March 7, 1910 (11th Parliament, 2nd Session)


George Halsey Perley (Whip of the Conservative Party (1867-1942))

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEORGE H. PERLEY (Argenteuil).

Mr. Speaker, the question before the House is so important that I desire to say a few Mr. LACHANCE.
words on it before the debate closes. This Canadaof ours is the greatest self-governing colony of the British empire, and so far as I have been able to judge we have received in our day and generation at least, just as fair treatment from the motherland as we could reasonably wish. In the course of the debate some hon. gentlemen have referred to incidents that have happened in the days gone by, but such past events have little concern with the issue now before the country. The United States rebelled against Great Britain for grave reasons, and Great Britain learned the lesson how to govern her colonies so as to obtain their love and respect. Now, Sir, there is no one in this House more loyal to British connection than I am. I suppose that the right hon. gentleman who leads the House would possibly refer to me as a dreadful imperialist, but that appellation has many different meanings, and the proper meaning of that word is one who believes in maintaining the British empire by all reasonable means. I am a Canadian first, I am for Canada, but I believe that it is to our interest to stay in the British empire, because to my mind it is thus that we can best ensure our peace, our security, and our happiness as a nation. I need not refer to the present day greatness of the British empire or to the noble part she has played in history. Never has the world seen such a grand empire, and the dearest wish of my heart is to see it perpetuated if that can be accomplished and in a way satisfactory to all the component nations. I believe, Sir, that our race is surely capable of finding some practical solution of imperial problems, among which this one of naval defence is now presented for our consideration. The hon. the leader of the opposition has very closely set forth in his speech my views when he gave utterance to the following language:
It is not wise to prophesy what the future may bring forth, but I would venture to hope that a defence committee or an imperial conference having special jurisdiction over defence matters, composed of men from both parties in Great Britain itself as well as in the self-governing nations of the empire, would have some control over the organization of imperial defence, and as an outcome of such a committee or such a conference I would expect that in future Great Britain would engage in no great war without knowing before hand that she would have the support and the sympathy of every one of the great self-governing nations of the empire. This would give to these dominions a voice in the control of war, because I thoroughly agree that if we are to take nart in the permanent defence of this great empire wre must have some control and some voice in snch matters.
It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that this prophecy is sure to come true, if the empire is to hold together, and if we should now ask for some representation of that

