Robert Laird BORDEN

BORDEN, The Right Hon. Sir Robert Laird, P.C., G.C.M.G., K.C., D.C.L., LL.D.

Parliamentary Career

June 23, 1896 - October 9, 1900
CON
  Halifax (Nova Scotia)
November 7, 1900 - September 29, 1904
CON
  Halifax (Nova Scotia)
  • Leader of the Official Opposition (February 6, 1901 - October 9, 1911)
February 4, 1905 - September 17, 1908
CON
  Carleton (Ontario)
  • Leader of the Official Opposition (February 6, 1901 - October 9, 1911)
October 26, 1908 - July 29, 1911
CON
  Halifax (Nova Scotia)
  • Leader of the Official Opposition (February 6, 1901 - October 9, 1911)
September 21, 1911 - October 6, 1917
CON
  Halifax (Nova Scotia)
  • Leader of the Official Opposition (February 6, 1901 - October 9, 1911)
  • Prime Minister (October 10, 1911 - October 11, 1917)
  • President of the Privy Council (October 10, 1911 - October 11, 1917)
  • Secretary of State for External Affairs (April 1, 1912 - October 11, 1917)
October 10, 1911 - October 6, 1917
CON
  Halifax (Nova Scotia)
  • Prime Minister (October 10, 1911 - October 11, 1917)
  • President of the Privy Council (October 10, 1911 - October 11, 1917)
  • Secretary of State for External Affairs (April 1, 1912 - October 11, 1917)
October 27, 1911 - October 6, 1917
CON
  Halifax (Nova Scotia)
  • Prime Minister (October 10, 1911 - October 11, 1917)
  • President of the Privy Council (October 10, 1911 - October 11, 1917)
  • Secretary of State for External Affairs (April 1, 1912 - October 11, 1917)
December 17, 1917 - October 4, 1921
UNION
  Kings (Nova Scotia)
  • Prime Minister (October 12, 1917 - July 9, 1920)
  • Secretary of State for External Affairs (October 12, 1917 - July 9, 1920)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 6 of 3580)


April 27, 1921

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

I regard the

effectual exercise of voice and influence by the Dominions as highly important and even essential, for this among other reasons: If the British Empire should be involved in a serious war, each Dominion must take its reasonable part in the common defence or withdi'aw and become an independent state. A self-respecting

people could hardly enjoy the advantages of union with other parts of the Empire during peace and take no responsibility for the common security in time of danger or trouble. If we exercise no voice or - influence we are committed either to ignominious withdrawal from common responsibilities, or to take part in a war as to the cause of which we have had no voice, although our united influence might have prevented its outbreak.

The genius of thd British people does not lend itself to violent or sudden changes; rather it proceeds cautiously step by step, and as the need arises. The Imperial War Cabinet, so-called, served its purpose sufficiently well during the war. It consisted of the British War Cabinet and the Prime Ministers of the Dominions, each Prime Minister being, of course, responsible to his own Parliament. In reality, the Imperial War Cabinet was the development of the committee on Imperial Defence in which, rather than in the Imperial Conference, questions of defence and foreign relations had been discussed between Great Britain and the Dominions for several years before the war.

Hon. gentlemen who have made themselves acquainted with this subject will recollect that at the Imperial Conference of 1911 there was a meeting of the Committee on Imperial Defence which the Dominion Prime Ministers attended and at which vital questions of foreign policy were fully disclosed and discussed. Mr. Asquith, in the concluding stages of the conference, spoke of the Dominion ministers as having been admitted to the Arcana Imperii.

The status of Canada at the Peace Conference, and afterwards in the International Labour Conference at Washington and in the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva has already been discussed, and I shall speak of it only for a moment. Much ingenuity and logic have been displayed in pointing out the anomalies of the situation, and in declaring that nothing has been accomplished in advancement of status. The best answer can be given by reference to the high position which Canada took, through its representatives, at Washington in 1919 and at Geneva during recent months. There has been much alarm that the representatives of Great Britain and the Dominions did not on these occasions always see eye to eye on minor questions. There would be much ground for criticism, and even regret, if the result had been otherwise. We should be in an utterly false position

if we were expected to re-echo on all occasions the opinions of the representatives of the United Kingdom: Our points of view are not always the same for our conditions differ. On essential questions of policy I agree that there should be a united front -expressing the view not of the United Kingdom alone but of the whole Empire- established by previous conference and consultation.

