Mr. EUGENE PAQUET (L'Islet):
Mr. Speaker, the hon. George P. Graham, Sir Wilfrid Laurier's first lieutenant, approves Sir Robert Borden's policy of compulsory military service and he contends that every Liberal member is perfectly free to act, to speak and to vote as his conscience dictates. He seems to believe that freedom of speech does not exist in the Liberal-Conservative party.
I have been sitting here in the House of Commons for the past thirteen years and I have parted with Sir Robert Borden on several momentous occasions. I may assert that no one appreciates more than the Prime Minister of Canada the frankneBS shown by the members of this deliberative body in expressing their opinion.
The hon. Mr. Graham states that the fundamental principle of the Liberal doctrine is based upon the respect for individual liberty. How can the hon. member invoke that principle iwhen journalists, imbued indeed with the Liberal idea, keep on proclaiming that the French Canadians now occupying a seat in Sir Robert Borden's cabinet should be considered as traitors to their Tace and to their province?
I am impelled by that respect for individual liberty in expressing my belief that the French 'Canadian ministers, approving as they do a bill which I intend to fight as vigourously as possible, do so because they are satisfied that, by resisting the popular impulse, at the very risk of thereby ending their political life, they may be of service to their fellow-man.
I might be allowed to apply to the present situation a reflection which was made in this House by a most distinguished French Canadian: If French Canadians, Conservative or Liberal, continue to be represented henceforth in the Dominion cabinet, they may owe that privilege to the Ministers who are in it to-day.
I respect the motives which urge the Prime Minister to introduce a bill, inspired, as he says, by a deep sense of our duty. But I feel obliged to oppose this measure, because I believe that Canada's participation in this war should be voluntary. I demand that the people be consulted, in order to ensure the preservation of our national unity: the good work accomplished by the Fathers of the Confederation.
I have always contended that Canada should defend her territory and her liberties. From the very beginning of the war, our native country and our liberty have been threatened. Canada was thereby threatened with a change of institutions and the imposition of the Prussian yoke. Germany could not find a more fertile land to feed her immense population, to expand her trade and to extend her barbarous domination.
It has often been said that Canada was the British crown's brightest jewel. Should that crown become decayed or broken, what would become of the jewel? The archbishop of Montreal has declared; "We are a colony of England and therefore, should England be defeated, Germany's first prey would be Canada. Now, we do not want to be Germans. That is why we must do all we can, since Canada's destiny is linked with success of the British arms."
On November 8, 1914, Mr. Henri Bourassa wrote: " Canada, an Anglo-French nation, bound to England and to France by a thousand ties, ethical, special, intellectual and economic, has a vital interest in the maintenance of France and of England, of their prestige, of their power, of their worldwide action. It is therefore her national duty to contribute, in the full measure of her forces and by her own particular means . of action, to the triumph and above all to the maintenance of France and England's combined efforts."
On May 18, 1917, Sir Robert Borden exclaimed : " There are other places besides the soil of a country itself where the battle for its liberties and its institutions can be fought, and I venture to think that, if this war should end in defeat, Canada, in all the
years to come, would be under the shadow of German military domination." -
These words go to show that the Canadian nation, directly interested in this war, could not remain unconcerned by the European conflict: " Horrible unbridling of a nation of prey whose passions let loose find, in the brutal realism of war, their national course."
" This war," has declared Mr. Asquith, then Premier of the United Kingdom, " is a national war. We shall keep on to the end, until entire reparation has been made to Belgium, until France has recovered her lost provinces and security, until Europe has been delivered from the incubus _of armaments, and the world from the monstrosity of Prussian militarism."
So are we fighting with 'Great Britain to repel the invader and for the triumph of those democratic ideas so well analyzed in this House by Mr. Balfour. It is as much Canada's war as it is England's war. It is yours, Mr. Speaker, it is mine. It is the war of every Canadian and of every British subject.
