November 8, 1945 (20th Parliament, 1st Session)


Wilfrid Garfield Case

Progressive Conservative


I notice that, because when you are speaking hot air is rising from around your chair. I say to-night, Mr. Speaker, I am reminded of those immortal words by John McCrae, who wrote in part:
To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.
Those gallant sons of Canada thought it worth while to lay down their lives under the flag that to-day.we are holding in doubt, and I cannot use any other word. The opposition have offered an amendment which I regret has been ruled out of order. I believe, if it had been permitted, it would have solved our problem and done away with much controversy. It would have given a sense of direction and, I believe, would have met the demands of a majority of the Canadian people. I believe any reference to a committee will only end in misunderstanding and further debate in this chamber. Never in our long history has our tie with the British commonwealth meant so much to us. War with all its terrible realities leaves us with a sense of realism, and we are now on the threshold of possibly the greatest age ever known to mankind, the atomic age. I want to say in all sincerity that anything we might do to-night or to-morrow to weaken our ties with this greatest of all empires we shall live indeed to regret.
I am not unmindful of the sincere manner in which the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Mackenzie) presented this resolution to the House of Commons this afternoon. I am sure all who listened to his remarks were moved by a feeling of his sincerity. As a matter of fact it had not been my good fortune to hear
him speak previously except when making announcements in the house, and I think I can tell my hon. friend that I have never listened to a more impressive address anywhere in this country than the one he delivered here this afternoon. So you may know that anything I have to say to-night is not said in any disciplinary attitude, and I would not want to be misunderstood. I hope we are all sincere. In my years in public life I. have always taken the position that I will not impute improper motives to my fellow men. I treat them as being sincere, and from the remarks of the minister I know he feels this to be a means to an end. So that any differences we have are sincere differences indeed. As I approach this subject, I am only seeking to impress upon hon. members my personal views, but I believe any change which might tend to make Canada's flag more distinctive must indeed include the union jack. As a matter of fact I feel sure we would misunderstand our national standard if it did not relate to our early history, and I think I can go back to the early days of this country, not because I am a student of history but because I should like to be one. I can imagine that great night or morning on the plains of Abraham, when two great armies met, led by two great generals. They asked no quarter and gave none; and from that time we have carried on under the union jack.
I think I can say that my regard for my French-Canadian brethren is very high indeed. Never have I sought to detract from their loyalty or enthusiasm for this great dominion, but at times I have been very critical of the leadership under which they have proceeded. I did raise a point when we were discussing the McNaiighton flag, but nothing I said was intended to express a poor opinion of a great Canadian soldier. As the Minister of Veterans Affairs knows, we met in a memorable battle. I appreciated my adversary, but I appreciated more deeply that he was fighting in a hopeless cause. I consider it a sad thing that a great soldier, who had rendered signal service to his country, should have had to participate in an issue which was so highly controversial in this country. I say this simply to indicate that anything I have said does not detract from my high opinion of the gentleman himself.
I feel sure I shall be understood when I say that Britain has not been in any sense a boastful conqueror. She has always sought to uplift those over whom she has gained control. Think of the progress we have made, the bloodless evolution by means of which, under the guidance of Britain, we have gradually brought ourselves to the status of nationhood.
Canadian Flag

To-day we stand on the threshold of the greatest age mankind has ever experienced, an age of wizardry and invention, an age of advancement which knows no limit. I view the future with reasonable optimism, because I believe Canadians generally can afford to be reasonably optimistic. I view it indeed with some degree of scepticism, but I feel reasonably secure in the knowledge that back of this young nation is the great British empire. I do not use the expression "young nation" in the sense of the years of our nationhood. I refer rather to the vastness of this country, with a comparatively small population, a country which is indeed the envy of all, and the prize of the world. I view the future with a sense of security, so long as we have back of us the great British empire and the commonwealth of British nations.
The hon. member for Kingston City (Mr. Kidd) referred to election promises. I believe I can speak with some sense of appreciation in respect of this problem, so far as Ontario is concerned. Had there been any promise during the election campaign in Ontario to change the flag, there would have been fewer members on the Liberal side of the house than there are to-night. No such promise was made in my riding. However, as in respect of other measures which have come before the house I am not greatly concerned about some aspects of the resolution. This afternoon. however, I listened to the leader of the C C.F-Socialist party, when he said, in effect, that he hoped it would be a means to the end of bringing about a change in our national anthem.
I think "God Save the King" is the greatest symbol of empire we shall ever possess. I hope that my children and my children's children, and all who may come hereafter will always rise and sing with robust voice, and with that depth of meaning it has for anyone who has British blood in his veins, "God Save the King". .After all, it is indeed a symbol of empire.
The only part of the resolution which concerns me is that part which states that in the opinion of the house it is expedient that Canada should possess a distinctive national flag. With the volume of legislation before us, with the apparent unrest in the country, with the grave national problems to be solved, and with our troops marching home under this great banner, I cannot for the life of me understand why a resolution should be prefaced with the observation that it is expedient that at this time Canada should possess a distinctive national flag.
I feel-and I think many hon. members will agree with me-that if we are to con-

sider this problem there is plenty of time in the days to come to do so. When our feelings are less agitated, when we have more stability of outlook than we have at the present time in respect of the issue of a national flag, we may consider this matter.
I always think of the great old union jack with its white for purity, blue for loyalty and red for sacrifice. One day I listened to a speaker who referred to the stars and stripes as an emblem emblazoned with the light of the heavens. When I heard that I could not help thinking that our great union jack is emblazoned with the cross, emblematic of the salvation of man. And I can think of no higher ideal to which we might subscribe than one which would seek the salvation of the human race.
While I listened with attention to the minister when he presented the resolution this afternoon, I hope I did not misunderstand him when he referred, in a sense, to the suggestion that the government was not so bigoted that it did not anticipate that the union jack would form part of the flag which might be adopted as a national flag for Canada. While in effect he said that it was too early to deal with the design, I feel that if the house had some guidance from the government which would indicate that any flag decided upon would include the union jack it would relieve much of the suspense we now feel. .
I say to the house that I shall resist with all the energy I possess any attempt made to remove the union jack from the national flag of Canada. Certainly I shall resist with every atom of my being every attempt made now or at some future date to change our national anthem.
I would not want to be one who in any sense would doubt the sincerity of hon. members who have spoken in the debate. I deny to no man the right to express his opinion. As a matter of fact I believe that the free exchange of ideas is good for all of us. In this changing age I do not think any of us should be too definitely set in his views, particularly if there is provision for some latitude.
The hon. member for Kingston City referred to the flag issue as it developed in 1938, at a time when there existed the best of good feeling between this great dominion and our motherland. I am not unmindful of the controversy which existed in the early days when the British government sought to have the Canadian government provide facilities for British air training schools in this country. Looking back, I wonder what part that might have played in the great war which followed

Canadian Flag
in its wake, when scores of British airmen and scores of Canadian boys were sacrificed, when we might have had those training facilities established in this land of ours.
I am not in any sense going to charge the responsibility entirely to the Prime Minister. Many hon. members will know that I possess a background which in days gone by sought to admire the Prime Minister. It was only when he departed .from the true ideals of Liberalism that I could no longer follow him.
To-night I am reminded of the statement the Prime Minister made in 1944 when he told the commoners in effect that when he visited Herr Hitler in 1937 the Fuehrer asked him Canada's position in the event of war with Great Britain. He is reported to have replied that we would stand by Great Britain's side. Certainly that is the answer we would have expected him to make. But I ask hon. members: When the British government sought to introduce to Canada training schools for British airmen, were we indeed standing at Britain's side?

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