March 25, 1938

LIB
CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

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

Mr. MacNEIL:

I shall give my reasons. We are bound by the decisions of Downing street. One man has said, and quite properly, that this is an offence to any conception of our democratic rights.

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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. MARTIN:

We are bound, not constitutionally but by international law.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

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

Mr. MacNEIL:

There is grave doubt on that. There is a fundamental difference of opinion. I could bring quotations from Berrie-dale Keith, Professor Corbett, and other constitutional authorities to prove my statement that there is doubt as to the constitutional position, as to our freedom to claim a separate right of neutrality. The fact that that doubt exists is all the more reason why we should now clear up any uncertainty. I am not arguing the constitutional aspect now, but I say we should face it as a practical issue that when Great Britain is at war, we are at war. If to-morrow morning Great Britain is at war, Canada is at war.

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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. MARTIN:

Surely the hon. gentleman will admit that that must be qualified.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

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

Mr. MacNEIL:

I shall endeavour to show my reasons for that statement. In spite of the constitutional provision which has been made for us to claim full autonomy, I point out that a full measure of autonomy has not yet been claimed with respect to the right of neutrality. As one writer has said, one cabinet responsible to one party in one parliament out of seven commits all the members of the commonwealth to war. That, I say, is contrary to our conception of democracy. We

should claim, as far as it is possible to claim for ourselves the right of neutrality, the right to give reality to the assurances made to this parliament by the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence.

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LIB

William Alexander Fraser

Liberal

Mr. FRASER:

The hon. member will not accept the assurances when they are made.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

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

Mr. MacNEIL:

There is another important consideration which has not been cleared up, under constitutional law. If to-morrow his majesty is declared in a state of war with another nation, we are forbidden under constitutional law to trade with enemy subjects. It will become a criminal matter.

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LIB
CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

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

Mr. MacNEIL:

That is under constitutional law. This is in effect the automatic application of economic sanctions against the nations at war with his majesty. That point has not yet been cleared up. May I indicate the position in regard to our consular services, which places us in a difficult situation. In only three countries have we ministers of our own. In the other countries, possibly the capitals of potential enemy nations, when the British ambassador is withdrawn, there is no one to represent Canada's interests, and as far as that country is concerned Canada quite properly would be considered at war. I point out to my hon. friend that last session a return was brought down showing that Canada has contractual obligations to maintain naval bases for his majesty's ships at Esqui-malt and Halifax.

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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. MARTIN:

There is a difference between contractual and constitutional obligations.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

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

Mr. MacNEIL:

I am dismissing for the

moment the consideration of constitutional aspects. At another time I may attempt to deal with the constitutional difficulties involved. I say that as a matter of reality, these are considerations which destroy any hope of claiming for ourselves the right of neutrality. I am not suggesting that we should attempt to make a prior declaration of neutrality and bind parliament; but I am suggesting that it is in line with the constitutional developments of recent years, with our status of self-government, with the Balfour declaration and the provisions of the Statute of Westminster, that we should be able to claim for ourselves the right of neutrality. I know there are some difficult problems to work out in that regard; but let us be under no illusion; as matters stand now, we are bound by the decisions of Downing street, and that position is repugnant to the average Canadian.

Supply-National Defence

That is all strengthened by the close working relationship between our general staff and the imperial War Office. Our men are trained in the "higher imperial strategy," trained for cooperation in a common empire emergency. A permanent force officer in Canada is required to-day to pass the same examination, set and corrected by the same authorities, as an officer of corresponding rating in the British army. So that an officer of definite rank in the forces of one part of the commonwealth could be employed, either in time of peace or in war, in any appointment of similar rank in the forces of any other portion of the commonwealth. There is a Canadian air liaison officer in London with offices at the air ministry. And we have the common use of organization, equipment, establishments and training manuals issued by the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry of the United Kingdom. There is direct correspondence between our staff and the staff of the United Kingdom and the staffs of the defence ministries of the other dominions. There is a periodic exchange of liaison letters between the chiefs of staff of the British and dominions services. There is the attachment of Canadian officers to units in Great Britain. Last session the minister brought down a return in that regard, but I know that number has been increased. In addition to those on exchange, who number perhaps eight or ten or twelve at a time, last year there were seventy odd officers in training in Great Britain, and in January of this year there were approximately ninety of our officers and men receiving training under the imperial authorities.

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LIB

William Alexander Fraser

Liberal

Mr. FRASER:

Do I understand that the

hon. member does not agree that we should maintain naval bases in Canada available to British naval ships? Does my hon. friend object to the exchange of officers between Canada and Great Britain?

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

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

Mr. MacNEIL:

Perhaps I did not make my point clear to my hon. friend. I was not expressing disagreement with the maintenance of naval bases. I say that when the minister states to the committee that we have no commitments, I have a right to say that the contractual obligation to which I have referred is a commitment which destroys any hope of neutrality in the event of Great Britain being engaged in a war. May I point out further that when the Union of South Africa, by the passage of several acts, attempted to claim the separate right of neutrality, the very thing which hindered that attempt was the maintenance of the naval base at Simon's Town. That is an illustration in point. I am not attempting

to suggest what is right or what is wrong. I am arguing that this is a time for complete frankness with regard to these commitments.

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LIB

William Alexander Fraser

Liberal

Mr. FRASER:

It is a good thing the hon. member has not the dictation of the policies of this country.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

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

Mr. MacNEIL:

Perhaps it is, but my hon. friend knows that I have a perfect right to rise in my place and state my opinion; and, as my hon. friend also knows, my opinion is shared by many others, who feel that we want complete frankness in regard to this matter.

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LIB

William Alexander Fraser

Liberal

Mr. FRASER:

The hon. member is getting it, but he does not believe it when it is given him.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

Let the hon. gentleman make his speech later on, if he knows how.

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

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

Mr. MacNEIL:

I am not suggesting or advancing an anti-British argument.

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LIB

March 25, 1938