April 22, 1918 (13th Parliament, 1st Session)



The hon. member may be better informed than I am. Let us concede for a moment that one or two of them are dangerous. When I speak of the Austrian, I am speaking of the bulk of the people of that nationality. Although there was a glut in the labour market, conditions changed until there was, in this

country, a crying need for labour; we had people from* all parts of the country, as loyal people as we are ourselves, asking for the labour of those men, and we discharged them and allowed them to go out where they found employment. We felt it our duty then, in fairness to the working people of this country, to stipulate that these men should be paid the ordinary wage, and we also felt it our duty to stipulate, and we did stipulate, that they should not be employed where our own people were available for employment. It is over a year ago since these men have gone out, and we have had no word of complaint as to their conduct subsequent to their going. To-day our interned prisoners number from two to three thousand, and these are for the most part Germans; I regret that I cannot say anything like the same thing about them as I said about the bulk of our interned Austrians.
One hon. gentleman has spoken of these interned people in British Columbia as living on the fat of the land. I would be glad to show the hon. gentleman just how much it costs to feed these people in these internment camps, but I do not propose to say it here and let it go out to the public, because I do not want a despatch from Germany complaining that these men are not being properly fed. They are being properly fed. But if there is one thing of which we can speak with some pride it is the system by which this has been carried out and the results we have been able to obtain in the way of economy, while still treating these men in a way which leave us open to no complaint.
I just want to say one word on the subject of our compelling them to work. A good deal has been said about international law and there has been a good deal of contempt expressed for too great an anxiety to adhere to international law. I would like to point this out. Tn dealing with these people we are not dealing with prisoners of war, to which the citations from the Hague Convention referred which were made by the hon. member for North Sim-coe (Air. Currie). We are dealing, not with people captured in an act of nostility towards this country, but with people who came to this country peaceably, and who happened to be found in this country when war broke out. We had the right, and might have said to them, "Go away. We do not want you here." But, when we told them they could stay here, when we left them free to stay here, it became our duty, so long as they were guilty of no hostile

act or deed and so long as we had no reason to suspect their readiness' to obey the law, to treat them not as enemies but as people whom -we have been willing to keep within our gates. That did not deprive us of our right to intern them if in any particular case there was ground for suspicion of their conduct; nor even if at a certain stage we had reached the conclusion that all of them were dangerous, did it prevent us from interning them all. It is open to us if we think it wise to intern them. When we did intern them, unless we are going to depart from the very well settled rule of international law, which I may say the United Kingdom has not seen fit to depart from, we have no right to compel them to work. The hon. member for North Simcoe read certain citations from The Hague Convention with regard to prisoners of war, and there is no doubt that he cited them correctly. If we were dealing with prisoners of war, with soldiers taken in performance of their duty as soldiers, and made prisoners of war, all those rules would apply to them, and there is no doubt that we have the right to compel men so taken to labour if we pay them the ordinary wage of a soldier. But the situation is absolutely different when, you are dealing with civilian residents of this country, whom this country may find it necessary to intern by reason of the apprehension even of their being dangerous; you are not then dealing with a prisoner of war.

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