amount to very much. It did seem to me, in listening to my hon. friend, that, in so far as it might place obligations upon the provinces, he was seeking to relieve the government of all responsibility whatever with respect to the treaty, at least I took that to be the significance of his remarks.

I do not agree with the minister in that, though I agree with him entirely when he says the provinces and the Dominion each have different obligations in the matter of legislation. However, if there is a treaty which imposes upon the country as a whole an obligation with respect to such a great question as the eight-hour day, it does seem to me the Dominion is thereby brought into a very special relationship with the provinces, to see that in some way, if at all possible, the provisions of the treaty in that particular are made applicable in the provinces as well as in the Dominion.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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CON

Wesley Ashton Gordon (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GORDON:

Would the right hon.

gentleman be satisfied if this government equated in time and effort the work of the late government in bringing about anything of this character?

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I only hope

this government will begin to approach what was done by the late government. I can hardly think they will do so, but I hope very much they will. Matters of this kind must necessarily be proceeded with by stages. Undoubtedly where an obligation is placed upon both the Dominion and the provinces, the 22110-110

provinces would expect the Dominion in the first instance to fulfil in letter and spirit alike the obligation as it bears upon the Dominion. The ex-Minister of Labour (Mr. Heenan) has given to the house this evening a resume of the legislation enacted by the late administration when it was in office. He made it clear, and I think it is apparent to all, that while the late administration was in office it did place upon the statutes legislation with respect to the eight-hour day. which went just as far as it was possible for this parliament to enact legislation of the kind. We made a provision with respect to all public work-

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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CON

Wesley Ashton Gordon (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GORDON:

What year was that?

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

That was in 1930, during the last session of the last parliament.

Mr. MANIO'N: Just before the election.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

It was the last session of the last parliament. Prior to that, we had been working up to the point, bit by bit, where an all embracing enactment would be assured of more or less general support in the house; we had applied the eight hour day to the employees first of one department and then of another, or to one class, then to another, gradually extending its application to all. At the time the general act was introduced there were a few remaining odds and ends, and the general act made applicable to all fields and virtually to all employees what had been the policy of the government with respect to the application of the principle of the eight hour day. As I was saying when interrupted, with respect to public works, the provision of the eight hour day was made generally applicable to all employees engaged upon Dominion work. With respect to employees of departments other than those working upon contracts of the Department of Public Works the eight hour day was made applicable by order in council, in so far as it was believed to be in the public interest to regulate the hours of employees of all departments in that way.

That was the first necessary step towards a general application of the eight hour day throughout Canada. The next step it would offer would be for the Dominion government to call the provinces into conference and point out to them their obligation under the treaty with respect to the application of the eight hour day. Once the Dominion has made its own position clear and unassailable it is then in a position to speak with some force and effect to the different provinces. I believe an evening or two ago, the Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie) suggested with res-

1726 COMMONS

Treaty of Versailles-Eight Hour Day

pect to amendments to the British North America Act, that it was desirable that we of this house should have a conference to decide in the first instance upon what amendments we coadd all agree. That was to be followed by a conference with the provinces, to see if they could not be brought into line with respect to the proposed necessary amendments.

I had rather hoped that the minister who is representing the Minister of Labour in this house, in speaking this evening, would on behalf on the government have taken advantage of the proposed conference referred to by the Minister of Justice the other night and said that the government, at the time of the coming conference with respect to amendments to the British North America Act, would consider with the provinces this question of the eight hour day. Perhaps the Minister of Justice will speak later in the debate and give the house and the country this assurance. If he would go that far I think we would be moving one step further in the right direction, and it seems to me this is a step that should be taken. If, as was intimated earlier in the debate, only one province is at present complying with the provisions of the treaty having to do with the eight hour day, clearly that province to some extent is being handicapped in its competition with others by virtue of its own legislation, which is along right and proper lines. In other words, because its standard is high it is being defeated in its very aims to improve conditions, by the fact that its standard is being undermined through other provinces not falling into line. A Dominion cenference which would show the necessity of a uniform standard with respect to hours being made to prevail in all the provinces would be assisting those provinces which to-day are maintaining a high standard or which in the near future are likely to maintain it. That is a step which I think might be taken with respect to the situation as it is at the moment with all due regard to what has been done in the past or to what has been left undone. Having made our own position impregnable so far as our obligations under the provisions of the Versailles treaty with respect to the eight hour day are concerned, we are now in a position to use our best efforts through conferences and the like with the provinces to have them adopt a similar course. If as a result of a conference, it becomes obvious that the necessary enactments cannot be obtained in that way, then it would seem to me to be in the interests of all concerned that careful consideration should be given to a

possible amending of the British North America Act so as to make possible uniformity of legislation throughout the Dominion on such all important matters as this.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. HUGH GUTHRIE (Minister of Justice):

Mr. Speaker, I quite agree with the concluding words which have just fallen from the lips of my right hon. friend the leader of the opposition (Mr. Mackenzie King). He has summed up in a sentence the whole matter, namely, that something will have to be done in regard to the British North America Act before any further practical steps can be taken in the direction suggested by the motion moved by the hon. member for Kenora-Rainy River (Mr. Heenan). Last Monday night we discussed in this house the question of amendments to the British North America Act with a view to granting to the parliament of Canada the right to amend Canda's constitution, a right which is enjoyed by all the provinces in respect to their own constitutions, but is not enjoyed by the federal parliament. No advance can be made in regard to the proposal embraced in this motion until an amendment to the British North America Act has been passed.

