July 16, 1942

LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I call the hon. member's attention to what has already been said in regard to statements he is now making on matters which might be the subject of discussion in a secret session but certainly should not be discussed now.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. COLDWELL:

On a point of order, I imagine it is very difficult for the hon. mem- ' ber for Gaspe to explain the reasons why he wants a secret session without divulging some of the information he has.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Give it to the minister.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. COLDWELL:

Hon. members say "Give it to the minister". I imagine that the object the hon. member has in view is to get the house to understand this information, not the minister. He has already communicated these matters to the minister.

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LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I was calling the hon. member's attention to the fact that, as has already been pointed out, the statements he is making as to why he is asking for a secret session are such as should not be stated now but rather in a secret session if there is one.

The debate will proceed in the usual way; the hon. member has the floor and is entitled to make his speech without interruption.

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IND

Joseph Sasseville Roy

Independent

Mr. ROY:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The reason I was trying to give this explanation to the house is that this is a matter of

national urgency. I think it is of great importance that the house be well informed as to the necessity for a secret session. Following the announcement I made last Friday I had to listen to a speech by the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services, which was a rebuke to me. That did not hurt me, but it went out to the house and the country, and might make people believe that I was a sort of traitor. To-day, therefore, I wish to give the reasons why I made that announcement at that time. I was firmly convinced within my soul and conscience that I was performing my duty as a citizen of the country and as a member of this parliament. In his speech, at page 4126 of Hansard, the minister said:

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.

That was why I was trying to place before the house all that I had done in the past.

I do not think his statement was fair; it was an insult to me. The minister is not in his seat at the moment, so that I need not say anything more on that point, but I should like to add this. In the course of the same speech, at the same page of Hansard, the minister also said:

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. . . .

At the time I made my remarks the Prime Minister was in his seat, but he did not deem it necessary to take that action. I am disposed to believe that the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services is as careful in his statements as the Prime Minister, but he did not give any evidence of that when he said, a little further along on the same page:

I am not ready to change the disposition of one ship of the Canadian navy for him or all the questions he may ask from now until doomsday.

I do not believe that was a particularly wise statement to make, in view of what is occurring in the lower St. Lawrence.

I am asking for a secret session, Mr. Speaker, in order that the house may be informed as to the seriousness of the situation. Many times, as for example in connection with the Hong Kong affair, the government has given as a reason for refusing a secret session, or refusing to give hon. members information as to the mistakes or

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circumstances in connection with those matters, that information would be given to the enemy. A secret session does not cost anything, and it is a very easy way to give information to hon. members of this house. If the principle for which we stand in this war to-day is good, and is to be supported, this house should not lose sight of the fact that it represents the people, that parliament is responsible to the people, and that the government is responsible to parliament. This parliament should have the right to know what is going on, even though the government or some political party may suffer through the disclosing of information which would not be of advantage to it. I do not think the government should refuse the contribution that can be made by the representatives of the people in this house toward the winning of this struggle. The matters with which I want to deal in a secret session have a direct bearing, I believe, on the issue of the battles now going on, and even on the final result of .this war. I believe these matters are of such importance that the government should grant a secret session, and the information there disclosed will not be made public.

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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, I desire to support the request of the hon. member for Gaspe (Mr. Roy) that some opportunity, at all events, should be afforded to the membership of this house, either in a secret or in a public session, to discuss the position in reference to the St. Lawrence area. I am not asking that it be discussed in public, because I have no idea that the government would assent to any such proposal, having regard to the attitude of the minister and, I assume, of the administration generally in respect to matters of this kind. There are, however, good grounds for asking for a public discussion, and I do not believe a public discussion of this kind would be refused in Britain, having regard to the debates that have taken place in the British parliament with respect to the situation in Libya and elsewhere during the course of this war. Surely this parliament should not divest itself of its privileges and functions, as well as its obligations, any more than the parliament at Westminster does. Since the hon. member for Gaspe has not asked for a public session I shall not stress that point, though I ask the Prime Minister to give consideration to this suggestion when the question is being finally decided.

