Hon. GROTE STIRLING (Yale):
Mr. Speaker, it will not take me very long to state
my position with regard to the bill now before the house for second reading. Its purpose is to amend the National Resources Mobilization Act of 1940 by repealing the restrictive section which stands in the way of posting a trained man to a unit which is to serve overseas, which restriction was placed in that act because of a commitment the government had previously made and which it found was an obstacle in the path of a total war effort. To rid itself of that commitment it held a plebiscite. We did not agree with the holding of the plebiscite; we argued against it, and stated our objections. However, those objections were overruled and the plebiscite became law'. We threw ourselves with considerable energy into the campaign, which was to endeavour to facilitate the getting out of the vote all through Canada so that the electors might state their answer to the question being asked them. As everybody knows, the result of that plebiscite was a strong affirmative vote. We still believe that the government did not follow the right course in not energetically and courageously taking the steps which it considered should be taken, and, if necessary, asking parliament for its opinion thereon.
Certainly I support the bill. But the situation does not seem to be quite as simple as that. Speaking on the plebiscite bill in February the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) stated that in the opinion of the government it was not necessary to introduce conscription, that if that time did come the government proposed to state the facts to parliament and let parliament decide. On introducing this bill a month ago, however, the Prime Minister, although stating again that the government felt that conscription was not necessary, went on to say that in his opinion this was the time and certainly this was the place in which the question of conscription should be debated, and that as he did not want conscription to be twice debated, perhaps in the same year, now was the time to debate it. It has been debated to some extent. Debates culminate in votes. Therefore this vote, which will be taken perhaps to-morrow, being a division on the second reading of the bill, will have to be used by hon. members to answer two questions. It will not be an entanglement for me because I am prepared to support the bill and all that the bill entails, but I can well imagine that there may be hon. members who desire to support the bill which removes the commitments of the government but who are not prepared to vote for conscription.
It is a matter worth recording that ever since the beginning of the war the government
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has proceeded nervously and haltingly toward a total war. The extent to which Canada's war effort has been magnificent does not appear to me to have been due so much to the effort of the government as it has to the strident expressions of public opinion which have reached us from the country. It will be recalled that on May 22, 1940, the date on which in the parliament of the United Kingdom an emergency bill containing very wide powers was introduced, passed through all its stages, and received the royal assent, the leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson) asked the Prime Minister whether the government had considered the advisability of doing likewise. The Prime Minister replied that consideration had been given to measures of a sweeping character, but that he could not say more until he had seen the United Kingdom legislation.
Four weeks passed and then at an interview with the Prime Minister, sought and obtained by the leader of the opposition, somewhat detailed proposals were made to the right hon. gentleman that the government should bring in a measure which would give it very wide powers indeed to cope with the alarming situation. By the signal mercy of God alone the British and allied troops had been evacuated successfully from Dunkirk, but Britain then stood alone faced by a powerful enemy drunk with success, and the only assistance then forthcoming-France was tottering to a fall- was from the dominions, which were gradually gathering in force. I was present at that interview, and a discussion ensued between the Prime Minister and his colleagues and the leader of the opposition. The leader of the opposition pressed upon the Prime Minister the desirability of' creating for his government far wider powers than they then had.
The Prime Minister suggested that the matter might be allowed to rest for twenty-four hours before the Leader of the Opposition made any public statement thereon, and that was acceded to by the colleagues of the Leader of the Opposition after he had discussed it with them. On the following day, June 18, 1940, the Prime Minister introduced the national resources mobilization bill, and the house gave it first and second readings. It was printed and distributed; the house gave it third reading on June 20, and it received the royal assent on June 21. The official opposition had proposed it to the government. A month later it had pressed it on the government and only then was it introduced; and, warmly supported by the opposition, it became law.
The first notable action under the mobilization act was the holding of a national regis-
tration, a numbering of the people, an effort to find out just exactly what people there were and what they might be able to do best. It was announced by the Prime Minister on his introduction of the bill, in these words:
A national registration of Canada's manpower will accordingly be instituted at once.
[DOT]ri emPhasize the fact that this registration will have nothing whatever to do with the recruitment of men for overseas service.
