March 31, 1927 (16th Parliament, 1st Session)


James Shaver Woodsworth


Mr. J. S. WOODSWORTH (Winnipeg North Centre):

A good deal has been said in this debate, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the -legal points at issue. Perhaps I may be permitted to emphasize the more practical aspects of the question before us. The most-important question, it seems to me, with regard to the Imperial conference is this: Is Canada bound by the decisions and recommendations of the conference? The Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) says " not unless these are ratified by parliament ". Yet curiously enough the government has made no effort whatever to have these decisions and recommendations ratified. The question comes before us, as we know, in a way that-makes it extremely difficult for us to give expression by vote to our approval or disapproval of the various measures proposed. I take it then that unless there -is ratification by this House, for which no provision is being made, Canada is not bound by the recommendations or suggestions of this report. It is commonly said by the press gallery, after a debate on a private member's motion, that the discussion " was academic ". I fancy that the best that can be said with regard to our discussion in this House during the
Imperial Conference-Mr. Woodsworth
last two or three days is that it is largely academic in character. Perhaps after all, at least from the standpoint of those of us who cannot endorse all the recommendations, it is just as well that we should not pass resolutions with regard to this report. It at least leaves Canada free from some of the obligations which might otherwise be entailed.
Was anything, then, really accomplished by the conference? Immediately after the conference we were inclined to think that it marked a new era, that all the high tributes paid by the member for Winnipeg South Centre (Mr. Thorson) were true, and that we were being given a charter of new and enlarged liberty. In the course of this debate it would seem that really this so-called new and enlarged liberty does not amount to anything. Perhaps the truth will be found somewhere in between. Personally I think the conference meant a good deal. Probably the greatest accomplishment is that we can now claim autonomy without being charged with disloyalty.

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