July 13, 1942

SHIPPING LOSSES

PRIVILEGE, MR. ROT-SINKING OF SHIPS AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION-REQUEST FOR SECRET SESSION

IND

Joseph Sasseville Roy

Independent

Mr. J. S. ROY (Gaspe):

Mr. Speaker, I

rise to a question of privilege. Following the announcement I made to the house last Friday that three ships had been sunk the Sunday before in the St. Lawrence by enemy submarines, certain newspapers intimated that I should be censured.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE, MR. ROT-SINKING OF SHIPS AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION-REQUEST FOR SECRET SESSION
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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

The hon. member cannot refer to press reports commenting on proceedings in this house.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE, MR. ROT-SINKING OF SHIPS AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION-REQUEST FOR SECRET SESSION
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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Hon. R. B. HANSON (Leader of the Opposition):

Let him make his statement.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE, MR. ROT-SINKING OF SHIPS AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION-REQUEST FOR SECRET SESSION
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IND

Joseph Sasseville Roy

Independent

Mr. ROY:

As I do not want the impression to go abroad that I may be one who disregards our interests in connection with the war, I should like to make a statement on the circumstances surrounding my announcement. I could have made this announcement at three o'clock the day before, but as I feared that the convoy might not have reached its destination at that time, as a convoy travels slowly, I waited until the next day. At that time I was sure it would be of no use to the enemy, who in all cases knows more than we do. In an editorial to-day the Montreal Gazette writes this:

Any effort to withhold information from the enemy when it is in the possession of a whole countryside, and beyond, looks more like a thin hope than a genuine possibility.

VAction Catholique of Quebec also declared in its Saturday edition that half of the people of Quebec city knew all about it before

Shipping Losses

my announcement. A reporter from La Prcsse of Montreal told me the same. My reason for making that announcement was to urge again that the government should-

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE, MR. ROT-SINKING OF SHIPS AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION-REQUEST FOR SECRET SESSION
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LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

In rising to speak to a

question of privilege the hon. member should deal merely with the matter about which he complains. He should not enter into an argument or enlarge upon a statement that has been made already; he should simply make his position clear as to what he intended when he made his statement in the house. I think the hon. member has now made it clear what his intentions were. He has told of the date when he received notice of these sinkings, and how he delayed in giving that information on the floor of the house. I think the hon. member has now gone as far as he should on a question of privilege.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE, MR. ROT-SINKING OF SHIPS AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION-REQUEST FOR SECRET SESSION
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IND

Joseph Sasseville Roy

Independent

Mr. ROY:

I was just about to give the

real reason why I made the announcement. It will take only a moment.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE, MR. ROT-SINKING OF SHIPS AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION-REQUEST FOR SECRET SESSION
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LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I understood from the

hon. member that he was complaining about editorials in certain newspapers which referred to the statement he made on Friday last. He is entitled to state the meaning and intent of that statement, and I think he has done so.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE, MR. ROT-SINKING OF SHIPS AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION-REQUEST FOR SECRET SESSION
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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Hon. J. L. RALSTON (Minister of National Defence):

My colleague, the Minister of

National Defence for Naval Services (Mr. Macdonald) is not in the house at the moment, but perhaps I should not let this opportunity pass without pointing out to the hon. member who has just sat down what has been intimated to him already by the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King), namely, the great gravity of his or any one else communicating information of this kind prior to the time that the censors or the department or the intelligence branch of the department consider it advisable to do so. I am only pointing out to him that what he does in that respect is to oblige the submarine commander by reporting for that commander to his base that successful action has been taken. A submarine commander might not be in position to do that himself without being detected. My hon. friend, or anyone else who publishes a statement of this kind, does it-unwittingly of course-for the submarine commander. In that respect I submit he is doing something which is bound to assist the enemy, something which cannot be in the public interest. I do suggest that the course which was suggested to him on Friday, namely, that he communicate with the

Minister of National Defence for Naval Services and ascertain from him whether it was thought to be in the public interest to refer publicly to this matter, would have been a much wiser course.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE, MR. ROT-SINKING OF SHIPS AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION-REQUEST FOR SECRET SESSION
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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Hon. R. B. HANSON (Leader of the Opposition) :

Mr. Speaker, with much of what the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Ralston) has said, I am in thorough agreement, but I think it would have been better if it had been stated a long time ago, after the first incident, just what was the proper course to pursue. That was not done. I may say to the minister that I heard of this incident myself on Tuesday. Reports were widespread in the province of Quebec, and I have had many letters about it. I communicated with the minister on my arrival from Fredericton at noon on Tuesday; he told me what the position was as they understood it and indicated just the reason the minister has now given-that a substantial time should elapse before the incident should be made public. I am in thorough agreement with that. If that course had been proposed to the hon. member for Gaspe (Mr. Roy)

I have no doubt that as a good citizen he would have been guided by it. At Matane and Cap Chat the situation was such that everybody knew7 it. From a letter I received only this morning I could tell the minister just how widespread was the information about this incident. You cannot keep these things quiet. However, an announcement in the House of Commons is another matter.

