Mr. J. A. BLANCHETTE (Compton) (Translation):
M,r. Speaker, I highly appreciate the honour of being asked by the government to second the address in reply to the speech from the throne. I thank the government on my own behalf and on behalf of the citizens of Compton county, which I have the honour to represent in this house.
I am particularly happy to note that the right hon. the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) and the government have fulfilled the promise which they made to the country to consult parliament before engaging Canada in any military conflict. I find therein an additional reason to give my confidence to the government, all the more so that I am certain that my feelings in that regard are shared by the Canadians of every origin living in the county of Compton and, generally speaking, by all the enlightened citizens of my province as well as of the entire country.
It is quite noticeable that the members of this house do not assemble to-day in the spirit that usually marks the opening of a session of parliament. Instead of the gaiety and enthusiasm which usually prevail when, we return to our parliamentary duties, we cannot help feeling anxious and we realize more than ever the extent of our responsibilities. This year, the prayer which opens our deliberations was listened to w'ith deeper emotion and greater fervor than ever before.
The war clouds which have been darkening the skies of the civilized world have now clashed, starting a conflict the consequences of which cannot be foreseen.
For months and even years the two great European democracies, England and France, have, in a spirit of conciliation verging at times on the acceptance of humiliation, tried every pacific means to maintain peace in the world and avoid a repetition of the war of 1914. Their efforts have failed. To-day, the two doctrines, that of justice and conciliation and that of might making right, have come together in the war which has just burst upon the old world as a frightful calamity.
This country, a member of the British commonwealth of nations, cannot remain indifferent in the conflict which has just started. No one can seriously maintain that our mem-
bership in the British commonwealth, to -which we are all proud to belong, is motivated solely by the advantages it may afford us. Can it be seriously contested that a declaration of neutrality by this country would be tantamount to a declaration of independence?
Is it not a fact that Canada, having grown up in the national sense as well as in the economic and social fields, must assume obligations which belong to peoples who have attained the age of majority? No longer are we minors to whom others can dictate decisions, to whom others can impose obligations, or who can be neglected or ignored on account of their state of infancy or weakness.
Proudly, even brilliantly, we have attained the period of majority, of responsibility. No one can impose obligations upon us. We are free to act according to our own will, but it would be unworthy of us to reject the responsibilities that belong to us as a mature nation. In considering our situation, we must not fail to weigh the possible consequences of our present attitude.
The government of our country, of which I am proud, has adopted the appropriate attitude in the circumstances. They have taken and enforced the measures which were essential in a country like ours, a country conscious of its obligations as well as of its duty. But, before going further, they wished to consult the people of the country through their representatives, thus applying the democratic principles consistent with the British parliamentary system which we have lauded so much in the past and which still deserves our approval.
To my mind, that approval takes greater strength if we compare our system to the totalitarian system, which has no consideration for the individual, for the people itself, and which is the cause of the conflict that threatens once more to plunge the civilized world in a sea of blood. Some will perhaps find reasonable arguments to justify differences of opinions on the measures already taken or contemplated by the government; but I submit that those questions must be,-and I hope they will be,-considered seriously, with calmness, moderation, good faith and sincerity. I fervently hope that violence, excitement and prejudice will be banished from our deliberations, as such meannesses should be, and also from the discussion of those questions outside of parliament.
Appeals to violence and prejudice have never settled any problem. Only a serious, calm and unprejudiced study of the issues can lead to an acceptable solution.
The Address-Mr. Blanchette
The present government deserves well of the country for having protected our savings, for having organized our national life and for having given ceaseless and generous consideration to the problem of our finances, trade and industry. They have made every effort to ensure the welfare of our citizens and they have succeeded, in a great measure, in destroying the last causes of conflict or struggle between the nationalities of which our nation is composed. Canada occupies a most enviable position in the economic world of today. She has become a great country, and her people a great people, justly proud of themselves.
The record of our government during the years of relative peace which the world has enjoyed and throughout the depression should, I repeat, give us the greatest confidence in the wisdom, the moderation, the good faith and the sincerity of our respectable and deservedly respected leaders. Those who have so worthily administered the affairs of the country during the depression are undoubtedly capable of giving Canada wise leadership in these times of war. May I be permitted to state, without offending anyone, that I prefer their administration and that under their leadership I feel much safer than I would under that of a government composed of persons perhaps as sincere as they are, yet who have not and cannot have their experience, their spirit of moderation and their prudence. In this respect, I feel sure that I am expressing the opinion of the great majority of our citizens and, more particularly, of those of my province. I have no desire to-day, at this solemn moment, in this grave hour, to doubt their intentions nor to urge them to be moderate and prudent, for I know that they are and shall remain such. If the past is any guarantee of the future, the govemmenit's record in the past sufficiently guarantees, to my mind, both the present and the future. To the citizens of my country and my province who are slightly alarmed at the moment, I say most sincerely: " Be calm and confident."
I heartily endorse the government's decision to take all measures required to restrict profits and prevent speculation on the necessaries of life. Our population needs to be protected against the activities of profiteers, big and small, who see in war an opportunity to rob the consumer and unjustly increase the cost of living. It is abundantly clear that the government shall adopt the necessary measures in this respect and that severe penalties may be inflicted on all offenders.
The present government does not intend, I am sure, to lead us into any venture exceeding the bounds of our economic and social position.
The statements made by the Prime Minister and his colleagues when, thinking of the future, we were somewhat uneasy, have reassured us. It is consoling to note that these statements have never been withdrawn; on the contrary, they have been reiterated on several occasions. I am convinced that they will be repeated once more during this session.
