July 2, 1935

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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Charles Stephen Booth

Mr. WOODS WORTH:

Although they denounce us; although the leader of the communist party has gone into the constituency of the hon. member for North Winnipeg (Mr. Heaps) and has put the whole organization of the communist party behind an effort to defeat him-despite all that I say that the place to defeat communism in a democratic

country is at the ballot box. That is the place to defeat the communists-and not by arresting people who do not agree with our political opinions.

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CON
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I can quite understand why some hon. members opposite seem incapable of understanding how I can plead for the rights of all men, and particularly when the liberty of communists happens to be the particular point at issue. I am pleading for their rights, not because I love communism or because I am cooperating with communism, but because I have at heart the old teaching of our childhood days, namely, that the British citizen has certain inalienable rights, and I believe that those rights should be preserved.

This has ceased to be a matter affecting only the communists, to-day it is becoming a fight for civil liberties. I am not a lawyer, I should like to know under what authority these relief camp strikers who refused to return are to be deemed communists. That is the story in the paper. I should like to know whether or not that story is true, namely, that the authorities have taken the ground that they are to be deemed as communists.

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CON
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

All right, but I would like to know upon what authority the government has taken its action. I am glad to learn there is no such secret order in council as that about which we read in the press. The Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie) stated that according to press reports I had made that statement. The press is very often in error, and it was in error in that respect.

I never made the statement, although I knew certain reports appeared in the press. I tried to be sure of my ground. The first thing we did this morning was to see if we could get any track of that order in council.

But, supposing there was no order in council-and we have to accept the minister's word-then, by what authority was action of this kind taken? It is only a little more than a week ago since the premier of Saskatchewan urged that the dominion government should keep out of this business,'-hands off. Yet the dominion government has gone ahead.

A week or two ago the Prime Minister assured us that he could not interfere unless he were asked to do so by the province. That was when the men were in British Columbia.

B.C. Relief Camp Strikers

Now that they have reached Saskatchewan he has interfered, over the heads of that province. I should like to know by what authority he has acted. Is it the authority under the unemployment relief scheme through which the government were given broad powers to preserve peace, order and good government? If that is so I believe I am correct when I state that at the time the bill was passed we were given the assurance that action would be taken only in an emergency and only when parliament was not sitting.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

It is so written in the statute.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Well then, if that is in the statute I should like to know why action of this kind-action which I believe is quite arbitrary-should be taken while parliament is in session. Again and. again we asked that this matter be considered in parliament, but we were refused the opportunity to discuss it. Then, suddenly, the police presumably acting under the instructions of the government have taken very drastic action resulting in tragedy. Even if that action of the government is, in the narrow sense of the term, legal action, is it in harmony with the British constitution to find that with parliament in session the government should take action of this kind? I do not so understand it.

Communists may be a menace to democracy, but in all seriousness I submit that the arbitrary action of government is a greater menace to democracy. I repeat, it is a greater menace to democracy. Surely men have a right to meet in an assembly,-and apparently that is all they were doing the other day. They have a right to move freely up and down the country; apparently that is all they were attempting to do, but they were blocked in their efforts.

Apparently the people have a right to receive assistance. I do not know where the report in the press to the effect that they were to be given no help came from. I was not responsible for the action of the provincial council of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation which met in Ontario a few days ago, but I must confess that when they said they would forward a few dollars in defiance of any such action as that reported to have been taken I was not unsympathetic. We must maintain some rights in Canada. Above all, and more serious than anything else is the consideration that the people of Canada have a right not merely to freedom

of movement, freedom of action and freedom of association, but they have the right to live,-and to live decently. That right is not being accorded to these 20,000 young men who have been placed in military camps.

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LIB
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I have answered that again and again. There is such a thing as legal compulsion, and there is such a thing as compulsion by hunger, which is much more serious. Gentlemen who are well fed have difficulty in understanding that kind of thing.

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CON
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

No, I am not suffering, and I am glad that there are some of us who are not suffering at present who are prepared to stand up for these people. I hope the time will never come when I shall be so well fed and comfortably placed that I shall refuse to fight for the under-dog. Some people say that this is poor politics. I do not care very much whether it is poor politics. I know there are gentlemen opposite who will go out on the hustings and say that we are allied to the communists. I know that we have to run the risk of that, but that does not matter. I intend to stand here and plead for the rights of these boys who are not given a fair chance in life.

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CON
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

What is that man talking about? The price spreads report brought to light some facts of the situation which some of us had been trying again and again to bring to the attention of the house and which unfortunately have been felt in the lives of tens of thousands of our citizens.

There is one other point. I still hear people say that these men do not want to work. There may be a few who do not want to work. I would not want to work under the conditions under which they are called upon to work-no wages, and with this condition going on year after year, with no hope in life. But I submit that the great majority of these men have been anxious to work all along, and what they are pleading for to-day is work and wages. That is a reasonable thing to ask for-it is fundamental. That is what they ask of this government.

B.C. Relief Camp Strikers

I would say in conclusion that there are two or three things I want specially to bring to the attention of the government. First of all I urge that the police should not be given instructions or permitted to ride down the people as they have been doing in the recent past. The mounted police force has either secured or is assuming to have power that ought not to be given to a civilian force. Further than that I ask of the government, because of the riots and the seriousness of the situation, that a commission be appointed to investigate the conditions that prevail to-day and the situation which cause the riot.

