Mr. MARTIAL RHEAUME (St. Johns-Iberville-Napierville) (Translation):
Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to speak at great length on Bill 80. I shall oppose the measure, for I sincerely believe that the willingness to resort to conscription denotes a lack of confidence in the patriotism of the young men of this country.
When war broke out, in September, 1939, the right hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) and the late Right Hon. Ernest Lapointe, stated that we were freely entering the war at the side of England on one condition that there would be no conscription for overseas service. When, in the provincial election of 1939, I visited all the towns of my constituency, which extends over two provincial counties, I asked my constituents to cast their votes in favour of the Liberal party and to lend their whole support to the views outlined by the hon. ministers who had taken part in that campaign, the late Right Hon. Mr. Lapointe, the former Minister of Public Works (Mr. Cardin) and the hon. Minister of National Defence for Air (Mr. Power).
In the 1940 election, the hon. Prime Minister clearly set out his policy to the electorate and sought approval of his attitude in dealing with the country's war effort. I stated at the time that we had entered the war of our own free will and that there would be no conscription. I also undertook to oppose conscription for overseas service if such a measure was ever passed by any government. The constituents whom I have represented in this house since 1930 honoured me with their confidence and I think I would break my promises to them in supporting this bill. In further justification I need but recall the statements of the hon. Minister of National Defence (Mr. Ralston) who stated in recent weeks that, since November last, voluntary enlistments have increased from month to month and even beyond his expectations. The hon. Minister of National Defence for Air has likewise stated that this arm of the service had all the men it required, despite the restrictions applied on such enlistments. Then again, the hon. Minister of National
Mobilization Act-Mr. Rheaume
Defence for Naval Services (Mr. Macdonald) admitted on the floor of the house that over
4,000 sailors could not be taken on strength through lack of training facilities.
Since the outbreak of the war, the Conservative party has been content to accuse the government of inactivity and to level criticism at the various departments of national defence, not excepting that of national war services, and has failed to make a single suggestion of a constructive nature.
Australia refused to enact conscription; yet is there an hon. member of this house who can say that the war effort of that country has not been as efficient, if not more so, than that of any of our allied nations now engaged in the conflict?
During the 1940 elections, the two political leaders pledged themselves not to establish conscription for overseas service. Judging by the attitude taken by the Conservatives of my own riding who supported me during those elections, I understand they did not have any faith in the declarations made by the Conservative party for the purpose of obtaining votes and as a means of getting into power. The Conservatives in the province of Quebec, as well as in the other provinces, gave their support to the Liberal party because they believed in the policy and programme of the right hon. Prime Minister, if I may judge by the three counties on the island of Montreal: St. Lawrence-St. George, St.
Antoine-Westmount and Mount Royal which gave the Liberal candidates overwhelming majorities and which had always been Conservative strongholds since their beginning. From what has happened in these three counties, I am in a position to assert that in the province of Ontario and elsewhere a similar change took place, owing to the fact that they believed the right hon. Prime Minister more capable of administering the affairs of the country than the Conservative party.
The Liberal party came into office with a majority never attained by any of the previous governments and I believe that that meant an approval of their platform. In my opinion, :he Prime Minister, with such a majority, has a mandate which should give him a free hand in the conduct of the war without his accepting the political suggestions of the opposition.
Many hon. members have declared in this house that the vote of April 27 was a vote for conscription. I agree with the ex-Minister of Public Works when he declared in his speech of June 11 that if it had been asked clearly: Are you for or against conscription, the vote would not have been the same in the other provinces as well as in Quebec. I
[Mr. Rheaume. 1
know that I have obtained over 2,500 "yes" votes in my riding because my electors were convinced that a "yes" vote meant a vote of confidence and not a vote for conscription.
I am sure that if the question had simply been put thus: Are you for or against conscription, there would have been many members outside Quebec who would not have been relieved of their commitments. For my part I have not been relieved of my promises and, even if I had been, I would still vote against the bill. I knew that - the electors of my county were against conscription, if I can rely on the vote given in my riding in 1917 when I spoke for the Liberal candidate, who was then sick, during the whole electoral campaign. Only 311 votes were given for the candidate in favour of conscription.
The Liberal party has been accused of raising the conscription issue at every election during the last twenty-five years, but I would say to my hon. friends of the opposition that it was first brought up by the Conservatives during the by-election which was held in Drummond-Arthabaska.
In November, 1910, some political canvassers were going around the country, wearing a sailor's uniform, with a writing-book under the arm, stopping at every house and taking down the name of every boy who was of military age and telling them that if they voted for the Liberal candidate, their sons would be forced to fight in the war and would become cannon fodder. That campaign was financed, as was the 1911 campaign, by the Conservative party. I well remember that some hon. men who now sit in the upper house and on the bench were then saying that shooting holes through the British flag was necessary in order to breathe the air of freedom. The Liberal party has always been too loyal to the British crown to utter such words. I disapprove all extremist policies in Quebec as well as anywhere else. There are some extremists in Ontario also and among them are the chief of the Orange lodge and the minister, Shields. These two men spoke of the province of Quebec in terms of greater violence towards the French Canadians of Catholic faith than the French Canadians themselves would use against the Englishspeaking people. In Quebec the religious issue has never been raised against anybody in Canada.