At the opening of hostilities, the leaders of the nation have declared that Canada's participation in the war was absolutely voluntary. " Free participation, free enlistment." Such were the words that rang forth throughout the country. The Canadian people has given a solemn assent to these feelings. Indeed, at the call to the colours, 400,000 sons of Canada, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, have willingly responded and have joined the allied troops to defend the country and defeat Prussian militarism. They know that our security at the present time rests with the British fleet. Our brethren, leaving Canada to drive back the German hordes, knew that England had not willed the war, but had risen in a body to refuse to accept the infamous proposal of William II who was violating Belgium's neutrality in defiance of the treaties signed by his grandsire. At the first call to the colours, the most authoritative voices in the clergy of various denominations, in the Canadian press, in the political associations of the country united themselves in the defence of the Allies' cause against a foe who believes only in might, cynically laughs at his own atrocities, tramples upon the most sacred agreements, ruthlessly kills children, women and old men, and transgresses the laws of humanity, the law of nations and the re-
spect of pledged troth. Odious doctrines have perverted the moral intellect of the Germanic race. Allow me to quote the following words which William II addressed one day to recruits in Potsdam:
"Recruits! before God's consecrated servant and in front of this altar, you have sworn me fidelity. You are still too young to well understand the full meaning of that word. You have sworn to be faithful to me, that is to say that, becoming my soldiers, you have given yourselves over to me, soul and body. You have now but one foe; my foe. It is possible that in these days of socialist plots, I may order you to fire upon your kinsmen, your fathers and mothers-God spare you that!-but know ye well that, even then, it is my orders you shall have to obey without grumbling. God and I have heard your oath of fealty to your war chief. .
The German Kaiser claims the empire of the very souls of his soldiers. He is cruel enough to tell them that he has the right to order them the shooting of their fathers or their mothers and that, if needs be, they' must execute his orders without grumbling. In the face of such monstrous language that cries to Heaven for vengeance and in the face of the German army's most tyrannical deeds, the Canadian people have voluntarily made, both in men and in cash, sacrifices unparalleled in our history in order to expedite the Allies victory. ' Voluntarily, the rich and the poor have subscribed to the Patriotic Fund and to the works for the war, in order to aid our valiant defenders' families, our motherland's mariners and the sufferers both in Belgium and in France. Canada's military effort has called forth the Allied nations admiration. On the, battle fields of Festu-bert, of St. Eloi, of Courcelette and of Vimy, the Canadians had accomplished feats the glory of which shall never die. The people have responded to the call by revealing treasures of energy, of devotion and of charity. In the face of these sacrifices, the Government should not lay aside the volunteering system and offer violence to the feelings of a large portion of the population by making the service a compulsory one. Men! Men! And still more men! cry the partisans of selective conscription. Nevertheless, during the year ending May 31, 1917, the total number of men enlisted amounted to 85,306 and the total losses reached the figure of 75,492. Therefore the recruits have exceeded by almost 10,000 the number of vacancies to be filled. Among
those set down on the loss columns, a large number of wounded soldiers have already returned or will return to the front. Is that what can be called the utter failure of voluntary recruiting? I am satisfied that voluntary enlistment, if well organized, would be in keeping with the military effort which is to be expected from Canada. Enlightened economists remind us that we should not lose sight of our country's youthfulness, its resources and its future. They are rightfully asking themselves whether conscription would not,, after all, render England a negative service by sterilizing in the finest of her colonies all the germs of -future life.
While the Canadian army is heroically struggling in order to expel the invader from Belgium and from France, we should says the economist, concern ourselves about economical organization and the evolving of a constructive policy.
Before the war, Canada needed all her men to continue the conquest of the soil. Europe is not producing as she did in the past years, because her soil is turned upside down and her able-bodied men are all at waT. The farmers are entreated to give, more than ever before, all their care and attention to the tilling of the land. The authorities have even called upon foreign labour. In accelerating the desertion of husbandry by means of compulsory recruiting, we would be making a mistake that must react upon our economic life. We should not forget the assistance, especially agricultural, which our country, more than any other one, is able to give England and the allied nations. Exports from Canada and from the United States, needed to supply the Allies' needs, should be immensely larger than under normal conditions. In such an emergency is it wise to throw into the War furnace 100,000 more young Canadians?
