Mr. GAUTHIER (Translation):
Mr. Speaker, in rising to speak on the motion of the hon. member for Vancouver North, I had no other purpose than that of expressing openly my views, and I am sure that they will be respected as much as I respect those of others. May I hope, sir, that the stand I am taking will be well understood by my political leaders, whom I still trust, even though I may not share their views on the advisability of increasing these estimates, also by those who are from another race than my own, and by others whose political faith is different from that to which I boast to belong since I entered public life.
I was born, and I live in a French-Canadian province which is part of the Canadian confederation. Although proud of being a French-Canadian, I am proud also of being a citizen of Canada. And I dare believe that following the observations I wish to offer bo this house, I shall 'have no apology to make, no regret, and that I shall still have the satisfaction of being able to face my compatriots, whether in the province of Quebec or in any other province of this dominion.
The motion of the hon. member may be divided into two parts, for the object of this discussion. Thus the first one:
This house views with grave concern the startling increases of expenditure proposed by the government for purposes of national armament-
And the second one:
-in contrast with the inadequate provision for the social security of all sections of the Canadian people.
Judging by the several speeches which have been delivered in this house, it is clear that the majority do not consider this increase as being unreasonable; on the contrary, that it is necessary and that it is our urgent duty to support it with all the strength of which a real patriot is capable. A smaller number of hon. members believe that we are not
National Defence-Mr. Gauthier
financially in a position to ask the Canadian people to vote, through their representatives in parliament, another 14 millions for national defence, that there is not such an immediate threat of invasion, and that our geographical position protects us somehow against any ambitions on the part of other nations. Mr. Speaker, I share these last views and I shall vote against the increase in the defence estimates.
We hear some people say: Of course, if an increase of a few millions to make our army more up to date and more efficient amounted to a declaration of war, or if it were likely to lead us to war, we Would be the first to vote against it; but let us hope that we would be consistent enough not to give a vote of confidence in the government immediately after- voting against an increase in the defence estimates. Mr. Speaker, since when does the liberal platform consist exclusively in a plan of national defence? Why would it be inconsistent to vote confidence in the government, and at the same time to vote against the increase of military estimates only?
The Liberals have never known of any bondage within the ranks of their party, and Canadian Liberalism owes its strength to the fact that it has no limitations of any kind. All the honourable members are, as I am myself, opposed to participation in foreign wars, but should war break out to-morrow and the empire be involved in it, they cannot tell in advance that Canada would not follow the same course as in 1914. Unforeseen circumstances will again cause the boundaries of Canada to be shifted perhaps beyond Flanders.
Let me quote a statement made on the 5th instant by Sir Samuel Hoare, first lord of the .admiralty, as reported by the Canadian Press:
Speaking at a dinner of the Bradford chamber of commerce, Sir Samuel stated the sister -states of the empire would find any system of isolated local defence extravagant and inefficient.
I shall quote at once a few comments by Sir Wilfrid Laurier upon the Guthrie amendment to Bill No. 21, introduced during the 1912-1913 session, by Sir Robert Borden, prime minister. On page 7232 of Hansard, Sir Wilfrid is reported as having said:
I now come to a consideration of the fact, made manifest by one of the last speeches of Mr. Churchill, that the admiralty favours contribution and not autonomous organization. This is not a new thing: the British admiralty has always preferred a system of imperial contribution to the idea of autonomous organisation. At the imperial conference in 1902, Lord Selborne, the predecessor of Mr. Churchill, made a proposal that we should have imperial contributions.
In 1902, in 1912, in 1937, the outstanding men who have successively discharged the duties of first lord of the British Admiralty took an entirely similar view. Sir Robert Borden shared this opinion and requested the House of Commons to vote 35 million dollars as a contribution to the naval forces of the empire. Laurier had gone down to defeat on the navy issue and he, a Liberal who believed in expenditures for this country's own defence, put up a stout fight for the triumph of his views. And we saw men who had fiercely opposed him in Quebec, we saw erstwhile nationalists turn Conservatives overnight and vote for the policy of a contribution to the empire. That was not Laurier's policy, and that is not, it seems to me, the present government's policy.
On August 4, 1914, war broke out. What did Canada do? Even those who had helped to defeat Laurier forgot their speeches on behalf of the Canadian homeland, even prominent supporters of Laurier forsook him in order to join the Union government and vote for war.
In spite of the oft-repeated assurance that national service registration would not lead to conscription, compulsory military service was established here, (I don't say that in the house) What happened, sir?
To-day, trustworthy men are governing Canada. Their policy is Canadian, as was Laurier's policy, but nevertheless Canadian blood was shed in Flanders. A country with a population of 10 million inhabitants, overcome by war fever and imperialistic enthusiasm, raised within a few months a large army. Public men who had unflinchingly opposed our participation in foreign wars voted for the dispatch of troops to help the empire. Circumstances were beyond human control, events were compelling men to act against their own will and Canada became involved in a foreign war. Such sacrifices were made by an unprepared country.
The vote we are called upon to give on the increase in our military estimates is one that expands not only our defensive power, but also our contributing capacity whenever the alarm is raised. And should the same thing happen, should events compel our leaders to act against their own will, it would be too late then to oppose armaments and to make known our refusal to participate in a foreign war in which the empire would be involved. It would be too late then to prevent war preparations and in the excitement that seizes a people in time of war, we would hear again the words: "Aye, Aye, ready.''
National Defence-Mr. Gauthier
How much more will the lords of the admiralty, encouraged by circumstances and events, be tempted to play upon Canadian feelings when our country is so prepared as to be able to give a contribution more in keeping with their requirements. Now is the time to give them a warning.
Some might think that the importance of this debate is being overexaggerated. I would vote as willingly as anyone the millions which are requested if we had not such a heavy national debt, if we had a larger population to take care of taxes, and if work were more plentiful.
Why should Canada, at a time when she envisions a brighter future, when she is recovering her faith in her destinies thanks to an essentially Canadian policy, why should our country be halted on her triumphal march against economic and financial difficulties? Why should a war threat, originating not here but outside, introduce feelings of uneasiness and uncertainty about the future, into her now confident mind. She needs all her strength, all her energy if she is to win an ultimate victory, and emerge from the chaos of the post-war depression. Let those who are in favour of armaments and war carry on, if they wish, their unending quarrels. As for us, we want peace and we wish they would let us work peacefully towards securing unity and prosperity for the Canadian people. Many years ago, Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald said in an address delivered before the American congress: "We are all overarmed."
Personally, I believe that this debate and this vote are of the utmost importance and if I am taking such a stand on this question, the reason is that I have somewhat studied the history of European and many other countries. I have witnessed, as everyone has, the mournful events that have occurred since 1914 and if the same thing is to happen again, I want my vote to result neither directly nor indirectly in the participation of Canadian men in a war that would be none of our concern.