As a matter of fact, while recognizing our duty to interest ourselves in the conflict of ideas which has brought about this war, while recognizing the importance and the propriety of some form of cooperation with the countries which are defending the ideas and opinions which are ours and the attitudes from which we in Canada have benefited, it would be neither proper nor wise for us to go to extremes. Our cooperation, our participation must necessarily be limited by our interests and by our economic and national situation.
I feel that I express not only my own views but also those of the government when I say that I am strongly in favour of all useful and necessary measures tending to ensure the defence of Canada, the maintenance and protection of her institutions and the safeguarding of her trade and of her agricultural and manufacturing industry.
It would not be wise nor worthy of us to place our reliance in some foreign protection which, obviously, could not be disinterested. Canada, an independent nation, of full age and master of its destinies, should be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to ensure her existence.
I am entirely in favour of establishing the organization necessary to ensure the defence of my country. Coming from Quebec and belonging to the French-Canadian nationality, I deem it my duty to work for the defence of my country in the fullest harmony and the most complete cooperation with the other citizens of Canada whose origin is different from mine. I wish to view the question not from the narrow standpoint of a single province, but from the standpoint of Canada as a whole. Like my fellow-citizens of Compton and of the province of Quebec, I am attached to the whole of Canada and I want to safeguard the Canadian confederation.
To my mind, it cannot reasonably be contended, after due reflection, that it would not be wise to cooperate to a reasonable extent with France and England in the present conflict, taking into account, however, our resources and our capacity and without sacrificing our vital interests. Who is there in this house who will state that the form of government at present existing in Germany would be welcome in Canada? Who would dare to say that he prefers it to the system of government we have now?
The Address-Mr. Blanchette
Therefore, I have reason to believe that I am expressing the opinion of the majority of the electors in my province, in fact in all provinces, when I say that I am in favour of a reasonable and moderate cooperation, consistent with our interests and resources. I am prepared to let the government and the Prime Minister, whose genuine Canadianism is beyond question, the task of proposing to parliament the most appropriate measures of ensuring that cooperation, parliament remaining of course the supreme arbiter of our national destinies.
Viewing the matter from the standpoint of my province and of my compatriots of Quebec,
I feel entirely reassured in this regard, as in all other indeed, knowing as I do the character, the experience, the hability and the sound patriotism of the ministers who represent the province of Quebec in the government of the country. I cannot see where it would be possible to find, in our midst, men more enlightened, better balanced and more respectable than our present ministers. If it is thought possible to find men equal to them, no one could seriously suggest that there are better men.
The other members from that province are also equal to the task. Considering all these points, I may confidently state to the country that it would be wise and indeed essential to view with distrust those who appeal to prejudice, who try to sow panic, to stir passions and to create disunion. It would be better to rely upon the good judgment, the calm and moderation of our representatives, who are directly interested, as any other citizen, in the welfare and the happiness of the nation. My determination to endorse any measure aimed at cooperating with the defenders of justice, order and conciliation who are presently the object of a brutal attack by the advocates of violence and force, remains limited to voluntary assistance. I am convinced that, in the final analysis, this method of voluntary contribution is the most effective and lasting.
I wish to state, without the slightest hesitation and without any mental reservation, that I am fully opposed to conscription. I am completely against a system so inconsistent with our Canadian turn of mind. Experience has shown moreover that it is not effective, for, without having given the desired results, it has, in the past, fostered trouble and unsettled our national life.
In order, therefore, that none may falsely construe my attitude in the matter, I repeat that I am completely opposed to conscription.
(Text) Mr. Speaker, coming from a county which has a number of English-speaking citizens I would not wish to allow this occasion
to pass without saying a few words in the language of that citizenry, and to state that, if ever there was a time when national unity should be advocated in order to safeguard our democratic institutions, surely it is in the present crisis. Although we may have a vast territory, let us not forget that territory is but the body of a nation; the people who inhabit its hills and its valleys are its soul, its spirit, its life. Individuals may form communities but it is democratic institutions, and their attributes, that can create and maintain a nation; and upon those democratic attributes is predicated our progress, our advancement, and all that is dear to our hearts and very existence. It has truly been said that:
The multitude which does not reduce itself to unity is confusion and, as a corollary, the unity which does not depend upon the multitude is tyranny.
Whatever the views of each and every one of us may be, I am certain that if we remain calm and moderate in our deliberations, both in and out of this house, and if furthermore, should the necessity arise, we are disposed towards conciliation on this side of the Atlantic, lack of which has brought the conflict on the continent, then there can be no doubt that Canada will attain its aim and purpose in the present conflict, which is sincerely desired in all parts of the dominion, namely, that "effective cooperation" enunciated by our right hon. leader.
I wish to thank him for having called parliament as quickly as he did in order to submit to it matters of the greatest import for its consideration and attention.
I also wish to congratulate most heartily the mover of the address, the hon. member for Algoma West (Mr. Hamilton). The able manner in which he has acquitted himself on this occasion is not only a credit to himself but also an attendant honour to the county which he has so ably represented since his coming into this house.
(Translation) In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I wish to express the profound hope that this house shall consider, as the country naturally expects it to do, the proposals advanced by the government, with the moderation, the calmness, the disinterestedness, the prudence and the real patriotism solely capable of maintaining and safeguarding a true feeling of Canadian unity, and, with this in mind, I have the honour to second the motion of the hon. member for Algoma West (Mr. Hamilton).
Subtopic: ADDRESS IN REPLY, MOVED BY MR. H. S. HAMILTON AND SECONDED BY MR. J. A. BLANCHETTE