There are those who are apprehensive of the consequence of the possession of wide powers whether by the Mother Country or by the Dominions, and they would do well to remember that the constitution of the British Empire (if it can be called a constitution) is based largely upon usage and convention. It would be practically impossible in any of the five democracies of the Empire to carry on government effectually if every instrument of government continually exercised its powers to the utmost extent. I venture to quote (it has often been quoted by constitutional writers,) the famous passage in the introduction to the second edition of Bagehot's English Constitution :

Recent discussions have also brought into curious prominence another part of the constitution. I said in this book that it would very much surprise people if they were only told how many things the Queen could do without consulting Parliament, and it certainly has so proved, for when the Queen abolished purchase in the army by an Act of prerogative (after the Lords had rejected the Bill for doing so), there wag a great and general astonishment.

But this is nothing to what the Queen can by law do without consulting Parliament. Not to mention other things, she could disband the Army (by law she cannot engage more than a certain number of men, but she is not obliged to engage any men) ; she could dismiss all the officers, from the General Commanding-in-Chief downwards; she could dismiss all the sailors too ; she could sell off: all our ships of war and all our naval stores ; she could make a peace by the sacrifice of Cornwall, and begin a war for the conquest of Brittany. She could make every citizen in the United Kingdom, male or female, a peer; she could make every parish in the United Kingdom a "university" ; she could dismiss most of the civil servants; she could pardon all offenders. In a word, the Queen could by prerogative upset all the action .of civil government within the government, could disgi ace the nation by a bad war or peace, and could, by disbanding our forces, whether land or sea, leave us defenceless against foreign nations. Why do we not fear that she would do this, or any approach to it?

Of course it would have been quite unconstitutional, as other writers have pointed out, for the Queen to do any of these things except on the advice of her ministers. Bagehot goes on to enumerate the checks which, in his opinion, prevent the arbitrary

exercise of such powers. The real check, however, is to be found in that powerful force which we somewhat vaguely term "public opinion," the strong, perhaps the overwhelming sentiment of the majority of the nation. Indeed it is that powerful force which maintains law and order within the borders of each democracy. There is the authority of the law and behind that the police force and the military force, if you like, but behind all these is the irresistible force of public opinion. In like manner the peace of the world must depend upon the public opinion of the world. Upon the force of that opinion must be based in the last analysis any such organization as the League of Nations or other international institution designed to preserve the world's peace.

As to the other subjects mentioned in the agenda which have been brought to our attention by the Prime Minister I shall say very little. It does seem to me that unless there are unexpected and unforeseen developments the occasion is altogether inopportune for considering the problems of Imperial defence or the responsibility to be undertaken by the various parts of the Empire in that respect. Surely we have not undergone untold sacrifices merely to learn that there is to be no respite from the intolerable burden of armaments. Much depends upon the attitude of the United States towards essential cooperation for reduction of armaments and for ensuring the peace of the world.

I am confident that such co-operation will not be witheld whatever may be the final decision of that great country with respect to the Covenant of the League of Nations. The movements for the determination of international differences by peaceful methods have been more important and more marked in the United States during the past quarter of a century than in any other country.

Through the vast improvement and development of means of communication each nation is the neighbour of every other. No nation can sit apart. The sufferings entailed by the late war extended beyond the boundaries of belligerent nations and seriously affected even neutral countries. Moreover the horrors of war have been unspeakably increased by the increasing use of more effective implements of destruction, including chemical devices of the most terrible and devilish character. The next war, if one should be permitted, will surpass in its horrors even than from which we have just emerged.

I believe that Canada has the highest opportunity for development, influence and usefulness in every sense, as a nation within the British Empire. For many years we have claimed to be a nation. On that subject I might quote here the words of a great Canadian, the late Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Speaking in this House on the Imperial Conference of 1907, he said:

There .were many who -believed that these relations should be based upon the principle that the young daughter communities should be simply satellites revolving around the parent State, but others there were who held- and in my estimation rightly held-that the proper basis of the British Empire was that it was to be composed of a galaxy of nations under the British Crown.

