Mr. WILFRID LACROIX (Quebec-Mont-morency) (Translation):
Mr. Speaker, I
wrote the following letter to the right hon. the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) on December 31, 1936:
As a member of parliament, I take the liberty of making certain suggestions to you respecting military expenditures which, according to rumours, will show a substantial increase in the coming estimates.
I believe the province of Quebec would frown on this increase which would be interpreted as a direction from London.
Do you not think that our policy should aim at avoiding all participation in European wars, even if England were compelled to intervene in a conflict by reason of treaties or agreements that bind or may bind her to France and Belgium?
In order to avoid all misunderstanding, has the hour not arrived when we should hold a permanent seat in the Pan-American Conference? This gesture would indicate the part we mean to play in European conflicts in which England might be interested.
Should Canada not consider that the time has arrived when it should sever its connection with the League of Nations and study at the same time its status in the British Commonwealth. The fact that our King is the King of England should not imply that we must join in a war on the European or Asiatic continent or in any other quarter of the globe.
It is evident that if Canada clearly defines by legislative enactment its intention not to inter-fere in any war of the empire, such a course would free us, in the event of European or Asiatic difficulties, from the possibility of attack and would prevent all military expenditures both useless and disastrous for a young country such as ours.
1 make these observations to you in a spirit of humility, as a Canadian who loves his country and as a Liberal trustful in the political wisdom of his party.
Please accept, Mr. Prime Minister, the expression of my deepest regards.
And the right hon. the Prime Minister wrote me the following reply on January 19, 1937:
I read with much interest your letter of December 31 respecting military expenditures and Canada's foreign policy.
With respect to expenditures having to do with defence, any expenditure contemplated and decided upon will as in the past relate to the defence of Canada. We consider that whatever action Canada will take in this regard is a matter to be determined by the Canadian
government and parliament, and our defence estimates were not discussed with London on this occasion any more than in any other circumstance.
The policy of our government is to strive by all possible means to avoid war. There exists a wide difference of opinion in Canada and in other countries as to the best way of achieving that end. As regards the League of Nations,
I do not think it would be advisable to withdraw from that body which if properly developed can constitute a powerful agency for conciliation and peace throughout the world.
I would prefer seeking the safeguards against the danger which you see in our relations with the League of Nations by calling it into play as an instrument of conciliation and study rather than as an instrument for the application of economic or military sanctions. I am pleased to forward you herewith a copy of the speech I delivered at Geneva during the last assembly;
I believe it will clearly indicate to you the line of conduct suggested on subjects pertaining to the league and on other matters.
The matter of relationships to be established with the Pan-American Conference is an important question. We have given the matter attention but it involves more than one factor which must be taken into account.
I am pleased to know that you interest yourself in these important questions and I greatly value the clarity with which you have outlined to me the views you hold on the difficult situation that confronts us.
I do not want to question the words of the right hon. Prime Minister when he tells us:
We consider that whatever action Canada will take in this regard is a matter to be determined by the Canadian government and parliament.
I have faith in him and in his ministers, but I ask myself if the events that may occur following a declaration of war against the United Kingdom by any nation, will not be so swiftly moving in character that they will control government action in such a manner that parliament will find itself face to face with an accomplished fact and will be merely called upon to ratify an existing policy.
Moreover, were we not given a concrete example recently bearing out what I have just said, when, on the day following the abdication of King Edward the Eighth, the government by a mere order in council recognized his successor and set in motion the mechanism of the Statute of Westminster in such a manner that when parliament convened we had but one thing to do: approve what had been done.
As a matter of fact, I readily bow to the decision taken and approve whole-heartedly the order in council that gave us as successor to Edward the Eighth His Majesty George the Sixth; yet, when I analyse the events that followed one another at the time, I recall the words of Georges Sorel in a conversation captioned " Democracy is compelled to act
National Defence-Mr. Lacroix
like other forms of government," and of whom Mussolini said at the end of 1934: "I owe what I am to Georges Sorel."
That which concerns the internal affairs of a country is much less visible than that which relates to external affairs. In the latter case, the part ministers play greatly resembles, even in a democracy, that of an absolute sovereign. Once a conversation is started with the representatives of a foreign power, no obstacle can paralyse a responsible minister. A diplomatic conversation is a sort of battle in which the most unforeseen factors suddenly crop up, and a minister who would telephone every ten minutes to the Speaker of a house before answering his colleagues would be quickly put out of action.
