Clarence Joseph VENIOT

VENIOT, The Hon. Clarence Joseph, M.A., M.D., Ph.D.

Personal Data

Gloucester (New Brunswick)
Birth Date
February 9, 1886
Deceased Date
March 7, 1977
physician, surgeon

Parliamentary Career

August 17, 1936 - January 25, 1940
  Gloucester (New Brunswick)
March 26, 1940 - April 16, 1945
  Gloucester (New Brunswick)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 54)

August 12, 1944

Mr. C. J. VENIOT (Gloucester):

I hardly think any member will accuse me of having abused the time of parliament during the present session, and I wish to profit by this opportunity to associate myself with hon. members who have already spoken and expressed their approval and gratification at the introduction of a measure to support the prices of fisheries products. Representing a riding where there existed formerly one of the largest fishing fleets in the maritime provinces, I can do nothing but give my wholehearted support to this bill and to say that ever since coming to this house I have advocated measures which would give the fishermen better prices, better purchasing power and a better means of livelihood.

I was pleased and somewhat surprised to read the remarks made by the hon. member for York-Sunbury (Mr. Hanson) when discussing the estimates of fisheries on June 20 last in which he referred to the price of fish, cod and herring, prevailing in the county of Gloucester, the riding I represent. In making his remarks the hon. member desired to bring to the attention of the minister a situation which had arisen in the bay of Chaleur, in the province of New Brunswick, along the Cara-quet coast, concerning the price of herring bait and of cod. The hon. member also said,

Fisheries Prices

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February 26, 1942

Mr. C. J. VENIOT (Gloucester):

As the

-first member on this side of the house to take part in to-day's debate, I wish to extend congratulations to the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) upon his statesmanlike and masterful address of yesterday, wherein he expressed without equivocation his views and those of his associates in the cabinet on the subject under debate at the present time. He clarified many points, and expressed his continued desire to maintain throughout the nation peace and harmony-a condition which is just as important to-day as the manufacturing of tanks and guns. What a difference there would be in the situation of Canada if we had had as head of the government a man whose character was synonymous with intolerance, narrowness of views, rapier-like thrusts, and vituperation. I feel certain that long ago this country would have been subjected to a great number of disturbances, perhaps to the point of riot and revolution, if certain ideas which are advocated to-day had been carried out sooner. With all the fervour in my heart I say, let Canada thank the Almighty for having at its head today a man of the steadfastness, the equanimity and the balance of the present Prime Minister of Canada.

Before approaching the subjects with which I desire to deal, I should like to take a minute or two to consider certain statements made yesterday by the brilliant young member -for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker), in which he upbraided the cabinet for what he termed its abuse of government by order in council. I wish to refer to historical facts of the last war as contained in a book which I have already

mentioned, "The Crisis of Quebec, 1914-18," by E. H. Armstrong, page 54, in which it is stated:

The Canadian War Book, analogous to the British one, provided not only for the eventual raising of troops, but also for the issuance of orders in council and proclamations dealing with such wartime measures as the censorship of cables and the prohibition of certain exports.

On page 65:

What came to be known in 1918 as'order in council government, comprising such unpopular measures as the wholesale cancellation of draft exemptions by >a mere decree of the governor general in council, was legalized by the wide powers granted under the War Measures Act of 1914. At that time it met with scarcely any opposition.

On page 232, referring to the same subject:

. . . as time went on land dissatisfaction with the Military service Act, the cancellation of exemptions, and the so-called "order in council government" pervaded the dominion and led to riots elsewhere, the Quebec riots took on much less of a distinctively Freneh-Ganadian character and were seen to be parts of a nation-wide movement of resistance to


And on page 236 the author, referring to this same subject of orders in council, says:

There were many members, English as well as Freneh-Canadians, who protested against the government's use of the order in council to enforce its wishes, especially in the administration of military service. There was considerable feeling that legislation by order in council constituted an abuse of the executive power, being no more nor less than government by ordinance issued by the federal cabinet.

The Prime Minister, when he rose to uphold the government's mode of action in the Quebec riots, immediately defended the use of the order in council. He stated that the right to use this form of legislation had been granted very extensively by the War Measures Act of 1914, that in the war emergencies it .was often necessary to act quickly, and that the delay of an appeal to parliament might on occasion be disastrous.