kind in the empire's councils, provided we give regular and effective assistance to the imperial navy, in what way may seem best to us, is it not likely that Great Britain would grant our request. Autonomy is certainly essential to the welfare of a colony, but not absolute autonomy in everything. The whole empire must be greater than any one part of it, greater than Canada or the United Kingdom in themselves, and the voice of the empire so expressed would carry greater weight, and have more power than the voice of any single Dominion. Each part of the empire must have control over its own local affairs, but some means ought to to be found so that in future, if there is to be a war, that war will be declared by the empire, and not by the United Kingdom as at present. And, Sir, if we are to stay in this British empire, as I hope we may, then we must do our share to defend ourselves, for that is the only thing that would satisfy Canadians who are a self-reliant, and a self-respecting people. I think, Sir, that we should do our share of the empire's defence of our own free will. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and every nation must protect itself. I do not pretend to say that it is easy to declare exactly how this should be done, or how we should do our share in the empire's defence. In my view, Sir, the question has not been long enough before the people. The Prime Minister stated that the people of Canada had the question before them since 1902, but I do not agree with the right hon. gentleman in that. It is true that in 1902 the question was raised at the imperial conference of that year, but until the past year it never came up for consideration before the people as a whole. I think I am safe in saying that not five per cent of the people of Canada ever heard of or knew what resolutions were passed in 1902, and therefore, I submit that our people have not had sufficient time to consider this very serious matter. I believe that it is to the interest of all classes and races . in this Dominion that British connection should be maintained, for I think I am safe in saying that no country except Great Britain has ever given to her colonies such civil and religious liberty as Canada enjoys. And, in this connection I may say that it is my belief that the great masses of the people of Canada, not only English Canadians, but French Canadians, are loyal to the British Throne, and appreciate the advantages which we have received from the motherland. In 1870, Sir George Etienne Cartier who is generally acknowledged to be as great a statesman as Canada ever produced was Minister of Militia, and in that year a question arose with regard to Canada providing a permanent militia to replace some of the imperial troops which had been withdrawn from this country.
Through his influence ana the influence of others the matter was arranged, and Sir George Cartier prepared a state paper on May 19, 1870, from which I quote as follows:
The announcement in the former despatch (from Lord Granville) of the 12th February last, that the arrangements therein contemplated are contingent upon time of peace, and are in no way intended to alter or diminish the obligations which exist on both sides in case of foreign war, is very satisfactory to the Canadian government, who receive with gladness the reiteration of the assurance conveyed in the despatch of the l7th June, 1665, that the imperial government fully acknowledged the obligation of defending every portion of the empire, with all the resources at its command, on the reciprocal assurances given by the Canadian ministers, then in London, that Canada was ready to devote all her resources, both in men and money, to the maintenance of her connection with the mother country.
This paper was concurred in unanimously by the Dominion cabinet on May 20, 1870, and it shows the feeling of Sir George Cartier at that time and the feeling of the people whom he represented.
Now, Sir, it seems to me that the first thing we ought to decide in connection with this matter at present is that whatever we do shall be efficient. I do not believe that this country should spend a vast sum of money without giving any real help to- the empire. Whatever differences of opinion there may be in this country on this question, we surely all agree in that. The present proposal of the government is one of no real practical value. It seems to me that it is only a farce, and will only result in our having a false sense of security, while we spend vast sums of money, which will go on increasing year by year; and we shall not have any ships which, in case of war, will be of any real benefit to us or to the empire in helping her to defend us. I believe this government has tried to deceive the people m this matter; it has tried to make them believe that it is really proposing some effective measure, that it is doing what the British admiralty wishes it to do. Last summer there was in London a conference of the self-governing colonies. I am not going into the details of this part of the question, because it has already been discussed in this House by many of the speakers who have preceded me. But in general I would say that at thiat conference the British admiralty stated that as a matter of naval strategy the best thing the colonies could do would be to contribute in money; but at the same time it was recognized that that would not be satisfactory to the colonies. Then the British minister, Mr. McKenna, stated that whiat the admiralty would really like would be a fleet unit on the Pacific. Australia had

