July 7, 1942

LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

In my opinion the "nays" have it.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
IND

Joseph Sasseville Roy

Independent

Mr. ROY:

I ask that the vote be registered.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

It requires that five members shall stand in order to have a recorded vote, and since only two are standing, I declare the amendment lost. The question now is on the main motion.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

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

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, in bringing to a conclusion the debate on the second reading of the bill which is before the house, I do not intend to review in detail the arguments which have been presented from different sides. In all that has been said, I have found no reason to alter any of the statements or opinions I expressed in introducing the bill on May 11, and in opening the debate on the second reading on June 10.

I believe the debate itself has more than justified the wisdom of the course the government has adopted in bringing before parliament for consideration, the methods of raising men for service overseas.

It has been recognized from the outset that the question is highly controversial. Had its controversial character been the only factor of which the government was obliged to take account, the task would have been comparatively simple.

In opening the debate, I stated that changed conditions in the character and scope of the war were sufficient of themselves to make necessary at this time the fullest consideration of the question by parliament. I carefully refrained from saying anything of other factors which had forced the issue in a manner which has served to emphasize rather than to lessen its controversial character. I still propose to refrain from saying anything about this particular aspect of the controversy beyond drawing the attention of hon. members to how wholly unnecessary and misleading it has been.

In the present war, the issue of conscription for service overseas was first raised, not in parliament by the responsible spokesman of any political party, but outside parliament altogether. The effort to make it a political issue became evident a little over a year ago in the course of my visit to western Canada.

On each occasion when the issue was pressed to the fore, the method adopted was the same.

4006 COMMONS

Mobilization Act-Mr. Mackenzie King

An attempt was made to identify the single question of the method of raising men for service overseas with "a total effort". It was asserted that the need was an immediate one, and would have to be met immediately.

Conscription for overseas service was certainly not necessary when the agitation was started in Calgary, over a year ago. At that time, those who were responsible for the agitation asserted that conscription for overseas service had become imperative. It certainly was not necessary at the time the new leader of the Conservative party issued his manifesto for National government and an all-out effort. It certainly was not necessary when, as a part of the same campaign, the committee of two hundred in Toronto sought to identify "total effort for total war" with the immediate introduction of conscription for overseas service. It certainly was not necessary at the time the government's intention to hold a plebiscite was announced in parliament. Nevertheless we were told by hon. gentlemen opposite that, considering how long the plebiscite would take, the government should be censured, and the plebiscite itself condemned. It certainly was not necessary at the time of the by-elections in Welland, in York South, in St. Mary's, Montreal, and in Quebec East, though we were told, at the time, by its advocates that conscription was the real issue of those campaigns. It is now clear that conscription for overseas service was not necessary at the time the result of the plebiscite was announced.

In the present debate there are two things which have been proven beyond all shadow of doubt. The first is that the use of the method of compulsion for raising men at any time up to the present, has not been necessary to obtain the men required for overseas service in any of the armed forces of Canada; in the air force, in the navy or in the army. The second is that the totality of Canada's war effort would not have been, in any particular, increased, through an extension of the principle of compulsion to service overseas. Indeed, by resulting dissension, it might have been considerably reduced.

I mention these facts first of all to make perfectly clear that the government has meant what it has said when it has stated, as up to the present it consistently has, that conscription for overseas service was not necessary, either on the ground of obtaining the necessary recruits, or to enable the government to meet its objective of a properly balanced total war effort.

I mention these facts, also, to make perfectly clear that in asking, as is being done by the present bill, that, subject only to its responsibility to parliament, the government should

possess complete freedom to act in accordance with its judgment of the needs of the situation as they may arise, the government is doing so not in response to political pressure or popular clamour in any part of the country. The government is asking for this freedom solely because it is of the opinion that, at this time of gravest crisis in the world's history, it is in the national interest that the power should be possessed by the administration.

