Right Hon. L. S. St. Laurent (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege, with respect to an article which appeared in Le Devoir of September 12, 1950, under the byline of Mr. Pierre Laporte. It is very seldom that I take exception to anything said by Le Devoir because this newspaper's opinions are well known and also because I concede its right to express them. However, I am concerned here with something that is more than an opinion. I refer to an article entitled:
Are we to return to the era of Mr. King's lies? Mr. St. Laurent has deceived us about Korea-5,000 men who turn out to be 15,000.
The article is written in the same key as its title. It pays me the compliment of stating that when I became leader of the government it was felt that I was a man who was not afraid of the truth and who would dare to speak his mind even though his personal popularity might be affected. That is quite true. I admit that I have never anticipated any great personal popularity with the staff of Le Devoir. This does not mean that I do not value my reputation for not being afraid to speak the truth. The statement that I have deceived either Le Devoir or the public is absolutely false.
This matter arose over the difference that is claimed to exist between what we had stated would be the strength of the brigade to be sent to Korea, when ready, if that should be the place where it would serve most usefully, and the limit of 15,000 men mentioned in the order in council which was tabled the other day.
Here is what was said. I have stated several times, and stated again yesterday, what the position is with regard to the government's plans in this matter. Those plans have been set forth frankly to the public and to the house and if at any time there is need to make any substantial change or addition, the government will reach a decision and announce it to the house without having the slightest fear of the truth or of comments
from Le Devoir. We shall make our decisions if we consider it in the interest of the Canadian nation to do so. We shall do so openly and we shall expose ourselves openly to their shafts and criticism. As to the limit of 15,000 men mentioned in the order in council, here is why that limit has been set. It has been stated that the number of men in the special brigade is to be approximately 5,300 but that at the same time we shall train a number of men to be used as reinforcements should events make them necessary.
Up to now, we have enlisted for this brigade a little over 9,000 men. Moreover, as the house has been told, some 1,000 troops from the permanent forces of the Canadian army were added, such troops to fulfil duties for which new recruits are not qualified. This involves some 10,000 men. We have a contingent of the Canadian navy comprising not quite one thousand men whom it will be necessary, from time to time, to replace by others when events may require shifts or changes in the personnel on the destroyers on active service there. There is also a contingent of a little less than 1,000 men from the air force on air transport duty. In order to be able to maintain these three contingents at peak efficiency we have set a limit of 15,000.
Should it ever become necessary to go further than the three groups about which we have given full particulars to the nation, we shall give the additional information to the public and, when we have reached a decision, we shall make it known and we shall not shrink from any truths in connection with what we may consider to be in the interest of the Canadian nation.
Subtopic: REFERENCE TO ARTICLE IN "LE DEVOIR" OF SEPTEMBER 12