Mr. J. L. MacDougall (Vancouver-Burrard):
Mr. Speaker, this is an extremely important discussion we have listened to today, and in dealing with this issue it is my opinion that we should make haste slowly. For many years in the history of our fair nation we have tried to evolve the maximum amount of harmony, unity and good will amongst Canadians from the Atlantic to the Pacific. We can all recall the efforts of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, R. L. Borden, Mackenzie King, and in more recent times the present Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent), toward the establishment of a sense of unity which is completely opposite to bigotry and disunion.
In my younger days I belonged to an organization which had the issue of a distinctive national flag as one of the main planks in its platform. There were many other planks in that platform, and some of the members in that organization felt that all our aims should be realized immediately. Wiser counsel prevailed, however, and we became satisfied making haste slowly.
Along with many other hon. members of this house I fought in world war I and world war II. I fought under the flag of our forebears, and I was as glad to fight under that flag as were many others. But I do not think the feeling among many sections of our people has approached any degree of unanimity as yet with respect to the development of a distinctive Canadian flag. We cannot continue our progress toward unity by tearing to rags and tatters the degree of unity we have accomplished over the past 55 or 56 years.
It is only human for certain members of the house to decide, possibly within their own minds, that this matter of a distinctive Canadian flag is something that should be decided by the government. However, I do not agree with that and, as the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Applewhaite) pointed out so clearly in his address, the people of Canada are the people whom we serve in this house.
To the best of my knowledge and belief, certainly as far as the Pacific coast is concerned, there has been no terrific upsurge for the immediate adoption of a distinctive Canadian flag. There may be such an upsurge, but it remains for us to listen and learn if there are sections of the nation clamouring for such a change.
I cannot say I am too enthusiastic about the ensign that we now consider to be our national flag, but regardless of whether or not I am personally 100 per cent for it, the point of consequence is that if and when a change is made we do not, in making that change, destroy the many fine acts of unity that have been performed by prime ministers of various parties in the last 55 or 56 years.
I am moved, Mr. Speaker, by a debate that took place in this House of Commons last spring-and it is something I wish to refer to at this time
when the bill to bring about the establishment of the royal style and titles of Her Majesty the Queen was under discussion. All of us who sat in the chamber during that debate I think will agree that it was one of the most moving moments in the history of the twenty-first parliament. The Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) delivered a magnificent oration on the subject, and the leader of the official opposition designated the then hon. member for Lake Centre, now the hon. member for Prince Albert (Mr. Dief-enbaker) to make the official reply for the opposition.
On a matter of such great national importance I think it would be well for us on this occasion to refresh our memory of what was said then by the Prime Minister and the reply that was made on behalf of the official opposition in the house at that time. As will be recalled, the Prime Minister had just returned from a conference of the prime ministers of the commonwealth. During the course of his remarks he stated the object of the bill. I now quote from page 1566 of Hansard of February 3, 1953. The style and titles incorporated at that time in the bill were as follows:
Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.
That style and title remains today-as I hope it shall for a long period of time-as the way in which we in Canada designate our most gracious and beloved sovereign.
I will not quote the full text of the remarks by the Prime Minister at that time, but in speaking of the previous gathering of the
prime ministers of the commonwealth he had this to say, as reported at page 1566 of Hansard of February 3, 1953:
The question then arose whether it would be proper to have in the title we would use the traditional words, "by the grace of God", sovereign. We felt that our people did recognize that the affairs of this world were not determined exclusively by the volition of men and women; that they were determined by men and women as agents for a supreme authority; and that it was by the grace of that supreme authority that we were privileged to have such a person as our sovereign. Then perhaps the rather more delicate question arose about the retention of the words "defender of the faith".
In England there is an established church. In our countries there are no established churches but in our countries there are people who have faith in the direction of human affairs by an allwise Providence; and we felt that it was a good thing that the civil authorities would proclaim that their organization is such that it is a defence of the continued beliefs in a supreme power that orders the affairs of mere men, and that there could be no reasonable objection from anyone who believed in the Supreme Being in having the sovereign, the head of the civil authority, described as a believer in and a defender of the faith in a supreme ruler.