I now desire to support the hon. member for Gaspe in his request that the government provide an opportunity, by way of secret

session, to discuss the situation in the lower St. Lawrence; what has happened there, what may happen there, and the precautions that are being taken to meet the situation. That opportunity should be granted at the earliest possible day. I am not going to reveal to the house and the country at this time the nature of the communications which I have received.

I do not think it would be the appropriate thing to do, especially since I have not had the opportunity to discuss the matter with the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services as I had hoped. Naturally I have not been able to verify them personally; one would have to travel down to that part of the country in order to do so. I can say, however, that they come to me well authenticated; the information is vouchsafed by two very loyal and patriotic citizens of the province of Quebec, and that information is of such a character and covers such a field as to make me believe that all is not well. That is putting it mildly, both in relation to what has happened and what will happen, and more particularly with respect to what provision is being made against the recurrence of what we know has already happened and of other things which also have happened and which have not yet been divulged. I think the Prime Minister and members of the government will know to what I am alluding.

Therefore I urge on the government, and I assert as a matter of right, that some opportunity should be given to this house to meet and discuss, and cross-examine the minister on, the disposition of certain armed forces in that area which are under the jurisdiction of his department; furthermore, as to certain irregularities which it is alleged have occurred in connection with the operation of at least one arm of the forces in that area-with which I intend to acquaint the minister. These things are of some national importance, and they are very important to that community. I think it would serve a useful purpose to the population of that community if they could know what the exact situation is, and what steps, if any, have been taken to meet it. If adequate steps have not been taken to meet the situation,, then we should be in a position to urge that more adequate measures be taken. Of necessity, without divulging anything I cannot go very much further than that. But the situation has impressed itself upon me as being such that I feel it is my duty as leader of the opposition in this house to ask the government for this facility. It is a duty, I believe, that we owe to the people of that community and to the country at large. I could go along and theorize in a general way with respect to this matter, but perhaps I have

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said enough to indicate what is my own point of view and what I think is the duty of the government in the premises.

Of necessity I cannot vouch for any of the information which is in my possession, because these things come, to one second-hand. It is difficult to verify them. The government has the facilities to verify the stories that have reached me; I have not. It is enough, I think, that in the performance of my duty, on the proper occasion and at the right time and place, I call the attention of the government to the statements which have reached me and ask that they should be investigated- not with the intent of doing any harm to this government; I want to impress upon the Prime Minister that nothing is further from my thoughts. The purpose is twofold: first, that we should know the truth with regard to our defence facilities in that area, and if they are inadequate, something should be done to improve them; second, that there should be instilled into the hearts and minds of the people of the area, who to-day cannot help but be alarmed at what has happened, some sense of security.

I urge upon the Prime Minister that he accede to this request. I shall be glad to lay before the Minister of National Defence such information as I have received, so that he may know what is being circulated in that area of Canada, and so that he may be able to tell us what has happened, not on two occasions but on three.

I am conscious of the fact, and I want to say here and now that I believe, that the first duty of our naval authorities is to protect the international convoys. I am borne out in that view by the thought that so far during the war none of our nationals on the shores have suffered. But after that first duty there is the secondary duty, the defence of Canada. We had a secret session here once before and we were told something of the nature of defences erected on certain parts of the eastern shores and on the western coast as well. With respect to the area in question we know very little. I do not know what is the nature of the defences or what steps have been taken since a week ago Sunday to repair any deficiencies which there may be. At all events the situation is of sufficient importance to warrant my asking the government to give early and affirmative consideration to the request of the hon. member for Gaspe.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

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

I would like to support the suggestion. I have no authentic information as to what has occurred in this region, but I did listen carefully to the hon. member for Gaspe (Mr. Roy), and one thing which struck me as I

[Mr R. B. Hanson.]

heard him was this: that there were grave fears, I think he said, that in some particulars there was neglect on the part of somebody. If that be true, it is a matter which deeply concerns us, and the hon. member for Gaspe has probably taken the right method in coming to this house and asking for a secret session instead of relying purely on the judgment of the minister. May I say this to the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King): the fact that we have all tried to cooperate very closely with the government in communicating to them any information of this description we receive, may, in the light of recent events, lead us into the position where the people of Canada will have some reason for believing that matters of public importance do not receive sufficient airing in this parliament.