So much for that. I now come to the theme of my discourse.

Since the beginning of this session, I have received, as no doubt many other hon. members have, letters requesting information concerning the definite object of the plebiscite. Some view the measure as containing the germ of conscription; others expect conscription to follow immediately on the conclusion of the plebiscite. So far as I can see, the official opposition seem to entertain the wishful hope that this will take place, in order to bring about what they conceive as the ideal measure of an all-out war effort. Others -and to this group I belong-see in the plebiscite an indication of the desire of the government, in case the nation is confronted with a supreme danger, to be free by the

Plebiscite Act-Mr. Veniot

will of the people to take whatever measures it deems necessary in order to protect the nation and the allied cause, even if we must have recourse to a certain measure of conscription for overseas.

What I cannot conceive is that this government, even if we arrive at the point where the nation is confronted with supreme danger, would endeavour to enforce conscription, any measure >of conscription, in the odious way in which it was carried out in 1917, for instance, when troops from Ontario were sent into the province of Quebec to track down evaders; and the same condition of affairs occurred in New Brunswick. I have already expressed myself as willing to accept a certain measure of compulsion for service overseas, provided that I can be shown the absolute failure of voluntary enlistment. But I wish to remind the house and the government that it is a very dangerous policy to ask a nation or a people to make the supreme sacrifice until this nation or people is convinced of the need for such supreme sacrifice. In my estimation the hour has not yet arrived when such a necessity exists. We have before us the gigantic task of educating our people as to the seriousness of the situation. You, sir, and I, see the danger; but the great majority of the people do not entertain the same view. For reasons which already have been submitted to this house I repeat that this country is far from being ripe for the acceptance of any form of compulsion for overseas service. In this opinion may I say that I have the concurrence of a newspaper which is not in great favour with the opposition party, but which nevertheless expresses practically the same view; I refer to the Winnipeg Free Press. In a recent editorial it stated:

The Free Press is published a long way from the province of Quebec, but it knew that the state of opinion in that province was such that any attempt to impose conscription for overseas service by arbitrary, high-handed courses would result in an explosion that would destroy for the duration of the w~ar, and for long after, national unity in Canada. It therefore opposed this policy of coercion and urged more politic and moderate measures. That the Free Press was right in its estimate of the state of public opinion in Quebec can no longer be denied.

May 1 continue a quotation from this same editorial indicating the trend in favour of imposing conscription on Canada, in spite of the fact that the country is not ripe for such a measure. The editorial continues:

Their hope-

The hope of the Toronto junta which decided some four months ago that they would take charge of the affairs of Canada-

[DOT]-was that by exploiting demands for national government and for conscription, they could

disrupt the dominion government; drive Mr. King from the premiership; make it impossible-for the French ministers to remain in office; make possible the coming into office of a government which would be exclusively Englishspeaking with a parliamentary support similarly exclusive. This may look like a wild statement, but nevertheless it is true. The French were to be put in their place; a government more agreeable to reactionaries in financial and political circles was to come into office; there was to be considerably less "truck and trade with the Yankees". In short the clock was to be put back and a government created with policies that, would meet with the approval of all those folk who agree with the contributor of the current issue of Saturday Night, who tells us that "the essence of French-Canadian outlook" is "an unwillingness to concede the battle of the plains of Abraham". It is startling that such unspeakable idiocy should command some measure of support; but unfortunately it does. A quite prominent member of the Toronto group has given expression to this very view in recent years.

I ask the leader of the opposition what he thinks of such dangerous and provocative utterances coming from some of his supporters in the holy city. Is it not a strange coincidence that the intensification of the clamour for conscription occurred last fall precisely at- the moment when it became known that the bulwark against conscription, that giant Canadian statesman, the late Right Hon. Ernest Lapointe, was about to disappear from the political scene? Is it not a coincidence that it happened when it was definitely realized that his mighty voice defending Canadian liberties and privileges was about to be silenced by the pall of death? His passing was the signal, as everyone knows, of a sudden blitzkrieg of forces aimed at splitting the Liberal party by renewing with accrued vigour the sudden cry for conscription which reached even the ranks of the Liberal party.

