August 6, 1940 (19th Parliament, 1st Session)


Jean-François Pouliot



Then in case of doubt I hope the Prime Minister would not object to a few remarks about the status of Canada, that does not enjoy now what the Oxford dictionary calls the treatment of Tiberius. Some years ago Sir Wilfrid Laurier said that Canada was a nation in the British empire, but he did not imply by that that Canada was a free nation or a sovereign nation. I find it very dangerous to say that Canada is a nation, impljdng by that that Canada is a free nation or a sovereign nation; for of course we are not. There are very few hon. members in this house who entertain the view that Canada is a colony. There is the hon. member for Broadview (Mr. Church) and the hon. member for Yukon (Mr. Black)-a former Speaker of the House-and the member for Temis-couata (Mr. Pouliot). The reason we think Canada is a colony is that even for a small affair such as the right to pass an act like the unemployment insurance act we have to snap our fingers to Westminster, asking the right to do that. I find it a great humiliation, not because I am anti-British but because I am pro-Canadian.
Of course there are children of minor age, under twenty-one years, who need a guardian. And there are others who are of mature age and can act for themselves. Canada cannot dispose of its own legislation at times without asking Westminster's permission. In my humble opinion the first thing to do regarding international affairs would be to ask Westminster to withdraw from the constitution the disallowance clauses of the British North America Act. I draw the attention of my

chief and of the committee to the absurd situation in which this parliament is placed when certified copies of the acts passed by this parliament, meaning the House of Commons and the Senate, and assented to by His Excellency the Governor General, who is the representative of His Majesty the King of Canada, are forwarded, in accordance with section 56, to one of his majesty's principal secretaries of state. I will read the section:
56. Where the governor general assents to a bill in the Queen's name, he shall by the first convenient opportunity send an authentic copy of the Act to one of her majesty's principal secretaries of state, and if the Queen in council within two years after receipt thereof by the Secretary of State thinks fit to disallow the act, since disallowance (with a certificate of the secretary of the day on which the act was received by him) being signified by the governor general, by speech or message to each of the houses of the parliament or by proclamation, shall annul the act from and after the day of such signification.
Section. 57 is to the same effect. The absurd situation is this: In May of last year his majesty came to Canada and gave his personal assent to certain bills. Of course we presumed that this was final, that the bills assented to by the king of Canada would not be sent by the governor general's secretary to the secretary for the dominions in London, and that the king of England would not have two years in which to disallow the legislation to which he had given his own assent as king of Canada. That is a most amazing situation. We may be told, of course, that these sections are spent, that they are not in force at the present time. But if certified copies of our acts are sent to the secretary for the dominions, now that Canada is enjoying the so-called benefits of the statute of Westminster, just the same as they were when Canada was recognized as a colony at the time the British North America Act was passed, what has been our progress?
One may say, of course, that there is no question of disallowance in connection with any act of this parliament. That is only a presumption, because no one can say that on some future occasion Westminster may not do what this government has properly done in the case of Alberta. There was no disallowance of provincial legislation for a great many years, but lately when a provincial premier passed some legislation which evidently was unconstitutional, it was disallowed. I do not blame the government for doing that; it was the right thing to do, but who knows What may be done in the future so far as our acts are concerned?
The only way we can have patriotic citizens in Canada is to teach them what our nation really is and tell them exactly what our con-

