July 16, 1942

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):

I was about to say something, but was interrupted at the time. I might remind the house of the exact question before it. As I understood, the hon. member for Gaspe (Mr. Roy) was granted leave to move the adjournment of the house in order to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, which matter was the advisability of haying a secret session. I am afraid the discussion that has taken place has far exceeded the purpose for which the adjournment was asked.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

Not by me.

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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:

My hon. friend the leader of the opposition says it was not by him, but may I remind him that he was the one who started the discussion, and I think he gave to it a scope that was not intended even by the mover. My hon. friend really presented an entirely different request to the government. If I understood him aright the leader of the opposition requested that there should be a public discussion, while the object of the hon. member for Gaspe is that there should be a private discussion. I am afraid that is only too characteristic of what has taken place at times during this session. Many of the hon. members who to-day are asking us to hold a secret session to discuss a national matter yesterday were condemning

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us very strongly for having permitted public matters to be investigated secretly in another place. It seems that no matter what the government does, it is wrong. If we have a secret session we are told that it ought to have been public; if we hold a public session we are condemned for not having held it in secret.

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NAT

Karl Kenneth Homuth

National Government

Mr. HOMUTH:

Those are not parallel rases at all.

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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:

If it is not a parallel I am afraid I do not know what a parallel is.

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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 am sure my hon. friend does. However, I just wish to point out that sometimes it is a little embarrassing to know just what it is hon. members really mean when they make certain requests and certain professions. I did say to the hon. member for Gaspe that I thought he ought to give the government such information as he has which causes him to believe that a secret session should be held. I would say to him now that if he has any more information than he has already set out in the letters he has sent to the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services or any other minister, I wish he would let me know, and also I wish he would take care to see to it that this further information is imparted to the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services as soon as opportunity permits. I might say the same to the leader of the opposition, who has mentioned that he has certain information.

I would ask him if he would give that information to the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services. My colleague is not here at the moment, but if my hon. friend is anxious to furnish the information at once he might give it to the Minister of National Defence.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

I will try to see the minister to-morrow.

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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:

In regard to the absence from the house at the moment of the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services, my colleague is to-day visiting shipyards at Collingwood and Midland in connection with some of the work of his department, official business of first importance in relation to problems which are confronting the nation at the present time. That is the reason for his absence to-day, but I am informed that he will bn back to-morrow, and perhaps at that time my hon. friend will see him and give him such information as he possesses. I do submit

that it is necessary for the government to have that information before we can say whether or not a secret session should be held.

May I point our further that I am not aware of any requests having been made until this afternoon by hon. gentlemen opposite for a public discussion of this particular matter, or any other matter relating to defence, beyond such discussion as we have bad already. After listening to what has been said this afternoon it might be thought by someone visiting the house or reading its proceedings, that the government had been seeking to prevent a discussion of the situation in the St. Lawrence, or the situation on the Pacific coast, or the situation in relation to the Alaska highway, or in connection with some other defence matters; 'but no request for anything of the kind has been made until this afternoon. As hon. members know very well, there are opportunities time and again in connection with the business of the house when these particular matters can be discussed.

Further in regard to the question of holding a secret session may I say that this secret session is requested because certain ships have been torpedoed in the St. Lawrence. May I remind the house that a very large number of ships have been torpedoed off the coast of Nova Scotia. May I also remind the house that this country has been attacked on the Pacific coast. And may I say further that it will be a very great surprise if further occurrences of the kind do not take place at any time, on either coast, and I think our country must expect those possibilities. Indeed, the government has had them in mind all along and has been doing everything it is possible for the administration to do in anticipating situations of the kind and in seeking to meet them. But the question we must ask ourselves is whether each time a ship is torpedoed off one or other coast, or some other act of war takes place, it is to be the duty of the government to hold a secret session of this house in order to discuss that particular situation. It is for this reason that I say the responsibility is upon the government to decide whether the circumstances warrant a secret session, or whether it is better that these events, as they take place from time to time, should be discussed in open session as far as it may be advisable and possible so to discuss them. After all, the government has to ask itself with respect even to secret sessions whether some things can be said or should be said in a secret session that cannot be said or should not be said in an open session. There are certain matters that of course can be discussed better in a secret session than in an open session; but

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there are many matters in connection with which any information, if it can be given at all, certainly should be given in an open rather than a secret session.

I have nothing further to say than that the government, when it gets this additional information, will carefully consider it and will advise the house as to what it thinks advisable in the matter. I should not like to conclude, however, without taking very strong exception to a reference made by the hon. member for Temiscouata (Mr. Pouliot) to some of the heads of the war departments of Canada as he described them, who, if I got his words aright, he said were not at all concerned with Canada.

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LIB
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I would be

ashamed to say, "hear, hear" if I were my hon. friend.

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LIB
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Opinions may

be free, but I am afraid that the opinion the public will have of my hon. friend for condemning public servants who are doing their utmost to defend this country and defend freedom, will not be such as will meet with his own approval. I say this because, while I do not claim it is necessarily a part of my duty, though I believe it is, certainly it is the part of chivalry that someone should defend public servants who are not here to defend themselves, but whose whole lives and time are being spent in helping to defend those of us who are in this House of Commons, our country and the freedom which we enjoy.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

Why do you not speak

in that way to the slackers in uniform who infest militia headquarters?

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

Just a

word. The Prime Minister attributed my request as based on the theory of one incident. I tried to put it on a much wider basis than that. The whole position down there, I think, ought to be discussed-.

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IND

Joseph Sasseville Roy

Independent

Mr. ROY:

I should like to say a few words, if I may, in reply to what the Prime Minister has said.

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LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Only with the unanimous consent of the house.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

It is withdrawn.

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IND

Joseph Sasseville Roy

Independent

Mr. ROY:

No, I have not withdrawn. I understood wrongly at the time. The Prime Minister has said, Mr. Speaker-

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LIB

Georges Parent (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

The hon. member is not entitled to reply, and he cannot speak a second time. Is the motion withdrawn?

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July 16, 1942