Not so very long ago I was castigated for having made what was termed a most dangerous speech, when I characterized conscription as having been transformed into a racial issue. No doubt the ire of the hon. gentleman who so characterized me was aroused by the fact that I placed this child on the doorstep of the Conservative party which directed the affairs of Canada in 1917. Hon. members from New Brunswick, although we have personal regard for the leader of the opposition (Mr. Hanson) as a gentleman, know his habit of viewing certain questions by the light of a small tallow candle instead of by the radiance of God's own sunshine. At the first opportunity he tried to convey to certain sections of this country the idea that I entertained the determination to make conscription a racial issue.

I wish to state that there was no such determination on my part. That determination was

Plebiscite Act-Mr. Veniot

made by the fathers of conscription, who conceived that child in 1917 and fostered it ever since. That determination was made rather by the gentlemen from Toronto to whom the Winnipeg Free Press referred in the editorial I quoted a few minutes ago. I wonder if the leader of the opposition listened carefully yesterday to tlhe quotations made by the Prime Minister from speeches delivered in this house by the Right Hon. Ernest Lapointe, by the leader of the opposition in March, 1939, and by these gentlemen during the last campaign. I wondered also, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, why the hon. gentleman did not denounce the words of his leader of that time as being dangerous, because ibis utterances then dealt with the racial nature of conscription, the dangerous elements which it contained; and the possibility that it would develop strife and division throughout the dominion.

Of course I realize with regret that the 'hon. gentleman's knowledge of French does not permit him to understand all the speeches made by my fellow Canadians from the province of Quebec concerning the question of conscription. I realize also that he may not have had time at his disposal to read the English translations of those speeches which appeared in Hansard; and I realize also that he may not have time in the next two or three years to read certain books which treat very forcefully this same question of conscription, and throw a great deal of light on the nature of the issue.

All the speeches and books I have mentioned contain the same thoughts that have been expressed in this house in recent days, except that they have been couched in different language. My crime has been that of stripping conscription of the hypocrisy with which it has been surrounded for the past twenty-five years; of pulling it out of the odious pussyfooting and beating around the bush to which it has been subjected by, I may say, all political parties since the last war. Let us call things by their true names. A rose by any other name still smells as sweet. Dynamite by any other appellation contains just as much destructive power. Pussyfooting about conscription is just as dangerous as so many tons of TNT under the foundations of national unity in this country. It is potentially fraught with just as great disaster and dissension when it is called by the sweet sounding name of selective service for overseas.

To explain my position on this issue may I be permitted, though it is rather disagreeable to me to do so, to speak of my background. Within the last two weeks I have been pointed out as a French fanatic, though I regret to use that term. Let me say that my father,

one time premier of New Brunswick, and one time postmaster general in this House of Commons, devoted his entire life, as every hon. member of this house knows, to fostering and promoting bonne entente, harmony and union between the two great races of this country. I will admit that between my father and the leader of the opposition there did exist political animosity; but I also know, as the hon. gentleman knows, that there existed between them a certain amount of personal friendship.

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February 26, 1942


And there is that same personal friendship between us at the present time. We may hold different political opinions, but as individuals we leave those things aside, no matter what bitter enemies we may be in politics. My father endeavoured to instil into me and the other members of the family that same desire to foster a better feeling between the two races. As a physician and a public man I have endeavoured in every way to follow in my father's footsteps in that regard. The dearest and truest friends I have, in and -out of my profession, are of English-speaking descent, and the great majority of them are Protestants. I can also say that in my active professional practice the great majority of my clients were nonCatholics, and the same thing applies to my large drug business in the town of Bathurst. My three daughters-I am going all the way- were educated and received their university degrees at an English institution in the city of Halifax. Why? Because I desired them to have the broad English view as well as the French view, so that they might be better Canadians. My only son is a third year medical student, not at the French university of Laval, for which I have a great deal of respect, nor at the university of Montreal, but at the English Protestant Dalhousie university, for the same reason.

