Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, as the calendar indicates, this is the 23rd of May, and because it is the school day immediately preceding May 24th it is being celebrated in the schools of several provinces as Empire day.
Empire day, as hon. members know, originated some fifty years ago, the purpose being to provide the pupils with a special occasion to study the history of Canada and to take part in such exercises as might increase their interest in their own country and strengthen their attachment to the empire. In other provinces where Empire day has not been so celebrated, I am quite sure that special occasions have been provided for the telling of tales of heroism and selfsacrifice, of leadership in civic affairs and of other glorious pages in our history.
In the past fifty years there has been a great change in our status. What was then a colony in an empire is now an independent nation in a commonwealth. We have by act of parliament established our own citizenship. Consequently, as I announced in the house on April 28, I approached the provincial premiers with the result that they all agreed to have arrangements made to the end that some occasion might be found today in the schools for exercises having in mind, in respect of the position of Canada in the commonwealth, the rights, the privileges, the duties and the responsibilities of Canadian citizenship. Not only are these exercises being held in the schools, but public-spirited organizations of all kinds are making this a special day in that regard.
I think I speak for all hon. members when I express appreciation to the provincial premiers; to the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, who have always been specially interested in the Empire day observances; to the various municipal officials and to officials of churches, service clubs, and other organizations, for their assistance and cooperation in this regard. Perhaps I may in particular express appreciation to the Canadian citizenship council, who have done so much to co-ordinate the activities of organizations promoting the study of Canadian citizenship.
In these past fifty years Canada has become a great nation. We have at all times discharged our national obligations promptly and honourably, and no country which does that needs to try by artificial means to create patriotism. On the other hand we should not ignore the desirability of providing an occasion for developing a sense of respect for the achievements of our people and for renewing our determination to exceed those achievements in the future.
Citizenship in Canada is founded on the faith that two of the proudest races of the world could each preserve their own language and their own creed and yet live together and develop a common nationality. To the partnership of the two races which held to that faith has been added the vigour and energy of thousands of others from most of the nations of the earth. These three streams in our national life have created a citizenship which with our endeavours will in the years to come give increasing reason for celebrating Canadian citizenship with sincerity and pride.
Subtopic: CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP AND CANADA'S POSITION IN THE COMMONWEALTH