Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, the House of Commons of Canada has suffered another conspicuous loss in the passing of one who for many years took a prominent part in its proceedings.
James Shaver Woodsworth, whose death occurred on Saturday, was first returned to parliament as member for Winnipeg North Centre at the general elections of 1921. Mr. Woodsworth was returned at each subsequent general election. In all he was a member of the parliament of Canada for over twenty years. He came to parliament first as a representative of labour, and continued as a member of a small labour group until the formation, in 1932, of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. He was one of the founders of the federation, and became its president, and also its leader in the House of Commons.
Immediately following the general elections of 1940, Mr. Woodsworth suffered a serious impairment of health from which he never recovered. Though he made an appearance in this chamber in November of last year, it was only for a day or two. His health was such that he was unable to take any part in its proceedings.
In these years, when momentous changes are taking place in all parts of the world, and unprecedented events follow each other with unparalleled rapidity, the past tends to become quickly obliterated. New names, new issues, new situations, for the time being at least, obscure the old. Few names associated with the public life of Canada could better illustrate this truth than that of the late member for Winnipeg North Centre.
Mr. Woodsworth took no part in the proceedings of this House of Commons which was elected in the spring of 1940. Many present day members of the house would have difficulty in realizing that during the preceding twenty years there were few voices oftener
heard in debate than his. There were, indeed, few opponents of the administration, regardless of its political complexion, who were more frequent, and at times more scathing, in their criticisms. One had to know Mr. Woodsworth personally and to be acquainted with the background of his political life, to appreciate him at his true worth. He was, when speaking in public, so constant in his criticisms, so downright in his denunciations, that it was difficult to realize how genuinely kindly, simple and sympathetic his real nature was. Not a few were all too readily inclined to describe him as a demagogue. To my mind, of men who have occupied seats in our parliament and have risen to position of leadership, Mr. Woodsworth was one of the most sincere and least self-seeking.
The truth is that Mr. Woodsworth remained to the end what he was from the outset, the missionary of a great cause. That cause was the well-being of his fellowmen. Social reform was the interest which lay nearest to his heart. To this interest, as a young man, he gave expression in different ways. He began his life work as a member of the Christian ministry. In this calling, he had succeeded his father who had been a Methodist minister. He prepared himself for the ministry by a course in arts at the university of Manitoba, and later by a course in theology at Victoria college, university of Toronto, and by post-graduate studies at Oxford. The knowledge thus acquired was subsequently supplemented by firsthand contacts with industrial conditions in England and Canada and by social research. Before and during his years in parliament, as preacher and teacher and writer, he sought to awaken the conscience of his fellow men to social injustices. In these injustices, he believed, lay the seeds of discontent and widespread disorder. Equally he strove, by advocating a wider tolerance and better understanding, to remove barriers of race and class and creed, and to establish more in the way of economic freedom and social equality.
In parliament, this spirit also manifested itself in the continuous advocacy and support of many measures of social reform. He be-leived in service as the highest of human motives, and exemplified his belief by his own untiring efforts on behalf of the cause he had so much at heart. He had come to feel that the widest opportunity for service and for the enjoyment of the fruits of service could be secured to the masses of men only by a radical change in the existing order of society. This led to an advocacy of socialistic measures and policies which made him a storm centre of some of the political controversy of the recent past. This controversy, as I have
James S. Woodsworth
already suggested, served to obscure, and, I believe at times, to thwart his ,real purpose.
To nothing was Mr. Woodsworth more passionately opposed than to any form of militarism. He was an out-and-out pacifist. Regardless of the antagonism toward himself, which this attitude served to arouse, and the sacrifices it entailed, he held to it to the last.
Philosophically, he was doubtless right in the belief that, in the end, force accomplishes nothing positive; that it is a mistaken method of achieving enduring results. What he failed to see was that, while, in the long run, reason alone can hold the true supremacy, reason must be afforded the opportunity to prevail. All chance to apply reason to the solution of human problems may be forever lost if those who seek to conquer by the sword are not made to perish by the sword. I shall always believe that it was the mental conflict between the idealism of Mr. Woodsworth's hopes and beliefs, and the realism of the horrors of nazism and fascism, that crushed his spirit and broke his strength.
It is too soon to judge the place that Mr. Woodsworth's name will come to hold in the annals of this parliament and in the history of our country. I, for one, believe it will have a high and honoured place, not because of the political doctrines he espoused, and with which a part of his public life was so closely identified-though, even here, it may yet come to be said of him as of other social reformers, that he was ahead of his times-but because of his upright character and his fearless advocacy of the right as it was given him to see the right. His independence of thought and personal integrity, his sterling qualities of honesty and industry, his courageous championship of the causes to which, by conviction, he was wedded, won for him the admiration even of those to whom he was politically opposed.
Mr. Woodsworth has left a name which is greatly respected in our parliament and country. It will, I believe, be increasingly honoured with the passing of the years.
I should like to extend to my hon. friend the member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell), the present leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, and to the members of his party the very sincere sympathy of all hon. members on this side of the house, and particularly may I express a word of sympathy on behalf of us all to the late member's son-in-law, the member for Vancouver East (Mr. Maclnnis), and to Mrs. Maclnnis. I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all members of the House of Commons, to convey
our sincere and deep sympathy to Mrs. Woodsworth and to the other members of her family in their great bereavement.