February 24, 1943 (19th Parliament, 4th Session)


John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative


Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the courtesy extended to me. I was just going to conclude by saying this, that the man-power situation must be dealt with. We cannot avoid our responsibility to assure our men overseas that reinforcements will be forthcoming. We do not discharge our responsibility to ensure national unity during this war and after unless we insist upon qqual interpretation and equal enforcement of the law in all parts of Canada. That can only be done, I submit, through restoring the provision in the Military Service Act for an appeal so that when the regulations are not followed rights will accrue, either to the crown or to the applicant.
Above all, Mr. Speaker, I protest against regulations being altered by letters such as the one to which I have referred, and this letter is just the first of a series of instructions to the national war service boards. What will the other letters contain?
Mr. JEAN-FRANCOIS POULIOT (Temiscouata): Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend the hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker) always makes a good speech, and he has said many things to-day with which I agree, although I cannot agree with all that he said.
I listened this afternoon to my hon. friend the member for Labelle (Mr. Lalonde) who made a plea for an amnesty for the sons of farmers. At a place called St. Modeste in my constituency-there is a place of that name only in my constituency-I made the very same suggestion in the course of last summer. In my humble view all those who are farmers and have not volunteered for the armed services should have been granted an amnesty

The Address-Mr. Pouliot
from October 15 to December 31, and a notice should have been published weekly in all the weeklies of Canada, and twice a week, in a prominent place in the paper, in each of the dailies throughout Canada, to inform the farmers and the farmers' sons that they were being granted an amnesty. And what kind of amnesty? The right to get in touch with their registrars without having to fear any punishment because they had not, for one reason or another, reported when called upon to do so. I met a high official of one of the departments and I was greatly surprised at his understanding of the Canadian feeling regarding a matter of this kind. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, what he told me? He said, "Oh! that would be the spark that would set the whole country on fire." I do not believe so, and I presume that the hon. member for Lake Centre thinks as I do about it. This is a matter that as members of the House of Commons we have not only a right but a duty to discuss freely without fear or favour in this house.
When, sir, I speak of an amnesty, I mean a real amnesty with a result in view, not merely an amnesty on a piece of paper that is sent out to the chairmen of the boards and that gives no security to any draftee or conscript. What I regret is the hypocrisy which has surrounded the calling of men for their training. Once I wrote an article on advice to trainees, or conscripts; the title was "Conseils aux Consents"-"Advice to Conscripts." What I was telling them was to observe the law and to take advantage of it to claim their right to stay on the land when their duty-their family duty and in most cases their national duty- was to be on the land. And do you know what was the suggested correction that was made to me? My advice was within the law; nothing was said about the advice given; the only thing I was blamed for was the use of the word "consents"-conscripts. Hypocrisy!
I have complained once about Mr. Claude Melangon when he was on the wartime information board. I was justified in doing so because the propaganda board was no good. I could have made the same complaint about the other member, the English-speaking fellow who was denounced, and rightly so, by the hon. member for Broadview (Mr. Church). But I am not narrow-minded enough to withhold credit for the good things a man may do; and it is my personal opinion that the memorandum prepared by Mr. Claude Melangon favouring an amnesty in respect of farmers is an excellent one, and I will ask either the Minister of Labour (Mr. Mitchell), or the Minister of National War Services (Mr. LaFleche), who is here at the moment, kindly to table this 72537-44
report at the earliest possible date. I will tell you more than that, that I have also been informed that, if the trainees or conscripts- meaning probably the farmers and the farmers' sons-have not yet enjoyed that amnesty, the Department of Labour is not responsible; it is the Department of National War Services which has refused to give its assent to the proposal.
That being said, sir-and I know what I am talking about-I come to the amendment moved by the hon. member for Peel (Mr. Graydon), who is the leader of his party in the house and the acting leader of his party at large. The leader at large of his party, in every speech which he has delivered since his accession to these important functions, has never missed one occasion to complain about the bureaucracy that we have here in Ottawa, and it is a very great surprise to me that the amendment moved by my hon. friend the house leader of the opposition does not say a word about it. I cannot conceive why that is so. There is the leader, among crowds of people, complaining about the bureaucracy which we have here in Ottawa, yet on the first official occasion that the party, which gathers daily to discuss its own problems, had the opportunity to enunciate this view in the house, where laws are made and where the state of things which is so much deplored by their leader may be corrected, they do not take advantage of it.
It will not be untimely to remind the house of the logical consequence of the intervention of a member of parliament who, years ago, was the first one to denounce bureaucracy in this house. In the first place let us go back to the session of 1936, though we might go back before that. We might go back to the time when Mr. Bennett was the leader, of the government and when questions were put on the order paper with the purpose of getting some information about the twelve thousand people whom he had imported to this city. The figures are of record; they are downstairs in the vaults of this house.

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