There is nothing to which some of my political opponents have devoted more of their time and attention than in seeking to make the public believe that, as the head of the administration, I have been actuated primarily by considerations of party interests. It is represented that my aim, above all else, has been to maintain the unity of the party which I lead, in order that I may retain office at the head of a party administration. I do not deny that I have, at all times, striven to maintain the unity of the party which has honoured and entrusted me with its leadership. I owe that duty not only to the party but also to the country, more particularly as my following in this House of Commons is the foundation of the administration which was entrusted by the people, in war time, with the task of government. However, I deny most emphatically that, at any time in the course of my public life, I have ever placed any interest of party above the national interest. Least of all have I had any such thought in conducting the affairs of the country at this time of war.

It surely cannot be said that, in asking by means of a plebiscite for release from any obligations arising out of past commitments, I was acting from motives of party advantage. Nor can it be said that in introducing the present bill at the time it was introduced, I was seeking, as some hon. gentlemen opposite and their press continue to say of me, to appease the large following I have in the province of Quebec, and in virtue of which, they like to say, I am able to keep myself in office.

In the last general elections, I did win the support of the province of Quebec to the extent of all but one of its entire representation in this house. Perhaps this might not be an inopportune moment to remind hon. members and the country that apart altogether from the political support obtained from the province of Quebec, I was accorded, in the other provinces of Canada, a considerable majority over and above that of the combined representation in this House of Commons of the Conservative party, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation and the Social Credit party. Indeed the supporters of the

Mobilization Act-Mr. Mackenzie King

government from the provinces other than Quebec number all but half of the total membership of this House of Commons. Secure as I have felt in the confidence thus accorded me by the Canadian people as a whole, I have considered that it increased my obligation to endeavour to see that all questions of national importance were determined solely in the national interest. This, I have felt, was a special obligation of the Prime Minister at a time of war.

I have had no more trying experience in my political life than the realization that the course which I believed it was in the national interest for the government to follow at this time was one which would occasion a division in the ranks of my loyal followers. On the other hand, realizing Canada's position as I see it in the present world crisis, I should have felt as false to the interests of every member of my own following as to the country itself, had I not sought from parliament at this time the powers which the bill asks should be given to the administration.

I have no doubt whatever that the events of the war will more than justify the course which the government has thus far pursued, and is pursuing to-day. I know that the government's present course is already justified in the eyes of the very large majority of the citizens of Canada who have expressed the view that the government should have complete freedom in meeting the different situations of the war as they may arise. I believe that the wisdom of the government's course will become equally apparent to most, if not to all, of those who have been unwilling, or still hesitate to trust the administration with so wide a measure of discretion. The results of the plebiscite showed that, as respects the application or non-application of conscription for overseas service, the vast majority of the people of Canada were prepared to trust the judgment of the present government. I should not like the debate to conclude without expressing, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, our appreciation of so great a trust.

It is true that the present bill is a logical sequence of the plebiscite, but its origin is not to be found in the results of that measure. Because the results of the plebiscite have, by some, been represented as a mandate for conscription for service overseas, the significance of the present bill has, as a consequence, been distorted in the eyes of others. Both the plebiscite and the bill have, in fact, a common origin. Each owed its existence to the policy of the government as set forth in the speech from the throne at the opening of the present session of parliament. Each was a necessary step, but only a step in the accomplishment of that policy.

44561-253 J

This is the statement of policy as it appears in the speech:

The government is of the opinion, that at this time of gravest crisis in the world's history, the administration, subject only to its responsibility to parliament, should . . . possess complete freedom to act in accordance with its judgment of the needs of the situation as it may arise.

The one and only particular in which the administration was not free to act in accordance with its judgment was with respect to the methods of raising men for military service.

So far as the government's policy as expressed in this bill is concerned, it is not a new policy; it is identical with the government's policy as set forth in the speech from the throne, which parliament approved by the adoption of the address. Because of prior commitments regarding the methods of raising men for military service overseas, the necessary freedom could only be secured in two stages.

The one stage was to seek from the people release from a moral obligation arising out of past commitments, and the other stage, to seek from parliament the removal of a limitation expressed in existing legislation. The former-the release from the moral obligation -was sought and obtained by the plebiscite; the latter-the removal of the legal restriction -is being sought, and I hope will be obtained, by the present bill. But while the second step-the bill which is now before the house- was a logical sequence of the results of the first step, namely, the plebiscite, it does not owe its origin to that measure, but to the policy of the government as set forth in the speech. And may I say to my hon. friend and former colleague the ex-Minister of Public Works (Mr. Cardin) that he was with me and with all of my colleagues at the time when the policy was settled, and he agreed with all of us at the time that it was a desirable policy for the government.