Happily, their opinions are not held by all our English fellow-citizens and I am proud to have among my friends many English members of this house. In my division, the Englishspeaking Canadians are not fanatics, thank God! and live in good understanding with
Mobilization Act-Mr. Rheaume
the French-speaking citizens. But why does the Grand Master of the Orange Lodge, relying on calculations of his own, based on the last Canadian census, contend that the Catholics will form the majority in this country in 1975 and that necessarily they should be exterminated? Is it because our forefathers were the first settlers in this country and because our missionaries shed their blood in their courageous devotion to the task of civilizing and evangelizing the Indian tribes? Can Mr. Shields say as much of his ancestors?'
Mr. Chairman. I believe that the Catholics of this country are as loyal to the British cause as the head of the Orange lodge. At the time the King and Queen visited Canada, the province of Quebec had no reason to be ashamed of the way the people greeted them. The French-Canadian people of the province of Quebec have welcomed their majesties with as much enthusiasm as the people of any other province.
With regard to pastor Shields, who says that the Roman Catholic church is a racket, I must say to this gentleman that if he were devoting all his energy to stimulating recruiting and good-will between the two races, he wmuld promote national unity to a much higher degree than he has done these last years. .
The hon. Minister of Justice (Mr. St. Laurent) quoted in the speech he delivered yesterday, a letter signed by all the bishops and archbishops of this country, of which thirty-five are French Canadians, urging Catholics to do their utmost to win the war. I believe that our Catholic clergy has accomplished much more for victory than this pastor Shields with his offensive statements against the Catholic people of this country. Judging him by his writings, he is, in my mind, either a maniac or a lunatic. French Canadians should not be subjected to such insults; they have contributed to victory much more than this idiot will ever do. May I, Mr. Speaker, point out that the publicity that this man is seeking for himself, by exploiting in his neighbourhood prejudices against Catholics, is insulting not only to Catholics in Canada, but to Catholics in England and in every other allied country.
Can it be said that the province of Quebec has not done her share in the present war? Each time the government has appealed to this province, either in connection with a loan or with enlistments, they have met with a ready response.
The report tabled on May 11 last by the Minister of National War Services (Mr. Thorson) and recorded in Hansard, shows that 24,283 men were called for the four months
training period in Ontario, 37,117 in Quebec, 4,920 in Nova Scotia, 3,898 in New Brunswick, 602 in Prince Edward Island, 6,884 in Manitoba, 5,783 in British Columbia, 6,771 in Saskatchewan and 6,695 in Alberta. It is therefore evident that the number of men mobilized in Quebec is greater than that in any other province. The figures show that out of the total number of trainees, 35 per cent join the active force.
Moreover, according to a report published in the press last April, four provinces out of nine had passed their quota. As regards the number of trainees sent to camps, Quebec has 1,336 over her quota, New Brunswick has 260, Saskatchewan, 192, and Nova Scotia, 153, while the other provinces did not provide the required number.
This goes to show that the province of Quebec generously responds to the calls of the war services department. Compared to the number of calls, the proportion of postponements requested and granted in the province of Quebec is lower than in some other provinces. In two provinces only, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, is the proportion inferior to that of Quebec. The percentage of postponements requested and granted for the province of Quebec is 70-2, while for Ontario it is 77-7, for Prince Edward Island, 84-1, for New Brunswick, 91-7, for Alberta, 93-2, and for British Columbia, 93-5. Would the conscription measure, so highly favoured as the only means to attain a total war effort, give much better results?
All the members of the cabinet, as well as the majority of the hon. members, acknowledge that conscription is not necessary at the present moment, and that it may never be necessary.
Since voluntary enlistments yield all the recruits needed and more than are required to bring the various units to full strength, it is evident that there is no need to resort to compulsory measures in order to increase our war effort in this regard.
_ The Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Naval Services and the Air Minister have all declared that we have enough recruits to take care of our needs for many months to come. Why then do we need coercion or compulsory service? The government admit themselves that voluntary enlistments are sufficient; they even say that most probably they will be sufficient for a long time according to the man-power still available. Voluntary enlistments are rapidly exhausting the reserve we draw on for our armed forces and, according to the statement of the Prime Minister himself, there is now in the country a shortage of men for our various essential
Mobilization Act-Mr. Rheaume
war industries. How then could conscription further our war effort? Neither could it bring up to strength more quickly our various armed forces. Therefore it is a measure which cannot have any effect whatever on our war effort. Its only effect would be rather to create bitterness and dissensions, which would certainly be likely to hamper considerably our war effort.
Nobody can maintain, as I have already said, that conscription of men for overseas service can be a useful and efficient means of saving our country.
Knowing that the people of the province of Quebec are patriots and being certain that this measure is only a symbol forged in the imagination of citizens who think of England before they think of their own country, I cannot blame my province and my constituents because they are opposed to this bill. They know that it is not only useless but detrimental to national unity, which is so necessary to attain a total war effort and to achieve success in the struggle which we have willingly undertaken.
The province of Quebec, as it has been said and repeated, is ready to throw all her energies, all her resources in an effective effort to achieve victory. Quebec is ready to sacrifice everything to save our country and Christian civilization from the dishonour which menaces it. To that end she rallies to the rest of the country and, in union, harmony and peace, she will make a truly total effort not through compulsion and force, but through her wise patriotism and her good-will, to bring the tragic struggle which threatens our liberties so seriously to a successful end, so that God may surely crown our efforts with victory.
Topic: IS, 1942