MACMILLAN, The Hon. Cyrus, P.C., M.A., Ph.D.

Personal Data

Queen's (Prince Edward Island)
Birth Date
September 12, 1882
Deceased Date
June 29, 1953
dean, professor

Parliamentary Career

March 26, 1940 - April 16, 1945
  Queen's (Prince Edward Island)
  • Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of National Defence for Air (April 1, 1943 - June 6, 1946)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 17 of 17)

July 31, 1942

Hon. CYRUS MacMILLAN (Queens) moved:

That the second report of the special committee on honours and decorations, presented to the house on the 24th instant, be now concurred in.

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July 3, 1942

Hon. CYRUS MACMILLAN (Queens) moved:

That the first report of special committee on honours and decorations, presented to the house on July 2, be concurred in.

Motion agreed to;

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June 29, 1942


Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to prolong this debate, which has already, perhaps, proceeded too long. I do not wish to delay the passing of this bill, but on some of the issues involved I want to make a few comments, which will be very brief.

During the course of this discussion many extraneous topics have been introduced. I am not going to pose to-night as an evangelist of harmony, because I do not believe disharmony exists to a great extent in this country. I am not going to hold an inquest on unity, because I do not believe that unity is dead or is in danger of death. I am not going to turn back very far in the pages of history. I believe that in this debate far too much emphasis has been placed on alleged disunity, and strange pictures have been painted. With all respect, may I say I think there has been far too much beating of dead political horses.

I am going to vote for this legislation. The bill before us is the result of a people's decision, a popular vote, a popular voice. That decision was made on April 27 last. While overwhelmingly in the affirmative, it was not unanimous. There was difference of opinion in every city, in every town, in every district. That difference does not mean revolt or disunity, it does not mean hatred. In these troubled days that are upon us, when half the world has been forced into silence, when an effort is being made to make us all think in terms of nazism or not to think at all, surely it is a privilege-or perhaps I should say it is a luxury-to differ with those for whom I have a deep affection, and a high regard, like those who sit around me. One of the things we are fighting for to-day is the

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liberty of difference, and that liberty of difference does not mean the severance of friendship.

There are certain sections of the press that, with a peculiar presumption, arrogate to themselves the sole anxiety for an all-out war effort. They even become armchair strategists and field marshals. I have no objection to their assuming that role if, in doing so, they do not paint an inaccurate picture of my country. We are all, inside this house and outside this house in Canada, whatever our differences may be, one in hope and in heart, and that hope is for the speedy winning of this war. The young men, young women and children with whom I come in contact in this country are each and all sentinels on duty willing to do their best for the safety and the defence of this country. Therefore let us be done with this cry of disunity and these recriminations; let us guard our tongues and our pens when we speak or write about this bill.

In my province of Prince Edward Island the plebiscite was interpreted, as I think its language intended it to be, as a request for release from a pledge which, rightly or wrongly, was given two years ago with regard to the method of raising men for overseas service. The answer to that in my province, as it was throughout Canada on the whole, was an overwhelming "yes." That did not mean necessarily, in my judgment or in the judgment of my constituents, immediate conscription. It meant this, that when the time comes that the system now in vogue fails to be an adequate defence of this dominion, then the government is given freedom and power to act in any way necessary to save this country. When that crisis comes and those obligations arise I, as a former soldier, believe that the decision will depend on the experienced advice, the expert knowledge and the considered judgment of military leaders and of the allied command. When that time comes this government must be free to act in any way necessary, and in accordance with their action or their failure to act the people will hold them responsible.

With many of my hon. friends in this house who served in the last war I believe in the voluntary system as long as it works. I believed in it in the last war. But there may come a time when the stream of men under the voluntary system will dry up. We cannot win this war without aggressiveness; aggressiveness means, casualties; casualties mean reinforcements, and reinforcements mean that troops have to be raised and sent in one way or another. I think one of the proudest things to any Canadian is the success of our

voluntary system. In my little province, small in size but great in heart, nearly 9 per cent of the entire population have enlisted for active service. If that proportion were extended throughout all Canada, we would have over a million men in the field to-day. That is true also of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. A great percentage of those men have gone into the navy. That is natural, because those boys are born and bred to the sea; each boy is drawn to the docks as boys in other provinces are drawn to the baseball parks or the movies. The young men of the martime provinces see themselves in imagination holding a flapping top-sail in the breeze or standing by a kicking wheel on some far distant ocean. So we find them going into the merchant marine or the navy. Conscription would not mean anything in my province, because there is no one left to conscript. That, I think, should be the situation throughout Canada.