The government's policy as set forth in the speech from the throne was due not to any political pressure or popular clamour but to what the government, as a result of the changed conditions of the war, had come to recognize as the only sound policy "at this time of gravest crisis in the world's history."

In all sincerity, may I ask would any other policy be justifiable in the face of conditions as we have seen them develop from month to month, and from year to year since the commencement of the present war, and as we know them to-day? If after almost three years of conflict, the course of the war had been different; if, for example, Germany, after

4008 COMMONS

Mobilization Act-Mr. Mackenzie King

overrunning the most of Europe, had been driven out of some, or even one of the countries she has subjugated; if Germany was now more concerned with her own defence than bent, as she continues to be, upon further conquest; if Japan had remained out of the war, instead of challenging the might of the United States, as well as that of the British commonwealth and other of the united nations, there might have been reason to question the need for removal of any limitation upon the complete freedom of the administration to act in accordance with its judgment of the needs of situations as they may arise. But when the very opposite is the case, when the war, instead of remaining upon a single continent has become a war which is world-encircling, embracing all continents as well as all oceans, a war in which all of the great powers of the world have either been partly destroyed, or are fighting for their very existence, and in which the survival of civilization itself is at stake, would it not have shown a lack of responsibility had the government not sought from parliament, in plenty of time, the widest possible powers to cope with any and every situation as it may arise?

A government is responsible not only for what it does, but for what it fails to do. A like responsibility, it seems to me, rests upon the parliament of the country, once its members are appealed to by the government to assist the administration in helping to accomplish the defeat of the enemy, and thereby to preserve the nation's security, and it may be its very existence.

On June 11, the former Minister of Public Works, objecting to the introduction of the bill at the present time, exclaimed, as reported in Hansard at page 3277:

In the name of heaven, what is the use of having a dead principle in our statute books? My hon. friend, in asking that question, was thinking only of the application of conscription for service overseas. He entirely overlooked one very important aspect of the bill. The present bill seeks to remove the limitation on compulsory military service outside Canada and its territorial waters. It will not only remove the statutory limitation on compulsory service overseas; it will equally remove the restriction on compulsory service elsewhere in this hemisphere. In so far as service in other parts of north America and the adjacent islands is concerned, the amendment of the mobilization act, once it becomes law, will in no sense be "a dead principle in our statute books."

At any moment, its application may become an urgent necessity. Recent events, no less than a glance at the map are enough to dis-

close that, in a tactical sense, the defence of our east and west coasts is inseparable from the defence of the adjacent territories of the United States. We have recognized from the beginning of the war that the same is true of Newfoundland and Labrador. To strengthen our own immediate defences, it will be necessary to extend the scope of compulsory service to these areas. In the event of actual hostilities on any considerable scale in this hemisphere, any restriction on the movement of troops back and forth between Canada and neighbouring territories would be intolerable.

It is true that before the plebiscite was held, I said that the government, in an emergency, would authorize such action by order in council under the War Measures Act, and would later ask parliament to amend the mobilization act. But that surely is an undesirable method to employ if parliament has the time to give to the government the necessary authority in advance.

Moreover, the government has equal power to follow the same procedure in the case of compulsory service overseas. It is because of its deep sense of its responsibility to parliament, that the government is seeking, for the one case as for the other, the requisite authority from the present parliament.

The debate has shown that objection to the present bill is due in the main to one of four reasons. There may be others, but they have not been set forth in a pronounced way in any of the speeches which have been made.

The first two of these reasons for opposition represent the extremes of widely divergent points of view. At the one extreme are those who object that the bill does not go far enough. At the other extreme are those who say that the bill goes too far. Those who hold to the first of these extremes wish to have the principle of conscription applied immediately to service overseas, regardless of whether or not compulsion is needed to obtain the necessary enlistments, and regardless as well of prejudicial consequences which might arise from an unnecessary application of conscription to overseas service. Those who hold to the opposite extreme are unwilling to have the principle of conscription applied to service overseas not only immediately, but at any time, and this regardless of the consequences whatever they might be.