The Prime Minister went on at some length to make the position clear about the position that was taken by the prime ministers of the commonwealth on that occasion. I think it is well that we should take cognizance of some of the additional things that were said, and which were carried back to us from that conference by the Prime Minister. He also said this, as reported at page 1567 of Hansard to which I have referred:
We are all proud of being Canadian citizens because we can be so and can exercise all our rights as such without forgetting our racial origins, our ancestral traditions, and without there being any effort by any of our fellow citizens to make us over into any other kind of Canadian than we happen to be because of our racial origins and with our ancestral traditions.
As I said, the then hon. member for Lake Centre made an extremely stirring speech following the Prime Minister. In it he said, as reported at page 1568 of Hansard of the same date:
Mr. Chairman, it was a most moving address to which we have just listened. It is evidence of the strength of the parliamentary system that while we may be separated in smaller things, in respect to our system of government and to the unity that is provided by the crown, there is no division, there is no diversity of opinion, there is but a common devotion ... As we listened to the Prime Minister without regard to party considerations this parliament became cathedral in devotion to our history, to our heritage and to our common pursuit of freedom.
Mr. Speaker, I have read certain passages from the speeches made on that occasion by our Prime Minister and the then hon. member for Lake Centre, who acted on behalf of the
official opposition. It seems to me that in those words we have the core and crux of what we wish to hold dear within this land of ours. As the then hon. member for Lake Centre said, the house on that occasion became cathedral in devotion. In the name of all the things we hold dear, Mr. Speaker, let us not now take action that in any way is going to disturb, even to the most minute degree, the sentiments of the house on that occasion and, I am sure, the sentiments of the house as they prevail today.
It would seem to me that in our great land of Canada today we have a large number of people who do not come from the United Kingdom. We have a large number of people who come from various parts of Europe and who, by our standards of unity and freedom in Canada, are rapidly becoming loyal Canadians, ready to stand in defence of our beloved land. We also have those who have come here at terrific sacrifices of their own, and quite possibly extreme sacrifices by the members of their families whom they left behind. These people have come to Canada to enjoy a life of freedom in a land where prejudice, racial antagonism and religious antagonism play a minor part.
If we are to judge from past experience we could bring into this house not 2,600 designs for a national flag but possibly 26,000 designs. The likelihood that this would result in a majority opinion of the cosmopolitan groups of people who today are the real backbone of our nation in favour of one design is not very real. I admit that in this discussion we have heard the opinions of individuals; but I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that none of us is able to speak for any large number of people in the areas from which we come on this particular subject.
We have, as I have stated, many ideas as to what constitutes patriotism. Some feel that our patriotism in Canada should extend many miles beyond the borders of our own terrain. Others feel that it should be confined within the geographical limits of Canada. With this divergence of views in mind, let us not hurriedly do something that is going to turn out to be a retrograde step.
I could give you my opinion as to what a distinctive Canadian flag should be like. I cannot say, however, that any great number of people in this house would agree with my opinion. I would say without fear of contradiction that as members of this house we have sworn our allegiance to our gracious sovereign. History tells us that certain concessions have been granted by the sovereign to certain societies. I think it is fair to
assume from this that if concessions were granted by the sovereign to these societies similar concessions might be granted to a nation. I would hope we might keep that specifically in mind. If we allowed a decision on this matter to be made hurriedly, in all likelihood it would bring about a greater divergence of opinion than now exists and might affect the whole future of the Dominion of Canada.
After having listened to quite a number of speeches today on this issue I would hope that we might be able to take a second look at this issue. It is always well, when you are dealing with a subject which has a particular emotional appeal, not to let your emotions run away with you. That being true, it would seem to me prudent that we take not only a second look but perhaps a third look at this issue before a decision is made. We have had a long history of progress and development in this land. This progress and advancement evolved because most of the people of Canada were behind the steps that were taken to bring about that measure of progress which we enjoy today.
With that in mind, sir, I take pleasure in moving the adjournment of the debate.
Subtopic: CANADIAN FLAG