April 2, 1918 (13th Parliament, 1st Session)

UNION

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

They were
Dominion officers engaged, in the enforcement of the Military Service Act. It would *appear so far as the Government has information at the present time that the disturbance might have been put down without much difficulty if proper effort had been made by the civic authorities. However, these men sustained the injuries to which I have alluded, and while the affair occupied a considerable time, nothing more of importance seems to have occurred that evening.
On the following evening an attack, apparently organized in advance, was made upon the registry office which contains the records connected with the Military Service Act. According to the information which has reached the Government, it would not have been difficult, at that stage even, to prevent what took place. Again I repeat that according to the information which thus far has come to us, no adequate or reasonable effort by the local authorities was made to prevent the disturbance and preserve public order. Accordingly the building was ramsacked and I believe it was set on fire; but fortunately all the important records came through without serious damage. They happened to be in a room other than that to which the crowd gained entrance, and where the crowd apparently thought that the records were kept. Consequently, very little loss of important records has occurred.
Then, on that or the following evening other unfortunate and deplorable incidents took place. Newspaper offices were attacked and wrecked, and attempts were made to procure arms. The situation on Saturday appeared to be so serious that the Government decided that the garrison of the city of Quebec should be reinforced, and on 'Saturday evening and on Sunday about one thousand additional troops were sent in. These are there now, under the command of General Lessard, who on Saturday was ordered to proceed forthwith to Quebec to take command and who arrived there, I believe, on Sunday afternoon. The troops which were sent from some parts of Ontario are troops which have been under training, I believe, for some time and have been gathered from various parts of Canada.
The most deplorable incident, however, is that which occurred last evening, .and which resulted in loss of life. From the information in the possession of the Government it would appear that four persons have been killed and a great many wounded. I believe that about sixty persons who were actually engaged in the assault have been taken in charge by the military. The troops, so far as we can judge from the information presently available, acted with great restraint and moderation. They were pelted with bricks and stones; a great many different attack's were made upon them; they were fired upon with firearms of various kinds, and eventually the fire was returned.
So far as the enforcement of the Military Service Act is concerned, it is the duty of the Federal Government to see that it is enforced. We have endeavoured in all parts of the country to enforce it with impartiality, fairness, consideration and firmness. We shall continue to do so in the future, and we shall see to it that Federal officers engaged in the enforcement of the Act are adequately protected, if the local authorities fail to give them that protection which ought to be accorded. I say this in all calmness, and in the assurance that this duty on the part of the Federal Government will be recognized universally in the House and throughout the country, and even by those who in the first instance were opposed to the principle on which that law is based.
Further than that, if in any part of this country it appears that, by reason of the enforcement of this Act, the municipal or local authorities are unable or are not dis-

posed to preserve public order, it will devolve upon the Government of this country to see that public order is preserved, and we intend to perform that duty.
The incidents which have taken place have made it apparent to the Government that some amendments will be necessary to the Military Service Act. One of those which is now in preparation is this: That persons who engage in active or forcible resistance to the enforcement of the Act shall be forthwith enrolled in the military forces of Canada, without regard to whether their class has been called out; without regard to any exemption that they may have procured, and subject only to the consideration that they are within military age. I believe that is a proper principle to adopt. If any persons in this country are disposed to wage war upon the civil authorities of Canada engaged in the enforcement of this Act, then it seems to me they may well be given the opportunity to exercise their warlike spirit upon the enemies of their country.

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   DISTURBANCES IN QUEBEC-STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER.
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