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
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.