November 13, 1941 (19th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Pierre-François Casgrain (Secretary of State of Canada)


Hon. PIERRE FRANCOIS CASGRAIN (Secretary of State):

Mr. Chairman, I had not intended to take part in this debate, but after listening to some of the speeches that have been delivered by hon. gentlemen opposite I feel it my duty to express my views to this parliament and the country.
A great many members of this House of Commons are advocating a total war effort and are seeking, both within and without this house, to promote the idea of conscription for service overseas. Let them not contradict me; that is what they want. We are in this parliament as representatives of the people of this country. During the campaign preceding the last general election the Canadian people were made acquainted with the aims and aspirations of every party. At that time the people of Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific were told that no party, including the Liberal and Conservative parties, was in favour of conscription for service overseas. Therefore the mandate given the Liberal party to govern the affairs of the country during this war was given on the principle of voluntary service. Parliament has no mandate to change this policy now without consulting the people. Canadians have not changed their minds; they still approve the present programme of the government. There have been several byelections throughout the country, at which Liberal candidates have been elected by large majorities, which proves that the policy of this government still has the support of the people. At the last by-election held in Alberta the hon. member for Edmonton East received a real mandate from the people of that constituency; and her campaign was conducted on the slogan, "No graft and no partisanship." That showed a real approval of the actions and policies of this government.
Hon. gentlemen opposite now seem to want compulsory enlistment for overseas service. I say the great majority of the Canadian people do not want it, and I know the vast majority of the population of the province from which I come are against it. The other day I listened with great attention to the hon. member for Danforth (Mr. Harris), who referred to the absence from this house of the right hon. leader of the Liberal party in the province of Quebec, the gallant hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe), who at present is ill, and also to the absence of the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Cardin), who is away for the same reason. I am not
The War-Mr. Casgrain

going to try to speak for those hon. gentlemen, but I am going to speak as one representing the province of Quebec. I can say that the entire population of that province is as one in supporting the policies of the right hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King). The feeling of the province of Quebec is that we should follow the provisions of the mobilization act that was adopted about a year ago; and my compatriots in Quebec are ready to serve anywhere from the Atlantic to the Pacific in the defence of our country, which is a sacred duty and obligation which all decent Canadians understand. Up to the present that mobilization act has done all that it was expected to do; according to the speeches of the ministers of defence, within the last six months 105,773 men enlisted in the army, the navy and air force, which I think is a very good record. In addition we have some 110,000 of our compatriots serving in England, ready to go into action whenever their services may be required. The right hon. Prime Minister was in England only recently; he saw our men over there and has reported, as has been stated in the press throughout Canada, that at the present time there is no body of men in England better equipped than the Canadian corps. At the time of Dunkirk in 1940 the only corps in England equipped and ready to face the enemy was the Canadian corps.
These are facts of which we should be proud. Under the policies of the present government, since the beginning of the war we have been able to bring about these results and it has been made known throughout the world that Canada is doing its full share and will continue to do so. Under the mobilization act the government has at its disposal adequate forces for the defence of the country, wherever they may be required and provision has been made whereby those who of their own free will wish to serve overseas, for the defence of the empire at large, are permitted to do so.
Before it could be agreed that the statements of hon. gentlemen opposite were true and ought to be considered seriously, it would have to be shown that the mobilization act and the laws of the land had not brought about the results which were expected. Far from that being the situation, I say, and I do not believe I can be contradicted, that at the present time we have in England an army consisting of four divisions and one tank brigade. With all the Canadians who have enlisted in the air force, the navy and the other services, I believe we have about twelve divisions compared with the four divisions we had in the last war. I think that is a brilliant record, of which we should all be proud.

Topic:   THE WAR
Full View