There is one thing I should like the minister to bring to the attention of his colleague. What is the position with respect to convoys in the St. Lawrence? Are there any? Should we not know the position, at least in a general way? The minister shakes his head. Perhaps he is right; I am not going to judge. But so far we do not know just what is the position with respect to protection. I think it would have a reassuring effect if something were said on that point.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE, MR. ROT-SINKING OF SHIPS AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION-REQUEST FOR SECRET SESSION
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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

If Mr. Speaker will permit me, may I say with regard to the reasons for not disclosing matters of this kind except after a lapse of time, I do think the hon. leader of the opposition has forgotten that my colleague the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services (Mr. Macdonald) made a very complete statement some time ago on that very matter, and gave the reasons.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE, MR. ROT-SINKING OF SHIPS AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION-REQUEST FOR SECRET SESSION
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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

And I did not think they were good enough.

Shipping Losses

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE, MR. ROT-SINKING OF SHIPS AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION-REQUEST FOR SECRET SESSION
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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

I am sorry, but I remember it myself, and the minister went to some pains to give reasons. It was in connection with a sinking which had taken place farther around in the gulf, and at that time he indicated that a reasonable time should elapse before an announcement was made. We must not, I submit, mix up the idea of people in the locality having knowledge of such an incident and the placing of it on record in Hansard or publishing it in a newspaper, whence it is immediately transmitted by friends of the German government to Germany and is announced over the German radio. No one suggests that you could possibly keep these matters secret from those in the locality, but it is a different matter to make them public so that they can be transmitted to Germany.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE, MR. ROT-SINKING OF SHIPS AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION-REQUEST FOR SECRET SESSION
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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. M. J. COLDWELL (Rosetown-Biggar):

Might I suggest to the government that before this house adjourns there should be a secret session of the house at which the matters we have just been discussing can be laid before the members, together with the situation regarding the war? Our sister dominions are kept fully informed in that way, and a secret session of the house at Westminster is being called in the near future to discuss shipping. In view of the war situation which faces us to-day I think this house should be much more fully informed regarding all phases of the war than we are at the present time, and I suggest that a secret session of the house be held before we adjourn.

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE, MR. ROT-SINKING OF SHIPS AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION-REQUEST FOR SECRET SESSION
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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

Was the last one so successful?

Topic:   SHIPPING LOSSES
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE, MR. ROT-SINKING OF SHIPS AS A RESULT OF ENEMY ACTION-REQUEST FOR SECRET SESSION
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CONSIDERATIONS AFFECTING ANNOUNCEMENTS AS TO SINKINGS