I urge upon the government that they grant the request of the hon. member for Gaspe. He has risen in this chamber on a number of occasions in an attempt to put his case before the house. He has been handicapped, perhaps, in the use of the English language-which, if I may say so, he is picking up very rapidly- but that makes it all the more necessary for us to give this matter consideration. I believe from what he says, and from his earnestness in the matter, that he has something he wishes to lay before this house which we ought to hear, and even on a motion for adjournment such as this we should not run the risk in open session of giving information to the enemy.

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SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. E. G. HANSELL (Macleod):

This group also favours the suggestion made by the leader of the official opposition (Mr. Hanson) and by the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell). While however, the motion is for a secret session to discuss a matter brought up in respect of the St. Lawrence incident, the St. Lawrence territory is not the only territory in Canada which is in extreme danger and which should be discussed in this house. I have in mind the Pacific coast, and particularly the progress which has been made by the Japanese on the northern tip of this continent. I am not so sure that work on the Alaska highway is progressing as it should. These are things that we should know and I join with the other members in urging that the government give careful and complete consideration to the holding of a secret session.

Time and time again people have come to members of parliament with certain information that was complete news to us and which was found afterward to be true. If there are any persons in Canada who should have full knowledge and be informed first of these

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things, it is the people's representatives who sit here in parliament. I am not maintaining that this secret session should be thrown open for the discussion of every detail in respect to our war effort, because that would mean that we would be here forever. But there are some matters that should be dealt with. I have in mind the report of the Hong Kong commission. The letter from Colonel Drew was not tabled, and I am not going to criticize the Prime Minister for that. Perhaps he took the right course, but I think it can be said that this letter from Colonel Drew is quite public. The press has been most courteous in not publishing it, but copies have been sent around. If the report is discussed in this house in open session, many of the things in that letter are bound to be brought out.

There is quite a pressure being exerted for the opening up of a second front. It is all very well to say that that is Mr. Churchill's responsibility, but to use the Prime Minister's own words, we are in this war side by side with Great Britain and we must take the responsibility for any victories and also the responsibility for any defeats. The government are not the only ones responsible to the people in this respect. If the worst should come to the worst, the people will ask private members as well as the members of the government what we knew about it and what we did about it. I suggest that the secret session be open for the orderly discussion of certain important matters in respect to our part in the present war. If it is in order, I would move an amendment to the motion, that it should include not only the subject mentioned, the St. Lawrence incidents, but these other subjects. I move:

And that any matter in respect to our part in the present war be also subject of the discussion at the said secret session.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

Such an amendment obviously would be out of order. It is an amendment to a motion to adjourn the house to discuss a matter of urgent public importance. Citation 240 of Beau-chesne's parliamentary rules states that a motion of this type must be restricted to a specific matter of recent occurrence. The amendment moved does not have anything to do with a matter of recent occurrence. It is simply an attempt to alter the scope of the secret session.

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SC

Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. FAIR:

The amendment is not yet before the house.

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LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

A motion to adjourn the house is not amendable; therefore I must rule the amendment to the motion out of order.

