June 3, 1921 (13th Parliament, 5th Session)

UNION

Arthur Meighen (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Mr. MEIGHEN:

- they were instructed to be observed in the same way as in the past. Some complaints arose, I think, chiefly because the interpretation given was not uniform by the various deputy ministers, and, when the House opened, a question was found on the Order Paper, placed there by the member for Chambly-Vercheres (Mr. Archambault). On looking carefully into the matter, it seemed to me that the words of my predecessor (Sir Robert Borden) might possibly have been understood to mean that, whatever might have been the extent of observance accorded these days in the past, they were to be holidays in the future, that is to say, whole holidays, because, as a matter of fact, they had not been observed as such, even in Ottawa, in previous years. Certainly they had not been observed as such in all the departments, although, I think, they were in some. Owing to the words of the Prime Minister being susceptible of the interpretation I have stated, making the holidays wider than previously, extending the custom, and making them whole holidays in the city of Ottawa, the question

of the hon. member for Chambly-Vercheres was answered by assurance that, pending any revision of the law, the full and wide interpretation would be given to the promise that the Prime Minister had made. It has so been given ever since. Now, what I want to emphasize will illustrate how inappropriate it is for the hon. member to plunge the House into this discussion at this time. When instructions went out to the effect of the assurance given by myself in answer to the member for Chambly-Vercheres, protests came from various departments that it meant a degree of observance that had never obtained in the past, and that was utterly unnecessary; and it was represented that it meant a cessation of public service that could not very well be allowed. Notwithstanding these protests, however, we went ahead and gave the entire holiday. The custom outside Ottawa has never been affected. The custom in Ottawa, instead of being restricted, has been amplified, and amplified against the protests of the deputy ministers. I think I have said enough to show that the Government has approached this subject in no narrow spirit, and the words of the member for Maisonneuve generously accord that to us. Consequently, there certainly was no need of introducing this question now. I may add that it is the purpose of the Government to have this subject thoroughly reviewed. I do not pretend to be a judge of these matters at all, hut I am informed that there are many church holidays now observed which, according to the laws of either faith, are not required so to be observed or wholly observed. Possibly there may be some; I have not heard of any that should be observed that are not. However, it is the intention of the Government to review the entire subject with a view to bringing about this result; that no employee shall be required in any way to break the tenets of his faith by working at a time when those tenets call upon him for religious observance. At the same time you have this result: that there shall not be unnecessary waste by holidays not called for by the religious tenets of people's faith. We hope to bring that about in an amicable, friendly, and generous way, but meantime, while the law stands as it is, the assurance given to the hon. member for Chambly-Vercheres (Mr. Archambault) having been observed in the past, will be observed in the future.

Topic:   CIVIL SERVICE ACT, 1918, AMENDMENT
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