July 8, 1942

NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

I desire to take issue with the Prime Minister with regard to the substance of his statement. In the first place the Prime Minister indicated, in reply to an inquiry by the hon. member for

Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell), that some facility would be afforded for discussing the Hong Kong report. At the same time, on every occasion on which this material has been asked for, the government has taken every means within its power to frustrate any debate on this important topic, first by withholding the evidence or such portion of it as it would be in the public interest to have tabled here, and second by resorting from time to time to an alleged rule that a certain inquiry is sub judice and therefore cannot be discussed. A further reason advanced has been that the inquiry was held in camera. That I submit is no reason at all why we should not have the evidence. All these factors combine to make it impossible for this House of Commons, denied all the evidence and all exhibits, to come to any real conclusions as to justification for the report, not of the Chief Justice of Canada but of a royal commissioner appointed under the Inquiries Act.

Since when has there been a rule that this House of Commons should not criticize a report of a royal commission? The implication that is made by reference to the Chief Justice of Canada is merely a method to evade a proper discussion of this report; and I protest against it. It is not the Chief Justice of Canada who made the report; it is a royal commissioner appointed by this government. Further, if we are to have any debate on the Hong Kong report, how in the world can we arrive at any dependable conclusions; how can this House of Commons come to any conclusions at all, unless we have the evidence before us to ascertain whether the conclusions of the royal commission were justified or not?

I submit that it is within the right of this House of Commons to order that the evidence, such as is not inter-governmental-and I reserve judgment on that for the moment- should be tabled. Without that the government makes it impossible to discuss this report or to arrive at any just or dependable conclusions with respect to the accuracy or otherwise of the report of the royal commissioner. I submit that this motion, either in its present form or in some amended form, should as a matter of right be passed by this House of Commons.

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NAT

Thomas Langton Church

National Government

Mr. CHURCH:

Under the rules of the

house, I admit, I am bound by the Prime Minister's statement. It is about the same as that which was given in the British House of Commons on June 11 by Mr. Attlee in answer to Mr. Stokes. I should like the Prime Minister to look that over. I may say that on March 11, Mr. Eden, in the British House of Commons, gave details of the whole

Motions for Papers

story. It is no reflection on anyone in the government here, but if the information had been given to the country weeks before that, Singapore in my opinion would not have fallen. It would have been better if the men at Singapore had died with rifles in their hands so as not to have the murder of prisoners as at Hong Kong, and Singapore would have been saved. What was done at Hong Kong with our men was known to Canada, because the same thing was done to the Chinese in 1933, and it shocked the whole civilized world. While I am bound by the rules of the house on a motion of this kind, I urge upon the Prime Minister the advisability of acceding to the request that has been made. I do not wish to embarrass the government but I really think that in the future it would be far better to let the people of Canada have the whole facts. No one knows what the Japs may do next. If they come to Canada we may expect the same savagery.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

First of all, may I say to my hon. friend (Mr. Hanson) that the government has not sought in any way to frustrate a debate on the subject of the Hong Kong commission's report.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

What I said was that the effect of the government's attitude was to frustrate it.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I indicated that opportunity for debate would be given, and it will be given. My hon. friend requests that all the evidence be tabled. May I remind hon. members that when the subject of the inquiry into the Hong Kong expedition came before the house it was at first suggested that the investigation should be by a committee of this house. On reflection, all leaders of the different parties in the house were agreed that it would not be advisable to have the inquiry made by a committee of the house, in that among other reasons, much of the information that would be essential might, if given in public, afford information to others, the enemy in particular, which it was not desirable they should have. Much of it would necessarily be confidential, and it was decided that it would be better to have the inquiry conducted by a royal commission.

The next point that came up in considering the personnel of the commission was whether or not the inquiry would necessarily be in camera or in public, or in part one and in part the other. There again the understanding, or at any rate the feeling, was that the inquiry would necessarily have to be at least in part in camera, and that the commissioner himself should be the judge of the extent to which publicity should be given the proceedings. It

is in that connection that I referred to the office which the commissioner holds at the present time.

The commissioner was the Right Honourable the Chief Justice. The Right Honourable Chief Justice Duff was chosen for that position as commissioner because it was felt that his knowledge of procedure in matters of the kind, his judgment as to what it might or might not be in the public interest to disclose with respect to the significance of the Hong Kong inquiry, would not be questioned from any source.

