July 6, 1942 (19th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Jean-François Pouliot



If my hon. friend will be kind enough to wait until the house adjourns, I will give it to him. It is no secret. It was published and later changed by replacing "England" with "empire", or something like that, after I complained about it. But when I mentioned the name of the man concerned there was no contradiction by anyone. I mentioned that name in public, and it was reported in several newspapers. I know very well my hon. friend the Minister of Pensions and National Health (Mr. Mackenzie) would never use language like that. I know him as a fair-minded Canadian citizen, who does not like or appreciate things like that, which are beneath him. But those things should never happen in this country. They create ill-feeling between those who should live together like brothers. One may disagree with someone else and both may remain friends, provided they discuss the matter objectively.
My idea on rising to-night is precisely to discuss these matters objectively and to address myself through you, sir, to all hon. members who are open-minded and who have not already formed an opinion on the matter. The province of Quebec has been misjudged from beginning to end. We are all in the same boat. If Canada wins the war, we all

Mobilization Act-Mr. Pouliot

win the war; and if Canada loses the war, we all lose the war. Therefore we all have a common interest in winning the war. But in trying to win the war there is one thing we must not lose-we must not lose our heads. A pertinent remark was made by the leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson) in 1940 when he said that we should discuss everything relating to the war with calm and with clarity of mind. That was indeed a very good suggestion. We should not get excited over any matter which comes before us, because that may have a bad effect on our judgment and decision.
During the plebiscite campaign we heard speeches that were like the overture to Tannhauser. Some speakers talked one way, while others at the same time said something entirely different, although both were pleading for the same answer, an affirmative vote. But to some people a "yes" vote meant no conscription, while to others "yes" meant conscription. I admit that even some speakers may have been deceived by the explanations given to them; but nevertheless the Canadian people were greatly embarrassed how to answer the question. I am told that an old gentleman who was in the inner councils and who died not so long ago said that the question asked in the plebiscite was purposely ambiguous to give the speakers an opportunity to say everything about it. It reminds me of the conundrum, "what is round like an egg, has a shell like an egg, has a yolk and a white like an egg, and barks?" The answer is "an egg." "Oh," you will say, "an egg does not bark." Quite so, but putting that in makes the conundrum a little harder. That is the way in which the question was put to the people in the plebiscite.
Here is something that is very interesting. It is a report of the Prime Minister's speech over the radio on April 8, 1942. The heading in the Ottawa Journal says, speaking of the Prime Minister:
Pleads for affirmative answer to the plebiscite question-Mackenzie King declares it essential that Canada send an army overseas.
The headline across the top of the page reads:
Final battles may be fought in Canada.
I have another headline from the Montreal Gazette of April 25:
Premier King makes plebiscite test of confidence.
He said in that speech that the draft is not an issue in the plebiscite campaign. That speech was given wide publicity and was made over a national hook-up on the Friday before the plebiscite was taken, and the report of the speech appeared in every Canadian news-

paper on Saturday, two days before the voting. Of course, a correction was made of the statement that the plebiscite was a test of confidence, but the statement was distinctly made by the Prime Minister that . the draft or conscription was not the issue.
Here is a headline from the Montreal Gazette of April 28, the day after the vote was taken:
Premier states will of majority prevails- says plebiscite was "national expression of view on national issue," and should be viewed in all its aspects. Declares vote was taken in democratic fashion.
The vote was taken in democratic fashion, if by that is meant merely the polling of the vote. The people, I presume, went to the polls and put their ballots in the boxes, and in that way may be said to have voted in democratic fashion. But the appeal to the people to vote "yes" on the question submitted was most undemocratic, because the people were told that it was in their own interests to vote "yes", and publicity was spread all over the country to inform them that if they did not vote "yes" they would be traitors and would be voting just as Hitler would have voted had he been a Canadian citizen. That was pretty hard, and the consequence was that English-speaking Canadians were biased and prejudiced by such appeals. The campaign was not waged at all in accordance with real democratic traditions. I regret that, sir. It was to my great sorrow; I have never been as sorry over anything else that has been done in politics as I have been over this matter.
The question is now before us to repeal section 3 of' the mobilization act. Section 3 reads:
The powers conferred by the next preceding section may not be exercised for the purpose of requiring persons to serve in the military, naval or air forces outside of Canada and the territorial waters thereof.
The marginal subtitle is as follows: "Limitation in respect of service overseas." In addition to the propaganda that was used during the plebiscite campaign, I know there were lobbies by propagandists of almost every description who tried to make the members of the government forget that Canada is our country and that in war we should have as our policy, Canada first, which of course does not exclude any help being given to our allies in this war.
The mobilization act, part of which we are being asked to repeal, is legislation which was not absolutely in accordance with the traditions of the Liberal party, for this reason,
, that all the leaders and all the members of the Liberal party, including myself, had said during

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a quarter of a century that with the Tories in power we would have conscription, but with the Liberals in power we would have none.
There was no distinction made between conscription for overseas service and conscription for home defence; it was conscription that was objected to by the leaders of the party as well as by their followers. In spite of that, after the capitulation of France when the government came out with a measure of conscription for home defence, I supported the measure, because in my view, as in the view of French Canadians, Canada was my country. We are not different when we express a view like that. The defence of countiy is a national duty. No one can be accused of being narrow-minded or parochial when he says, as the French Canadians have said, that the shores of British Columbia and the maritimes as well as any part of central Canada shall be defended at the cost of his life. That is their understanding. Propaganda to lead the Canadian people to believe that anyone is parochial because he is opposed to conscription is wrong. Such propaganda has been inspired by nefarious paid agents who want to destroy patriotism in the hearts of Canadian citizens?
What is patriotism? Patriotism is love of country, the country in which one was born or the country which one has adopted to make it his own, and which must be considered in the first place when making any important decision. The view is expressed at times that the duty of legislators is to lead the people. However, a distinction should be made, because one of the most notorious leaders of men is Hitler. He does not give his people an opportunity to think; they must follow him and abdicate entirely their personal views. If they do not do so they are considered guilty of a crime, the penalty for which at times is death. Under the democratic system everybody is supposed to be free to express his own opinion; everybody has the right to say what he thinks.
If the plebiscite had any meaning, it was a confirmation of the theory that the people are at liberty to give their own views to the government. If the government desires to ask the views of the people, it should take advantage of the answer only when the question asked is clear enough to be understood by all. If that is done, then you get the real opinion of the majority of people in a democracy. If this question had read, "Are you in favour of conscription for overseas?" and if there had been a majority of "yes" votes, I would not be speaking to-night. I would consider that the people had spoken and I would respect their views. But it is because the plebiscite campaign was carried on as it was that I must protest. The result of that plebi-
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scite does not give the real opinion of the Canadian people about conscription for overseas service.
I admit that opinions are free, but there are some that cannot be expressed without thinking of a certain decency. There are some men who have a right to say that they are in favour of conscription for overseas service, but I contend that that right does not belong to all citizens of the country. It belongs only to those who served in the last war or in this war in a theatre of war, or to those all of whose children of military age are now in active service in a theatre of war, and a theatre of war includes the navy. A bachelor who did not serve during the last war or who is not serving in this war in a theatre of war, or a married man who did not serve in the last war or in this war in a theatre of war, or a married man all of whose children of military age are not at present fighting overseas or on the high seas is not qualified to say that others should be conscripted for overseas service. The greatest preaching is by example. Most hon. members will probably remember the Latin poet who said suave man magno. It is a pleasure to look at those who are on the high seas when a storm is raging, provided that you yourself are under shelter safely on the shore.
On motion of Mr. Pouliot the debate was adjourned.

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