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


Newton Wesley Rowell (President of the Privy Council)


Hon. NEWTON WESLEY ROWELL (President of the Council):

Mr. Speaker,
I rise to support the resolution moved by my right hon. friend the Prime Minister. In answer to the request of my right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition that a further reason should be given for the presentation of this resolution to the House at the present time, I say that the answer is contained in a much 'better form than I could give it in the order of the day issued in the midst of the present great conflict by Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie to the Canadian forces at the front, and bearing date the 27th day of March, 1918. I shall read that order:
In an endeavour to reach an immediate decision the enemy has gathered all his forces and struck a mighty blow at the British Army. Overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers the
['Sir Wilfrid Laurier.]
British divisions in the line between the Scarpe and the Oise have fallen back fighting hard, steady and undismayed. Measures have been taken successfully to meet the German onslaught. The French have gathered a powerful army commanded by a most able and trusted leader and this army is now moving swiftly to our help. Fresh British divisions are being thrown in. The Canadians are soon to be engaged. Our Motor-Machine-Gun brigade has already played a most gallant part and once again covered itself with glory.
Looking back with pride on the unbroken record of your glorious achievements, asking you to realize that to-day the fate of the British Empire hangs in the balance, I place my trust In the Canadian Corps, knowing that where Canadians are engaged, there can be no giving way. Under the orders of your devoted officers in the coming battle, you will advance or fall where you stand facing the enemy.
To those who fall I say: "You will not die but step into immortality. Your mothers will not lament your fate but will be proud to have borne such sons. Your names will be revered forever by your grateful country and God will take you unto Himself."
Canadians, in this fateful hour, I command you and I trust you to fight as you have ever fought, with all your strength, with all your determination, with all your tranquil courage. On many a hard-fought field of battle you have overcome this enemy and with God's help you shall achieve victory once more.
When our Canadian troops, under the inspiration of that nolble appeal of their commander are on the battle line holding back the Prussian invaders, the responsibility rests upon the Government of Canada to ensure that our brave soldiers are adequately reinforced and supported. If the leader of the Opposition wishes to know the reasons for the introduction of this resolution to the House, the answer is: This
Government is pledged to the House and to the country to maintain our divisions at the front with adequate reinforcements to repel the onslaughts of the Teuton hordes.
We cannot consider the issue before the House and the country to-day in the light of the situation that existed a year ago. We cannot consider it in the light of the conditions that existed even when this Parliament opened one month ago. The whole world situation has changed within the last thirty days. We must he alive to the present conditions and face the situation as it exists, and, .as honest men, meet the situation by measures .adequate to the need. This, Mr. Speaker, is the reason, and I submit, the all-sufficient reason, for the resolution now before the House. We must consider it, as I have said, in the light of the present war situation. The Prime Minister has pointed out the effect of Russia's withdrawal from the war; that it has resulted in an addition to the Germanic

forces on the western front of possibly not less than 1,600,000 men. But that is not all. When the attack of the Teutonic forces upon the Italian army in the latter part of last year broke the Italian line, and the heel of the conqueror stood upon the soil of northern Italy, Britain and France, with their reserves already not too adequate to meet the situation on the western front, had to send forces to Italy to help strengthen the Italian resistance, and to break the attack of the Austrian and German armies. Every one who has followed the course of events knows that the expeditionary forces sent by France and Britain to Italy greatly stiffened the Italian resistance, and enabled our valiant Allies to regain some of the ground that had been lost. But the effect of sending those forces to Italy was to weaken the reserves of the Allies on the western front at the very moment when Germany was strengthening her forces there by hundreds of thousands of men. We must recognize in the success which has so far attended the German arms the real effect of that great augmentation of German forces on the one hand, and of the diminution to some 'extent of the forces of the Allies on the other. The war can only be won and the. cause of civilization saved if the forces of the Allies on the western front are sufficiently strengthened to enable them to stem the German tide until our troops can be augmented sufficiently to achieve final victory. It is in the light of these events that we must view the present situation.
My right hon. friend the leader of the Opposition has spoken of the constitutional aspect of the resolution. He has said that the passing of the earlier Order in Council bearing on the Military Service Act, and now the submission of this Order in Council to the House, is a wide departure from constitutional government. Just one word as to that. Under the War Measures Act, passed to give the Government power to deal with an emergency, the Government exercised the power given it to pass the first Order in Council to which my right hon. friend has referred. All will concede that if time was not of the very essence of the emergency the ordinary parliamentary procedure would be to introduce an amending Act in the ordinary way. But under the conditions that existed when that Order in Council was passed; in view of the critical situation which had developed owing to the Quebec riots, time was of the essence of the situation, and to prevent further bloodshed and to deter further outbreaks the Government exercised its power under the War Measures Act to pass that Order in Council, and so far as we can see the result has been beneficial.
Coming to the present Order in Council my right hon. friend says that the proper course is to introduce a Bill. Again I say, that under ordinary conditions that would undoubtedly be the procedure but here again time is all important. My right hon. friend says you cannot get the men before a certain date. The very fact that it will take possibly three or four months to give these men the necessary training, and to get them organized, transported and trained to go into the battle line, makes it of the utmost urgent importance that there should not be a single day's delay. That, I say to my right hon. friend, is the reason for presenting a resolution to the House, which can be disposed of in a day, rather than to consume possibly weeks of time by the ordinary parliamentary procedure of putting a Bill through both Houses of Parliament. In this case Parliament has all the liberty of action it would have in the consideration of a Bill. Parliament has the proposal submitted to it, and if it sees fit, it can amend that proposal. The resolution is before the House and the country, and the House is called on to pass judgment upon it.
The power which the passage of this resolution will give to the Governor in Council is ~no larger than the power which the Governor in Council now enjoys under the Militia Act of Canada. Under that Act the Governor in Council is empowered to call out compulsorily all the men in Canada between the ages of 18 and 60, put them on military service, and send them out of the country for the defence of Canada. Under the Militia Act it is not necessary to submit even a resolution to this House, or ask for the approval of Parliament. The only condition is that if Parliament is not in session it must be called within fifteen days. And, Sir, the Militia Act has been on the statute book for years.

Topic:   P. C. 919.
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