February 19, 1935 (17th Parliament, 6th Session)


Richard Bedford Bennett (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Conservative (1867-1942)


I find the parliament of Great Britain, under governments referred to as socialist or labour and known as national, in the statute of 1934 to which I referred and from which I read, making provision with respect to this very matter. Is there any country in the world in which trade unionism is as powerful as it is in the British Isles? This section having been passed into law by the parliament of Great Britain as long ago as 1920-part of it, and modified and put into its present form in 1934-is it fair to call it ruthless? Is it fair to say that this is an endeavour on the part of capitalists to grind down and destroy their workmen? I do not think it is. I am one who believes that there are many defects in the capitalistic system. I believe that in the main it has functioned very well and that the world owes much of its progress to its functioning as it has. Any system that has lasted for as many thousands of years as has the capitalist system must necessarily have become encumbered with abuses, and some of them it is B2582-63
our duty to endeavour to remove. But a denunciation in wholesale terms of a section of an act that has run the gamut of the parliament of Great Britain, where I think we may say trade unionism has manifested itself as strongly as in any other part of the world, is not in my judgment a fair criticism. In the adoption of this clause from the British act one was following what one regards as a safe precedent. If hon. members of the committee will look at the section they will see that while in the first instance it contemplates the loss of benefits, it also provides, that if the individual concerned does not come within that provision he shall suffer no inconvenience by it. That is the provision, and that is made as fair as it is possible to make it, I think, having regard to the very conditions they had to meet in England. It was proven that in some industries absolute destruction was brought about with great deliberation, not attributable in any sense, as far as could1 be traced, to the general attitude of mind of the British workers. We know that in this country there have been instances-I do not say they are numerous-in which somewhat similar conditions have obtained. It is to prevent that that the provision was made in England; it is to prevent that that the provision is made here. I cannot think it is going to work a hardship if we adopt a provision that as late as 1934 was crystallized in the legislation of the United Kingdom.

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