And should the war last somewhat longer, will not the leaders of the Government, taking their inspiration from the principle of compulsory military service laid down in their new legislation, demand still more victims?
Ever since January 17, 1916, I have gone by the word of our political leaders and asserted that compulsory service would not be imposed upon the Canadian people. When the National Service cards were being distributed, I advised my electors to submit to the wishes of the Government; I gave them the assurance that these cards had no reference to compulsory service. In public meetings, I quoted the words of Sir
Robert Borden, of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and of the honourable member for Jacques Cartier (Mr. Descarries), to demonstrate that there would be no conscription, I am not therefore surprised to hear voices raised in the province of Quebec in protest against this bill.
Messrs. Viviani and Balfour have recalled the supreme sacrifices of the Canadians. With the grandest eloquence they have hailed our soldiers who are fighting, suffering and dying for the holy cause.
After these sublime sacrifices, it would be unjust to violently tear away from Canada her sons and to forcibly levy the imposition of blood.
To impose conscription under such circumstances, without consulting the people, why! wouldn't that be doing injury to the devotion, to the sacrifices and to the heroism of the Canadian people?
It is impossible for me to approve an enactment, the enforcement of which might endanger our national unity.
As the honourable Mr. Patenaude wrote to Sir Robert Borden, on June 18:
The proposed law, I have every reason to fear, threatens to destroy this unity, and to give rise throughout the country to deep internal divisions of long duration, and even detrimental to the needs of the present moment.
Indeed it is better to keep the country united in the present effort than to attempt a mightier one at the cost of national disruption.
The honourable Mr. Patenaude perfectly expressed my own opinion as to the new Military Service Act.
I believe this is a fit occasion to make a few remarks about the French Canadians' military effort during this war.
Ill-advised journalists have been, these two years, incessantly abusing the French Canadians because the latter have not contributed as many volunteers as the province of Ontario has done to the oversea service.
According to Government statistics, the number of French Canadians who have enlisted is estimated at 14,100. I am convinced, from a serious study, that' the French Canadians' contribution to the general recruiting is far larger than is inferred on insufficient evidence. As an historian has rightly stated it: "The number of our compatriots in active service is not the only criterion of our loyal determination to contribute to the success of the Allies whose cause for the future of civilization, for England, for France is to us so dear and so sacred."
I sincerely trust that justice will be meted out to us. We find among our Englishspeaking fellow-citizens numerous defenders. They know that since the cession of
Canada to England, the French Canadians have been somehow the champions of British domination upon Canadian soil.
During the darkest days of our history, the French Canadians have loyally and generously fought for the British crown. In the American war of independence, our militia men placed themselves under the British government's orders and saved Canada for England. From 1760 to 1840, the English bureaucrats, through their persecution, impelled agricultural development, paralyzed trade and commerce in the province of Quebec. Nevertheless, our fathers' loyalty remained unshaken. And when, in 1813, the United States tried to seize upon Canada, our militia, commanded by Mr. de Salaberry, drove back the foreigners. I may boldly proclaim that British institutions rest, in the province of Quebec, upon immovable foundations.
It is true that the province of Quebec has not supplied men for the war in the same ratio as the population of the other provinces. We should consider that Quebec's rural population is much larger than the urban, and that recruiting is qarried on more easily in towns. Some one has written : " When it is a matter of warfare and of battles, we like to share in the glory attached to it. The fascination of arms springs from the prestige of the chiefs who set off their own valour and that of their soldiers." We have not been given French Canadian leaders; only one regiment has succeeded in getting a fair opening and in pulling through. The others that followed on have lost their identity in England and in France. All that counts in the present oiganization has been a staff almost exclusively English. How many French Canadians are there in the superior ranks? The very few compatriots who cut a nominal figure in high ranks have been so intimidated and circumvented, that they are unwittingly and helplessly so, rather a cause of discouragement.
