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


William Cameron Edwards



Last session, when the Bill amending the Civil Service Act came to this House from the Senate, I took a position somewhat different from that taken by the majority of members on this side. The effect of the amendment then adopted by the Senate was to place Roman Catholic civil servants in such a position that if they obeyed the law of the land they violated their conscientious convictions and if they followed their conscientious convictions they disregarded the law of the land. It seemed to me that that was an illogical position for the Senate and for this House to take. I hold that view now just as strongly as I held it last session. The hon. gentleman who has introduced this amendment should, in my view, accept the assurance which has been given him by the Government and withdraw the amendment. I say that for this reason: in the first place, it is the expectation that the House will finish its business to-morrow, and if we adopt this amendment and send it to the Senate we can hardly expect the Senate in a few minutes or a few hours to reverse the decision which they arrived at last year. Notwithstanding the amendment that was made last year, the holidays have been given to those of the Roman Catholic faith in the Civil Service; a most generous interpretation of the law has been given. The Government hfis assured the hon. member that it is their intention that this whole matter will 'be taken up later-and for myself I think it should have been taken up long ago. It is the evident intention, then, of the Government to settle this matter once for all upon the best judgment that can be brought to bear upon it, and upon an unbiased consideration of all the facts. Now, I do not think that the hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe) is not warranted in taking the position that he takes here this evening. But I can see the reason why he does so; he wants to be in a position to go to certain people in his province and present the case that they are being unjustly and unfairly treated. That is the position; he would be disappointed if he did not have an opportunity to carry that tale to the people. If the hon. gentleman wanted to be consistent; if he was as much concerned in this matter as he would like the House to believe he is, he should have taken advantage of opportunities available earlier in the session to' have the matter fully discussed and to have our opinion passed on to the Senate with full opportunity for them to discuss [Mr. Doherty. 1
it. But he did not avail himself of that opportunity at any time in the session, and now, within twenty-four hours or thereabouts of the end of the session, he avails himself of what he evidently looks upon as a golden opportunity to raise a religious cry amongst his people in the province of Quebec.

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