Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):
Mr. Speaker, since last we assembled, some of our members have visited distant lands, have crossed continents and oceans, and, in the providence of God, have safely returned, or are returning, to resume their legislative duties. Four of our number have made "upon a vaster sea the unreturning voyage."
It is fitting that before proceeding with the business which parliament has been summoned to transact, we should pause for a moment, to give some expression to the sorrow which at this time we feel in our hearts; and to pay some tribute, however slight, to the memory of those who, in the brief interval which has elapsed since our previous session, have been taken from our midst.
As I have already mentioned, no less than four honourable members, each enjoying in special measure the regard and esteem of this House, have been removed by the Hand of Death; three of them in the month of October, and the fourth but a fortnight ago. Both sides of the House have been bereaved. Each has sustained a loss which is deeply felt in this parliament and throughout the country. We on your right, Mr. Speaker, have suffered most; no less than three of the four who are gone having been loyal and devoted supporters of the government, and one of them a member of it.
The first on this side to be taken was Mr. David Lafortune, K.C., at the time member for Jacques Cartier. Who is there, who has been in parliament during the twelve years Mr. Lafortune was a member of the Commons, will not deeply deplore the fact that he is no longer with us?
Mr. Lafortune was active in politics for many years. He was first returned to parliament in a by-election in 1909, was reelected in 1911, and again in 1917 and 1921.
At two previous general elections he 4 p.m. had also been the Liberal candidate.
For some thirty years he practised law in the city of Montreal, and attained in his province a distinguished position as a
lMr. Mackenzie King.]
member of the legal profession. Few members shared a more intimate knowledge of the lives and needs of their constituents or enjoyed more completely their confidence. His early life had acquainted him with the hardships and struggles of those in humble circumstances, and his energies in public life were directed in the main toward an improvement of industrial and social conditions.
Mr. Lafortune possessed rare gifts as a public speaker and as an advocate. Both at the bar and in parliament his talents were employed with zeal and effectiveness in the cause of the people. His fluency and ready wit, on more than one occasion, lent not a little merriment to the proceedings of this House. They were a part of a generous and kindly disposition which made him hosts of friends, left him without an enemy, and endeared him to to all who knew him well.
Dr. Edward Blackadder, one of the honourable members for Halifax, died within three days after Mr. Lafortune. He, too, had taken an active part in politics for a number of years, though he was returned to parliament only at the last general election. He was one of the Liberal candidates in 1911, and was again nominated as a Liberal candidate in 1917, withdrawing subsequently when it was decided to avoid an election in the constituency because of the Halifax disaster of that year.
It was apparent to us all that Dr. Black-adder was in failing health. The news of his death was not therefore, wholly unexpected, though it brought with it a sense of real loss to our public life. We all recall, as one of the most touching incidents of the last session of parliament, the fidelity with which, despite his all too evident infirmity, he attended the several sittings of this House, and sought to further to the utmost of his strength and opportunity the interests of his constituents.
The most modest of men, Dr. Blackadder was also one of the most cultured. He possessed a wide range of knowledge and experience and rare literary gifts. These he used with zeal in the advocacy of Liberal principles and ideals. Few men, in a brief career, have enjoyed activities as important and manysided. He was a practising physician, a journalist, a university professor and a member of parliament. His time and his talents were employed in the most unselfish manner in the service of his fellowmen, and in upholding a high standard in matters of public concern. At all times unassuming, well-informed, intensely earnest and sincere, he was a type of citizen this parliament and our country can ill afford to lose.
The last to be taken from this side of the House was the Honourable Mr. Kennedy, Minister of Railways and Canals. Mr. Kennedy's death is so recent, and has come so near to all of us who were his colleagues in the government, that it is not possible to speak of the loss it has occasioned without emotion. That he is no longer with us is due, beyond all question, to the fidelity and tenacity with which, at great risk to his health, and as it has now proved, at the peril of his life, he held to his post of duty at a time when the business of his department demanded close and continuous attention. To his colleagues in the government, and to myself in particular, Mr. Kennedy's death has occasioned profound sorrow.