Colonel Blondin has sounded the right note when recruiting in the province of Quebec. If the hon. Minister of Militia had organized, at the very outset of the war, a well directed campaign, the results would have been different. Since the conquest, the authorities have not encouraged the militarist idea among the French Canadians. In a general way, my compatriots seem to have been systematically ignored in the Militia Department. How could our people show any enthusiasm for enlisting when both editors and legislators consign the French Canadians of Ontario to the same
standing as the Germans as far as education is concerned? Why should our people rush to the recruiting booths, when Englishspeaking Canadians want the fusion of races, ostracize our language and try to disposses us of our holdings? One of us has said: "What we have we hold." Such is my compatriots ! rallying-cry to resist the organized attacks against our faith, our traditions and our language. The struggle which the French Canadians of Ontario and of Manitoba have to keep up for the maintenance of their language and the preservation of their schools has largely contributed to impede recruiting.
For a few months past, I have been expecting an official truce, but those who are hostile to our tongue will not disarm and are even now trying to send to jail the defenders of our language in the city of Ottawa. So strange an aggression has revived a regrettable feud. Therefore, those who persist in refusing to give our race its due; those who abuse us since 1914; those who keep on persecuting our compatriots in the capital of Canada, destroy enlisting in the province of Quebec. If this unfortunate question of the bilingual schools were settled in a fair way, the French Canadians' participation would be more effective.
Several liberal speakers have stated that the Nationalist campaign of 1910 and of 1911 had paralysed enlisting in the province of Quebec. They seem to have forgotten some most important facts of our history. As a matter of fact, in 1885, General Laurie and Colonel Williams proposed the levy of two regiments to aid the Empire and asked the Canadian Government to pay part of the expense. Sir John A. Macdonald, consulted by Lord Landsdowne, wrote that Canada ought not contribute to the wars of the Empire.
Let us recall the Liberal policy of 1896. One could read in L'Electeur: "Why
fight for England?" In 1896, the Liberal party in the province of Quebec opposed any participation of Canada in the wars of the Empire. Le Canada, organ of the Liberal party, in 1907, opposed all contribution on the part of Canada to the defence of England. It approved any Canadian policy of abstention. In 1910, in the course of the debates upon the Naval Act, and during the electoral campaign of 1911, several Liberals in the province of Quebec were bent on lessening the Government's schemes and reduced them to a simple maritime policy. Some spoke of the creation of a navy which Canada might lend to England, others, of the creation of an exclusively Canadian fleet to be controlled * by us and by us alone. And even some others again found in this navy the best instrument to conquer our independence.
The Liberals of the province of Quebec, although supporting the Naval Act proposition, seemed opposed to Canada's participating in the wars of the Empire.
The Liberal party has always, previous to March 29, 1909, advocated the doctrine which the Nationalists defended in 1910 and in 1911. To prove this I might refer to the reports of the various imperial conferences. They show that the Liberal party has deeply engraved in the heart of the French Canadians the principle of Canada's nonparticipation in the wars of the Empire.
In the judgment of the vast majority of the French Canadians, this traditional principle is inscribed in the Constitution. The supreme reason of their opposition to enlistment and to compulsory service consists, as it seems to me, in their sincere attachment to Canada which is their only country.
The French Canadian mentality is to-day entangled by obstacles which migM be removed through a consultation of the people. Indeed, my compatriots have the sense of order and discipline and they would submit to the verdict rendered by the majority. Therefore I ask the Prime Minister, as did the hon. member for West Lambton (Mr. Pardee), and other members of this House, to make, previous to putting this bill into force, a last and sincere appeal to the patriotism of our Canadian youths, to go voluntarily to the assistance of their brethren at the front. I do ask this in order to try and settle a situation full of difficulties and internecine struggles. Otherwise you are deepening a chasm between the two great races who form the Canadian nation and between classes that should respect and love one another. What would be the usefulness of the new law, if our country is rushed into an unwholesome agitation?
The adoption of this measure under such circumstances would be more hurtful than useful to the Allies' cause. Just think, Mr. Speaker, of the touchiness of the races and of the working classes. This irritability must be taken into account. It may be suddenly stirred up, powerful and threatening. Are the various classes of our society and the Canadians of all races condemned to inflict upon one another the most painful injuries by the enforcement of an Act the results of which are doubtful?