And thirdly, and more serious and more fundamental than all, I do again plead with the government that before this house prorogues, and I think they can do it with the support of every party of the house, they revise their scheme for dealing -with these unemployed young fellows and give them work and a place in life that will be worthy of young Canadian citizens.

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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):

Mr. Speaker, I think the Prime Minister was wise to have afforded an opportunity for a discussion of this particular matter, and I believe he would have been equally wise had he afforded the opportunity on two previous occasions when there was a motion before the house for its adjournment in order to permit the discussion of the situation with respect to the condition of these homeless men who were still in Vancouver and were about to come here. That opportunity was requested in the manner which the rules of the house provide but it was refused on both occasions.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

By the Speaker.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

The Prime Minister says it has been refused by the Speaker. May I point out to my right hon. friend that if he had had the same attitude then towards the situation which he has today he would have found it possible to accord the same method which he has permitted to-day.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

One was supply, the other was not.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

It was easy for the Prime Minister to arrange for the house to be moved into supply to-day, and it would have been equally easy to have adopted the same course on the other occasions. I believe the Speaker was reflecting the attitude of mind of my right hon. friend at the time when he gave his decision that the matter was not of urgent public importance. Cer-

tainly those of us who supported the motion believed it was a matter of urgent public importance, and that unles some action were taken by the government of a conciliatory character it was almost inevitable that sooner or later something in the nature of a tragedy would be the outcome of the situation of these men moving in large numbers east, regardless of what their particular views on social questions may be.

As I say, no one can say whether or not the failure to have that discussion has been in any way a contributing factor to what has since taken place, but we do know that the situation at the moment is as serious as any with which this House of Commons could expect to foe faced at this particular time. I feel that something more is necessary at this moment than merely to discuss the question in the light of what we have in the way of newspaper reports and what we have by way of statement from the Minister of Justice of the government's position. I think the government should immediately bring down all correspondence that has taken place between the government of Canada and the government of Saskatchewan in regard to this matter.

The question has been raised, and properly raised, as to the authority of the two governments in the matter of maintaining law and order. I remember very well how emphatically the Prime Minister said at the beginning of the discussion of this question that the maintenance of law and order was a matter for the province and that the federal government could not intervene without the attorney general of the province in the first instance requesting the assistance of the police, and I have never been able to understand just how the government was able so completely to reverse its position in that matter. I recall what was said in connection with the protection of railways, namely, that there was a power given to the government in that connection which did not otherwise exist. But I have never quite been able to see just how it was that these unemployed men found it possible to leave Vancouver in such large numbers as trespassers on the trains and not be stopped before they left either Vancouver or some other part of British Columbia, not be stopped at Calgary in the province of Alberta, and then finally be stopped and landed in the city of Regina. I say I think something more in the way of explanation of that circumstance is necessary before the public mind will be satisfied that it was all just as represented by my right hon. friend and his friends opposite.

B.C. Relief Camp Strikers

I feel that what is most important at this stage, because I do not imagine for one moment that this is the last time that this subject is going to be discussed even in this session, is that we should have all the correspondence which has passed by telegram or letter between the government of Canada and the government of Saskatchewan in relation to the situation. That correspondence I would ask the Prime Minister to endeavour to have tabled to-day if possible. I make the request for to-day because all of us are anxious not to prolong the proceedings of this parliament to a later date than may be absolutely necessary, but I do not think this house Should be permitted to end its proceedings until we have before it all the correspondence that has passed between the two governments.

I think in addition, Mr. Speaker, the house should know from the government what instructions have been given to the police. This parliament represents the people of Canada. Every person in the Dominion of Canada is represented by this House of Commons. It is in the interests of all of us, in the interests of the country at large, that there should be the fullest publicity in regard to this matter. In that connection there should be no secret orders, no secret instructions whatever. Whatever instructions have been given to the police should also be tabled by the government at the earliest possible date. The advantage of discussion in a matter of this kind has been very clearly shown this afternoon by the denial of the Minister of Justice of the rumour that a secret order in council had 'been passed under which people, even those with the best of intentions, were forbidden to give any assistance to these homeless men whom we refer to as marching strikers, or assist in any way possible those whom they might see in the greatest need so long as they were members of that group. I am glad that no order in council of the kind has been passed. May I however direct attention to an article which appeared in the Toronto Star of Friday, June 28, and in connection with which it may be necessary to have further explanation. This is a special dispatch to the Star and is headed as follows:

R.C.M.P. to Prosecute Those Feeding Strikers.

Forbid "Lifts" as Well.

Police Halt Attempt to Leave City by Truck-

Report Treckers "Army."

Hint at Own Camp.

Regina, June 28.-Royal Canadian Mounted Police have clapped the lid down tighter on the "on to Ottawa relief strikers." Colonel S. T. Wood, assistant commissioner, has issued instructions that any person supplying the strikers with food or accommodation will be prosecuted.

There is nothing there which refers to a secret order in council or any other kind of order in council. The article simply states that the assistant commissioner had issued instructions that any person supplying the strikers with food or accommodation would be prosecuted. I do not know whether the Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie) will be able to say immediately whether any instructions of that kind were issued by the commissioner.

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

No instructions of the kind were issued that I am aware of.

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July 2, 1935