April 19, 1918 (13th Parliament, 1st Session)


Right Hon. S@

Mr. Speaker, the right hon. Prime Minister (Sir Robert Borden) in his concluding remarks observed that it was with a great sense of earnestness and profound conviction that he proposed the reso-4 p.m. lution which he has laid before the House. Sir, it is with a sense of duty no less profound, and a conviction and earnestness no less sincere that I rise to oppose this motion. My hon. friend will perhaps understand that I, myself, realize even more than he does the truth of the observation of the great Frenchman

which he quoted, that life was not intended as either a pleasure or a sorrow. I know the views of those who support the Government; I know they are behind the resolution proposed by the Prime Minister, and it would be more of a pleasure to me were I able to agree with them in the resolution which has been proposed by the right hon. Prime Minister in the performance of what he believes to be a great national duty. I shall endeavour, in what I have to say, to be moderate in the expression of my views, if sometimes I find it impossible not to be severe.
The resolution which we are called upon to sanction involves a'wide departure from the enactment of the Military Service Act, It involves, I am sorry to say, a still wider departure from, the principle of constitutional government, of which at one time we were proud, and which we have always considered a safeguard of the people against the encroachment of the Executive 'power. We pretend that we are fighting, and indeed we are fighting, for the freedom of the world. As to this there is no difference of opinion on either side of the House. We are fighting for tihe freedom of the world. It is our aim and our hope that we may crush out Prussianism from Europe and from the world. But, Sir, I will ask the House to consider this: Are we not, while we contend that we are fighting for the freedom of the world, introducing more and more into our system of government a wedge which will: admit the entrance of the system of Prussian autocracy? Let me call the attention of the House to the fact that last year we. passed the Military Service Act. This year, while Parliament has been in session, during the last three weeks or so,* the Government undertook to alter the disposition of that Act by Order in Council. Sir, in my humble judgment, and I submit it to those of my hon. friend's who differ from me on this question and who still entertain Liberal principles, in that change of the disposition of the Military Service Act, so made, there is certainly a wide and absolute departure from the system of British Government. What authority has the Governor in Council to alter an Act of Parliament? What excuse was there for the Governor in Council to pass such an order when Parliament was in session? If the Parliament had not been in session there might, perhaps, have been some excuse, though they would have no constitutional right to do what they did. But this is what they did: Consequent "upon the riots which took place recently at

Quebec, they passed an Order in Council in which this declaration is made:
Any male person who takes part in any riot, insurrection or civil disturbance, incited, instigated or caused by way of opposition to the enforcement of the Military Service Act, 1917, or the regulations thereunder, shall if declared or found guilty of so doing by sentence o<f a court-martial or of a competent civil court, be deemed to have been called out for military service under the said Act, whether or not he be witl^n any class of persons which has been called out for military service by proclamation, or within any class of persons to which the said Act or regulations apply, or within any of the exceptions of the schedule to the said Act,
What right, I ask again, had the Government to make such an alteration in the Military Service Act-because this provision orders nothing less than that a new class of conscript shall be formed in the community? I repeat that if Parliament had not been sitting there might have been some excuse for passirig such an Order in Council, though there would be no right. But Parliament was in session. Parliament might have been consulted, and should have been consulted, and, I ask, is there any possible excuse for not consulting Parliament? Is there any possible excuse why a measure was not brought before the House? What can be the reason? Did the Government fear that the majority behind them would not agree to such a drastic measure, or was it done simply in sheer wantonness of autocratic authority?
To-day we have another Order in Council -or, rather, not an Order in Council, but an embryonic Order in Council, because, as I understand, the Governor General has not appended his signature to the document as yet. At all events, in this matter Parliament has to be consulted, and the Government will have to go one step further than their own executive action if they want to give to the proposals the force and effect of law. Again I repeat: An Act of Parliament cannot be amended, or altered, except by Parliament. If an Act of Parliament has to be amended a Bill has to foe introduced, and the procedure with respect to this Bill follows many rigid forms. The Bill, first of all, must be introduced and leave for that must be obtained from the House. Then the Bill has to be read a first time, it has to be read a second time, it has to be examined closely and scanned in Committee of the Whole House, and it has tO' be read a third time, and even yet its passage is not complete. A final motion has to he made that the Bill pass. Are these vain forms? Are these idle rules? And does it suffice simply to have a resolution of the
House to give us a law of such far-reaching importance? These forms are not idle, they all have a profound meaning, and the meaning which they have is that they afford ample opportunity for discussion, for revision of opinion and for improvement in the legislation submitted for enactment. Well, Sir, if it be thought advisable to-day, as proposed by the Government, and just explained by the Prime Minister, that the Act which was passed last session should be amended, and improved or otherwise, why are not the forms prescribed by Parliament observed by the Government, and why is not Parliament consulted1?
What reason can be given by the Government that we should dispense with these formalities and these rules, which ^re the rules observed by the British Parliament, and would not be lightly departed from in that centre of constitutional authority? If the British Parliament would not depart from these rules, why should they not be observed in the Canadian Parliament as well? If the Act is to be changed, notwithstanding all the reasons which have been given by the Prime Minister why the Act should be altered, I submit to the sense of this House that there should be an adherence to the prescribed rules. Otherwise what becomes of constitutional principles? Sir, I submit that this resolution should not be passed as proposed, but that if it is to go into effect that it should he dealt with in the usual way, and the House called upon to dispose of it by a Bill, to become when authorized an Act of this Parliament. What is the reason for this proceeding on the part of the Government? I have heard no reason given. Some time ago I had occasion to challenge the Govern-, ment for having passed the Order in Council consequent upon the riots in Quebec, hut no information and no answer was vouchsafed by them. To-day, Sir, I rise to ask that if we are to fight Prussianism in Europe, it shall not be introduced into this Parliament. This matter is important indeed and I express my sorrow that the customary procedure has not been followed. Having said that, let me proceed at once to the main subject that we have now to discuss.
The Prime Minister states that we must have more soldiers at the front. He proposes, as he has told us, to extend the Act to some classes which were not included last year. He proposes that these new classes should he deprived1 of all the clauses which they were empowered to

