January 12, 1926 (15th Parliament, 1st Session)


Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa



I have explained my position on many platforms and I presume I shall have other opportunities to explain it. I believe, with Lord Rosebery-a great statesman; a Liberal, it is true, but with Conservative tendencies-that the abnormal growth of the British Empire is the greatest danger to British ideals, and I am attached more to those ideals than to British imperialism wherever exhibited. Mind you, Sir, I want no mistake made. In political matters, I, as a French-Canadian, wish, desire and will work all my life to preserve, over those various racial characteristics, not the imperial spirit, but the British political spirit, because I consider the British political spirit to be the greatest instrument for the ruling of men that has been found in the last four or five centuries. But if we are to develop our nationality, if we are to make better and fuller use of those great traditions, if we are to be true and noble scions of those great nations, are we to be simply the Chinese tailor who will cut for the Canadian people a coat entirely copied from the British model? Or, are we to interpret boldly and intelligently those great principles
and traditions of government in order to suit the Canadian people? Are we to tie up the young Canadian giant forever to the apron strings of the good old grandmother, respectable though, as she may be? Mind you, Sir, I am not raising here the question of political independence. The question of keeping our political ties or cutting them off to me is a secondary matter. I would far rather secede from Great Britain and remain British in spirit than remain and go on as we are doing, British in name, but Yankeefied in spirit, morals and habits and becoming more so from day to day. Are we going to tie this or any other parliament-and to me,
I say it sincerely, it is quite indifferent whether that government be composed of Liberals or Conservatives or Progressives or a mixture of all-are we going to tie this government or the next one to a certain nuntber of British precedents which do not correspond to the present or the general situation of the country?
The hon. member for West Calgary (Mr. Bennett), in his able presentation, has given a sort of lecture to my excellent neighbour on the respect we ought to have for British precedents. I presume the hon. member for West Calgary as well as the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Meighen) and, indeed, all hon. gentlemen on both sides of the House, are not prepared to say that we should imitate all British precedents in every respect. Without having had opportunity to strengthen my (cogitations at the library, let me give some instances just from memory. Supposing the Liberal party had succeeded in afflicting Canada and the empire with a useless navy, would a Liberal government or a' Conservative government be prepared to copy the British precedent of bombarding the fleet of a nation at peace with us in case a nation with which we might be at war should make use of that fleet against us, as the English did at Copenhagen? Would the right hon. gentleman or any other member of this House claim that the Prime Minister of Canada, whether this or the next one or any other, should follow the precedent created by Disraeli when, without consulting parliament, without getting the money from parliament, he purchased a large block of shares of the Suez canal, not counting the commission he gave to old Ismail Pasha to purchase them, in order to increase the strength of England in the Mediterranean? Would any member of this House, as true British statesmen and subjects, recommend that we follow the example of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain in the course he followed at the time of the South African war? The hon. member for West Calgary (Mr. COMMONS
Government's Right to Office
Bennett) gave us a good man}*- quotations from Gladstone. May I be allowed to give a very short one? I refer to Gladstone's description of Joseph Chamberlain as the first English politician of the Yankee type. Now, I have a great deal of admiration for the genius of Chamberlain, who I think was the first English statesman to have a thorough grasp of the possibilities of the outstanding portions of the British Empire. At the same time, however, he had too much of the Prussian spirit of force and of the Yankee spirit of unscrupulousness in matters of policy. And when in his relations with foreign governments a statesman adopts the process which Mr. Chamberlain resorted to, in order to inflame opinion in England, while concealing some of the despatches sent to him by Sir Alfred Milner, as well as some portions of the report of the Bloemfontein conference, just as in 1870 Bismarck had tampered with despatches exchanged 'between the French and German ambassadors in order to precipitate war between France and Prussia,-when this sort of thing is done, whether it be in London or in Berlin, it is bad policy and bad precedent. Is any other hon. gentleman in this House prepared to say that, having these great principles of government as enunciated by the right hon. gentleman, and having a government so respectful of the rights of parliament, as I am sure my right hon. friend would wish to have the government, we should adopt as a precedent that piece-I do not qualify it-of disingenuousness through which five members of the English cabinet prepared and termed the secret treaty of alliance between France and England to the point where, eight days before the war,-and this is now a matter of history-two-thirds or three-quar-iters of the cabinet were ignorant of that compact? The whole of the English parliament, the who'e of the British nation was ignorant of it; nobody knew the first word about it. But we, the poor gullible colonials of Canada, of South Africa and of Australia, were being prepared scientifically for years to give the best of our blood to implement that policy, of which only five men in the British government knew anything at all. Is this a British precedent which we are to respect tad to copy into our relations with foreign nations, with imperial governments? I do not think so. There may be British precedent in it but there is an absence of British honour.
Is any member of this House, is any leader of a party group here, prepared to recommend as a precedent the manner in which Lloyd George, whose genius, whose ability, [Mr. Bourassa.l
whose courage in many respects I admire, got rid of Mr. Asquith? Is anyone here prepared to cite, as a precedent of British honour as between men of the same party, Mr. Lloyd George's action in this regard? My right hon. friend in studying that incident might understand something of the inner history of his own party in the province of Quebec. Is anyone prepared to say that in respect of these grave matters of inter-imperial relations which, on the spur of the moment, can throw the whole empire or large portions of it into the throes of war, we should adopt as a sound precedent the despatch, let us say for example, sent by Mjr. Churchill at the time of the Chanak incident? Shall we, I will not say imitate, 'but encourage- that sort of thing? Are we to make it known by expressions of opinion that everything that comes from London we are prepared to copy, to admire and to follow? At the time the despatch came the right hon .gentleman, on December 22, 1922, if I remember rightly, launched the cry in Toronto, "Ready, aye, ready"; but he himself perhaps has learned more since that time about the incidents of that incident. Perhaps1 if he had known then that Mi% Churchill had sent that despatch without the knowledge of the Foreign Minister of Great Britain, without the knowledge indeed of most of his colleagues, he would not have been prepared to say on behalf of the Canadian people " Ready, aye, ready," upon the first beck and- call of any individual politician in London. I am sure that the right hon. gentleman is not ready to say now that we should obey the dictates even of the whole British cabinet, to say nothing of the dictates or the fancies of one single politician of one cabinet in Great Britain.
Now I come to the last precedent. Oh, I had forgotten. The right hon. gentleman has given proof that he has at last changed his mind; at least this is the way his Hamilton speech has been interpreted in Quebec. Some people declare that that speech was inspired by the Bagot election, but I do not want to stoop to any such inference. I do not think that the right hon. gentleman himself wants to stoop to that.
An hon. 'MEMBER: Why do you say it then?

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