On the orders of the day: Hon. ANGUS L. MACDONALD (Minister of National Defence for Naval Services): I should like to make a statement with reference to certain remarks made in this house on Friday last by the hon. member for Gaspe (Mr. Roy). I might recall to the house that on May 12, I believe it was, I gave a statement to the press, and on the 13th I made a statement in this house, respecting sinkings on the eastern Canadian coast. In those statements I endeavoured' to lay down certain rules which should guide in further pronouncements of this nature. Subsequently to those dates, the chief censor for Canada, Colonel Biggar, in cooperation with the officers of the naval services, issued a circular which was directed to the newspapers of the country setting forth in greater detail the considerations which should be kept in mind in making statements of this sort. I am very glad to say that the newspapers of this country have observed with the greatest care the suggestions made to them by Colonel Biggar. I should like to point out that in Great Britain announcements of sinkings of merchant ships are not now made. For a time in the earlier days of the war it was the custom, in due course, to announce that certain vessels had been sunk and that the next of kin of the casualties, if there were any, had been notified. But in more recent months you will not find any such reports of sinkings in the British press. There are excellent reasons for that. In the first place any immediate announcement of sinkings will prevent the next of kin of casualties from being informed before the announcement is made. The result is that every person who has a friend or relative on these ships sailing the seas is in anxiety until he gets a letter from that friend. Consequently it is only proper, in common decency and Christianity, to wait for some time, and to inform the next of kin of casualties, and when the announcement of the sinking is made, to say that that has been done. Then everyone who has not been notified knows that his relative or friend is not involved in the sinking. There is another reason, the main reason of course, which is that announcements of this sort are likely to give useful information to the enemy. That is the chief reason why some secrecy has to be maintained. The ways in which announcements of this sort may be of use to the enemy are many and varied. If he does not get the information from us, he has to work it out for himself. He has to separate rumour from fact; he has to judge of the reliability of his information, and in a hundred ways he may remain uncertain. But when we in this country, and particularly in this house, give him the information on a platter, then the thing is settled and he does not need to inquire any further as to the accuracy of the information. As I say, the hon. member for Gaspe last Friday did not ask a question but made a statement. He said that three ships out of a convoy of fourteen had been sunk. The hon. member having made that statement, and having made it, I must assume, with every sense of his responsibility as a member of this house, and the matter having therefore become public and having been announced in the press of the country and on the radio of the country, I may now state, I think I am almost required to state to the house, that three ships belonging to the united nations were torpedoed and sunk in the gulf of St. Law- Slapping Losses rence about a week ago. I must add with regret that four members of the crews of those ships are known to have been killed, four are reported missing, and ninety-nine have been safely landed. I am glad to say one pleasant thing in what must be an unpleasant duty, and that is that the citizens of that region, the constituents of my hon. friend, and of other hon. members of this house too perhaps, have shown in this and in the other instance which occurred two months ago, the highest measure of charity and kindliness. They are not, I understand, wealthy people, they have little to give, but what they had to give they gave with a cheerful heart to those men who were perhaps worse off than themselves. Information as to the sinking of these ships was in the possession of many people early last week. There is no doubt about that. Many people knew of it; it was known along the waterfronts of the country, it was known to the press by Monday or Tuesday of last week. The press refused to publish it; not one newspaper, so far as I know, endeavoured to make any use of this information until an official statement was made. It was in the possession of mjr hon, friend the leader of the opposition, because he had heard the story on the train and spoke to me about it. I felt it quite proper to inform my hon. friend as to the facts, asking him-what perhaps I did not have to ask him, because I knew I could rely on his good sense in the matter-to say nothing about it, and of course my hon. friend said nothing about it. So the information was widely known to people in this country. But I point out now-and it is a mistake that is commonly made-that people say to me, "Well, the public know about this anyway; why don't you make an announcement about it?" But there is a tremendous difference between Canadians knowing about something and Germans knowing about it. The entire people of this country might know of a sinking or some other event of that kind, but so long as that information did not get to Germany, so long as it was not made public in our papers or broadcast over our radio, the chances of its getting to Germany would be small. Of course once it is broadcast it becomes the property of the world. It is known in the United States, it becomes known in neutral countries; speedily it finds its way to Germany and is used there for propaganda purposes. These rules laid down two months ago and repeated by the chief censor are not made for the purpose of keeping information from the people of Canada-not at all. They are made for the sole purpose of keeping from the enemy information which may be of great value to him in directing the movement of his ships. This brings up a much more serious question, one which concerns the rights and privileges of this house. There is very little use, there is very little purpose, in censoring the press and radio of the country if any hon. member of this house can stand in his place and, by asking a question, or by making a direct statement, as the hon. member for Gaspe did, undo the whole work of the censorship authorities and all the efforts of those who are endeavouring to ensure the safety of allied ships and allied seamen. We are constantly urging the average citizen to guard ihis tongue. You see noticesin almost every elevator. in public buildings, in government buildings, urging people not to talk about the movements of ships or troops or the manufacture of munitions. "Guard your tongues", we are telling the people in French and English all the time. But how can we expect the average citizen of this country to guard his tongue if hon. members of this house do not guard theirs? I will say this to the hon. member for Gaspe; had I been in the house on Friday I think I should have felt constrained to rise and ask this house to expunge from the record the statement which he made. Thereby it would not have become a public statement. But he having made it, and it having been allowed to stand on Hansard, it of course became public; and the members of the press gallery had a right to use it. But if this sort of thing is to go on; if any hon. member can stand up and, by innuendo, by question, by statement, jeopardize the whole security system of this country, then I am afraid it will be necessaiy for someone to say that statements of that kind will either not be allowed to be made or, if made, will not become part of the record of this house. My hon. friend talks of the protection of his constituents. I would say to my hon. friend that statements such as he made are not adding a single jot or tittle to the safety of his constituents; on the contrary they endanger the lives of his constituents. I would say further that there are other people in this country, other citizens of Canada, who are in greater danger, or are much nearer the battle line, much nearer the danger zone, than his constituents; and not once have I heard from that easternmost part of Canada any break of this kind. Not once have I heard an hon. member from the easternmost provinces of Canada rise in his place and ask questions of this kind. Not once in the newspapers of that part of the country, where information as to the movements of ships is fuller and more complete than anywhere elsp. Shipping Losses



have I heard of anyone endeavouring to say anything or to do anything which might endanger the life of a single seaman or the safety of a single ship. When my hon. friend talks about protecting his constituents, I should like to know what he has ever done to ensure the greater protection of this country, or to add in any way to its defences.


?

Leslie Gordon Bell

Mr. COLD WELL:

If I may ask the minister a question, does he not think it would be perhaps wise to notify an hon. member of any untoward happening in his constituency, in order to prevent a recurrence of this sort of thing?

Topic:   CONSIDERATIONS AFFECTING ANNOUNCEMENTS AS TO SINKINGS
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July 13, 1942