Later, on February 3, 1910, speaking on the Naval Service Bill then before the House of Commons, he said:

This policy is in the best traditions of the Liberal party. This policy is the latest link in the long chain of events which following the principles laid down by the reformers of the old times, Baldwin and Lafontaine, step by step, stage by stage, have brought Canada to the position it now occupies, that is to say the rank, dignity and status of a nation within the British Empire.

We cannot assume or accept the status of nationhood without accepting also its responsibilities. I earnestly hope that the burden of providing for defence will be much less in the future than in the past. The expenditure imposed by past wars in all countries is both outrageous and grotesque. But, whatever the burden may be, I believe it will be less upon this country as a nation of the Empire than if we stood separate as an independent nation. I shall not weary the House with statistics, but if one examines the expenditure for military and naval purposes of such countries as Argentina, Spain, Sweden and Holland in 1914, one can realize the truth of what I suggest.

Finally, I hope that as in Great Britain questions of foreign policy have been elevated above the sphere of party controversy, so in this country our relations to Great Britain and to the other nations of the Empire will not be brought within the region of our party divisions.

No important step can be taken in constitutional change without the approval of Parliament; no such step should be taken without the fullest consideration and without the fullest discussion in Great Britain and in the Dominions. No such change can be effectual unless it carries public opinion in all parts of the Empire that may be

affected. The influence of the British Empire in the centuries which are behind us has been an influence for good,-perhaps the greatest influence for good that the world has known. Its constitutional development has been based upon principles not unlike those which inspired the men who framed the Covenant of the League of Nations. If we can make good such methods of consultation and co-operation as will preserve to the Mother Country and to each Dominion its full and perfect autonomy, and enable them to exercise a united influence for the peace of the world and for the advancement of humanity, we shall have accomplished a great task.

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, British statesmen and publicists probably concentrated their attention more upon questions of purely European concern than upon the affairs of our Commonwealth of Nations. More attention was perhaps given to the governance of the Balkan States than to the Government of this vast Empire. Fortunately that condition has passed away.

I believe the whole Empire owes a debt of gratitude to the young men who associated themselves in what is known as the Round Table Group, for their fine service in arousing public interest to the importance of the question with which we are concerned-to-day. I do not agree with the conclusions which they have reached, because I believe that the security and permanence of the Empire are to be found in the association of its democracies upon a basis of autonomy, liberty and co-operation rather than in Parliamentary federation. The system for which I stand, and upon which I

4 p.m. base my hopes for the future, has been tested to the utmost during the years of the war, and the whole world bears witness to the truth that it has not been found wanting. It represents the strength of five democracies, all possessing representative institutions and responsible government, each enjoying full autonomy and liberty in its domestic affairs and all united in effective co-operation for the progress, development and security'of the whole.

Topic:   SUPPLY-PRIME MINISTERS' CONFERENCE
Full View Permalink

April 21, 1921

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

I hope my hon. friend will be good enough to restrain his curiosity until I have finished my speech. I shall then be prepared to give him what information I can.

I have spoken, of the debate in 1892. I shall go on step by step and show the various events of later date which bear upbn this question. In 1892 Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper, concluded in conjunction with Sir Julian Pauncefote, the negotiations which resulted in the Behring sea treaty. He also acted as the British agent, in the arbitration at Paris, in 1893. In 1893 Sir Charles Tupper negotiated an arrangement respecting commercial relations between France and Canada.

At the Colonial Conference of 1894, the following resolutions were passed:

That provision should be made by Imperial legislation enabling the dependencies of the Empire to enter into agreements of commercial reciprocity, including power of making differential tariffs, with Great Britain or with one another.

That any provision in existing treaties between Great Britain and any foreign Power which prevent the self-governing dependencies of the Empire from entering into agreements of commercial reciprocity with each other or with Great Britain should be removed.