I ask this house: Is such a background conducive to fanatical expressions in this house with regard to race? I deny that in toto. My sole endeavour has been and will continue to be to enlighten my fellow-Canadians as much as I possibly can as to the factual, historical, political and racial significance of conscription as I have studied the question, and to point out the explosive dangers to the nation of any such measure. I realize that I have not much time at my disposal, though I did not take note of the time I started to speak; but I propose to indicate certain facts concerning conscription which are found in a book which I think it very important that every hon. member of

Plebiscite Act-Mr. Veniot

this house should read, a book to which I referred a few moments ago. This book contains all the historical facts, for which all the references are indicated. It was written by a person who lives outside Canada, a former New Yorker but now a Washingtonian. That may foe disagreeable to some hon. members in this house who formerly preached the slogan, "No truck or trade with the United States." The author of this book is a disinterested outsider who has no axe to grind for the province of Quebec or any other province of this dominion; for eonscriptionists or anti-conscriptionists; a person who spent six months practically without interruption in the library of this House of Commons, as can be verified by consulting our librarians, and in the archives of the government, gathering material for this very valuable work.

The first chapter of this book is concerned with the roots of French-Canadianismit indicates the struggles which took place from the conquest of New France by England up to the beginning of the last war. The second chapter deals with the trials of French-Canadian nationality. The third chapter indicates French-Canadian nationalism at the outbreak of the war. The fourth and fifth chapters, which should interest this house, show the united Canada of 1914 and the revival of national conflict with French Canada on the defensive in 1916. May I be permitted, as time allows, to read a few quotations from this work, the first from page 55:

Britain entered the war on August 4. . . On the same day the governor general telegraphed the king that "Canada stands united from the Pacific to the Atlantic in her determination to uphold the honour and traditions of our empire."

Then, in the next paragraph:

The most striking phenomenon in the first months of the war was the practical unanimity of all shades of Canadian opinion.

And a few lines further down:

But in 1914 Canadians of both races and all religions were bound in a sort of union sacrie * . . throughout the length and breadth of the province of Quebec there were demonstrations of popular acclaim for the cause of Britain and her allies.

And on page 56:

In Quebec, the old capital of Canada, there were enthusiastic pro-war demonstrations in which English, Irish, and French Canadians joined.

And in the next paragraph:

With a unanimity that is all the more striking when the bitter divisions of the later years of the war are considered, the representatives of every shade of French-Canadian political opinion, Liberals, Conservatives and even Nationalists seemed to vie with each other in expressions of enthusiasm for the allied

[Mr. Veniot.l

cause and for Canadian participation. . . . From the very beginning of the European conflict, the official leader of French-Canadian thought-

Sir Wilfrid Laurier-

-ranged himself on the side of an active Canadian participation in the war.

Then, on page 57:

Laurier appealed to his own countrymen in eloquent terms to enlist.

And on page 58:

That the Catholic leaders did not at this time shirk from envisaging a whole-hearted Canadian cooperation in the empire's war effort is proved by Archbishop Bruchesi's supplementary statement-

Then the statement follows. And further:

Laurier . . . admonished the French Canadians among the soldiers to remember that "England has protected our liberties and our faith. Under her flag we have found peace, and now in appreciation of what England has done, you go as French Canadians to do your utmost to keep the Union Jack flying in honour to the breeze."

And at page 59:

Pastoral letters . . . have been at times of great influence in keeping the French Canadians in the path of obedience and loyalty to the mother country.

And further down the page:

The bishops did not hesitate to assert that because England was engaged in the war, it was clear that the fate of all parts of the empire was linked to the success of her arms.

I could go on quoting endlessly to show that in those days the most perfect harmony and unity existed among Canadians of all races, all creeds and all nationalities.

Then, at page 64:

On the Liberal as much as on the Conservative side of the House of Commons it seemed to be the consensus of opinion that the government should be given carte blanche to help win the war.

And at page 67:

There was absolutely no difference of opinion on the righteousness of the cause of the allies or of the necessity of Canada's coming to the help of the mother country in the great emergency. *

I now pass to the next chapter, in order to save time. At page S3 I find this:

It was only natural that there arose at that time a widely supported movement for the formation of a battalion to be exclusively composed of French Canadians.

There was an insistent demand for a French-Canadian unit.

French Canadians were sometimes assigned to units predominantly English-speaking and protestant, where the atmosphere was decidedly uncongenial to them.

