Mr. PAUL EMILE COTE (Verdun) (Translation):
Mr. Speaker,, it is a great honour' and a heavy responsibility to rise amidst the elected representatives of the nation to speak on behalf of one of the constituencies of my province, the constituency where I was born and brought up, whose people, kindly witnesses of my first experiences in business life, have given me signal evidence of their confidence in choosing me to present their thoughts, their feelings and their aspirations to parliament and to the government.
Verdun and Lasalle, the two highly cosmopolitan municipalities making up my electoral division, are, with their citizens of various extractions and traditions, languages and religions, veritable miniatures of Canada. Faced by the same problems of life and inspired by a common ideal, my fellow-citizens have built up two great cities which have impressed all the people of Canada and have more than once been cited as examples to all communities seeking progress in union, understanding and tolerance.
The city of Verdun, by far the more populous of the two, proudly stands third in my province and twelfth in all Canada. Among the responsibilities which this honour has imposed upon it, there is one which it has discharged in a particularly glorious fashion. I refer to the part it played in this country's effort during the last war. The Prince of Wales himself, during his trip to Canada in 1919, stated that Verdun was the city of the British empire which had, in proportion to population, placed the largest number of men under arms.
Twenty-five years have passed, and these years may have effected a considerable change in the proportions and the appearance of the constituency which I represent. However, the sense of solidarity and of unity in the presence of great causes, the love of country and of liberty, have in no way diminished, and
The Address-Mr. Cote
it is with rightful pride that I -can say in this house that Verdun has accepted wholeheartedly and generously its large share of the burden of the present war. Thus it is that every war service, every patriotic organization, of whatever nature, is represented in the constituency of Verdun and receives all the cooperation and the results expected. In addition, according to the statistics available, Verdun is once again in the very first rank of the Dominion's municipalities as regards the proportion of its sons in our three fighting services.
In this community, so highly representative of the various ethnical elements of our country, I have imperceptibly gathered, a fairly accurate conception of the patriotic sense of Canada. I find myself to-day in the presence of my fellow-members of this house, all charged, though in different degrees, with the leadership of our beloved country in this [DOT]most critical period of her history-.
Allied of her own free will with the great democracies, Canada has constituted herself the champion of the liberties of our Christian civilization and has bravely opposed the conquering march of the armies of German . paganism. The conflict which began by the devastation and enslaving of far-away countries has drawn closer to our shores, and our national life is now seriously threatened.
During the two years and a half which this world-wide conflict has lasted, Canada has not betrayed the cause she undertook to champion. Quite the contrary. With the ardour and patriotism which distinguishes her sons and the incalculable richness of her resources, this Dominion has, for the defence of her territory and of civilization, contributed to the heroes of the democracies which have retained their freedom a magnificent effort which has excited the admiration, nay the astonishment, of the civilized world.
I am a Canadian by birth and by inclination. Never before, however, have I felt such love, such pride for my country as when I had an opportunity to appreciate, at the beginning of the present session, the progress made in the last two and a half years and to visualize what our young nation has accomplished for the defence of our most sacred liberties, for the safeguard of our Christian civilization. And the sentiment thus entertained toward my country was equalled only by my admiration for him who, on that date of January 26, rendered an account of the manner in which his administration has carried on the war, and by my pride in sharing the political convictions of the greatest of Canadian statesmen and the most Canadian of our great statesmen.
The Right Hon. Mackenzie King, our Prime Minister, has made a clear, comprehensive and eloquent statement on a well balanced and most efficient war effort. It would be presumption on my part, therefore, being only a novice in public affairs, to attempt under such circumstances to describe our contribution in the present conflict. I would rather leave the people under the charm of that enlightening speech which old parliamentarians claim to have been one of the best ever made in the house by the Right Hon. Prime Minister.
May I be permitted, nevertheless, to bring out into bolder relief how that outstanding speech offers a fundamental explanation for the success of the gigantic task undertaken and a guarantee of its successful and really efficient accomplishment. Addressing myself in all sincerity to my fellow countrymen of every province and of every class of society, to all those who in these hours of trial pride themselves on being Canadians, I would state that we would never have accomplished one-half of what the country has contributed in two years to the successful prosecution of the war had we not had, as a foundation for our economic and military activities, both peace and unity in the land and the possibility of utilizing fully the energies which inevitably develop under such favourable conditions.
Had we been a divided country, in the throes of internal strife, far from withstanding the burden of a military effort -which one might be tempted to call out of proportion with our development and population, our country might well have become but another instrument of those infernal machinations so ably devised under Hitlerian diplomacy.
Quite the contrary, in the security of internal peace, Canada has achieved a splendid contribution, particularly during the year about to close.
Our country has been able to produce all the food required for domestic consumption and to meet the needs of an ally having a population five times our own number.
We have succesfully developed our armament production and are in a position to-day to arm and equip by our own means a modern division in a relatively short time.
We have built a navy capable of serving as escort and of protecting convoys going overseas and of giving chase to enemy submarines over the seven seas.
An all-Canadian and powerful air force patrols our coasts, guards over our convoys and patrols enemy skies in search of new targets.
Compulsory military training prepares our young men for the defence of our country on
The Address-Mr. Cote
Canadian soil, while voluntary recruiting enlists all who are willing to carry the fight [DOT],o the enemy wherever he may be encountered.
In short, the economic and military policy of the country has been managed with such wisdom, that the government would hear nothing but a chorus of praise and gratitude, if it were not for the uproar fostered through a certain section of the press by a handful of heirs to the Union cabinet of 1917 and to the disturbances bred by that administration.