The referendum offers itself with a sort of serene majesty to act as a moderator. Let us accept it in the interest of national
unity. We are writing to-day one of the most important pages in our history. Should the government, in justice toward the people they represent, forcibly enlist the Canadians for oversea service, after the nation has already voluntarily made such immense sacrifices in this war.
I ask for an appeal to the people, so as to dispense with doing violence to the feelings of a large portion of the Canadian people.
I ask for a consultation of the people, in order to maintain union among the various races and not to endanger the work of the fathers of Confederation.
If we establish a comparison between the number of our people and the extent of our country, between our (financial resources and the obligations we have taken upon ourselves, we come to this conclusion that the share Canada has already assumed voluntarily in the great war can compare with that of any other country, if it does not exceed it.
In the opinion of our ministers, these noble efforts are not sufficient. They should at least regulate their new position by consulting the people. I do not believe my mandate authorizes me to modify in so serious a manner our country's traditions. In this war of universal democracy against military despotism; in this war of liberty against tyranny, this (Government should accept the very democratic principle of popular consultation. As a journalist has expressed it: "The voice of the people
should lose nothing of its efficacy and of its eloquence in a democratic country which has already made such a splendid struggle against tyranny and political absolutism."
In Australia, Mr. Hughes, the prime minister, has not seen fit to have the Australian congress decree conscription for outside service, without asking the electors' opinion by means of a plebiscite. The majority has rejected compulsory service. (Since then, Mr. Hughes has had a general election and he has been kept in power. If Mr. Hughes believes conscription necessary, he will again submit the question to the electors, through a plebiciste. I ask the Canadian government the same favour.
The people who will pay the imposition of blood have given me no mandate to deprive them of their liberty. Therefore I pray the Government to consult the people by means of a plebiscite. Is not the right of consultation one of the British subject's most universally recognized privileges. Parliament should not impose upon the people an important modification of its social and
constitutional administration before having obtained the nation's consent.
We are, it is true, in extraordinary conditions, but do the members elected in 1911 represent public opinion when voting upon a measure which so deeply affects our national existence?
The present Parliament is sitting only by virtue of an act of its own creation, since its normal term has expired eight months ago.
Should this Parliament, elected when the question of war in no way existed, involve the country into a new policy which raises the strongest protest in several parts of the country? I do not believe I have the right to bind the population of Canada without inviting it to express its opinion. My constituents strongly protest against the compulsory military service. If the majority of the Canadian electors declare in favour of selective conscription, the French Canadians shall do their duty and respect the law.
The pretests which are voiced against conscription from every part of the country should induce the Government to call for a plebiscite.
I have performed my duty by urging a referendum which cannot effect- a change of government. If we are plunged in the whirlpool of militarism, I shall not be responsible for the violating of the Canadian people's rights.
Will the referendum be approved by the majority of the House? Many expected it a few days ago, but we now see Sir Wilfrid Laurier's lieutenants, in the English speaking provinces, approve of conscription and condemn the referendum. In my opinion, should we have general elections and the Liberals obtain the control of the administration, the majority of the Liberal members would impose compulsory ""service.
According to the debates of this House, the Conservative party and some distinguished members of the Liberal party shall be responsible for the adoption of this measure.
If this bill is adopted by both Houses and sanctioned by His Excellency the Governor General, I shall appeal to my compatriots to show due respect of the law, in order to restore union and harmony among the different classes and the different races.
The French Canadians, having all in their hearts .the greatness of their country, will surely rally under the flag of the Bonne Entente. My compatriots are the most interested in the triumph of the Allies. We need the prestige of France to set off the splendour of our national development.
As Lieut.-Col. L. G. Desjardins has written it, in his splendid work: "England, Canada and the great war." We may say and think whatever we please, but we cannot help it; France, grand, powerful, respected, shall always be one of the mainstays of our future. We therefore have the best reaeons to wish for her success, jointly with her powerful Allies, and to desire that the cordial union, which binds her to the British Empire be perpetuated, thus procuring us all the advantages we have good reason to ai ticipate therefrom.
At six o'clock the House took recess.
The House resumed at eight o'clock.
Topic: MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic: DEBATE CONTINUED ON MOTION FOR SECOND READING AND ON THE AMENDMENTS.