If I am not mistaken, my hon. friend the leader of the opposition said from his seat in the house-if he did not say it from his seat in the house, he said it to me personally- that in his opinion no better choice could possibly be made than the chief justice to conduct the inquiry, that he had implicit regard for the integrity of the chief justice, and that no question would likely be raised with respect-

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

No one is attacking his integrity.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

No, but I am explaining the reasons why it was thought advisable to appoint a royal commission, and why the chief justice was chosen. It was the knowledge that of necessity the inquiry would have to be held in camera, if not in whole at least in part. So that to that extent at least there are the strongest of reasons why only such evidence should be produced as the chief justice himself has thought advisable. The commissioner, in addition to his report, has presented an appendix to the report which gives what he, the commissioner, says is the evidence that he regards as all that is essential to make public. This does not mean that what the commissioner has withheld is something that is withheld for any political reason. No one in the world would say that Chief Justice Duff, as commissioner, would withhold any evidence from a motive of the kind. Any evidence which the commissioner had not thought it advisable to have made public, and which is not published in his report, has been withheld undoubtedly for reasons which in his judgment are of first importance in the public interest. That reason and that reason alone is the one which actuates the government in declining to place further evidence on the table.

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NAT
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 set my judgment up against either my hon. friend's or that of the commissioner.

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NAT
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

If I had to choose between the two I should prefer to take that of the commissioner. As to there being a right to criticize the report, no one has said that this House of Commons has not that right. Any hon. member may say whatever he pleases with respect to the report and criticize it in any particular. That is his right and, may I say also, his responsibility.

My hon. friend speaks of the matter being sub judice as having been made an excuse for not having a debate on the subject. The matter is not sub judice at the present time: The report, has been laid on the table of the house and it is available for discussion. The reason for our not having had the discussion up to the present time is that matters of more immediate importance have been before the house since the time the report was laid on the table.

In conclusion, may I remind hon. members that following the procedure the government had before it the example of another inquiry which, if not of greater significance, was at least of equal significance. I refer to the inquiry made by the government of the United States into the Pearl Harbour situation. A judge of the United States court and others were appointed commissioners. The inquiry was held in camera. The commission made its report, and so far as I know no request has been made for the production of the evidence. Certainly the commissioners have thought it inadvisable that the evidence should be made public.

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NAT
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

What action does my hon. friend propose that we should take?

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NAT
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

My hon. friend cannot suggest any other action but, "let us have the evidence." Where he stated that the United States commission had taken action, it was immediately after I had said that none of the evidence was placed before the country by that commission. However, this is not the time to argue the matter of the Hong Kong inquiry. For the present, all I wish to say is that the government does not feel that it is in the public interest to comply with this request, and the government will not agree to the motion.

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NAT

Thomas Langton Church

National Government

Mr. CHURCH:

Was a copy of the Duff report and blue book sent to the British government?

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

All these important matters are communicated to the British government.

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NAT

Thomas Langton Church

National Government

Mr. CHURCH:

Will the right hon. gentleman be good enough to look at Mr. Stokes' question in the British house on June 11, and Mr. Attlee's reply? I sent it over to him. He says that the Chief Justice of Canada wired to ask the British government to release the telegram which was sent, by Great Britain asking for this expedition.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I have just been handed a copy of the Parliamentary Debates of the House of Commons of Great Britain, official report, dated June 11, 1942, from which I quote:

Mr. Stokes asked the Prime Minister whether the decision to reinforce Hong Kong shortly before its fall was recommended by his military advisers; and how long it was anticipated that such reinforcements would enable Hong Kong to hold out?

Mr. Attlee: His Majesty's government have ne further statement to make on this matter at the present time.

Mr. Stokes: Are the government likely to

receive a copy of the report by the Lord Chief Justice of Canada to the Canadian parliament on Hong Kong, and will they study it?

Mr. Attlee: There is a later question on

that subject.

Mr. Stokes asked the Prime Minister -whether his attention had been called to the report of the Chief Justice of Canada, made to the Canadian House of Commons, on the organization, authorization and dispatch of the Canadian expeditionary force to Hong Kong; and why permission to reproduce the telegram inviting the Canadian government to send reinforcements to Hong Kong was refused by His Majesty's government?

Mr. Attlee: Yes, sir. As regards the second part of the question, it was felt by His Majesty's government in the United Kingdom that publication of the document in question would be contrary to the public interest at the present time.

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Thomas Miller Bell

Mr. COLD WELL:

When will an opportunity be afforded to discuss this report? The Prime Minister says that it is on the table; will there be an opportunity to discuss it at an early day?

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July 8, 1942