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NAT

Thomas Langton Church

National Government

Mr. T. L. CHURCH (Broadview):

I should like to make a few remarks on the question raised by the hon. member for Gaspe (Mr. Roy) and his motion that this house should adjourn under standing order No. 31 for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance and that a secret sitting be held to inquire into the sinkings in the St. Lawrence. In my opinion there is no necessity for a secret sitting. The house should be told the facts in public. This house was warned by the Prime Minister of Great Britain and by Mr. Menzies, the able former prime minister of Australia a year ago of the grave danger to the dominions, and especially to Canada, because of the failure of the Washington conference. That conference not only got rid of our defences on land, sea and in the air; it got rid of our friends as well. Urged by Canada Britain threw away her fleet and Canada refused to go into an empire shipbuilding plan in 1937.What are the facts about this situation?The danger in the Atlantic, which culminated in the sinkings that are taking place waspointed out to our representatives at the

imperial conference in 1937, and since the war began. They were told of the grave danger to the dominions in case war should come. War always comes like a thief in the night. The stand taken in 1937 by Canada was absolutely inconsistent. What are we to hold a secret session about? There is nothing that should be held from the people or the press. The people of Canada have been given less information about this war up to this hour than the people of any other dominion. Mr. Curtin and Mr. Menzies and Sir Keith Murdock pointed out the grave danger to Canada, New Zealand and South Africa because of the lack of a fleet. You threw away your fleet and you cannot collect another in less than twenty-five years. Canada was one of the dominions that talked pacifism and the league, refused to arm, urged Britain to reduce the number of her capital ships from seventy-five to fifty and to change the definition of capital ships, and to provide for a smaller navy and a reduction of naval estimates to nothing. The result has been that Great Britain is unable to look after the Atlantic or the Pacific as she did on the seven seas.

On March 21, 1939, I urged the government to give the people the facts as to the great peril we were in, and urged rearmament. There is no secrecy about these St. Lawrence sinkings. They are known in Washington. Washington has announced them publicly; the Prime Minister of Great Britain used to

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announce them, and the admiralty used to announce the sinkings in the Atlantic from time to time. I pointed out to the house on the date I mentioned that Germany and Italy and also Japan had submarines that could cross the Pacific or the Atlantic without refueling. These submarines could sail up the St. Lawrence and possibly blow up the citadel and cause untold damage because of the lack of defences in this country and our lack of a fleet. The people have been kept in the dark, and this is no time for a secret session. If a secret session is held, I do not intend to attend it. It will amount to nothing, like the last one.

Information as to our grave peril should be given to the people of Quebec and all Canada before it is too late. The people of that province have not been given the facts. I raised this question two months ago. I asked the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services, who should be in his seat to-day because that is the place for him to be in the dying days of the session, to give us some information on our naval defences, if any. The courage and heroism of the men who work and sail on all seas and in the St. Lawrence river and in the gulf is most magnificent. The Canadian navy is upholding the best traditions of the great British navy which has done so much for us and the civilized world. The information which the government has had since 1937 on our need of naval aid has been refused to this house while we have been in session. We are asked to hold a secret session. I asked the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services three months ago about conditions on the St. Lawrence and Atlantic coasts where our brave friend General de Gaulle and his fleet were guarding our shores and the islands off Newfoundland. A leading paper published in New York, the Nation, one of the ablest newspapers in the United States, gave all the particulars right after last December, and the minister and the government must have known. The French admiral was here in Ottawa conferring with him and others, and told all he knew about it.

He warned them as others did, and as I did, of the grave danger in the St. Lawrence and on the Atlantic from the present state of the navy and the submarine menace, the merchant marine and the British fleet. Our life lines to Britain are in the Atlantic. They may yet be broken, and they are likely to be broken in the St. Lawrence and all around the maritime provinces. They got the British admiral out of Halifax, and under the empirewrecking statute of Westminster agreed to look after our shores and three miles out

from the shore. We have always been dependent upon the British fleet to protect our shores ever since we have been a country, and that is the case to-day. After Dunkirk, had it not been for Britain, we would have had the enemy all along the Atlantic seaboard and up the St. Lawrence river long ago. But the British fleet stood in the way, to which we contributed before the war practically nothing. Had it not been for the British fleet we would long ago have had to settle with the axis powers.