advance when they thought they should be exempted from the Military Service Act. Under the resolution which we have now before us, every young man from the age of nineteen to thirty-four years will be included in the service, but he will not be able to urge any reason why he should not be taken for service, even though he enjoys that privilege under the law as it exists to-day.
Well, Sir, this is only an aggravation of the Act which was introduced last year. When the measure was submitted at that time I thought it was a mistake, but, unfortunately on that question some of my friends, some of my best and dearest friends and myself could1 not see eye to eye. Either they -vjere in the right or I was in the right. At that time the success of the proposed measure was purely conjectural. Only after a trial of the Act could it be determined whether my friends were in the right or whether I was in the right.
The Act has been in force for some time and we nave to-day the admission from the Prime Minister that it has not realized all its expectations. That is exactly -what I was afraid of, and 1 told my right hon. friend and the House at the time, on my responsibility as a Canadian citizen, just as much in earnest as any man could be to win the war and to destroy the infernal power of Germany, that the Act was not calculated to accomplish the end it had in view. And, Sir, the resolution 'which is introduced, to-day is certainly a, strong argument for the view which I stated at that time. *
, .June .... . ..July
..August September October November December
March _..
29,212 26,658 32,819 23,289 15,090 10,796 8,675 7.267 6,357 6,035 . 6,54S
It will be observed that commencing in May, June, and July, there was quite a falling off. Up to that'time the recruiting each month had run about 23,000 to
29,000. It fell off in May, June, and July iiom 15,000 to 10,000 and below. What was the cause of this falling off? There must be some cause for such a falling off as that. The question was debated last year, and we heard the hon. member for Victoria (Sir Sam Hughes), who had been Minister of Militia in the first months for which I have quoted the record, say in the presence of this House, openly and squarely, that he had been ordered by the Prime Minister and by the Minister of Finance to ease up on recruiting. That statement w.as made by my hon. friend from Victoria once or twice, certainly once in my hearing, and I have yet to know that the statement was ever denied. So that-
We have been asked: what have you to substitute for it? I believed then, and to-day I believe it more than ever, that if we had kept on with the voluntary system we would have had more soldiers to-day at our disposal than we actually have. What are my reasons for speaking as I do? What reasons can I give the House to induce it to believe that, after all, it would have been better, if we wanted to win the war, to continue with the voluntary system? I made certain allusions some time ago upon the floor of the House, and the Prime Minister challenged my evidence upon this point. My evidence for the belief which I entertained is contained in an answer which was given last June by the Minister of Militia of that day. On the 11th June, Sir Edward Kemp, in answer to a question put by this side of the House, gave us the exact figures of enlistments from the month of January, 1916, to the month of May, 1917, as follows:

Topic:   P. C. 919.
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