Hon. N. A. McLARTY (Secretary of State) moved the second reading of and concurrence in amendments made by the Senate to bill No. 135, to provide regulations enabling Canadian war service electors to exercise their franchise, and Canadian prisoners of war to vote by proxy, at any general election held during the present war, also to provide amendments to the Dominion Elections Act, 1938, consequential to such regulations, or made necessary by the advent of the said war.
He said: Mr. Speaker, the other house has returned this bill with two amendments. I shall not at this stage deal with them at any length but might explain them briefly.
The first amendment is to section 5, by adding the words, "at the time of the passing of this act". The intention and effect of that is that in the event of any provincial legislature deciding that it should disqualify electors by reason of racial origin between the time of the passing of this act and the next election, this amendment will not prevent the affected parties mentioned in such measure from voting.
The next amendment is to section 11. That section deals with those clauses of the bill that will apply only to an election held within the present war and within a period of six months thereafter. I think from the wording of section 5 it might be argued, in fact it is made clear that it could apply only at the time this country is at war, because it states specifically that any disqualifications are those of a country which is at war with Canada. Members of this house, especially legal members, will agree that a statute always speaks in the present tense, but notwithstanding that, the endeavour has been made to make it clearer. I believe, Mr. Speaker, there is no objection to concurrence in the amendment. It might be argued that it makes assurance doubly sure and there could be no exception taken to that. Consequently I am prepared to move concurrence in the amendment. But
I also wish to move another amendment consequential to the senate amendment, and that is:
That the following words be added to the words "at the time of the passing of this act": "namely, July 1, 1938, and on the date of the declaration of such war resided in a province in which on those dates."
The effect of that is simply this. There has been some criticism of the disqualification of certain members of the Japanese race even though we are in the midst of a bitter and grim war, and the result of this amendment will be that no one who has enjoyed the right to vote will be disqualified. In other words, the right of the Japanese race to vote will be unimpaired in so far as they previously enjoyed that right. I believe this will meet the situation. I do not think, no matter how broadminded we may be, that at a time of war we should consider extending the franchise to those of an enemy race, and any other provision in the act will unquestionably have that effect. This leaves the right of those of the Japanese race who had the right to vote unimpaired, untrammelled, and uninterfered with. I believe that will meet with general approval in all sections of the house, and I consequently move that the senate amendment be concurred in as well as the motion I have proposed.