So far as this motion is concerned, the people want the truth. They are sick and tired of getting their information second-hand about the war from Great Britain and the British Broadcasting Corporation and United States channels, while in Canada the government refuse to tell us anything and if it were not for the activity of the press we would know nothing. There is no censorship in Britain. The newspapers there publish what they like. We have seen the results of censorship in this country within the last few days. *

We as a country are to blame for not having taken steps before the war to protect the St. Lawrence and our own country. Our nation borders on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and we should take steps to protect ourselves. We knew the condition of our navy before the war. Warning was given in 1938 about the danger to the St. Lawrence and the maritimes. But what did Canada do? Canada would not adopt the Jellicoe report or start building ships, depending on Washington, and pacifism and the Monroe doctrine. I admit that the late minister of national defence did bring up the navy question in 1937, 1938 and 1939. At that time Canada's navy, according to a return which the minister brought down, consisted of a total of less than 10,000 tons, about the size of one tramp steamer. It was not his fault.

What a secret session can do, I do not know. It will amount to nothing. What did the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services tell us the other day? He did not tell us a thing that could not have been obtained from the newspapers. He talked about secrets to the enemies when they know it all long ago. If we in the House of Commons are to be treated as an absentee house, let us know it. I warned this house on March 21, 1939, of the grave danger to the St. Lawrence if war came. I urged that the people should be given the facts and the truth. As Mr. Chamberlain said, where the people are not given the facts and the truth, but only as much as their rulers permit them to

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know, that nation is in grave danger, and will have to take the consequences for its lack of preparedness.

I see no advantage to be gained by passing this motion. It will accomplish no good. We have had too much secrecy altogether since the war began.

Mr. JEAN-FRANQOIS POULIOT (Temis-couata): Mr. Speaker, as a private member of this house and as a member who has the honour to represent a constituency in eastern Canada lying alongside the great St. Lawrence river, I feel that I am bound to-day to con-gratulatae the hon. member for Gaspe (Mr. Roy) upon the stand that he is again taking for the defence of that part of the country which he represents along with myself.

Some time ago, after the observations made by some of our hon. colleagues from British Columbia, the government agreed that the house should sit in special secret session to discuss war matters. We were all at one in supporting this request made by our colleagues from British Columbia, and now that another part of this country is threatened I hope that members from British Columbia and the other provinces will give to members representing eastern Canada the same opportunity as was given to them some time ago.

A secret sitting is essential, for the very reason that it is impossible to get any information on naval or military matters because the war ministers are always using the pretext that if such information was given it would be of some use to the enemy and therefore, they say, it cannot be disclosed. In a secret sitting the same objection would not exist.

I hope that if we sit in camera there will be no long speeches and no repetitions of what has been said by other members, but that each member will be bound to disclose the information he has in his possession, and it will also be his duty to question the war ministers about the military, naval and air protection that we have in this country.

I am pleased to congratulate all the hon. gentlemen who have spoken before me on this question. The hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson) has said that the first duty of the navy is to protect international convoys. I admit that that is one of the duties of the navy, meaning by that the British as well as the Canadian navy. But for me, sir, the first duty of all three branches of the armed forces, not only the navy but the air force and the army as well, is to make the waters and shores of the St. Lawrence river safe for navigation. That great river is the artery that carries all the traffic that flows east from western-central Canada and from

the American middle-west, and we cannot allow it any longer to be infested with U-boats, which was admitted to be the case by the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services (Mr. Macdonald) himself just the other day. We have to protect our maritime trade. We have to protect the fishermen in the St. Lawrence river and in the gulf of the St. Lawrence as well as those on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

I hold in my hand a news item which was published hot later than yesterday in the largest French daily in America, La Presse, of Montreal. It reads:

(Translation)

