July 2, 1935 (17th Parliament, 6th Session)


James Shaver Woodsworth



It may be quite true that the leadership of these men has largely come into the hands of communists. The other day I admitted, from the best information I could get, that this was true. I am sorry it is true; I think they would have been better led if they had followed other advice, but may I point out that only a comparatively small number of these people are communists. The great majority of the men. are not communists; only a small proportion of them are, and unless there were very great grievances on the part of the men it is inconceivable to me that some sixty or seventy leaders, as I think the Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie) put it, could .control these two thousand' men. That statement in itself is ridiculous. If a large number of the men wanted to return to their homes; if they found that they had been misled, they would throw overboard the sixty or seventy .men whom the Minister of Justice says are in a position of leadership. It is reasonable that men who endured all these hardships would allow their little bits of baggage to be kept from them by some sixty
or seventy men? I cannot conceive it for a moment. The fact is that whatever their leadership they have behind them a sense of injustice which has led them to follow almost any advice they have been offered. Unfortunately I think they are more inclined to follow advice which urges them to direct action or to radical action.
That is another point in my .mind, and I think this is a serious question. I should like to know how many of these so called leaders are government spies. I know enough about the labour movement to be able to say that whenever I have been making speeches among the miners of the west and so on, at which somebody has gotten up and urged violence, I have had these men come to me again, and again and say, "Beware of that man; he is a police stool." That, is what the men believe. We know what happened in Calgary years ago in the case of Corporal Zaneth, who sold literature which he knew to be banned and then, got the men into trouble. We know of a more recent instance, the case of Sergeant Leopold, who was the informer in the case against the communists not long ago. We know how these men wormed their way into the organization, and how they stood ready to play the part of the police if necessary. Only a few years ago in this house we had estimates-under a former government; I am not blamllig this government for it-covering moneys paid to American detective firms in the employ of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I am told that that practice has been discontinued, but this practice of espionage has not been discontinued, and we cannot tell how many agents provocateur there have been among these so called leaders who are under communist domination. I do think the fact that lives have been lost and that a large number of people have been injured in itself is an indication that a thorough investigation into the situation should be made promptly by disinterested parties. I am not asking that my charges should 'be accepted, but I am not content that the departmental records should be taken as final. I urge there should be an independent investigation and, above all, I submit that the riots are a justification of the action hon. members in this corner have taken in condemning the present policy of dealing with these young men. I would like to know now who is responsible for the shooting. I think we ought to know that; who is responsible? I would like to know -under what authority this was done. This is only one series of a number of events which have taken place recently. Further, I would like to know from the
B.C. Relief Camp Strikers

government under what authority men were refused permission to move out of Regina. It is quite true that at least technically they were trespassers in their use of the railways. But it is common knowledge that throughout the past six or eight years men have been riding on freight trains, and only on occasions have they been checked up. It is common knowledge that these men came from Vancouver to Regina on freight trains, and that the government did not do anything to stop them. The Prime Minister may say that they had not the necessary force; that may have been the case, but the government connived at that kind of thing, or condoned-use the word you like. Then all of a sudden, when it suits the convenience of the government we are told we must preserve law and order and must prevent trespassing on railway property. That is the kind of arbitrary action which is undermining respect for law and government.
We were told that these communists who were arrested some years ago and sent to Kingston penitentiary were dangerous men, that communists were outlaws of society. Yet, in the name of the communist party newspapers have been published all along, communist candidates have stood for election, and no action has been taken by the government. Can they escape their responsibility? Personally, as every hon. member is aware, I am opposed to section 98 of the criminal code. As every hon. nfember knows this house has five times in succession expressed its disapproval of and voted to delete section 98. I am opposed to it, I say it is little less than a disgrace when we find that men who are not proven to have committed an overt act or to have incited to violence should be sent to the penitentiary. That is un-British legislation, but it is on the statute books, and in that regard probably the government is acting within its legal rights.
I want to say this however, that the government knowing that-knowing that they have the force-have not taken action. Personally I am glad that these communists are free, because although they are a dreadful embarrassment to us of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation-

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