April 19, 1910 (11th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Wilfrid Laurier (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)



I think the objection is not at all well taken. This Act is exactly the same as the Militia Act in regard to the power vested in the government of Canada. Here is the clause in the Militia Act:
The command in chief of the militia is declared to continue and be vested in the King, and shall be exercised and administered by His Majesty, or by the Governor General as His representative.
The clause might perhaps have been improved and made clearer than it is; but since it has received the interpretation of parliament from the earliest days of confederation, we did not think it advisable for us to depart in any way from what has been the settled and well-understood principle of the constitution. Moreover, my hon. friend will find in section 9 of the British North America Act the same language repeated almost identically. I think my hon. friend from Hastings some time ago expressed the opinion that the interpretation of section 15 of the British North America Act was that the command of the forces should be exercised by the Queen and could not be delegated by her to the Governor General. At all events, if he did not exactly express that view, the press has done so. I would simply ask my hon. friend to look at section 9 of the British North America Act, which reads as follows:
The executive government and authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen.
If the correct interpretation of section 15 is that the command of the forces is vested in the Queen and cannot be delegated by her to her representative in this country, it would follow that the executive government of the country, which is also declared by the constitution to be vested in the Queen, could not be delegated to her representative. That interpretation is simply absurd. From the very first day of confederation the executive power over Canada has been conferred by the Queen upon her representative in this country, and we cannot conceive that it would be possible to carry on the government otherwise. We cannot expect that under the constitution of Canada or the constitution of any of the self-governing colonies, the young daughter nations of the empire, the Sovereign himself would exercise authority directly in these countries. He can only do so indirectly by a representative. It has been done, and the action has never been questioned. That is the answer I have to give in regard to the language of this section, which follows identically what has been the custom of the country since confederation.

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