My right hon. friend the leader of the opposition said that it is the duty of this government to take such a position in regard to this matter that it can speak to the provinces with force and effect. My view is that the provinces value their rights and their privileges under our constitutional charter just as highly as we in this parliament value ours, and the moment this parliament seeks to speak to the provincial authorities with force and effect, trouble is bound to ensue. We sometimes forget that our constitutional charter is just as much the constitutional charter of the provinces as it is of the Dominion, and they value it just as highly. The question involved in this motion is one as between employer and employee. It is a question of hours of labour, purely and simply, a question of civil rights, and questions of civil rights are expressly stated in the British North America Act to be within the legislative jurisdiction of the provinces. I assume that no one knows better than the hon. member for Kenora-Rainy River and my right hon. friend the leader of the opposition that this matter has been determined by the highest tribunal in the land. From the year 1921, when the government of my right hon. friend took power, down to 1924, neither he nor his government nor his then Minister of Labour made a move or took a step in regard to the implementing of any obligations in respect

Treaty oj Versailles-Eight Hour Day

to the eight hour day which were cast upon Canada by the covenant of the League of Nations.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

That is not

correct.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

The matter was brought to the attention of this house by hon. members representing labour; upon their motion a discussion took place and the question was referred to a committee of the house, the committee on international and industrial relations. That motion was moved in 1924. It received the support of the whole house, and the question was referred to that committee and occupied their attention for some time. They examined witnesses, they considered our constitutional charter, they called before them the Deputy Minister of Justice; they covered the case very fully and made a report to the house to the effect that the matter should be submitted to the Supreme Court of Canada for an opinion. It was not the government which initiated these proceedings, it was the Labour party in this house supported by a majority.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

The majority was a government majority.

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CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

The majority was the

unanimous vote of this house and not a government majority. Had the government had its way probably the matter would never have been brought before the house. The question was put up squarely to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1925. I have not the report of the case before me, but I quote from the order in council referred to by the hon. member for Kenora-Rainy River, as follows: __ That the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada contained the following declaration: "The subject matter is generally within the competence of the legislatures of the provinces but the authority vested in these legislatures does not enable them to give the force of law to provisions such as those contained in the draft convention in relation to servants of the Dominion government, or to legislate for those parts of Canada which are not within the boundaries of a province."

That was the answer of the supreme court, and that answer portrays a real difficulty. This parliament is powerless to carry out a convention applicable to the Dominion of Canada save only in respect of our own employees. While the provinces agreed to adopt any obligations which were cast upon Canada by that treaty, the country and the house are aware that there is a clause in the British North America Act, clause 132, which is applicable to international treaties. That clause reads as follows:

The parliament and government of Canada shall have all powers necessary or proper for performing the obligations of Canada or of any province thereof, as part of the British Empire, towards foreign countries arising under treaties between the empire and such foreign countries.

That clause enables this parliament only to deal with foreign treaties so far as national rights and interests are concerned, and does not give us the power in any way to dispose of, to impose upon or to limit the rights, duties or privileges of any of the provinces.

As I view this motion in the form in which it is moved I can see no objection whatever to its adoption at the present time by parliament. Speaking on another motion a week ago I stated that it was the intention of the government at some time in the not too distant future to summon a provincial conference for the express purpose of considering questions relating to the amending of the British North America Act. I realize and we all know that there is throughout the provinces of Canada a very strong desire that certain amendments should be made to our constitutional act; in fact requests in this regard do come from time to time, both from the east and from the west, particularly in regard to matters of taxation.

There is another question which will occasion a distinct cleavage between provincial and Dominion authority. I do not know that there is any right more sacredly held in the provinces of Canada than their right to legislate on all matters pertaining to property and civil rights. I would not be one who would dictate or seek to dictate to any province as to what line of action it should take in regard to matters distinctly under provincial control. I would not be one who would seek to speak with that force and effect which my right hon. friend mentioned we would have if we took a lead in regard to this matter. I realize that this question is one which the provinces themselves will have to decide, and if they are willing that in regard to this matter of civil rights, hours of labour and employment in the provinces, the federal government shall represent them in carrying out this convention, all well and good. On behalf of the government I say that we agree, but I shall be no party to dictating to or coercing the provinces in this or any other respect upon a matter which lies purely within provincial jurisdiction.

Topic:   TREATY OF VERSAILLES
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE EFFECT TO PRINCIPLE OF EIGHT HOUR DAY
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May 18, 1931