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


Oswald Smith Crocket

Conservative (1867-1942)


on active service at any time and in any place. They are given full power, if they dare to exercise it to send this navy to the assistance of France, United States, or even Germany. These, it seems to me are powers which should not be vested in the government of this country-I do not care of whom composed. Under section 17 of this Bill, Sir Wilfrid Laurier may send the navy to the assistance of any nation in the world as he may under section 18 withhold its co-operation with the British navy and prevent its participation in any war in which Great Britain may be engaged. It is very clear to me, and, I think, must be clear to any one who has carefully examined the provisions ot these sections, that they divest His Majesty the King, of the command in chief of the naval forces in Canada, and that they are, therefore, unconstitutional. I believe that if the British government is well advised, if its members have not been duped by the constant dinging into their ears by the Prime Minister and his antiimperialistic colleagues of this wearisome cry of autonomy, they will advise that the royal assent be withheld from this Bill until at least these two clauses which are clearly in violation of section 15 of the British North America Act are expunged. If these clauses stand and are allowed to become law it is as clear as the noonday sun that the Bill places in the hands of the Goverinor in Council an instrument in the form on an absolutely independent navy the use or non-use of which may be fraught with the most far-reaching consequences to our position as a Dominion of the British empire or as a nation of the world.
Let the right honourable gentleman, who has so often offended the British sentiment of this country, have his way, when it comes to the question of Canada going to the aid of the motherland in any war which mav arise, and let him refuse to send the so-called Canadian navy, if he choose or if he dare. What of the consequences?
. It is only necessary to ask the question. Beyond all doubt, his ultimatum in such a contingency would be a declaration of independence.
Is this parliament, are the people of this country willing to place such a power in the hands of this or any government or Prime Minister, especially in the hands of the present Prime Minister, who, in this parliament only a few days ago, boastfully stated that he was no imperialist, who has declared, over and over again, on the floors of parliament, in the province of Quebec and even upon the soil of a foreign country, that the goal of his aspiration was * independence ' and the severing of the tie that binds us to the motherland, who, in the imperial

conference of 1907 registered the Dominion of Canada-to the. shame of every patriotic Canadian-as the only colony of the empire which was not willing to contribute in any way to the maintenance of the naval supremacy of the British empire, and who since this Bill was introduced had had the temerity to state in the loyal city of Toronto, that the King has no rights in'this country except what the parliament of Canada has given to him?
Why does the government of Canada want a navy separate from, and independent of the British navy, repudiating, as this Bill does, all connection with the British admiralty? Is it that we know better! how to build a navy? Is it that we know better how to man and run a navy? Is it that we can build or maintain it more cheaply or more efficiently than the British admiralty? Is it that a navy constructed under the direction of the government of Canada will be more valuable and effective for the defence of the empire, or for the defence of Canada alone, if you like, than the British navy? Not one of these questions but has to be answered in the negative-no, to every one of them. 1 do not think that a single hon. gentleman on the other side of the House would contend for one moment that we know better how to build or man a navy than do the British' -admiralty or that a navy built in this country will be more effective for the defence of the empire or of Canada than a navy co-operating with the British navy and under the direction of the British admiralty. Then, why is it that the government is determined to build and run a navy on its own responsibility? It is because and only because the government is more zealous to defend Canada against even the semblance of British connection than it is to defend Canada or the empire against the ships or guns of a foreign foe.
Autonomy, autonomy, they shout when the shores of Great Britain and the integrity of the British empire are threatened by a grave and imminent peril, and when our autonomy, so-called, has never once in our history been restrained or threatened in the slightest degree so far as the full and plenary powers which have been assigned to this parliament by the British North America Act are concerned.
Then, what do they mean by this cry of autonomy? They mean, in my humble judgment, just precisely what the word in its true signification means-they mean independence, they mean separation; they mean, in short, what Sir Wilfrid Laurier has so repeatedly declared is the goal of his_ aspiration : Independence and disunion, the severing of the tie that binds Canada to the motherland. That is the reason, and the only reason why the parliament of Canada is asked, when laying
down its naval policy, to recognize no association or connection with the greatest navy of the world-the pride of every loyal British subject-and to own no allegiance to the greatest empire in history. 'This parliament may stand for that, but I venture the prediction that the people of this country will not. Certainly, as one member of this parliament, I do not propose to stand for it. In my judgment this is the paramount objection to this Bill, that it makes for disunion. But it is not by any means the only objection. No matter from what standpoint we regard it -whether we look at it from an imperial standpoint or a Canadian standpoint, or from a purely practical business standpoint-there does not seem to be a single consideration of any kind to commend it, unless indeed the huge expenditure of money for which it provides is its commendation in the minds of hon. gentlemen opposite. It ignores the present threatened danger to the supremacy of the British navy, which is the only reason for our doing anything at all at the present time. It does absolutely nothing to meet this emergency, in as much as the navy for which it provides cannot by any possibility be ready for action for years after the crisis has passed and Britain's supremacy has been decided, probably once and for all. It provides for a navy whose ships will be obsolete before they are ready to be manned; a navy of such puny proportions tha't even if it were ready for action it would be incapable of attack and incapable of defence; a navy whose only function in the event of war, according to the statement of the government's principal French Canadian newspaper organ in Montreal, will be to elude pursuit; a navy which would not only be useless but positively mischievous and dangerous. But, Sir, a navy which will entail upon the Canadian people an initial capital expenditure estimated by the government at $16,000,000 or $17,000,000, and an annual expenditure for upkeep and maintenance estimated at $6,000,000 or $7,000,000; and, if the past-record of this government in the matter of financial estimates affords any criterion, these figures will have to be trebled and even quadrupled. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, this Bill, as was pointed out by the member for Argenteuil (Mr. Perley), violates all the essential principles of the resolution passed by this parliament on the 29th of March last. It completely ignores, as I have said, the present emergency. It provides for the establishment of a navy absolutely independent of the British navy, contrary to the advice of the British admiralty. It provides for a navy owning no connection or association with the Royal Navy of Great Britain, whereas the resolution of last year distinctly laid it down that if our contribution to imperial defence

should take the form of a navy to be built by Canada, it should be in co-operation with and in close relation to the imperial navy along the lines suggested by the admiralty. For these reasons I propose to vote against this Bill.
In respect to the amendment moved by my hon. friend from Jacques Cartier (Mr. Monk) though I fully agree that this parliament should not venture to commit Canada to such a novel and far-reaching policy as the government now proposes, without first obtaining a mandate from the people I cannot support the amendment of the hon. gentleman for the reason that he has moved it as an amendment to the amendment proposed by the hon. leader of the opposition, and if it were carried it would supplant the amendment of the leader of the opposition, which not only provides that the people of the country shall have an opportunity of passing upon the question of a Canadian navy, and in a more regular and constitutional manner, before the country is committed to such a policy, but which at the same time provides for an immediate contribution of two Dreadnoughts to the British admiralty to meet the present crisis. I shall, therefore, vote with the greatest confidence for the amendment proposed by the leader of the opposition, and I shall vote with equal confidence against the second reading of this Bill, which I consider, as I have already stated, is the most revolutionary proposal which has ever been submitted to this parliament so far as the relations of Canada with the British empire are concerned.

Full View