January 25, 1937 (18th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Denton Massey

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DENTON MASSEY (Greenwood):

I am sure that hon. members realize the importance and possibly far-reaching effect of this debate. The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth) has brought to the attention of the house a matter in which he is vitally interested, in which indeed the people of this country are vitally interested. It so happens, as a result of circumstances over which we have little or no control, that there are wars and rumours of war, and many feel that there is danger of nation rising against nation. The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre did not discuss the ghastly folly of war; he took that for granted, and so do I. Nor did he discuss the un-Christian character of war; that too he took for granted, and so do I. But he was concerned about policies; he was concerned about the policy that we in Canada should have to help to prevent war. He felt that Canada should have an effective voice in what concerns her. That was his language. The alleged war scare has burned deeply into his mind, and so he asks, What can, what must, what shall Canada do in case of war; and, further, what should Canada do now in these days of international unrest?
Obviously the answers to these questions must be predicated upon some knowledge of the position which Canada holds to-day as a nation among the family of nations. Let it be stated here and at once that whatever place Canada holds to-day as a nation among the family of nations was dearly bought for her, bought for her at the ghastly yet noble price paid by the Canadian corps of 1914-1918, those men who willingly gave of their best, indeed their very lives, to form a corps that General Currie so aptly called "the finest fighting force in the allied army." No nation could be ignored that had been able to maintain such a force. Canada's place as a nation was therefore bought for her in those days of war and its accompanying horror, a place which we thought we sealed and sealed proudly the day we became a signatory to the covenant of the League of Nations. Thus we had a right to a voice in world affairs. No longer could Canada be regarded as an unimportant little nation on the Norih American continent, composed of a handf ll of people living north of the forty-ninth parallel of latitude. So to-day we find ourselves, it seems to me, in a unique position; for our voice should be stronger and should carry far more weight than we ever thought it could.

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We have heard references in this debate to the great size of the United States; we have heard references to-day to the comparative size of Canada. But since the United States apparently elects to speak only in whispers on the backstairs of Europe, Canada finds herself-if she would find' herself- in a position to express not only her own views but those of the whole new world. And from that point of view she would be heard with respect in a world court. Yes, we could have a powerful voice in world affairs; but what is the voice of Canada? If we are absolutely frank with ourselves we are compelled' to admit that to-day there is no single voice in Canada but there is a cacophony arising from within our borders. And here we are at once in the paradoxical and absurd position of having had bought for us, at a tremendous price, the right to sit in a world court and, by our own enterprise and industry in commerce, a certain strength lent to that voice; yet we are not able to determine what sound that voice should make. In fact we seem to be getting further and further away from that determination every day.
I am not an alarmist nor am I an extremist, but I do survey the present situation with extreme gravity. The possibility-and please note that I do not say the probability -of war in Europe has brought us face to face with the necessity of solving what is our greatest national problem, and of solving that problem with dispatch. Our greatest national problem is not that of unemployment; it is not the problem of agriculture; it is not the problem of youth or of any such questions which one might mention. It is the sum of these problems. And just as the whole is greater than any of its parts, so is our greatest problem greater than any one of the individual problems it embraces. The problem is the determination of a national policy for Canada. What sort of Canada do we want? Have we any great national determination as far as that is concerned? Do we want a united Canada or do we want a Canada at all? These questions must be answered if the Dominion of Canada is to develop as a nation among the family of nations. We have no national voice to-day. To travel from Halifax to Victoria is to find a virtual kaleidoscope of opinion.
To-night we have heard various schools of thought set out by those who have spoken. Perhaps I, too, may be permitted to suggest four schools of thought. It seems to me that opinion in Canada to-day may be divided into four groups. First, there is the opinion held by those who want a Canada, but a Canada essentially isofated from Europe, a

Canada only for Canadians, a Canada quite prepared to let the empire and Europe mess about to their hearts' content. A second group consists of the adherents of that opinion which says: We do not want a Canada at all; no doubt the fathers of confederation did what they did in sincerity and as they thought was best for their country; but times have changed since 1867; Canada is virtually five separate states, the maritimes in the east, Quebec, Ontario, the three prairie provinces, and British Columbia in the far west; let us thank the fathers of confederation for what they attempted, and now let each part go its own way. The third group, and by no means a small one, consists of those who do not know what they want. Unfortunately this group may be the most vocal. This group talks about a dominion somewhat loosely tied together, which has some sort of defence'but not too much, in which certain powers are taken away from the central government and given to the provincial governments. Yet at the same time they say there is too much government in Canada; they talk about no aid to the empire in case of conflict but are perfectly willing to take all and give nothing; in short they talk this way and the other, but really do not know what they want. In the fourth group are those who want a Dominion of Canada in fact as well as in name, a dominion which is an integral and important part of the British commonwealth of nations, ready and willing to join with that commonwealth to help enforce peace and to make peace heroic, a Dominion of Canada which is not only a British dominion but a nation of the world, a Dominion of Canada that will give support to the British commonwealth of nations in doing the job of work which there is for that commonwealth to do and to which the Prime Minister referred tonight so ably and so well. I am going to discuss these four groups not separately, but collectively in the light of what I have in essence already said, that is that Canada is at the cross-roads.
In the first place let us consider the isolationist. The isolationist as I understand him is he who demands that Canada have a complete national economy of her own; that the question of her participation in any war be not only hers to determine but that it be made clear to the nations of the world that Canada is free to be neutral in any war. I think there may be a confounding of terms in that connection. Neutrality is one thing, non-participation is another. Complete neutrality is one thing, passive belligerency is another. Would a declaration of Canadian neutrality in time of war be regarded by any

Foreign Policy-Mr. Massey
warring nation, an enemy of Great Britain, as binding, so long as this dominion remains part of the empire? Even if there were no active participation, would an invasion of Canada in time of war by an enemy of Great Britain be regarded as a breach of neutrality? Let those who argue for isolation for Canada, or neutrality in case of war, remember that there is no such thing as passive belligerency. There is either complete neutrality or a state of war. And thus the only way for Canada to be regarded as a neutral country in a war in which the empire is involved is to sever her ties with the empire. This means we are no longer British. It means we are no longer able to claim all that that means and has meant, not merely from a purely sentimental point of view of traditional attachment to family or race, but from the prestige and protection which have always been such a vital part of our national position. Let the isolationist be prepared to justify all that it means for a Canadian citizen to sacrifice his British citizenship, to surrender the prestige and protection that go with it, to give up any claim on the services of an extraordinarily efficient and extensive diplomatic, naval and military organization.
In the second place, let those who argue for isolation and in the same breath plead the cause of peace, the glory of the united states of the world, remember that a united British commonwealth brings together at one fell swoop one-fifth of the people of the world, brings them together in a common cause. And what a mighty force for good is here as long as that force is for right and not for might; a force that espouses the causes of peace and justice! Therefore, let the isolationist be prepared to argue that the cause of peace is aided by the disintegration of the British Empire, and that the breaking away of the dominion from the British commonwealth of nations and the breaking up of that commonwealth, constitute a step forward rather than backward in the interests of world unity.
In the third place, is the isolationist prepared not only to admit, as Dean Corbett of McGill law school put it in an excellent article which appeared recently; that "neutrality can be bought only at the price or our common nationality," but to" skate over apparently without qualms, "the moral objection to retaining, in the quality of a British subject, a claim on these services while repudiating by neutrality a reasonable share in the burdens of political association?" Assume for the sake of discussion that the isolationist and his supporters say that this moral obligation business is merely, in Kipling's language, "the flaccid tissues of long
dead issues, offensive to God and man," is tawdry, maudlin and mawkish sentiment and tradition; that British citizenship has become but a catch phrase and means nothing to Canada any more; that it is just Canada for Canadians we want, and nothing else. Where does that lead us? Canada as a nation divorced from the British commonwealth of nations becomes at once a puny, faraway nation with about as much chance of being heard in a world court or in the market places of the world as any one of the dozen or more tiny states of Europe. Let an isolated Canada, a Canada divorced from the empire, be prepared to withdraw from any institution which is non-British-Canadian-for indeed any participation which we have had to date in international affairs has been as a nation within the British commonwealth of nations. The trade treaties we have made over the years- we will assume they are a benefit to Canada- must be disregarded and torn up as they were made with a British Canada. In essence, therefore, the isolationist demands that we sacrifice our external trade and bring to bear our full national powers on our internal trade.
In the fourth place let me again quote Dean Corbett:
The only hope for isolation would seem to lie in the achievement of that complete selfsufficiency which is the Arcadia of certain ardent materialists and quack economists.
What does that mean? It means that we return at once to the primitive state in which our forefathers left us; that we tear down our industrial structure; that we once more put our hands only to the plough and the distaff, crawl into a smug parochial nationalism, and say to the land-hungry nations of the world, "Please, please, leave us alone." How long would rich, fertile Canada be left alone? Oh, but the isolationist says, "There is the United States; she will protect us." Hon. members will realize that a mother protects her daughter with no expectation of reward, but cousins do not take care of cousins on the same basis. There would be no protection without a price. Are we prepared to pay that price?
Lastly, is the isolationist prepared to assure us that the application of his policy rids us once and for all of the war menace? Divorce this dominion from the balance wheel of empire; remove from our provinces or groups of provinces our point of common allegiance, the throne of England, and just how long would Canada remain a union of nine provinces? Would the maritimes be apt to rush to the aid of British Columbia in the event of some land-starved power becoming actively

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greedy? Or would British Columbia be inclined to rush to the aid of the maritimes in similar circumstances? Divided states in what is now the Dominion of Canada I feel would be the inevitable result of secession.

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