Plebiscite Act-Mr. Homuth

And further down:

They were further annoyed by the lack of French-Canadian instructors and by the refusal of the authorities to allow more than one French-Canadian company under French-Canadian officers in the first contingent. . . The consequent desire for a unit in which French Canadians would be assured of a sympathetic milieu for the free exercise of their religion and customs was very strong. Meanwhile French-Canadian leaders of both parties had given their support to the scheme for a French-Canadian unit. . . .

The consequent authorization on September 30 for the formation of a battalion to be known as the Royal 22nd French Canadians was hailed with patriotic satisfaction throughout the province of Quebec. Conservative and Liberal editors of rural and city newspapers alike united in cordial approval of the scheme. . . .

With the formation of a French-Canadian battalion and the recruiting campaign, of which the Parc Sohmer meeting was an outstanding event, it seemed that French Canada's war effort had been given exactly the proper impetus and that it would only be necessary to keep it going.

Immediately following are these words:

Unfortunately, the government and particularly the recruiting authorities failed to do just that. The Conservative government of Sir Robert Borden was severely handicapped throughout the war by the fact that its French-Canadian members represented a minority instead of a majority of their compatriots.

And the further quotation at page 90:

The year 1915 was marked not only by a magnificent expansion of Canada's wit effort, but also by the revival of racial conflict and a decided break in the unanimity of French- and English-speaking Canadians for the successful prosecution of the war. . . .

Underneath this seeming unanimity, there were forces, currents of emotion and counteremotion that were destined seriously .to impede Canada's war effort and practically to destroy the 1914 enthusiasm of French Canadians for active participation in the European war.

And on the following page:

It was most unfortunate for the cause of national solidarity that the controversy over the teaching of French in the Ontario schools should have come to a head at this moment to strengthen those forces of disunion. . . .

The agitation over the Ontario bilingual schools . . . results in growing bitterness between' the races until the average French Canadian lost a good deal of his enthusiasm for fighting England's battles.

And on page 92:

As a result of this instinctive feeling, it was not surprising to see French Canada's war effort become less enthusiastic as the Ontario schools controversy progressed.

And further clown on the same page:

The bitterness aroused by the dispute over the Ontario bilingual schools was responsible more than anything else for the gradual slowing up of the war effort of French Canada.

And at page 93:

To have such an issue raised at a moment when mutual tolerance and cooperation were essential to a successful prosecution of the war was unfortunate in the highest degree.

I realize the time at my disposal has practically elapsed. In conclusion I would ask every hon. member to take cognizance of this work, if he sincerely desires to be posted on the exact significance of conscription as a menace to the unity of the Canadian people.

May I terminate my observations by quoting from a letter received only a few days ago from a friend:

What aire we going to do about conscription, after the plebiscite? Why hold conscription like a red rag in front of a bull? Let ns bear in mind its true significance, and drop it like a curse. Let us direct all our efforts toward any other method of raising the manpower required for the outside defence of Canada. Let us eliminate from our vocabularies this element of national discord and cleavage, and get together on some common ground where susceptibilities are not smouldering at red heat. Let us act and talk more like brothers under the skin, which we really are. Let us consolidate our forces, not divide them, bearing in mind the tremendous task which we all have of winning this war at the side of our sister nations of the commonwealth.

To indicate that there are no hard feelings in my heart toward any hon. member who may have criticized me, and particularly toward the leader of the opposition, may I, through you, sir, and with my compliments, offer a gift of this book to the leader of the opposition so that he may have an opportunity of studying it and conveying some of its contents to his fellow members.

Mr. KARL K. HOMUTH (Waterloo South): Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention

to follow the arguments of the last speaker except to make reference to some of the statements which he made. He referred to the question of conscription. This question of conscription has been raised so often in this house that one would think we did not have conscription in Canada. We have conscription in Canada; let us face the fact. The only difference is that we have not conscription for overseas service. Boys are being taken away from the farms and factories of this country and conscripted into the Canadian army. I think we should make that perfectly clear and get away from this nonsense of intimating that we have not conscription in this country. Furthermore, I should have thought that the last speaker in his eloquent pleading for national unity would have committed himself as to where he stands on this question of the plebiscite and what active part he intends to

Plebiscite Act-Mr. Homuth

take to try to get the people of Canada to vote "yes" to relieve the government of restrictions.

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February 26, 1942


May I point out to the hon. gentleman that I have done so already.

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February 18, 1942


Will the hon. gentleman permit a question?

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