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stitution means. We want our constitution to be respected; I am all for that, but that constitution must make Canadians proud of their country and proud of their citizenship. We must be just as proud as the old Romans, who said, Civis Romanus sum-"I am a Roman citizen". We should be proud to be Canadian citizens. When a young boy is taught in school that he has the privilege of being a Canadian he must say the same thing, "I am proud to be a young Canadian", and that pride will last until the end of his days.
I should like to mention one thing that does not satisfy my mind. When Sir John Macdonald spent some summers at St. Patrick, in my constituency, he wrote a letter to one of his friends saying it was his intention that Canada should be called a kingdom. That was objected to by Lord Derby, and he made a few amusing remarks about that gentleman. Sir John Macdonald was one of the fathers of confederation, a great man, one of the builders of this country, and also a good Britisher. He thought Canada should be called a kingdom, but his lordship was afraid of what might be the effect in the United States, and he said no. On May 19 of last year something was said in this parliament which appears at page 4323 of Hansard:
May the blessing of divine providence rest upon your labours and upon my realm of Canada.
Those were the words of his majesty, spoken in this city, but surely his majesty is a king without a kingdom as far as Canada is concerned, because Canada is only a dominion. That may sound strange, but I try to proceed with logic. We have the king of Canada; we were told that according to the statute of Westminster the governor general no longer represented the British government but represented only his majesty, and that in fact he was a viceroy. That is all right, and later we had a high commissioner from England representing the British government. There was a division of responsibility; but what surprised me was that though many prominent people in Canada stated that the appointment of the governor general was made on the recommendation of the Canadian government, the present governor general, who was selected by this government after the statute of Westminster was passed, is the same gentleman who was selected by Great Britain before that statute was passed. I find that strange. I say this without meaning the least offence at all. I have great respect and admiration for the gentleman who now occupies that high post with great dignity. These, however, are some of the things that I cannot easily understand.
We have representatives abroad; for instance, we have legations. I was in Washington early in May and called at the Canadian legation, where I was told that the minister was suffering from jaundice, probably because he had been too close to the Japanese or the Chinese embassy. I spoke to the charg6 d'affaires over the telephone for about half an hour, during which I asked him many questions. United States is probably one of the last countries in the world where international law is respected. I studied international law in my youth; it is one of the most interesting branches of the legal profession. During that long conversation I asked the charge d'affaires if he had had any training in international law, and to my great surprise he said no. I was really rather scandalized.
For a number of years we have had a Canadian legation in Japan. I presume it is very important that the Canadian ministers and members of the staff should be well posted on Japanese questions. I wonder whether any minister or any Canadian member of the staff, down to the last messenger, has been able to speak the Japanese language. To understand the situation in Japan, to learn anything about the matters that were of importance to us, they have had to rely upon the paid help of Japanese-born people, who could commit any barbarisms or make any errors in translation that might suit theif own patriotic purposes. I do not see how we could maintain a legation in Japan without having there Canadian citizens who could fluently speak, read and write the Japanese language.
Of course the impression is conveyed throughout the world that Canada is a nation. Some diplomats, who are very courteous, accept the statement that Canada ranks as a free nation, though we are not such a nation in fact for the reason I have mentioned and others to which I shall come in a moment. I wonder what change the statute of Westminster may have made in our external relations, either with Great Britain or with any other country. Section 7 of that statute reads:
Nothing in this act shall be deemed to apply to the repeal, amendment or alteration of the British North America Acts, 1867 to 1930, or any order, rule or regulation made thereunder.
This means that the statute of Westminster does not repeal that part of the British North America Act concerning disallowance of our legislation.
Besides disallowance other matters have been mentioned, as indicated in Hansard of September 9, 1939, by my very good and respected friend the right hon. the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lapointe). Having stated that
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we cannot amend the constitution of Canada in any way without applying to the parliament at Westminster, he said:
It is our own will-I am not saying mine, but the will of the majority-that it should be so, and it is still so. How can we say that we have no bond with the parliament which gives us our power to legislate as it exists to-day?
The minister said it was not his own view; it was the view of the majority. I point out to him it was never submitted to the majority-never. It was never submitted to the Canadian people. I am sure if this matter were submitted to the Canadian people the answer would be this: We desire to have the right to amend our own constitution.
Then the. right hon. gentleman mentioned appeals to the privy council, and said:
. . . the lawyers of the province of Quebec were trusting more in the lords of the privy jouncil for their judicial decisions than in the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada, coming from the other provinces.
That is right. And he added:
Well, if some of our leading men who entertain these views now are for the neutrality of Canada, they still desire that judicial decisions affecting Canada shall be given by the judges in England.
Properly so. The minister was right about that. The reason is obvious, namely, that the judges of the privy council have a much more complete training than have the Canadian judges.

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