This apparently led to an important despatch of June 28, 1895, from the Colonial Secretary, Lord Ripon, to Canada and to

the Australian colonies. Lord Ripon expressed the view that the power of negotiating treaties by colonies without reference to the British Government would give them an international status as separate and sovereign states, and would result in breaking up the Empire. Therefore such negotiations must be conducted by Her Majesty's representatives at the court of the foreign power. He agreed that such representative should have the assistance of a colonial representative either as a second plenipotentiary or in a subordinate capacity. He declared, inter alia, that any tariff concessions by a colony to a foreign country must be extended to Great Britain and the rest of the Empire.

In 1898 Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sir Richard Cartwright and Sir Louis Davies were members of a Joint High Commission with Lord Herschell to negotiate a treaty or treaties covering several outstanding questions between the British Empire and the United States, some of which specially related to Canadian interests.

In 1903 the Alaska Boundary Treaty was negotiated under the direction of Canada, although the British ambassador at Washington acted as plenipotentiary. Sir Clifford Sifton, then Minister of the Interior, was appointed British agent in the subsequent arbitration.

In 1907 Mr. Fielding and Mr. Brodeur negotiated a commercial convention between Canada and France, and in 1909 a supplementary convention. There is a rather interesting phase in connection with that to which I might allude. Sir Edward Grey, then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, on July 4, 1907, addressed a letter to His Majesty's charge d'affaires at Paris. He spoke of the desire of Sir Wilfrid Laurier to open negotiations for a new commercial convention with the French Government and requested the charge d'affaires to endeavour to assist Sir Wilfrid Laurier in the attainment of his object. Then he used this language:

You are doubtless cognizant of the Marquis of Ripon's despatch of June 28, 1895, to the Governors of the principal British colonies, in which it was laid down that commercial negotiations of this nature being between His Majesty and the Sovereign of the foreign State should be conducted by His Majesty's Representative at the Court of the foreign Power. A copy of this despatch is enclosed herewith.

I do not, however, think it necessary to adhere in the present case to the strict letter of this regulation, the object of which was to secure that negotiations should not be entered into and carried through by a Colony unknown to and independently of His Majesty's Government.

The selection of the negotiator is principally a matter of convenience, and, in the present cir-

cumstances, it will obviously be more practical that the negotiations should be left to Sir Wilfrid Laurier and to the Canadian Minister of Finance, who will doubtless keep you informed -of their progress.

I may say that subsequent events showed that this particular feature of Lord Ripon's despatch of 1895 has been honoured more in the breach than in the observance. My hon. friend at my left (Mr. Rowell) tells me he is under the impression that it was modified by a subsequent despatch. I have made inquiry as to that, but up to the present I have not been able to trace any such despatch.

In the same year, 1907, Mr. Lemieux, then Minister of Labour, if I remember correctly, went on a mission to Japan with respect to immigration from that country to Canada.

In 1909 there was a rather notable paragraph in the Speech from the Throne delivered by His Majesty to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It reads as follows :

Satisfactory progress has been made in the negotiating of outstanding questions with the United States of America. A treaty to regulate the use of the waterways adjacent to the international boundary between Canada and the United States has been arranged. The question being one of special Canadian interest the advice of the Dominion Government was sought and followed upon it.

As a matter of fact the negotiations were carried on, if I am correctly informed, through the British ambassador at Washington it may be, but also directly by Sir George Gibbons, who acted under the instructions of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, then Prime Minister.

I pause to say that I think the negotiating of that treaty and the establishment of the International Joint Commission was a very notable achievement of the government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and I api not at all sure that either the people of this country or the members of this House realize adequately the immense advantages which have resulted from the establishment of that commission.

Now, I have under my hand a number of very apt and cogent utterances of Sir Wilfrid Laurier with regard to the development of the powers of self-government in respect to external affiairs. I shall not quote more than one or two of them. Speaking on March 4, 1909, on the proposal to create a department of External affairs, he said:

We have now reached a standard as a nation which necessitates the establishment of a department of External Affairs.* * * Why have

another department? I have simply to answer that such experience of Government as I have had leads me to believe that we have attained such development as a nation that in order to deal with these matters, we must have a department for the purpose.

He also spoke in 1910 of the important part taken by consuls of foreign countries resident at Ottawa in matters which ordinarily would be transacted through diplomatic channels. He regarded this as a natural development, and thought that it did not in any way operate to the prejudice of the unity of the Empire, but that it was of great advantage to the government and people of this country.