The registration took place on August 19, 20 and 21 of 1940. But it must be remembered that just about a year before, that is a day or two after Canada entered the war, the hon. member for Broadview (Mr. Church) advocated just such a numbering of the people. This was his phraseology:
A general survey of all skilled labour and man-power in order to throw light on the adequacy or inadequacy of Canada's resources and to plan in advance the proper allocation of our man-power between the ages of eighteen and sixty-five.
That was on September 9, 1939. Eight months later, nothing having been done in that direction, he placed a question on the order paper asking whether such a registration would be undertaken, to which the Prime Minister replied that "it was not customary to announce government policy in answer to specific questions on the order paper".
On the 27th of May, the hon. member for Waterloo South (Mr. Homuth) again emphasized the necessity for such a registration, for the reasons already given, but also for another reason, namely, to enable the government to tackle the question of the fifth columnists, which at least in some parts of Canada was causing considerable alarm to the people. And he also would have liked to have the registration include all men and women above the age of sixteen.
On the same day the leader of the opposition appealed to the Minister of National Defence asking for a comprehensive survey of the availability and suitability of industrial activity to help win the war, to which the late Hon. Norman Rogers replied that national registration "had received the careful study to which it was entitled".
Thus again the official opposition, carrying out its expressed determination to do all in its power to help the government in its war effort, proposed in detail action which, months later, was effected.
The registration was the basis for placing young men of chosen ages and of certain medical categories in training camps, and the first period of that training was a thirty-day period. It must be remembered that the
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Prime Minister now refers to the placing of the men in training camps under the 1940 act as an acceptance of the policy of conscription. The first phase was for thirty-day training periods; that was in October of 1940. Almost at once a clamour arose in the country that a thirty-day period for training was utterly inadequate, that these young men after but a few days of actual training work would slip back into civil life and that their work would largely be lost.
On November 12, a month after the camps started, the leader of the opposition asked that the training period be extended to four months, half of which should be training of a preliminary character and the other half training of a more detailed nature, graduation being required from the one to the other. That suggestion also was adopted, and the four months training period began in February of 1941. But at the end of the period, whether it was thirty days or four months, the trained men would return to civil life and a good deal of the training work that had been accomplished, costing time and money on the part of the taxpayers and the men and the instructors who were appointed for that purpose, would largely be lost; and once more it was the leader of the opposition who first drew attention to the necessity of retaining the services of these trained men, and who put it into words in this form when he was speaking in the house on March 14, on the war appropriation bill;
Under these regulations in a limited sense that is true; but the country has no right under these regulations to use these men to defend this country abroad, and that is the weakness of the whole position. The country has the right to utilize the services of these men in the event of an invasion of Canada. But time and again we have had it explained in this house by the ministry that the first line of defence in this country is not here but over there. Why, then, has the government not had the courage to go the whole way and retain the absolute right to utilize the services of these men for the defence of Canada over there, aftergiving them four months' training and spending the huge sums of money that have been spent on military education? That is going the whole length and putting the thing in a nutshell.
Two months after the camps started on a four-months basis the announcement was made that the trained men would be retained in the active army for the duration of the war.
There are four occasions on which the official opposition pressed on the government schemes and suggestions, some detailed in extent, and urgently demanded in the country, and which, after a lapse of months, were adopted and put into operation by the government. And they were not the only suggestions made to the government. The official opposition was by no
means the only body of thought in this country which was pressing suggestions on the government for a more rapid mobilization of all that Canada had and could use. Those manifestations were growing before 1941 particularly, and hon. members will not forget the statement put forward by the Canadian Legion, which seemed to pick up all those thoughts which were raging through the country and bring them under one head. Let me read one phrase which occurs toward the end of that call, so well-known throughout the country as the Canadian Legion's statement;
Canada needs and is seeking a courageous, a moral and a spiritual lead. You yourself, sir-
The statement was addressed to the Prime Minister.
-have forcibly and repeatedly made known your own clear knowledge of the issues at stake and of the terrible dangers which lie ahead. Canada wants you to implement to the full your inspired pronouncement: "There is only one wav to meet 'total war' and that is by 'total effort'-effort not for a day, or a week, or a month, but every day until victory is won.