promised a fleet unit, New Zealand had promised the principal ship of a fleet unit, Great Britain herself was to give a third, and what the admiralty would like was that Canada should give a fourth. The Canadian representatives demurred at that, and asked that something should be suggested that would not cost so much money. Then the British government suggested that Canada might get an auxiliary Bristol, some cruisers and other vessels, in accordance with the scheme now proposed by this government. The British -admiralty did not say that these ships would be of any particular service to them in time of war; yet this government has adopted this scheme and put it before the people of this country as a fulfilment of the wishes of the British admiralty. In the speech from the Throne last November there were the following words:
Two members of my government attended the imperial conference called by His Majesty's government, on the question of defence. A plan was adopted, after consultation with the admiralty, for the organization of a Canadian naval service, on the lines of the resolution of the House of Commons of the 29th of March last.
This clause in the speech from the Throne was drafted for the purpose of making the people believe that the plan suggested by this government was the one proposed by the admiralty. 1 submit that these words should not have been put into His Excellency's mouth when the government intended to bring down this Bill, which does not provide for any effective assistance. Moreover, the government's plan is not on the lines of the resolution of last March. That resolution has been fully discussed, and I do not propose to quote it now; but I understood it to mean that we Canadians were prepared to render effective assistance in the defence of the empire when it was required. The resolution of last March was passed under special circumstances, and was intended to show to the world that we were a unit in our desire to maintain the British empire, and to do what was reasonable to that end. At the same time, I do not argue that the exact words of that resolution are binding for ever. Circumstances change, and while our intent is the same, we may carry out that intent in a different way from what was proposed at that time. The Prime Minister has attempted in his speech to lead the country to believe that we are not ready to act up to this resolution while the government is. On February 3, at page 3035 of 'Hansard' thie right hon. gentleman said:
When this resolution was moved, and accepted by a unanimous vote, we believed that it would be binding upon the other side of Mr. PEELEY.
the House as it is binding upon this side, but in this _we made a mistake. We supposed when this resolution had been voted on, gentlemen on the other side of the House who had given their assent would at least have the small merit of consistency, but in this we were deceived. It never entered our minds that men on the other side of the House would go back on the vote they had solemnly given. In tins again we had made a mistake. We paid them too great a compliment.
I submit that the government itself has not carried out this resolution and that this proposal of the government is not in accordance with it. The resolution was passed unanimously by the House, but the government ha3 taken to itself the sole right to interpret it. In that resolution are the words:
Along the lines suggested by the admiralty at the last imperial conference.
This proposal of the government does not follow the lines suggested by the admiralty at the last imperial conference. To establish that I shall read a part of the English report of the 1907 conference contained on page 129 where Lord Tweedmouth says:
We welcome you and we ask you to take some leading part in making more complete than it is at present the naval defence of the empire. I wish to recognize all that our cousins over the sea have done in consequence of decisions of former conferences. I know that you gave to the government and to the admiralty with a free and unstinted hand, the help that you thought you could manage to give. Gentlemen, I have only one reserva-tation to make, and in making it I ask that, as we have proved ourselves successful in the past, you should put your trust in us now. The only reservation that the admiralty desire to make is, that they claim to have the charge of the strategical questions which are necessarily involved in naval defence, to hold the command of the naval forces of the country, and to arrange the distribution of ships in the best possible manner to resist attacks and to defend the empire at large, whether it be our own islands or the dominions beyond the seas. We thoroughly recognize that we are responsible for that defence. We want you to help us in that defence, we want you to give us all the assistance you can, but' we do not come to you as beggars; we gladly take all you can give us, but at the same time, if you are not inclined to give us the help that we hope to have from you, we acknowledge our absolute obligation to defend the King's dominions across the seas to the best of our ability.
In other words, the only thing that Lord Tweedmouth asked was that they should have charge of the strategical question of naval defence in case of naval war, and this proposal of the government does not so provide. Therefore I say that when the right hon. gentleman who leads this House undertook to make the country believe that we. had gone back on our resolution while the government had stuck to it, he is re-

