December 14, 1951 (21st Parliament, 5th Session)


Bona Arsenault


Mr. Arsenault:

An ex-Conservative became a good Liberal. Firstly, Canada, in the British North America Act, was never mentioned by the name "Dominion of Canada". The name was "one dominion under the name of Canada". That fact was established by many in this house, by the Prime Minister, by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre and others, that Canada is one dominion under the name "Canada." I wish we could put that into the mimdis of hon. members once and for all.
Secondly, Canada as a dominion ceased to be a dominion the day in 1931 that the Statute of Westminster provided that all the nations of the commonwealth are:
Autonomous communities within the British empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the crown and freely associated as members of the British commonwealth of nations.
Therefore, if Canada is a dominion, then the United Kingdom is a dominion and the United States is a dominion. On the one hand, previous to the Statute of Westminster -I wish my hon. friends of the Conservative party would take a few notes at this time- previous to the Statute of Westminster, no legislature in Canada could pass any law repugnant to the law of the United Kingdom. Under the statute, no law enacted in the future by Canada or any of its provinces shall be void on the ground that it is repugnant to the law of the United Kingdom.
On the other hand, the legislature of the United Kingdom cannot, under the Statute of Westminster, pass any act extending to Canada as part of the Canadian law unless it is expressly declared in the act that the Canadian parliament has requested and consented to the enactment.
Another provision of the Statute of Westminster states that neither Canada, nor any province thereof, shall in future be described as a colony or something that means colony in any act of the parliament of the United Kingdom.
When the expression "Dominion of Canada" is used abroad in the United Kingdom what does it mean? It means to indicate the idea of subordination of these dominions to the United Kingdom. That is what it means, although it might be that the expression is used carelessly and merely because it has been common to use it since those days when it was proper; that is, when the word "dominion" is used in our own country it indicates the acceptance of constitutional subordination, unless the excuse is careless speech. The word "dominion" as applied to Canada, or in>
Dominion Elections Act any act of the Canadian parliament, has now lost its original meaning in practice-I say this with all respect to my colleagues of the Conservative party-as the supremacy [DOT]of the United Kingdom is now denied in Canadian affairs, both domestic and external, since Canada has now become a sovereign state and enjoys full international status on the basis of an equal nation within the commonwealth under the provisions of the Statute of Westminster dated December 1931.
The use of the word "dominion" as applied to Canada gives a false impression as to the present constitutional position of our country, as it denies recognition of the autonomous status of Canada and implies the idea of subordination to another country. It is further misleading as it suggests to the popular mind in our country and to the populations of other countries of the world that Canada has a status which is less than sovereign. Therefore, the word "dominion" should be eliminated from our vocabulary.
I should like to quote briefly from Time magazine of May 10, 1948, in order to prove the statement I have just made. It will be remembered that I introduced a bill to strike out the word "dominion" from all acts and regulations, and this is what this publication had to say:
C.C.F.'ers and many a Liberal cheered. From the Tories came a chorus of "No! No!" Arsenault's private bill had little chance of passage. Snapped the Ottawa Journal: "... A very silly notion.
Words or the lack of them do not make our independence." But many loyal pro-empire Canadians agreed with Arsenault's purpose, if not his motive: they were tired of explaining to Americans that ^'dominion" does not imply "domination."

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