I wonder if we have considered the difficulties and obstacles with which the voluntary system was faced. There must be the will for enlistment. Let me go back, from ten years before the war to the very eve of the war, to recall those days right up to 1939 when we were living in a sleep-walker's world. In that world, into the schools and colleges and universities and on the platform and, indeed, into some of our pulpits, went hawkers of utopian propaganda. These so-called leaders exploited our youth, told them to love other countries better than their own, taught them that every war was inglorious, that every hero was a fraud; they had them sign declarations that they would fight on their own terms; even the students of Oxford signed a declaration that they would not fight for king or country. We who came back from the last war tolerated that paradise of dreams; we sat silent while they sang utopian lullabies to youth. When we consider that the boys of that time, from fifteen to twenty years of age even five years ago, now from twenty to twenty-five, have-notwithstanding that attempt at innoculation given to them by so-called leaders-gone from the schools and colleges and universities in a steady stream and enlisted, with that background I sometimes wonder that they enlisted at all without compulsion. It gives me renewed faith in youth when I regard them and their sterling character. The youth of this country have been weighed in the balance many a time and have never been found wanting.

A second thing that has interfered with the will to enlist is the stream of criticism that has flowed out. I have no objection to criticism if it is fair. But ever since this war

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broke out, a certain section of the press in this country has spread misinterpretation to deceive the Canadian people, with greater energy than any dictatorship. One man has been pursued relentlessly and maliciously in a manner before which I think future historians of Canada will stand appalled. That man is the Prime Minister of this dominion. I am not going to indulge in excessive compliment, because it always breeds suspicion, but I will say it is not for his contemporaries to judge him, and I believe that as long as this nation survives he will be remembered in the hearts of the Canadian people because of his conduct of affairs during these last few years.

One other thing I would mention is the lack of news. I do not know who is responsible for that. We hear a great deal about the desirability of more news being spread in the United States, but where we want the news is right here; the news of how the war is going, the news that a squadron of Canadian fighters was over Cologne, that a Canadian corvette limped back to port after ramming a submarine. That is of more value than all the good-will lectures and tours and visits of all the actresses in Hollywood. We are not getting that news. Our young people are asking for it. I just give that as a hint to whoever may be responsible.

Let us make no mistake about it; the crisis is coming. It may come more quickly than we think. When it does come and it may be necessary to send men overseas, let no man think we are fighting for Britain. Does anyone suggest that the Canadian boys who may be dying to-night in Alaska or the Aleutian islands are fighting for the United States? Does anyone suggest that General MacArthur's men in Australia are fighting for Britain, or that the United States troops who were reviewed by their majesties the other day are fighting for Britain? This is what Sir Wilfrid Laurier said, in France, during this June month in 1897:

I am told that here in France there are people surprised at the attachment which I feel for the crown of England, and which I do not conceal. ... That double fidelity to ideas and aspirations, quite distinct, is our glory in Canada. \ve (French Canadians) are faithful to the great nation that gave us life; we are faithful to the great nation that gave us liberty.

_ That liberty is in jeopardy to-night. It is in greater danger than ever before in the history of our world. Are we going to let it die? Do we want a repetition of Lidice in Canada, where every man was shot to death, every woman raped and sent to a concentration camp, and every child sent to a propaganda school to learn how to murder his neighbours and his kinsmen? Do we want in this country a repetition of the atrocities of Hong Kong? In my part of the country when there is a forest fire we do not wait until it comes round our homestead. We go out to meet it and keep it from our precious possessions, and I believe that is true also on the prairies. There is a line in the United States national anthem which I think fits this case:

0! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved homes and wild war's desolation!

Our men are out fighting to defend their homes from "war's desolation."

