March 25, 1938

CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

-that the raison d'etre of our land forces is not so much for the direct as for the indirect defence of Canada, which role is provided for by statute in the Militia Act of Canada.

The criticism is often made that Canada's land forces are for the express purpose of defending her coasts and frontier against invasion and that no legislation exists for their employment beyond Canada. We have attempted to refute that criticism and to show that Canada, being sensible of the possibility of her people demanding intervention in an

empire war, is not entirely unprepared for that eventuality. Thus one may say that the principle under discussion is both recognized and applied in Canada.

In a subsequent issue, January, 1936, this appears in an article which was awarded first prize in an essay competition in which the higher officers competed. It is a summary of Canada's obligations towards imperial defence:

To summarize briefly Canada's defence problems, the following are the principal roles which her defence forces must be designed to meet.

(i) The local defence of her own territory;

(ii) The defence of her neutrality;

(iii) The despatch of an overseas contingent as a contribution towards the defence of the British Commonwealth of Nations;

(iv) The support of the League of Nations in the application of sanctions in so far as the interests of Canada appear.

In addition to the above defence requirements, there is the age-old problem of the preservation of law and order-otherwise known as aid to the civil power.

Then I find another interpretation; this is towards the final issue of 1936:

The purpose of Canada's defensive organization.

Conclusions of imperial conferences.

In 1923 the following principles were adopted, and were reaffirmed in 1926, while in 1930, defence matters were hardly touched upon.

(a) Each part of the empire is primarily responsible for its own local defence.

(b) The maritime communications of the empire jnust be adequately safeguarded.

(c) Naval bases and repair and refueling facilities must be provided.

(d) Naval strength as provided for in the Treaty of Washington should be maintained.

(e) Air forces_ should be developed on such lines as to facilitate cooperation between the several parts of the empire in emergency.

These principles are very general indeed, and nothing is said of the question upon which we should most desire to be enlightened, viz., our responsibilities for the collective security of the Commonwealth, which in the past has meant sending expeditionary forces. But, even though no commitment in this vital matter was made, and though no principle concerning it was laid down, we may be sure that it could never have been absent from the thoughts of those conferring, and that all remembered that forces from all the empire stood together on the battlefields of the great war, and felt that should another such danger arise, they would stand together again. I submit, therefore, that we in Canada should plan our defensive organization so that if another part of the empire needs our armed help, we can send a proper force, just as we confidently expect armed aid from other parts of the empire if we ever need it.

This unwritten principle, and the five affirmed in the 1923 imperial conference will have to guide us in deciding what defence forces we should have.

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LIB

Frederick George Sanderson (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

I regret to interrupt

the hon. member for Vancouver North, but he has exceeded his time.

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CCF

Abraham Albert Heaps

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. HEAPS:

If I say a few words,' the

hon. member, will, I suppose, be allowed to proceed?

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LIB

Frederick George Sanderson (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Yes.

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CCF

Abraham Albert Heaps

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. HEAPS:

Having said a few words,

I yield to the hon. member.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

I suggest to the minister

that, whatever he may say in this chamber, from all that appears in the published statements of senior officers, from their articles in this and other publications, and from their statements to the public, they are proceeding on the assumption that Canadian opinion will demand the dispatch of an expeditionary force overseas. Time and again they have referred to the historical precedents. The late Sir Wilfrid Laurier, although opposed to our participation in overseas wars, and stating time and again that we should keep ourselves from the vortex of European militarism, found his opinion overruled by an upsurge of public sentiment. Again, in 1914, these issues were determined by public sentiment. That sentiment demanded the dispatch of an expeditionary force overseas; and these officers proceed on the assumption that in the developing struggle the same will be demanded of the Canadian government.

I am not basing my argument solely on the statements of senior officers. May I say, though, that these military experts say that Canada could very easily send over not only the 500,000 men recruited during the last war but probably double that number, and that the framework of the military establishment should be reconstructed for an expeditionary force of that size. Hitherto the ratio of distribution as between land, naval and air forces has been 2:1:1, and now the minister gives priority of arrangement to the air force, as appears in his statement of yesterday. At page 1647 of Hansard he says:

A certain amount of priority has been established after deliberation: first, for the air

services; secondly, for naval defence; and, thirdly, in regard to the repairing of deficiencies in equipment of militia services, permanent and non-permanent.

That does not suggest any concentration on coastal defence. Concentration on the defence problem which I have suggested is strictly concentration on a coastal defence problem. Furthermore, I hope the minister will explain the reduction in certain items and the increases in others in the main estimates that he has brought down. In the estimate for the non-permanent active militia there is an increase of $318,336, and in the estimate for the permanent force, an increase

[The Chairman.]

of S217.110. But in the estimate for engineering services and works there is a decrease of 81,170.000, and in the estimate for general stores a decrease of $2,106,252. There you have an accentuation of the ratio, which suggests preparations for an expeditionary force. If we are dealing with coastal defence, surely it is important to provide that equipment which is necessary for such defence. Those items in which decreases are made are those from which we might reasonably expect-if I am wrong the minister will correct me-the purchase of guns for fixed batteries and the equipping of the coast with anti-aircraft guns.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

The

whole trouble is the question of delivery, as I explained yesterday.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