With respect to the management of affairs, one must resign oneself to accept that those who are charged with same enjoy freedom of movement, lacking which they cannot do anything. The error of democracies consists in wanting to control government in all its acts, but control implies acknowledgment of an act after that act has taken place. If harm has been done one consoles oneself by the dismissal of a minister, but it is a poor consolation and the country derives no effective reparation from it.
What was known of yore as "the prince's secret" exists nowadays with all the added complications and niceties of modern international politics; and, admitting, for a moment, that there is a state without "prince's secrets," the ministers of that state will have to deal with other nations which do have "prince's secrets." As a consequence, secret diplomacy will hold sway and the ministers of that state will have to bear it without being able to do anything whatever about it. Hence, they will be compelled, if they' wish to serve their country profitably, to subscribe to views of which the parliamentarian, their judge, and the voter who elected their judge, cannot form the least idea.
The political conditions of a nation, its industrial and commercial interests, its fiscal revenues, the obligations of its neighbourhoods, the maintenance of its influence, are so many skeins that unwind into extremely complicated ramifications which the gentleman reading his newspaper in the tram-car could not possibly suspect by the widest stretch of the imagination.
Hence, Mr. Speaker, there is not the slightest shadow of doubt that events which will arise will control the decision of the ministry, a decision compelling rapid action with respect to the interests of what is called to-day the Commonwealth of British Nations; but that is probably where the Canadian people will not find themselves in agreement with the men then in power, and one must not, as I see it, overlook any security factor as regards our eventual non-participation in wars wherein the interest of the United Kingdom, alone, may be involved.
We are told that the League of Nations is an agency for peace; I have grave doubts as to that, for, in the event of a war in which the League of Nations would declare Japan the aggressor country, the economic sanction
machinery of the League of Nations would function immediately in favour of Russia; and as for us, members of the league, we would be compelled, as in the case of Ethiopia, to give effect to the covenants we signed as a member of the league: I say the League of Nations would compel us to apply economic sanctions to Japan. There is not a shadow of doubt that the adoption by our country of such economic sanctions with respect to Japan would be considered by that nation an act that would justify it in invading our country; and we would be face to face with the distressing situation of a country such as ours which holds communism in horror, aligning itself with a nation whose ideal is absolutely contrary to that of our Canadian people; for, in this country, our history, our traditions, our very existence rest on a belief that is the corner-stone of any society that aims to live and respect itself, that is to say, belief in God. Now, Russian communism involves the complete negation of God, the basis of our social structure. No, Mr. Speaker, I do not believe that the League of Nations as constituted, is an instrument for peace. I look upon Geneva, its magnificient lake, the luxuriant verdure surrounding the palace of the League of Nations simply as a place well-suited for politicians who are holiday-bent.
We are told that should we vote the increased military estimates which are presently submitted to our approval, such sums will never be utilized beyond our country. Now, if I turn to the Canada Militia Act, I find that Section 64 reads in part as follows:
The Governor in Council may place the militia or any part thereof in active service anywhere in Canada and also beyond Canada for the defence thereof, at any time when it appears advisable so to do by reason of emergency.
Who tells us that the government then holding office will not apply that clause of the Militia Act which empowers the cabinet, by a simple order in council, to use our military organization beyond Canada?
No, Mr. Speaker, I think there is only one logical course for us to follow: that is to occupy as soon as possible a seat at the PanAmerican Conference to which, as a matter of fact, we were invited by that good friend of ours and lover of peace, Mr. Franklin Roosevelt. We would thus be proclaiming to all nations our desire to remain what we are actually, an essentially American nation. As a result, with the immense resources that are at our disposal, we would find ourselves free to devote, in a spirit of peace, all our efforts to the development of our country, instead of burdening our budget with a fairly
National Defence-Mr. Kuhl
heavy outlay for military purposes. We have not yet emerged from the crisis borne of the war and our commitments resulting from our participation in the conflict of 1914-1918 now exceed 84,600,000,000.
I do not approve the amendment proposed by my hon. colleague from Vancouver North (Mr. MacNeil), because part of it censures the government concerning its social legislation; and I do not hesitate to state that in that field the country never had a man with a better understanding of the interests of the labour class than my hon. colleague the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers) whose direct action in connection with the labour legislation adopted by this house has proven extremely helpful in the realm of relations between employers and employees. On the other hand, I wish to state that I shall vote against the increased military appropriations because I am convinced our country owes it to itself to direct its efforts into other channels of greater benefit to the Canadian community to which we have the honour to belong.
Topic: SUPPLY-NATIONAL DEFENCE CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON AMENDMENT TO MOTION OF MINISTER OF FINANCE
Subtopic: Hull, P.Q.