March 25, 1938

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I shall tell the hon. gentleman that myself, in due time. May I say that the meeting at Geneva to which my hon. friend is referring was the year before last.

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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. MARTIN:

The Prime Minister is able to speak for himself; I do not want to assume the role of Prime Minister.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Not yet.

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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. MARTIN:

Well, one can never tell. Not only at Geneva, but in a speech delivered in Canada again after his return, and during last session, time and time again the Prime Minister has stated the traditional policy in this respect of successive Canadian governments. One thing we may be satisfied about at the present time in Canada is that all political parties who have yet assumed office have agreed on one fundamental. The hon. member for Vancouver North has said that we must at least have a foreign policy upon which we can base our estimates, and he is . quite right. It is in the examination of our foreign policy that I propose to make my reply to him to-night.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier, speaking in this chamber in 1900, said:

Whilst I cannot admit that Canada should take part in all the wars of Great Britain, neither am I prepared to say that she should not take part in any war at all. I am prepared to look upon each case upon its merits as it arises. ... I claim for Canada this, that in the future Canada shall be at liberty to act or not to act, to interfere or not to interfere, to do just as she pleases, and that she shall reserve to herself the right to judge whether or not there is cause for her to act.

That was in 1900, and that was the first declaration in this chamber by a prime minister of Canada on this problem. Sir John A. Macdonald had declared himself in equal terms if not more violently outside this chamber, though I am confining myself to statements made by prime ministers in this house. Compare that statement with that of the present prime minister delivered at the League of Nations session in Geneva, the ninth plenary meeting on September 29, 1936:

The Canadian House of Commons, by unanimous resolution, has made the adoption of undertakings to apply either military or economic sanctions subject to the approval of parliament. .

What I have said and quoted does not mean that in no circumstances would the Canadian people be prepared to share in action against an aggressor; there have been no absolute commitments either for or against participation in war or other forms of force. It does mean that any decision on the part of Canada to

participate in war will have to be taken by the parliament or people of Canada in the light of all existing circumstances; circumstances of the day as they exist in Canada, as well as in the areas involved.

I have taken some time and some pains to reiterate this aspect of the problem. But in the face of these pronouncements, how can any hon. member in this house or anyone outside say that we have commitments, tacit or explicit, with any country? One examines the argument of the hoh. member for Vancouver North and it is this: Since we are members of the British Empire-and he might as well have applied it to the League of Nations; he might as well have said, "Since we are members of the League of Nations," or "Since we are a North American country"-these very affiliations constitute in themselves commitments tacit or explicit. That is what his argument amounts to. But the mere fact that we are members of the British Empire, members of the League of Nations; the mere fact that we are a north American country, neighbour to a great republic, one of the great powers of the world-do these facts, and these facts alone, constitute commitments?

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CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

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

Mr. MacNEIL:

I was referring simply to

commitments for military action abroad.

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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. MARTIN:

That is what I am referring to; we are discussing military estimates. If that is the only reply which the hon. member has to give, I take it that my interpretation of what he has said is correct.

The view of Professor Underhill in this matter is as valuable as the view of the Minister of Pensions. In this case, neither view is worth anything. They are the views of individual men. I sat in conference last May with Professor Underhill for a week discussing the problem, and there were present not only Professor Underhill but other distinguished academic people, most of whom I suspect are supporters of the group to which my hon. friend belongs. While we took no vote-as he well knows from this document which I cannot quote; I can only refer to it; I cannot discuss it because of the auspices by which it is distributed the majority took issue with Professor Underhill because they were unwilling then, in the face of the world uncertainty, to pass dogmatically upon the question in the manner in which Professor Underhill so often does; and I say that without being unkind to a man for whom I have the highest regard personally and intellectually

There is a great tendency in Canada to say that we have no foreign policy and that, consequently, since Canada has no foreign policy, there is a responsibility upon the admin-

Supply-National Defence

istration of the day to declare its policy in respect of the situation in Europe, the situation in Spain-and I mention Spain with emphasis-the situation in China, Japan, and elsewhere. Well, I suggest that in approaching this problem we should divide it into two. With respect to the period following the war until two years ago, I would share almost entirely the criticism levelled by the hon. member for Vancouver North; but as regards the period since then, looking at the realities of the situation, as one must in parliament, I submit that one must take these later developments into consideration. At the Canadian-American Conference held at Queen's University last summer I sought to make this distinction in replying to the very excellent presentation of Doctor Dafoe, one of the most profound students of International Affairs in Canada.

