May 9, 1952 (21st Parliament, 6th Session)


Lester Bowles Pearson (Secretary of State for External Affairs)


Mr. Pearson:

Possibly I might make a short statement on this resolution at this time. The house will recall that a resolution approving the ratification of the Japanese peace treaty by Canada was adopted by both houses of parliament before the Easter recess, and the Canadian instrument of ratification of the treaty was deposited in Washington on April 17.
[The Chairman.]
As hon. members are no doubt aware, the treaty came into force for those countries which had ratified it on the deposit of the United States instrument of ratification of April 28, in accordance with the provisions of article 23 of the treaty. So the treaty is now in effect. The ratification of a treaty by Canada makes it legally binding upon this country, under international law; but such ratification does not alter the domestic law of Canada and does not, of course, impose obligations on Canadian citizens.
In the United States when a treaty is ratified it becomes part of the law of the land, and automatically thereby imposes obligations on United States citizens. But under our system, though governments may bind themselves, it requires legislation to impose obligations upon our nationals.
The resolution before the house is the first stage in the introduction of a bill which will be necessary to enable Canada to implement the provisions of this treaty. Those provisions which will require implementation by legislation in this country are rather narrow, and not of political but rather of legal importance. Article 14 of the treaty, for instance, makes provision for the liquidation and disposition of Japanese property in accordance with the laws of the allied powers concerned. This article enables the Canadian government, for instance, to apply the Japanese property vested in the custodian for the benefit of Canadians having claims against Japan or Japanese nationals, and will prevent Japanese nationals from suing in Canadian courts to recover property vested in the custodian. For both of these purposes under the treaty legislation would be required in Canada. It would also appear necessary for there to be legislation to enable Canada to carry out the provisions of the protocol to the treaty which regulates the question of contracts, periods of prescription and negotiable instruments, and questions of contracts of insurance.
It is for carrying out legal provisions of that type that we require a resolution, and legislation of the type envisaged in the resolution.
The bill which will be based upon the resolution, and which is envisaged in the resolution, will be drafted along the same lines as the Treaties of Peace (Italy, Roumania, Hungary and Finland), Act, which was assented to on June 30 1948, and which some hon. members will recall. That act was substantially the same as a group of statutes passed by the Canadian parliament following the first world war, with reference to the treaties of peace with Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Turkey.

Under the 1948 act to implement the Italian, Roumanian, Hungarian and Finnish treaties, two orders in council only have been required. One provided that certain provisions of these treaties should have the force of law in Canada. The other in 1951 was known as the war claims (Italy) settlement regulations. It is not anticipated, therefore, that any extensive action under this resolution-or the act, if it becomes law-will be required.
Neither of the orders in council passed under previous legislation in connection with other peace treaties contained any provision for penalties, and it is not likely that any orders in council passed under any legislation to implement the treaty with Japan will require a provision for penalties in addition to those contained in the trading with the enemy regulations which were continued in effect under the Trading With The Enemy (Transitional Powers) Act, 1947.
Nevertheless it has been considered desirable, as it was considered desirable in similar bills previously, to avoid any uncertainty in the matter and to provide in any bill for the prescribing of fines and other penalties by the governor in council. Such a bill based upon this resolution will be legislation to make effective upon the nationals of Canada obligations contracted by the government of Canada with the approval of the parliament of Canada. And I believe it is usual in such cases to make provisions for a penalty, if there is a violation.
I do not think there is anything more I can usefully say at this time. If the resolution is concurred in, a bill will be introduced. And when that bill is introduced, at the appropriate time it will be moved that it should be referred to the standing committee on external affairs, where it can be given very detailed consideration by members of the committee. That might also provide an occasion for discussion on Japanese matters generally. Then, if members so desired, the bill could be referred back for final discussion here.

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