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TRANSATLANTIC SHIPPING IN THE ST. LAWRENCE RIVER


The recent torpedoings of seagoing vessels in the Gulf of- St. Lawrence have sown panic among ship-owners who are wondering if this route is sufficiently protected to ensure in future the security of vessels bound for Great Britain. It refers to ocean steamers, meaning by that not only vessels that navigate along the river, but vessels that cross the ocean. Some time ago, the question even arose of rerouting traffic to other eastern ports and of shipping goods by rail. This would entail, it is claimed, additional expenditure and a loss of time. The interests concerned were hesitant about taking such a step. In shipping circles, it is claimed that if the Gulf of St. Lawrence were more closely watched, our ships could easily evade enemy submarines. The permanent interruption of transatlantic shipping on the river, it is felt, would prejudice the war effort and completely paralyse this important ocean trade route. Moreover such a decision would deny employment to thousands of longshoremen. At all events, it is up to the British Admiralty to study the situation and take whatever measures are deemed necessary. I understand that most of the transatlantic vessels are registered in London, as were the Canadian Pacific transatlantic ships. On the other hand one must not forget that the St. Lawrence river is an inland waterway and therefore it is exclusively under the control of the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services, so far as naval matters are concerned. The conclusion of the article that I have read could be translated thus: "In any case it belongs to the British Admiralty to study the situation and to take measures considered necessary". I do not see how the British Admiralty could interfere with the business of this government and assume control of the defence of the St. Lawrence, an inland waterway. I cannot believe that this government has yet given all our rights to any other country with respect to the sort of defence that is to be Shipping Losses