As to the first period let me say I am not going to deny that the present disturbance, the present uncertainty, in Europe, *might have been avoided by courageous statesmanship, by a belief in the League of Nations, actively, as well as in form and theory. I do not deny that. I shall never forget when I attended for the first time an assembly of the League of Nations in 1929. It was the last appearance of the then Chancellor of Germany, Doctor Gustav Stresemann, one of the greatest of modern Germans and one of the most peace loving men of modern Europe. Standing before the Assembly of the League of Nations, with tears running down his cheeks, the victim of a fatal disease, a dead man soon afterwards, and turning and addressing himself particularly to Aristide Briand, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, he said in substance:

Unless the world will recognize the injustices of the peace treaties; unless it will recognize that you cannot in this day of economic and political interdependence strangle one country in the hope that other countries will benefit, someone will come in my place; someone will come in as head of the German people and will be able to play upon these injustices in these peace treaties, will be able to refer to the guilt clause, to the unwise occupation of the Ruhr, and all that meant in making the middle classes of Germany a fertile soil for the totalitarian ideas now current in Germany. Unless these things are done, someone will come in and will be able, by refusal to recognize his intellectual responsibility in the matter, to rouse the German people to the use of force to get these things which are denied them by a Carthaginian peace.

I do not deny all that. But that is not the picture to-day. The fact to-day is that the League of Nations, the collective security system to which the hon. member for Van-

eouver North has referred without defining what* he meant by collective security, in respect of political action is at the moment absolutely impotent to deal with disturbances in Europe or any other part of the world. Not only that; but if one goes back to the origins of the covenant; if one reads, for instance, the life of General Smuts by Sarah Gertrude Millin, one will find that when sanctions, economic, and military as well, were provided for, it was never intended that they should apply outside the regions involved. In other words, it was never intended that military sanctions in respect of a European conflict should be enforced by countries outside Europe. That was confirmed by the Sino-Japanese dispute and the Bolivia-Paraguay affair. Sanctions in none of these instances were contemplated or even attempted on the part of any country. I merely mention that to indicate that in our talking about collective security, collective action, we must not assume that our wishes are actually embodied in the covenant of the league. Speaking as one who came out of college full of the traditions of the late war, fully convinced that if civilization were to be preserved the agencies of conference and of law had to supplant force as an instrument of national policy, and as one who to-night may perhaps be said to represent thousands of young men and women throughout this country, I say that no greater disillusionment could come to one of my generation. One must recognize the occasion for the disillusionment. That is the important point which we cannot overstress in discussing this matter.

The Minister of National Defence specified to this committee five groups that he finds in this country in respect of foreign affairs. I think those five groups are, mathematically speaking, as accurate perhaps as a mere description could be. However, I suggest to him that perhaps he will not find a majority of people entirely subscribing to his fifth group, but the majority of people doubtless come within any number of these five categories of public opinion. In respect to the last two I can find points of agreement, and I know that many thinking people in this country share the same view. If one analyses these groups and what they mean in terms of public opinion in Canada, the irresistible conclusion is that if the Prime Minister to-morrow told the house that in a given event we were going to take up arms for this or that party, he would doubtless find support in some sections of this dominion, but he would find other sections diametrically opposed. What would be the result? In an attempt to bring peace to the world, he would

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be causing unrest and the antithesis of peace in his own country. One could cite example after example to illustrate that. I found it so myself. Making a tour of Canada last year I went into many sections of this great dominion, and speaking frankly of these problems I found such a variety of opinion as, in some instances, to compel me to disguise my views. If that is so in the case of a private member, surely hon. members will not fail to see it as applying still more to those who form the ministry of this country.

The hon. member for Vancouver North will find me agreeing with him on at least one point, if not with his reasoning, at least with his conclusion. We should not hesitate to obtain for this country the right of neutrality. I am not saying that I agree that we should declare now what we shall do in a given instance in respect of being neutral or not being neutral. But we should have that right. Let me point out, however, that this will not remove the difficulty which the hon. member has in mind. South Africa has that legal right; yet in international law, in spite of the constitutional and legal precautions she has taken, in the event of war involving any part of the empire she would find herself likely to be considered by any belligerent as being involved in that war. Therefore, the mere right of neutrality within the present constitutional arrangement will not meet the problem.

Again I take serious issue with the hon. member for Vancouver North. Constitutionally there is no question that we have the right to be neutral in any given event. That has been gone over in this house time and time again. If the hon. member will refer to the statement of the Prime Minister, I think in 1926, on this very point, he will find there quoted the speeches of Berriedale Keith, Corbett and others whose opinions he has discussed to-night. The conclusion is that constitutionally we have the right, in case of one part of the empire being involved, to declare our neutrality. International law, however, may present a different situation. As a practical matter I suggest this, that if war took place in which Canada sought to assert the right of neutrality, if a belligerent, having in mind our empire relations or our North American affiliations, found it convenient to attack Canada, that belligerent would not hesitate to do so because of certain legal or constitutional refinements. That cannot be too clearly emphasized.

Progress reported.

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At eleven o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order. Monday, March 28, 1938


March 25, 1938