Continuing the chronological survey, 1 might say that the North Atlantic Fisheries treaty of 1910, the Behring Sea Inter national Convention of 1911, and the Sock eye Salmon treaty of 1920 were all nego tiated by representatives of the Canadian Government in conjunction with the British ambassador at Washington, although insome cases he himself may have signed as plenipotentiary.

During the war, and particularly after the United States had entered the war, it became apparent that Canadian interests at Washington required special attention and consideration. Accordingly, in January, 1918, a Canadian War Mission was established under the chairmanship of Mr. Lloyd Harris. The organization has only recently been discontinued, although during the past two years the personnel has been greatly reduced. The mission had access to the departments of the United States Government so far as our interests were immediately concerned. It was not a formal diplomatic mission. It was created by Order in Council, and I may say that the terms of the Order in Council indicated a somewhat advanced status on the part of this country. I shall trouble the committee with some extracts from the Order in Council, as it is worth having of record with the other events and utterances to which I have referred.

It set out, in the first place, that many important matters affecting Canada's participation in the war were directly and continuously concerned with conditions and the course of events in the United States. It went on to assert:

That out of such considerations there has arisen the inevitable necessity for frequent and prompt communication and negotiation between the authorities of the Canadian and the United States Governments. In view however of the extent and complexity of the war organization which has necessarily been developed by both, such negotiations are subject to serious delay if conducted through the usual diplomatic

channel ; for His Majesty's Embassy in Washington are obliged in the prevailing conditions to deal with an ever increasing multitude of important affairs not directly concerning Canada, and indeed the negotiations in question are not diplomatic in their nature but rather are largely of a business and commercial character requiring different, more direct and prompt treatment. As a consequence the custom, which had already arisen before the war, of arranging conferences from time to time between Canadian and United States officials for specific purposes of common concern, has since been greatly developed with marked benefit.

The Prime Minister further observes that the development in all these respects, however, has been such that some more direct, less casual, less transient arrangement for securing the object indicated should be devised.

Then it recommended the appointment of a Canadian representative at Washington and expressed the opinion that the ends in view might be attained by the institution of a Canadian War Mission in the United States under the chairmanship of a man of high business qualifications and wide knowledge, experience and energy who should be directly responsible to the Cabinet. The Order in Council goes on to declare:

2. The chairman shall be empowered to represent the Cabinet and the heads of the various departments and other administrative branches of the Government of Canada in respect to negotiations relating to purely Canadian affairs which it may he necessary to conduct-

(a) With the heads of the departments or other administrative branches, committees or commissions, or other officials, of the Government of the United States ; or

(b) With the other British or Allied Missions operating in the United States in connection with the war.

It further provided that the commission should endeavour to act in the closest conjunction with the British War Mission at Washington and avoid duplication of effort; further, that the chairman should keep His Majesty's High Commissioner and Special Ambassador at Washington generally informed of the main lines of his actions and should request the ambassador's advice or assistance whenever these might be required. The Order in Council also provided that the chairman should be entitled to be informed on all negotiations between His Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States in so far as they affected Canada. The mission was obviously, as I have said, not a formal diplomatic mission, but in fact its duties did extend even to questions usually classed undqp that head. There can be no doubt whatever that the mission, the members of which acted without remuneration, was of the highest possible advantage to both countries.

Then, Mr. Chairman, I shall refer to the resolution of the Imperial War Conference in 1917 in order that its terms may be before the members of this committee; perhaps we may occasionally be inclined to forget them. The relations between the British Dominions and the Mother Country were under consideration at that conference. After much informal discussion between the representatives of the dominions they finally agreed upon the resolution which I am about to read. That resolution was submitted to and approved by the government of the United Kingdom and was finally passed unanimously by the Imperial War Conference in these terms: The Imperial War Conference are of opinion that the re-adjustment of the constitutional relations of the component parts of the Empire is too important andi intricate a subject to be dealt with during the war, and that it should form the subject of a special Imperial Conference to be summoned as soon as possible after the cessation of hostilities.