organized to protect the St. Lawrence waterway. Of course, in war time there are mutual obligations between allied countries. If this government said, "We are cooperating with the British Admiralty regarding the defence of the St. Lawrence river and its shores", I would agree with them. It is natural that allied countries should help one another and cooperate in protecting and defending themselves. But I find it simply incredible that a decision made by the Admiralty with regard to the defence of the St. Lawrence seaway could possibly for a moment be accepted with closed eyes by this government. I cannot believe it, because that would mean that this government was simply an agent of the government of another country. We have heard so much about the defence of other countries that it is time for us to think of the defence of our own. At an earlier stage of this session I had the honour to move that the defence of this country should have priority over commitments to any other country, and that is pure common sense. The trouble lies in the fact that the more sensible a thing is the more difficult it is to have it adopted, and there is a reason for that. The reason is that, at the controls in the various branches of the war departments, there are men to whom Canada counts for nothing. That is why we have to take advantage of the rules of parliament to wake up the government, to try to make the members of the government understand that they are not members of any government other than that of Canada. There are some occasions, on St. George's day, on St. Andrew's day, on St. Patrick's day, on St. Jean Baptiste day when we hear speeches about the grandeur of Canada, and what a fine country this is. And we hear a lot about the statute of Westminster, that marvellous instrument through which this country obtained its autonomy. But now we realize that we have gone back to the darkest colonial days and we have to speak louder and louder to awake the government and make them realize that Canada is in danger. It has been said on the platform many times that Canada was threatened, that the Germans had their eyes on us. What was done for the defence of this country? I am one of those- members who have lost no opportunity to try to impress upon the government the importance of defending this country and making it safe for our good citizens, men, women and children who live in it, and now I hope that the day of awakening and reckoning has come, and that the government will realize that it is not [Mr. Pouliot.l yet too late to open their eyes and face the situation as it should be faced. I remember reading once an article written by an eminent member of the press gallery, one of the deans of the gallery, whom I will not name. I do not wish to offend his proverbial modesty, but he said of a politician, who is no longer in the political scene, that the mistake he made was in considering that this war was exactly the same as the last one. It is not the same. Conditions have changed, and with the new methods of warfare and the new facilities of transportation the war is nearer to us now than it has ever been. But there is a psychological consideration that should not be forgotten. Earlier in this session I said that the veterans of the last war had the right to say that they were in favour of conscription for service overseas. They have that right because they have already been preaching by example. They were recalling their exploits, remembering their accomplishments when they were capturing the enemy, when they were destroying or taking possession of his forts. That is natural. Perhaps they are thinking to-day the same way as they were thinking then. I assume so; it is their memory of their past accomplishments that guides them now. It makes them forget that actually the enemy is very near us. They are not so sure to destroy the enemy far from here, because the enemy has already reached our shores. I betray no secret in saying that; I refer only to the statement of the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services in which he admitted that the facts laid before the house by the hon. member for Gaspe were true. His only complaint was that the statement was untimely. Well, sir, why should he hide the truth? If there are sinkings in the St. Lawrence it is front page news in United States papers, but the only way for a Canadian citizen to get the information is to buy a United States paper. The censorship of our country is so silly that they prevent our papers from informing the Canadian people of facts that have already been communicated to the people of the United States. If the United States of America were not our allies in this war it might be expected that news of that kind could not be published in this country, on account of our being in a state of war, but could be published in the United States, if the United States were still a neutral country. But since that great country is in a state of war, just as we are here, why do the Canadian people not get the- same information about- Canada as is given to other countries? There is a very good reason why they should. If the veil of secrecy were lifted from facts that should be commonly Shipping Losses known, there would be more respect for official news, and when the government denied any news statement that was untrue, the people would be more inclined to believe what they say. However, I shall not go further into that. I only wish to tell hon. members that I have appreciated the way in which this matter has been approached by all those who have spoken about it and all those who have listened to speeches about it. The times are grave; we realize that. But it is not for the government to decide whether we shall have a secret session or not. It is for parliament to decide, it is for the House of Commons to decide. I would remind the Prime Minister that unless we are to revert officially to the regime of Mussolini, Stalin and Hitler, it is not the government that is supreme; it is the House of Commons, of which the government is only a permanent committee. This is why Mr. Churchill, who boasts of being a child of the House of Commons, has so much respect for his colleagues the private members of the parliament of Westminster, and keeps them informed as to what is going on. At the present time there is a debate of capital importance taking place at Westminster about the merchant marine. Nothing is hidden from the members. It would not even be hidden from the British people if there were not a danger that the facts disclosed there might help the enemy. I would also be very ready to support the suggestion of the leader of the opposition that a public discussion of those facts should be had, to satisfy the minds of his constituents as well as of mine and of all good Canadian people. Before the war there were many German and Japanese merchant vessels in the St. Lawrence river. Even men-of-war of those enemy countries came to Canada, and very credulous would be the one who would contend that the enemy is not already fully informed about the geography of this country. Another thing which I shall .mention briefly is the necessity of a cipher code, not only for the Department of National Defence for Naval Services, if they have one, but also for the merchant marine. No departure of any vessel from any point on the St. Lawrence river or from any point on any inland waterway should be disclosed other than by cipher code to those concerned. I leave the matter with the house. I make a special appeal to the Prime Minister and to his colleagues, and I do tell them that we are ready to cooperate with them provided they show good will regarding the defence of this country, and that they show results. There is no excuse for a repetition of what has happened recently in the St. Lawrence river.


IND

Liguori Lacombe

Independent Liberal

Mr. LIGUORI LACOMBE (Laval-Two Mountains):

I have already supported on a similar occasion the demand made by the hon. member for Gaspe (Mr. Roy) for a secret session, because the information contained in the amendment moved by the hon. member is closely bound up with the defence of Canada. The hon. member has my heartiest support. The representatives of the people who sit in this house are entitled to all possible information in connection with the protection of our shores. Consequently I believe a secret session would be in the public interest, and the government cannot refuse it without assuming an exceedingly serious responsibility. We have taken long hours to discuss the question of one-cent candy. We would be more justified in taking a few minutes to discuss the most important question of the defence of Canada.

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LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Does the hon. member for Gaspe wish to withdraw his motion?

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IND

Joseph Sasseville Roy

Independent

Mr. ROY:

I will withdraw it, Mr. Speaker, * but if there are no more hon. members who wish to speak-

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

Did the Prime Minister say anything?

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July 16, 1942