I have no doubt that I am not singular amongst hon. members in having been literally deluged with resolutions from societies and associations of every description, who seem to have been impelled, after that call from the legion was put forth, to add their support, by resolution, by letter, by postcard, by word of mouth. They came in every form and description of manifesto that could possibly be used, and indeed another eruption of postcards is taking place at the present time, all emphasizing the same note-total effort for total war. The pressure that the people of Canada have brought to bear on Canada is the measure to-day of Canada's war effort.
Now I come to occasions when greater activity was urged upon the government to provide more materials for war.
On May 28, 1940, the leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson) asked for a statement from the government on the production of tanks. On the same day the hon. member for Parkdale (Mr. Bruce) alluded to the shortage of tanks for training. He also asked a question on the order paper, followed a few days later by a question by myself, for the relevant papers connected with the correspondence between the manufacturers and the government on the subject of tanks, to which the minister a few days later replied that search was being made but that so far no relevant documents had reached him. The following day the hon. member for Parkdale returned to the subject and gave details of firms capable of undertaking such work if directed to proceed, remarking-so truly- that there was no manufacture that Canadian
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industry could not undertake if it was directed so to do. That is a fact which Canadian industry and Canadian labour have proved up to the hilt. The gist of the minister's reply was that it was not so far the policy of the government to proceed with the manufacture of tanks; that Canadian industry was becoming increasingly busy in making things which it had never made before; that the difficulties connected with obtaining the necessary raw materials and the designs, tools and machines, were veiy great, but were gradually being overcome. But Dunkirk had been evacuated; France had fallen; the United Kingdom had lost $2,000,000,000 worth of equipment. The policy of the government changed, Canadian industry was directed to make tanks, it was assisted to make tanks, and Canadian industiy and Canadian labour to-day are making tanks. I read in the Montreal Gazette of June 30:
The cruiser tank, made in Canada, is of Canadian design. Its cast steel welded armour plate, which makes the use of rivets unnecessary, presents no flat surface. The rounded contour renders it less vulnerable to direct hits.
Not only is Canadian industry being directed and assisted to make tanks; Canadian industry and Canadian labour are making tanks which are being used on many fronts to-day, and those tanks are actually made to the design of Canadian designers who, making use of the information and knowledge gleaned so far, have been able to adapt their special knowledge to the furthering and the proving of design of these instruments of war.
I go a little further, with regard to shipbuilding. Hon. members will remember that, not so very long after the outbreak of war, Canada embarked on the making of corvettes for Britain and for us, also the making of mine-sweepers, patrol ships and a great variety of smaller craft. But she did not get busy with the building of freighters. The toll of sinkings rose, and every now and again became so intense that it was a larger figure than the output of the shipbuilding yards of the allied countries. The Canadian government did not seem to be ready to go into the building of freighters. The hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Green), speaking in this house on June 14, 1940, said-Hansard, page 785:
I would ask the minister if it would not be possible for Canada now to enter upon a programme for the construction of ships up to, let us say, 10,000 tons.
On March 10, 1941-the question was still open after ten months-the leader of the opposition used these words-Hansard, page 1391:
I, believe that the genius of our people and their desire to see a rehabilitation of this industry in the maritime provinces is sufficient to overcome what are insuperable difficulties in the minds of some persons, but which fade into insignificance when one gets down to realities.
The following day the hon. member for Davenport (Mr. MacNicol) said-Hansard, page 1450:
In my judgment ... the minister will find shortly that the whole shipbuilding programme will have to be revamped with the objective of perhaps making it one hundred times bigger than it is to-day.
It would not be so very much bigger, seeing that practically none were being built at that time. On April 1, 1941, the hon. member for Cumberland (Mr. Black), said- Hansard, page 2077:
If shipbuilding is as urgent as we believe it to be, the number of ships being built in Nova Scotia should be manyfold the number being built to-day. The minister says that the shipyards of Nova Scotia should be humming. Why are they not humming? Because there is no humming on the part of the minister and the government and those associated with them.