versing the true position, because this government has certainly not brought down a Bill or a suggestion of naval defence which accords with the resolution of last March. The right hon. the Prime Minister in his speech on the address in reply to the speech from the Throne on November 15 last, said:
Need I say to my hon. friend that whether we have such a navy or not, we do not loose our right to self-government; that if we do have a navy, that navy will go to no war unless the parliament of Canada, including the hon. gentleman, choose to send it there.
Clauses 18 and 19 of the Bill provide that the Governor in Council may place at the disposal of His Majesty the Canadian ships which this government proposes to build. Clause 19 provides that if the Governor in Council decides to place our ships at the disposal of the British admiralty then parliament must be called at once to consider it, but if the government decides not to place the ships at the disposal of the admiralty then nothing happens, parliament is not called together, and the ships do not go. It seems to me a curious distinction. If parliament is to decide as to what the ships shall do, then parliament should decide whether it is for or against. I do not see why this distinction has been put in the Bill. In any case the right hon. gentleman and the other members of thi3 government must know that these clauses in the Bill are wholly misleading. In case of a war between Great Britain and some foreign country, that foreign country will be the one to settle whether Canada is at war or not, and if the country which is at war with Great Britain attacks our vessels we must then fight or haul down the Union Jack and practically secede from the empire. So I say to the government that these clauses must have been placed in the Bill to mislead somebody, or other, because it is impossible that Canada should keep out of any war that Great Britain may be in, if the foreign country which is at war with Great Britain chooses to come here and attack us.
This seems to be too important a matter for any government to have the right to decide. I do not think that any Canadian government, I do not care who might be at the head of affairs, should have it in its power to virtually decide in this extraordinary way that Canada should become independent. We know that this Liberal government arrogates to itself great powers in every direction, but surely it is for the people of this country to decide a matter of so vital importance, and not for any government.
I was exceedingly sorry to see that the right hon. the Prime Minister in discussing this question attempted to make party capital out of it. He followed the
Liberal party press in trying to make out that this plan of the government had been agreed to by both parties. The Liberal press has in many cases referred to this Naval Bill as the Laurier-Bordenjorogram-me. For instance I find that the Toronto 'Globe' on January 3, in an editorial says:
The ' Citizen ' virtually says that Mr. Ellis is prepared to swallow the Laurier-Borden naval programme, even to the extent of leaving the control of the fleet to the Canadian people in time of peace.
I claim that this is an unfair way of putting the case as there was no Laurier-Borden programme whatever. There was a resolution passed unanimously by this House in March last, but the difficulty regarding it consists in the interpretation which might be put upon it, and in the way in which it might be thought best to carry it out. If it was intended by the government that this Naval Bill should be a joint arrangement agreed to "by both parties, then, I submit, it was the duty of the government to keep the leader of the opposition informed as to what was going on, to consult with him and to arrive at some understanding satisfactory to everybody as to what was best to do. I have always thought that that would have been good statesmanship, and that in a matter of this kind it would have been better for Canada if the government had taken the leader of the opposition into their confidence when this matter was being discussed and tried to have arrived at some programme that would have been satisfactory to both sides. Instead of that, the proceedings of the conference were kept absolutely secret, and even after parliament met it was with the greatest difficulty that we could find out exactly what the government had decided to do. When the proposal of the government in this matter did come down, it was found by our side of the House to be entirely different from what the resolution and the admiralty called for. As an alternative of this plan of the government, the leader of the opposition has suggested another, which will not only be more economical for this country, but will give a great deal more help to Great Britain than the proposal suggested by the government. When the right hon. Prime Minister (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) moved the second reading of this Bill, it seemed to me that he did not take the dignified course that I should have expected of him on that occasion. This question is, perhaps, the most momentous one that has ever been brought before this parliament, because the consequences which will flow from it will extend over many years and the decision taken at this time must greatly affect the course we shall have to pursue

in the future. When the Prime Minister was moving the second reading of such a Bill, it seems to me, he ought to have confined himself to a statesmanlike review of the Bill in order that every person should understand it thoroughly, and that the people of the country might have a chance to consider it carefully. Instead of that, the right hon. gentleman made a campaign speech in this House without discussing very much the merits of the Bill. He began by taunting this side of the House because, he said, we had a divergence of views, we did not all think alike. He spoke of this at some length, attempting to set one part of the opposition against the other, and to have the country know that we had some difference of opinion. The right hon. gentleman, when he discussed the question in that way, forgot that he himself had changed his mind regarding this question, and that in 1907 he had refused to do practically exactly what the government now proposes to do. In the conference of 1907, it was moved by Mr. Smartt:
That this conference, recognizing the vast importance of the services rendered by the navy to the defence of the empire and the protection of its trade, and the paramount importance of continuing to maintain the navy in the highest possible state of efficiency, considers it to be the duty of the dominions beyond the seas to make such contribution towards the up-keep of the navy as may be determined by their local legislatures-the contribution to take the form of a grant of money, the establishment of local naval defence, or such other services, in such manner as may be decided upon after consultation with the admiralty and as would best accord with their varying circumstances.
You will notice that this resolution does not call for any particular form of contribution; it may be given in the form of money, or the establishment of naval defence, or in other service. When that resolution was moved, Sir Wilfrid Laurier said: I
I am sorry to say, so far as Canada is concerned, we cannot agree to the resolution. We took the ground many years ago that we had enough to do in our respect in that country before committing ourselves to a general claim.
So, the right hon. gentleman changed his mind since 1907, and it seems to me that, when moving the second reading of this Bill, he might have occupied his lime to much better advantage than in talking of any difference of opinion there may he among members of the opposition in this House. We may have our differences of opinion; we acknowledge that frankly. Our friends opposite have as great differences among themselves, but they keep them quiet for fear they may lose control of the reins of power.

Full View