In referring to those who take this extreme view, I wish to differentiate sharply between hon. members who are in accord with the government's policy of a total war effort, but who honestly and sincerely believe that conscription for overseas service will not increase our total effort, and might even

Mobilization Act-Mr. Mackenzie King

serve to prejudice that effort, and those others, happily very few in number, who have indicated clearly by their attitude, not only in the present debate but in the past, that they are prepared to see Canada risk defeat rather than accept conscription for service overseas. In 1937, in 1938 and in 1939, some of these hon. members opposed the preparations for the defence of Canada because they maintained that Canada was in no danger. If I interpret their words aright, they are still prepared to overlook the designs of the enemy, and to discount his strength, despite the fact that his design of world conquest is increasingly clear, and despite the continued success of his arms. They are prepared to leave to others to do for Canada, for their homes and their families what they are unwilling to do not only for others, but even for their own country, and for themselves. They refuse to see the need to bring about the destruction of the enemy as speedily as possible, and as far as possible from Canada. They are prepared to risk subjecting the Canadian people to the fate of those countries which, in such numbers, have already experienced the terrors of invasion, and of conquest, by a ruthless and relentless foe.

The members who are thus unwilling to look beyond the shores of Canada have referred repeatedly to Australia which country, at an earlier stage in the war, sent troops overseas, and has since been obliged to recall some men for her own defence. But why did Australia send her troops overseas if it was not that she recognized the need of a collective defence? Why, may I ask, was the United States so ready to send an army and naval forces to Australia in her hour of need? Was is not because the United States realized that unless the enemy were defeated overseas, he would have to be defeated on American soil; and was it not also because Australia had earned the respect and help of other nations by sending her armed forces overseas against the common enemy?

And here let me protest equally against the deliberate misrepresentation of Canada's position which continues to come from many who represent the other extreme. Some hon. members opposite have said, and the press which supports them keeps repeating the statement, that the government is unwilling to send men overseas. They seek to create the impression that, because Canada has had no occasion to resort to conscription for overseas service, that no Canadian troops are being sent overseas. This obviously is being said solely for political purposes, for they know full well that such is not the truth, and that a false impression is thereby being created.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

Will the right hon. gentleman point out a single speech by any member of this party to the effect which he has just now stated.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Yes. The hon. gentleman, sitting I think two seats behind my hon. friend, said the other day that I was not willing to have men sent overseas. His speech was quite clear on that point, and he made the statement in this house.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
CON

John George Diefenbaker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

If the Prime

Minister is referring to me, such a statement was never made by me, directly or indirectly.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
NAT

James Arthur Ross

National Government

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

Or by any other member.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I was going to quote what my hon. friend had said to-night, but I refrained from doing so, not wishing to bring any hon. member's name into the discussion. But when the leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson) asked me to name any one member of this house who had made a statement of the kind, I was obliged to make the reference I did.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
NAT

Grote Stirling

National Government

Mr. STIRLING:

That does not make it right.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I shall give my hon. friend the quotation.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
NAT

James Arthur Ross

National Government

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

Put it on Hansard.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I shall put it on Hansard to-morrow.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
NAT

James Arthur Ross

National Government

Mr. ROSS (Souris):

Put it on Hansard to-night.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
CON

John George Diefenbaker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw his statement or to produce the statement alleged to have been made by me.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

On a point of order, the Prime Minister must accept the member's statement or quote that statement which he alleged was made. I heard the Prime Minister's statement with the greatest surprise. I have followed this debate most intently, and I do not recall any such statement on the part of anybody in this house.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Withdraw.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

If I might be

permitted to proceed.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

I think

we ought to have a ruling.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I do not propose to do other than proceed with my speech at the present time.

Topic:   MOBILIZATION ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO REPEAL SECTION 3 PROVIDING LIMITATION IN RESPECT TO SERVICE OVERSEAS
Permalink

July 7, 1942