When this crisis comes and it is necessary to act, I hope that action will not be the calling of parliament to debate this question again. Democracy is always at a disadvantage in war time. The dictator and the tyrant act on the instant. Democracy acts by consultation, debate and discussion. Dictatorial powers in war time are necessary, if they are not usurped and if they are given to leaders by the people. That is what we have done. The people have given the government power. Why should the government call us back here to discuss this matter at great length again? Hitler will not wait. Do not blame the method; blame Hitler, because he is responsible. The other day I read an address delivered by Admiral King, commander of the United States fleet, to the cadets at Annapolis who were just leaving to go into service. That great leader told those boys three things which I wish I could spread all over Canada: "First, do your best with what you have, and remember that there is no perfection in war either in men or in equipment. Second, do not mourn or weep over the water that has gone over the dam in the past, but let your cry be, 'Where do we go from here?' Third, there are difficulties, but 'difficulties' is the name given to things we have to overcome."

One other thought. As a Canadian I deplore the aspersions cast on Quebec. I know Quebec; it has been kind to me. I know its people. Like many others in this house, my ancestors came to this country nearly 150 years ago from the highlands of Scotland. They did useful work in this country; probably the Minister of Pensions and National Health (Mr. Mackenzie) will say they did the most useful work of any race, and I might agree with him. They came here in search of liberty, looking for freedom to worship God, but they did not forget that the country to which they came was born of French vision, pioneered by French enterprise, colonized by French courage and blessed by French religion. We have lived in peace. The rocks from which


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we Canadians have been hewn were of divers countries and divers races. We are not bound together, as someone has said, by reverence for a common past or a common ancestry. We are bound together by a common hope, a hope for a peaceful world, where each man will eat in safety under his own vine what he has planted, and sing the merry song of peace to all his neighbours. We in this country are not enemies; we are friends. We must not be permitted to become enemies. We must not let anything drive us apart, not even this bill, because, as I said before, I believe we are one in hope and in heart.

We are passing through dark days. They will be darker. We shall have to give up many things. We shall have to give up our leisure and devote it to the service of our country in some capacity. There will be less gasoline, less sugar, fewer tires, fewer silk stockings, and other things, but I believe we can take it as a nation. One night, 170 years ago, by a flickering camp fire, a great soldier and writer wrote these lines on a drum head, and I think they might be our lines to-day:

These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

We have this for our consolation: the more difficult the conflict, the greater will be the triumph. We are not pessimistic. I close with one further memory, which is somewhat sacred to many people in this house. It was a spring day in France in 1918; a day of yellow' sunshine, with birds singing above the mutter of the guns, with flowers creeping out among the broken walls. The road hog of Europe was on the move; his grey troops were trying to crush the British and French armies, and there came to every commander of a Canadian unit this message. Does it not sound as though it were written yesterday?

In an endeavour to reach an immediate decision the enemy has gathered all his forces and struck a mighty blow at the British army. . . .

Measures have been taken successfully to meet this German onslaught. The French have gathered a powerful army, commanded by a most able and trusted leader and this army is now moving sw'iftly to our help. Fresh British divisions are being thrown in. The Canadians are soon to be engaged. Our motor machine gun brigade has already played a most gallant part and once again covered itself with glory.

' Looking back with pride on the unbroken record of your glorious achievements, asking you to realize that today the fate of the British empire hangs in the balance, I place my trust in the Canadian corps, knowing that where Canadians are engaged there can be no giving way.

Under the orders of your devoted officers in the coming battle you will advance or fall where you stand facing the enemy. . . .

Canadians, in this fateful hour, I command you and I trust you to fight as you have ever fought w'ith all your strength, with all your determination, with all your tranquil courage. On many a hard fought field of battle you have overcome this enemy. With God's help you shall achieve victory once more.

That was a message from Sir Arthur Currie, commander of the Canadian corps. My point is this: That message was sent to us a little more than three months after the conscription election, with all its turbulent activities. Do you suppose, Mr. Speaker, that the men who listened to that and went over the top to crack the Hindenburg line were worried about conscription? The Frenchman from Three Rivers was in the centre of his platoon; on his right was a Scotsman from Cape Breton; on his left an Irishman from the Fraser Valley or Toronto, an Englishman from Victoria. One word only described them; it was the word "Canada" on their shoulders.

I believe the spirit with which those men obeyed that order is still ours in Canada. And I believe this, that if we will only banish intolerance from our minds and prejudice from our hearts, and go forward together, with God's help we, too, will achieve victory.

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June 16, 1942

Hon. CYRUS MACMILLAN (Queens) moved:

That the second report of the special committee on land settlement of veterans of the present war, presented on June 12 last, be concurred in.

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May 27, 1941


Not feared.

Topic:   W.V.P.U.
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