January 25, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)


Rodolphe Lemieux



Have I ever refused to deliver a recruiting speech in the province of Quebec? From the very day that war was declared I have been at the service of my fellowmen. Who recruited the 22nd Battalion, which fought so nobly at Cour-celette? Sir, I claim some credit for having helped to recruit that battalion. I joined my humble voice with that of the late Postmaster General and the right hon, leader of the Opposition, and in less than three months we had raised a splendid regiment. I was also elected chairman of the civilian committee that helped to raise the Asselin Regiment, and in less than three months we had raised that battalion, which, I regret to say, instead of being sent to the .front was sent to Bermuda to do the work of the negroes there. It should have been despatched at once to England, If that had been done, it would now be in the battle line. I addressed meeting after meeting, appealing for recruits. No less than three weeks ago I addressed the people of Montreal East, and urged them to sign the National Service cards. I explained to them that National Service did not mean conscription, but the mobilization of the economic wealth of the country. Sir, have I done nothing to help in recruiting? My nephew, a youth of 22, was killed at the Battle of Ypres, a cousin is serving at the front at the present time, and I have' given my only boy, 18 years old, to the service of His Majesty. That is my answer to the hon. gentleman. But I have too much respect for the decencies of public life and too much regard for the common sense of my fellow-men in the province of Quebec to parade myself with the three Nationalists who appealed to that province, not with the hope of getting recruits, but with the hope of being interrupted and. mobbed, in order to make votes in Ontario for the Tory party. What happened in Montreal the other day when the right hon, the Prime Minister went to Montreal, accompanied by my hon. friend from Oalgary (Mr. Bennett), and by the present Secretary of State (Mr. Patenaude)? I say without hesitation that the right hon. gentleman was given more than a fair hearing; he was cheered and cheered to the echo, as the leader, not of
his party, but of the country, by the French-Canadiams who were massed in that laTge hall. The hon. member for Calgary also addressed the meeting and received a very cordial reception. But the moment the Secretary of State appeared on the platform he was hissed into silence. Why? Because the people were disgusted at the idea that a gentleman who had branded the Tory and Liberal parties as traitors in 1911, because, forsooth, they stood for King and Empire, bad the audacity to come before the people and preach the very contrary doctrine to that he preached.in 1911. What happened a few hours afterwards? The Prime Minister went to old city of Quebec accompanied by my hon. friend from Calgary and by the late Postmaster General. The Prime Minister was listened to there with careful attention, and was supported by the Prime Minister of the province of Quebec, Sir Lomer Gouin, whose son is leaving for the front in a few days. The hon. member for Calgary was given a good reception, as was also the late iPostmaster General, who, although not persona grata in the province of Quebec, was none the less respected, because the people knew that his ideas and principles of to-day were the ideas and principles which he had always cherished and expounded before them. They knew he was no traitor. Do not be mistaken; do not be led astray with the false notion that some hon. gentlemen have, that the speeches of the three Nationalist members of the Cabinet will help the cause of recruiting in the province of Quebec. The habitants have common sense and good judgment. But enough of this subject.
Let me say a word or two about the Imperial conference. I am glad that the right hon. the Prime Minister ' should have accepted the suggestion which was made by the right hon. the leader of the Opposition. We know that the right hon. gentleman will nobly represent the greatest of the overseas dominions at that important conference. I notice that his presence at that conference is made necessary, to use the language of the speech from the Throne, "for war purposes only." I am glad that the right hon. gentleman will not commit Canada to anything at the conference except what is regarded as necessary for the winning of the war. But I am rather surprised that in connection with that conference the North-cliffe press has evolved a scheme of reorgan-zing the Empire. I know there are people who are not satisfied with the present condition of the Empire. There are some

ambitious people who are uneasy at the Empire's' present position, and wish to reorganize it. It is easy to reorganize the British Empire, according to them. They take their pen and a few sheets of paper, frame a new constitution, publish books, and believe that with the dissemination of their ideas the Empire will at once be reorganized.
May I give, first of all, the sound of that alarm hell which preceded the invitation to that conference. I notice that in the month of October, Lord Northcliffe, who is so busy defeating Liberal Governments in the old country, sent out a series of cables, which hear a marked resemblance whether they are circulated in South Africa, New Zealand, Newfoundland, Australia, or Canada. One of these cables reads as follows:-
X voice the widespread feelings of the Canadians, South Africans and Australians here that it is for the dominions, with the breath of broader life, to revivify and give fresh boldness to authority. Fresh blood from Greater Britain is urgently needed in the central administration now.
The moment has come for courage, greater campaigns and real initiative. Will the dominions show the way?
About that time appeared the book of Mr. Lionel Curtis, The Problem of the Commonwealth, in which he states bluntly that the overseas dominions-

may manage their own domestic affairs, regulate their commerce, create forces by land and sea, and do anything they please short of attempting to handle for themselves the ultimate issues of national life and death. Those issues, the moment they are raised, must be left to a Government in which they have no more voice than the peoples of India, of Egypt, or of Fiji.' So far as the first, last, and greatest of all national interests are concerned, they are not self-governing dominions. They are simply dependencies, and no thinking man can face this conclusion and yet believe that communities like Canada and Australia cant long continue to accept that position.
It is strange that a very noisy minority on the other side think that we are absolutely dissatisfied in Canada, Australia and elsewhere, and that there is an urgent need of reorganizing the Empire in order to centralize the army and the navy in Downing street, and possibly to enact a hostile tariff against the world.
The Nation, a good radical review published in London, speaking about the purpose of the Imperial Conference, contains the fallowing: Of course, I would not myself offer such comments, because, forsooth, I should be considered as being very disloyal.

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