Mr. Kennedy was elected to parliament as the member for North Essex at the general elections of 1917. He was returned in the general election of 1921. Few men have entered upon public life with more of promise, and even fewer in so short a time have won and merited so great distinction. With early manhood still on his side, his rare organizing genius and business ability had put him in a position of independence, where it was possible for him to place virtually the whole of his time and his talent at the service of the state. His generous nature, social disposition and known integrity combined with his business and political sagacity had gained for him not only hosts of personal friends and the confidence of his fellow townsmen and constituents, but the high regard of his fellow members in parliament and the esteem of the citizens of our country generally. His administration of the affairs of the Department of Railways and Canals revealed a positive genius for the work of government. He seemed to possess the very qualities most needed; untiring energy, undaunted courage, high integrity, sound judgment and vision. All of that is now lost to Canada in whose service he died. In a very true sense his death is a national loss. He was in every way worthy of the many tributes paid his memory from one end of our country to the other.
There is but one thing left to be done by those of us who loved and honoured him, and that is to emulate his courage; to take up our public tasks with renewed vigour and devotion, that the spirit which he exemplified so bravely may be kept alive in our midst.
All that I have said of our friend, the late Mr. Kennedy, might be said with equal truth, and fulness of meaning of the late Honourable James A. Stewart. Indeed, the parallel is so close as to be almost complete throughout.
Mr. Stewart entered the House of Commons as the Member for Lanark in the first session of the last parliament. He was returned at a by-election in May, 1918, and so sat through practically the whole of that parliament. He was again returned at the general elections of 1921, at which time he was holding the portfolio of Minister of Railways and Canals in the government of my right honourable friend, the leader of the opposition. I can sympathize with my right honourable friend, as I am sure he does with me, in the loss of one who was the most loyal of colleagues and truest of friends. I extend to him, and to those who sit around him, the sympathy of all honourable gentlemen on this side of the House, in the loss from their ranks of one whose splendid qualities of heart and mind were appreciated by us all, and who, though opposed to us politically, was genuinely respected and admired.
It may be said of Mr. Stewart as it has been of Mr. Kennedy that without question, the impairment of his health which, amidst the promise of years and fortunate circumstances, brought his life thus early to a close, was furthered by his high sense of public duty, and endeavour conscientiously to discharge his obligations as a representative of the people in parliament and as a minister of the Crown.
There would appear to be something more than chance in the tragic circumstance that these two men, both more or less of a like age, of like characteristics, attainments, and distinction in the business and political world, should have come beneath the roof of the same institution at the same time to wage battle against death, each with the companion of his life, a solitary watcher at his side. For a time it seemed that "one would be taken and the other left." Now they have both passed, "gentlemen unafraid," into the Great Beyond. It may well be that all this has come to teach those of us who are engaged in political controversies a wider tolerance and more of chivalry towards those who differ from us in opinion; and the nation, a larger measure of charity towards its public men!
All four of the honourable members who have been taken from us were alike in this: each loved mercy, each sought to do justly, and each walked humbly with his God. They were alike in yet another particular. Each enjoyed, in all that pertained to his personal and public life, the interest and devotion of a companionship which it was beautiful, and at times touching, to witness, and which it will ever be pleasing to recall. Our sympathy
goes out in fullest measure to the ones who have been so greatly bereaved. It will be the unanimous wish of this House that an expression of its sympathy should be conveyed to Mrs. Kennedy, Mrs. Stewart, Madame La-fortune and Mrs. Blackadder, and to those who share their irreparable loss. To you, Mr. Speaker, we are fortunate in being able to look for the discharge of this sad duty on our behalf.
Subtopic: TRIBUTES PAID BY RIGHT HON. MESSIEURS MACKENZIE KING AND MEIGHEN, AND FORKE.