There are four instances, over nearly two years, of endeavours on the part of members of the opposition to get the government started on the building of freighters, against the day when the submarine menace-and it has unfortunately come true on the west side of the Atlantic-would be sinking ships at such a rate that the shipbuilding powers of the allies would not keep up with it. Again the minister made his defence. He stated that the difficulty so far was to find the necessary labour to keep the repair yards going, and that until that difficulty had been met it would not be possible in his opinion to proceed to shipbuilding. But that difficulty was surmounted, the registration had taken place, and if it was possible then and in subsequent months to find and adapt the necessary labour, I maintain that it would have been possible a year beforehand to do so.
I do not place these things on record at this time in a spirit of belittlement of what Canada's effort has amounted to-not at all -but because there seems to be surrounding this government a mutual admiration society of supporters who do nothing but nauseatingly stroke the back of the government and place it on record that the government and the government only is responsible for what Canada has accomplished. I do not put this on record for the purpose of patting the opposition on the back-the opposition was merely carrying out its distinct statement to the government of its desire to help-but
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because through this country there are organizations in great numbers, besides individuals, who from the beginning have endeavoured to bring pressure to bear upon the government to get busy and busier than they had been up till then. And now the government wants to remove the hindrance.
In approaching the question of an amendment to the mobilization act we have listened to speeches from three service ministers and several of their colleagues-most interesting speeches-and the comparing of the one with the other gives food for a great deal of thought. But I notice that in the speech of the Minister of National Revenue (Mr. Gibson) he was expressing some dissatisfaction with what he called the conscript. He used the illustration of the commanding officer of a unit in need of reinforcements who would certainly choose the volunteer before he would choose the conscript. But does he shut his eyes to the fact that in this country to-day units of the Canadian active army are composed in just that way? They are composed of volunteers, augmented by compelled men; and if it is a difficulty in the one case it is certainly a difficulty in the other. The hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Green) the other day called the attention of the house to difficulties that were arising in the units within Canada with regard to their training, with regard to their relations the one to the other, with regard to the duties to which they are put. It certainly is not a happy condition and there is but one way in which it can be overcome, and that is by the use of the policy of conscription, which the Prime Minister says was included in the 1940 act at the time of its passing.
I now come for a few moments to the question of what the electors of Yale, whose mouthpiece I am in this house, meant by their vote. The Prime Minister had asserted again and again that they were not asked to decide on conscription, but just whether they were ready to free the government from its commitments. I wonder how many times I was asked: "What does this question mean?" I wonder how many times I was asked "What will the government do if the answer is 'yes', or if the answer is 'no'?" I wonder how many times it was said to me, "Well, I know what I mean by voting 'yes' on this plebiscite". To all these queries there was only one answer I could give; I could only quote the sphinx. They had to take the answer as best they might. But they went to the polls, and they went to the polls in greater numbers than I had expected, in greater numbers than in recent general elections. I had certainly been afraid of the apathy that 44561-249
might have been shown by the people of Canada with regard to this plebiscite, but in all Yale 77 per cent of those who could vote did vote. In the city in which I live, 92 per cent of the people who could vote did vote, and 84 per cent of them voted "yes". In Vernon, to the north, 85 per cent voted "yes", in Penticton to the south 88 per cent, and in all Yale 83 per cent voted "yes".
What do I take it that they meant by their "yes", vote? Judging by conversations, correspondence, resolutions, representations through their press, I take it without any doubt whatever that Yale voted five to one "yes" because it was desirous of releasing the government from anything that stood in its path, so that it might proceed to make use of the very wide powers contained in section 2 of the act, powers so wide that the government is empowered thereby to make use of men and women, their possessions, everything that Canada has and can use, which can be adapted to the purposes of total war. That is what they meant by voting "yes". It is quite true that a certain proportion of those who voted "yes" wanted something more than that. They wanted compulsion for service anywhere. How large that fraction is neither I nor anybody else can say, but I know something of the reasons why those who held that view did hold them.