Yes, I noted the statement the minister made. Surely coastal defence requires reasonable provision along these lines [DOT]-mines and mine sweepers, fixed batteries at strategic points supported by a small mobile land force, and anti-aircraft guns, with precision range-finding devices. If we are thinking of the defence of our coasts and our ports, certainly we should make every effort to keep abreast of technological progess in this respect. But the question that I should like the minister to answer is: Why priority to the establishment of an air force? The observations of every prominent officer with regard to recent war manoeuvres and operations have shown that aircraft, even in squadrons, no longer provide effective defence against air raids. No longer are they a defensive weapon. I am not giving my own opinion; officer after officer, observing events in Spain, where a full-dress rehearsal for the next war is being held, has declared that no longer can pursuit or bombing planes offer effective resistance against raiding squadrons, their chief value being in the work of reprisals. They damage the effectiveness of opposing forces in so far as they are able to raid the aerodromes and destroy enemy aeroplanes while on the ground. And the reasons are obvious, as any military man knows. The increased speed of raiding squadrons with modern planes is such that interception by defending planes is almost impossible. The chances of successful interception are practically negligible. There is very seldom an opportunity for the defence planes to take to the air and attain a sufficient altitude in time for effective defence. In short, the air forces do not offer that defence in those raids, against which the minister says we must have protection. Their chief value is in cooperation with the land and naval forces in reconnaissance work, and

march 25, 1938

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even there their effectiveness is limited. It is difficult, therefore, to understand why priority is given to the air force in the defence program, when we know that in Canada we shall have no opportunity for making reprisals on enemy nations; it would be impossible.

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LIB
CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

Even there, if I might

quote the experts who have recently published opinions on the question, aircraft are of little value. For reconnaissance purposes they are excellent, but the minister is suggesting the absolute priority of the air service. I say, therefore, that he should have no ground for complaint if in many quarters in Canada he is told, "You are building up those forces which can most readily be shipped at the shortest possible notice to other parts of the world if required."

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

' That is not the reason for it, I can assure my hon. friend.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

I am glad to hear the

minister say so, but he should have no ground for complaint if suspicion is aroused. I had hoped he would give priority to coastal defence in the strict sense.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

Both the expansion of the air force and the small expansion of the naval services and also the militia services are designed for coastal defence, the three in cooperation.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

In the main estimates there is an increased expenditure for the army. Again I say it is difficult to understand why there is a definite emphasis on priority for the air force. Considering the fact that we are developing a trans-Canada sendee and training pilots, using planes which might be readily converted into war machines, there is still less reason for priority for the air force in the defence estimates. Certainly the provision for the skeleton of a large and highly mechanized army is not necessary in coastal defence work until we are confronted with the danger of an invading force strong enough to penetrate some distance inland.

I would ask the minister again how far he has proceeded with reorganization of the military defence department. I hope he will give some statement in that regard. In the first session he outlined his plans for reorganization; but apparently, for some mysterious reason, they have been brought to a halt. If he is thinking solely of the defence of the Canadian shores, it is difficult to understand why he maintains thirteen military

district headquarters in Canada in addition to military headquarters at Ottawa. For purposes of coastal defence there could be eastern and western headquarters in addition to Ottawa, and suitable training centres at various points across the dominion. But here we have an amazing duplication of services at enormous cost right across the dominion.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

There

are not thirteen; one is numbered thirteen, but there are not thirteen.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

How many are there?

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

Speaking from memory I think there are eleven.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

I accept the correction.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

Eleven, with military headquarters in Ottawa.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacNEIL:

I fail to see the necessity for expensive and elaborate armouries for coastal defence. I think the time has gone by when they serve any useful purpose in training our men to meet the defence emergencies which we shall probably have to meet. Training centres of another kind are necessary, as I think the minister knows very well. The maintenance of these large numbers of units is a tremendous duplication. This is a cause of complaint, not from me or from outsiders but from officers of the force who are interested in efficiency and are endeavouring to follow the principles of modern mechanized warfare and defence. I cannot see how these expenditures can be any longer justified. I found the answer to that in some statements published by senior officers, pointing to the fact that originally our militia establishment was organized to meet the threat of invasion from across the United States boundary. That guided the founding of our military establishment, and we have religiously followed that routine ever since, when there is no longer need even to consider defence against our good neighbour to the south. Surely that establishment is obsolete. We see here and in many other respects what they themselves call the " dead hand " of tradition, from which we suffered at the outbreak of the war. I am reminded that at the outbreak of the last war some staff officers took the ground that it was improper for a British officer and gentleman to use a trench periscope to discover what was before the trench. They said it was improper for an officer to use a mechanical device from a position of security to obtain information. There is much of that " dead hand " of tradition in the department, much that is obsolete with relation to defence, and much that could be justified only as preparation to participate in an external war.

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Another matter which gives me grave concern, particularly with regard to the assumptions of the officers, is our present status in regard to self-government in these matters. The minister referred to the Balfour declaration, that we are "equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of domestic or foreign policy, united in common allegiance to the crown." I would ask the government to give reality to that declaration as far as it is possible at this time, and to the provisions of the Statute of Westminster, and, what is still more important, to give reality to the assurances given to this parliament last session that there are no commitments; that parliament will decide in all these matters and in all respects the issues of war.

Apart from the constitutional requirement, if we are to be frank and honest with ourselves this evening, we must admit that if Great Britain were involved in war to-morrow, we are at war; we would have very little to say about the matter.

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March 25, 1938