They deem it their duty, however, to place on record their view that any such re-adjustment, while thoroughly preserving all existing power of self-government and complete control of domestic 'affairs, should1 be based upon a full recognition of the Dominions as autonomous nations of an Imperial Commonwealth, and of India as an important portion of the same, should recognize the right of the Dominions and India to an adequate voice in foreign policy and in foreign relations, and should provide effective arrangements for continuous consultation in all important matters of common Imperial concern, and for such necessary concerted action, founded on consultation, as the several Governments mg,y determine.

Now, coming more particularly to the practical side of the question I venture to believe that the appointment of a minister with the power that I have mentioned will be attended with the greatest possible benefit to this country and will assist the supreme purpose of maintaining good relations between the British commonwealth and the commonwealth of the United States. Before the war Lord Bryce said that between two-thirds and three-quarters of the work of the British Embassy in the United States was taken up with Canadian affairs. It is possible that the proportion may not hold good to-day; nevertheless it must still be very large. Among the questions dealt with in recent years between Canada and the United States there have been the following:

The Chicago drainage canal.

Supplies of coal for Canada.

Levels of the Lake of the Woods.

The United States Merchant Marine Act.

Levels of Lake Memphremagog.

Exportation of pulpwood from Canadian Crown Lands.

Interchange of cars between Canadian and American railways, especially between the Canadian national system of railways and the railways of the United States.

Panama canal tolls.

Fishery questions on both seaboards and on the Great Lakes.

I cannot help believing that the presence of a Canadian minister at Washington armed with the powers foreshadowed in the statement made by Sir George Foster last year-a Canadian minister thoroughly familiar with the conditions of this country and its needs-would be of the greatest possible assistance, not only in settling difficulties and differences if they should arise, but in preventing the occurrence of any such difficulties. That is one of the main features of diplomatic action: by constant conference and association and also by the help of the personal touch which conference and consultation bring about, to have explanations made, to have points of view accepted, and to bring about amicable arrangements which otherwise would not be possible. I feel that it is highly important, as has been said by the right hon. Prime Minister, that the appointment should be made at as early a day as possible. Such representation will be thoroughly justified by and entirely consistent with the status of Canada under the resolution of the Imperial War Conference, but which she has acquired chiefly from the part she has taken in the war and at the Peace Conference. General Smuts, some months ago, spoke of the British Empire as an inner league within the League of Nations. That very well expresses the status of the nations of the British Empire at the Peace Conference, and it is upon that status that we rest our right of distinctive representation at the Capital of the great neighbouring nation with which our own affairs are so constantly and urgently associated from time to time.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURN
Subtopic:   CANADIAN REPRESENTATION IN THE UNITED STATES
Full View Permalink

April 21, 1921

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

I am not aware that the subject has been discussed in any of the debates to which I have alluded.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURN
Subtopic:   CANADIAN REPRESENTATION IN THE UNITED STATES
Full View Permalink

April 21, 1921

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

I do not know that I can make myself any plainer to the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Clark) than I have already done. It is apparent,

I should think, that a section of the commission, appointed under a treaty made between two countries foreign to each other, must have another relation and scope than that which he described as purely domestic. Their action is not limited to this country; the commission operates and has jurisdiction in Canada; it operates and hns jurisdiction in the United States. The powers and duties vested in the Commission can only be carried out by the commission as a whole, consisting of two sections, one of them appointed by the United States and the other appointed by Canada through the medium of His Majesty the King acting upon the advice of the King's Privy Council

for Canada. Therefore, I venture to repeat, with all respect to my hon. friend, that so far as my opinion goes, the two cases depend precisely upon the same principle and that if you admit, as you must admit, that the principle is properly applied in the one case, you must, of necessity, also admit that it can be equally applied in the other.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURN
Subtopic:   CANADIAN REPRESENTATION IN THE UNITED STATES
Full View Permalink

April 21, 1921

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

Every constitutional lawyer who has given any consideration to the question knows at once that any such Act, if passed by the Imperial Parliament, would be a repeal pro tanto of the British North America Act and would take effect as such.

Topic:   QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURN
Subtopic:   CANADIAN REPRESENTATION IN THE UNITED STATES
Full View Permalink