I do not think it was for the purpose of increasing the size of Canada's military forces overseas. . I do not think they knew the facts sufficiently. They have no opinion with regard to that. What the government had undertaken to do on Canada's behalf, and how far they had succeeded in doing it, nobody knew. We did not know it in this house. We have been listening to the speeches of service ministers and others for months past, interwoven with figures of man-power, and I know that they have baffled me. We asked supplementary questions, and answers were not always given, but those that the ministers considered could be given were frequently for some period which did not fit into the general picture. We could not fit them into the picture of those who had been discharged from the service, those whose medical category had been changed, those who were placed in certain work which it was not proper to divulge to us. So we could not get, at least I have never been able to get, a clear picture in my mind as to how the Canadian military forces are divided, where they are, and in what numbers they are proceeding overseas. I do not think, therefore, that that was the reason why the people of Yale so largely voted "yes."
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There were three other reasons. One was that they were looking at what they believed to be their best men going and their less worthy men remaining behind, and vacancies in labour being filled by those who in their opinion might have gone. In the second place, they were listening to the stories of their men on leave, their men in their correspondence from active service units, describing just what [DOT]the hon. member for Vancouver South described of what was going on in the active service units within Canada doing their training here. And they even went so far in many cases as to allege that the presence of these compelled men in a unit, who would have to be removed before that unit could be sent overseas, was having the effect of preventing that unit from being included in overseas contingents. The third reason was perhaps the strongest of the three. They did not know the extent of the commitment of Canada's military forces overseas, but they read, and they are proud to read, that it is perhaps the finest and the best trained and best equipped force that modern warfare has ever seen, and they know that when the time comes it will be used in the forefront of the battle. Sadly do I remember that that means casualties, and I wonder how you can possibly fill the vacancies caused by casualties if you do not start now to do the training. If you wait until too late to train these men for modern mechanized war we shall but have a repetition of some of the saddest incidents in Canadian military history. I think there is no doubt, if I read the minds of those in Yale constituency who voted "yes," that the majority of them desired conscription, although I am not in a position to say how large that number is.
There is another phase of this matter to which I want to devote the closing minutes of my time. Some week or two ago in this debate I listened to a speech by the hon. member for Pontiac (Mr. McDonald). It was a bitter speech, and I imagine that the old-fashioned way of answering would have been for a similarly bitter speech to be made from this side of the house. Alas! there is ample material for such a speech-but it would have done no good. It would but add another handful of fuel to the flames of controversy. The hon. member told us that seared into his mind there were utterances of his opponents. Does he think he is alone in that? There are certain phrases seared into my mind which were used by a prominent Liberal French leader in the by-election in Rimouski, which was followed a few months later by the by-election as a result of which I found myself a member of this House
of Commons. I do not repeat those dreadful words. I shall not repeat them; they would do no good. But if I am ready to endeavour to forget such things and to move forward on a better road, may I not appeal to the hon. member for Pontiac that he also should endeavour to forget such things as he remembers were spoken by his opponents, so that together, and supported by what I believe to be a tremendous number of people of this country, we should move along a road which will lead to better things?
I listened with great interest to the hon. member for Richelieu-Vercheres (Mr. Cardin), who left his seat in the government because be believed his leader had misled his people. He spoke of the French Canadians having made concession after concession. He surely does not think that they were the only ones who made concessions. He spoke of the accident of nature whereby my blood is apt to tingle when British institutions are in danger, whereas by another accident of nature he has to make use of his reasoning powers before he can express his admiration for British institutions. As he spoke I wondered whether, being no less intelligent than I, he had made use of all his powers in endeavouring to withstand those awful inaccuracies used among his compatriots, that the great war was an imperial war. An imperial war? With British troops, supported by troops from the dominions, endeavouring, shoulder to shoulder with French troops, to repel the invaders of France-and that this war is an English war! Did you ever hear such nonsense? An English war more than an American war, more than a war for the allied countries, every one of those countries that wants above all else to return to a condition under which they may have liberty to think and worship as they will?
On Saturday the United States commemorated their great day. There arrived in Ottawa 200 of their soldiers, and their band, to take part with us in army week. Did they come up here with an idea that this war, in which we and they and seventeen other nations are engaged, was an English war? Surely the hon. member and those other great leaders of French-Canadian thought on whose words his compatriots hang, surely if they had made in the twenty years before 1938 speeches such as some have made since . 1938 we should not be face to face with such a conglomeration of falsehood as apparently rules in some quarters of this country.
I make an appeal to him-
Subtopic: AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS