February 1, 1937 (18th Parliament, 2nd Session)


William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)


Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, the house is already aware of the great loss which its membership sustained on Friday last by the death of the hon. member for Bonaventure, Hon. Charles Marcil. The adjournment of this house on Friday evening was an impressive collective tribute on the part of hon. members to the memory of one who had attended forty consecutive sessions of this parliament, and who in point of service was its oldest member. This morning the citizens

of the capital and many from other parts of the country joined with hon. members of both houses in paying a further tribute of respect to the memory of him who had become so familiar a figure in the public life of our country. The press, of all shades of political thought, have united in expressions of appreciation of Mr. Marcil's many years of public service. The tributes thus expressed have been supplemented by others from former political opponents as well as personal and political friends and by the clergy of the church of which he was so devout a member.
In these circumstances, Mr. Speaker, my purpose in rising this afternoon is primarily that of gratefully acknowledging what has already been said by way of tribute to the memory of our late fellow member, and of saying, on behalf of those who knew him best, how worthy he was of the eulogies which have been expressed. Mr. Marcil's public life in Canada is generally known to all who are here assembled. I imagine that what our own and future generations will regard as of surpassing interest in his long career is the link which it affords between a past which is rapidly receding and a future which is certain to be full of change.
The Hon. Charles Marcil came of a family nine generations of which had lived in the province of Quebec and of which ten generations extend over three centuries. He was born in Ste. Scholastique on July 1. 1S60. Like the late Hon. Peter Veniot, his deskmate for a period, to whom tribute was paid only a few days ago, he was one of the very few remaining members of this parliament who were born prior to confederation and who, from memory, could recall incidents associated with that great event. He was one of another group, somewhat larger but also much too rapidly disappearing who sat in this house with the Right Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
With Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Mr. Marcil was privileged to enjoy a close personal as well as political friendship. There was much in the lives of Mr. Marcil and Sir Wilfrid Laurier which made the association between them natural as well as close. Both, as I have said already of Mr. Marcil, came of families that for many generations had lived in the province of Quebec. The early careers of each had its association with journalism, each came to devote his entire time to politics. Both Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Mr. Marcil were endowed by nature with real distinction in appearance which their habit of thought and manner of life, as the years went by, continued greatly to refine. Both were gifted as writers and speakers, and each spoke with equal fluency in the French or the English

The Late Hon. Charles Marcil
language. I doubt if anyone who had not heard Mr. Marcil in his prime can imagine with what freedom and grace he spoke alike in French and in English. He was, I think, at his best depicting a scene from the romantic background of our country's history, or foreshadowing the greatness of Canada's future as he conceived it would become. He was a true Canadian, with great faith in Canada and the place Canada would come to hold among the nations of the world. That faith, throughout his life, he ever sought to impress upon his fellow countrymen. He was an ardent Liberal, strong in his convictions, but always moderate and tolerant in the manner in which he spoke. Like Sir Wilfrid, he exhibited at all times those attributes of courtesy and chivalry so characteristic of the race and generation to which each belonged. It was a part of Mr. March's contribution to the parliament of our day that when he presided over the proceedings of this chamber or participated in its debates he was true not only to the Laurier tradition in his point of view but, expressed himself in the Laurier manner with grace and dignity.
An estimate of Mr. Marcil's contribution to the life and work of this parliament would require perusal of its records and debates over forty sessions. To such a degree did he enjoy the unbroken confidence of his constituents that he was elected by them to ten consecutive parliaments. With the exception of two instances, so far as I have been able to ascertain, this record has not been surpassed. I believe Sir Wilfrid Laurier himself and the late Hon. John Haggart each sat in this House of Commons through eleven parliaments.
Mr. Marcil's return on so many occasions was a well deserved record of confidence and one which reflected equal credit upon his constituents. Last night I took occasion to glance through the pages of Hansard of the previous session in order to see what Mr. Marcil had said on the last occasion on which he spoke in this chamber. It was not. surprising to discover that his last word was one of grateful acknowledgment to a minister of the crown for something the minister had been able to do which was of assistance to the constituency represented by Mr. Marcil and to adjoining constituencies. Confidence akin to that so fully given to Mr. Marcil by his constituents was also expressed in a very real way by his fellow members in this house of commons who elected him successively to the position of deputy Speaker and chairman of committees in 1905, and to that of Speaker in 1909, a recognition which was further emphasized by his appointment in 1911 as a member of the privy council of Canada. During the last four parliaments his fellow members of
the Liberal party chose him as permanent chairman of the party caucus. In the course of his long life of public service, there was much else in the way of recognition of his abilities and attainments by municipalities, representative organizations, societies, univerities and by governments in our own and other countries.
Mr. Marcil was in his 77th year. For a life so full of service, of achievement and of well merited recognition, there surely can be either for him or for us no occasion for regret that he was taken away while still a member of the House of Commons and its oldest member in point of service. We shall miss the benefit of his long experience and wise counsel in parliamentary affairs, but to have had his faculties unimpaired to the end, and to have been spared the infirmities, disappointments and decline which too often are the accompaniment of advancing years is something which of itself is in the nature of a benediction, and something we should not begrudge him who has been taken from us.
It was his to enjoy the fulfilment of the ancient promise-
"Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age Like a shock of corn cometh in in his season."
As one whose life's endeavours were thus rewarded, his name will hold an honoured place in the history of this parliament, and his memory will continue to be cherished by all who knew him.
Mr. Speaker, this house will look to your Honour to convey to Mrs. Marcil and other members of the family an expression of its sincere and deep sympathy in their bereavement.

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