Faced with facts, these agitators are forced to admit, occasionally, the efficiency of our war effort, in all fields. Some of the newspapers, the Ottawa Journal and the Financial Post, among others, engaged in that contemptible campaign of disparagement against the government, but in reality against our Prime Minister, have published wThole supplements admitting the efficiency of our country's contribution to the allied cause. I shall mention only their issues of January 30th and 31st respectively, where 32- and 15-page supplements are devoted to a review of the accomplishments of our industries and armed forces.
However, it seems that these people are not satisfied with the complete harmony that obtains all through our war effort. They must always recall the causes of the 1917 misunderstanding and, to this end, they have revived the old battle cry: "Canada cannot realize a total war effort without conscription of its youth for military service overseas."
The Prime Minister has answered their clamour with faultless logic supported by the most irrefutable statistics.
I need not quote again the figures that have already been given in this house to show how successful the voluntary system has been. Yet, notwithstanding the fact that in the seven last months voluntary enlistment in the three services of our armed forces has given an average monthly yield of over 20,000 men, whereas in the month that has just ended, 11,000 recruits were obtained for the army only, the same clamour is being raised about the so-called failure of the voluntary system and the necessity of immediate conscription for overseas service.
Fortunately, such is not the view of right-minded and sincere people, nor I think of the great majority of Canadian citizens. The constituency which I have the honour to represent, and where there are people of various races and creeds, strongly supports maintenance of the voluntary system of enlistment for overseas military service. So far as I am concerned, I am all the more willing to express the view's of my constituents on that subject as I am and will remain a supporter of the anticonscriptionist doctrine.
I shall not repeat the arguments advanced by my colleagues in this house whose views on that matter are similar to mine. I shall only add that conscription has been an utter failure during the last war, that from October, 1917, to November, 1918, a period of thirteen months, it yielded 83,355 men 22,000 of whom were granted temporary postponement for agricultural or other purposes. Consequently, during the above mentioned period, that system only yielded a monthly average of 4,720 men, most of whom could be called soldiers only because they wore a uniform and were subject to military discipline, as compared with the average number of 8,000 men who have enlisted every month since September last, and all of whom are proud soldiers conscious of the part they have to play in the army and determined to uphold the honour of their country. There are over
250,000 such volunteers in our active army, besides over 125,000 men in the air force and over 25,000 in the navy, making up, as at the 1st of January last, a total of well over 400,000 men who have voluntarily enlisted in our armed forces for service anywhere in the world. In order to appreciate better the importance of those figures, we must remember that our munitions and arms factories are now employing over 500,000 men and over 70,000 women, or tv'ice the number of workers that v'ere required by the same class of munitions factories during the last war. Yet. our country has only 11,500.000 inhabitants.
I am against conscription because I am in the first place opposed to any cause of disunion and misunderstanding in this country. Besides, I believe that it will not be necessary in so far as the constituency which I represent is concerned. The voluntary system has hitherto been highly successful and the same success can be maintained through the sincere and enlightened cooperation of all those who are called upon to exert some influence over their fellow citizens and public opinion in general.
Let the newspapers who have hitherto furthered the cause of disunion in this country stop their purely political and personal controversies and launch a campaign for voluntary enlistment, or at the very least, occasionally publish earnest appeals to young Canadians, a thing which they have hitherto carefully refrained from doing.
Let certain military men, probably well intentioned but ill advised, abandon the coercive means they have brought to bear upon the young men under compulsory military
The Address-Mr. Cote
training, for the questionable purpose of hastening their enlistment in the active army; the signing up of a recruit through such means has not the character of a free decision and more often as not it hurts the cause, in discouraging a relative or a friend of the recruit, who otherwise would probably be earnestly willing to enlist.
Let the government consider whatever measures may be necessary to give better treatment to privates and non-commissioned officers in the active army, or to increase their dependents' allowances, keeping in mind that the pecuniary remuneration offered to them must meet the competition of the salaries that are attracting them to munitions factories.
Thus, the deficiencies and imperfections of our voluntary system having been remedied, enlistments will reach a higher level and bring into our active army as many if not more young men than during the last months, when conditions were not always quite favourable. At that rate, it would be possible, within a year, to obtain at least 100,000 additional men, without prejudice to the needs of the air force or the navy. I have every reason to believe that conscription for service in the active army would not produce as good results in the same period, and I need not emphasize the dare consequences it would undoubtedly have upon the morale of our people.
Unity within our ranks is a prime condition of success for our arms. By uniting our hearts, our minds and our energies we will succeed, under the guidance of an enlightened and wise government, in putting to really good use all our material resources and man-power, in a way that will ensure victory for the democracies over the forces of evil. Without such unity, whatever those in authority may do, we cannot expect anything but halfmeasures and quite unsatisfactory results.
Mr. Speaker, let us make the most of what is likely to unite us in this war; let us make use of it fully in the best interests of the great cause which we must defend until victory. As to what is liable to divide the country and, mind you, it is only a very small part of our total war effort, let us examine it calmly, without prejudice or passion. Let us see if, by adopting a one-sided and inflexible solution, we are not jeopardizing the ever growing successes which have crowned our efforts in this domain as well as in all the others.
The Prime Minister and his government have succeeded in preserving peace and harmony in our country since the beginning of the war. Unity has been preserved in the country by a responsible and strong government, in which the nation had placed full confidence. Conditions have arisen which have been considered to necessitate an appeal to the people on the question of compulsory military service. I need not question the motives which governed this decision. I have too much confidence in the Prime Minister and his advisers to doubt, even for a single moment, that this measure was not absolutely necessary to maintain unity' and solidarity in the government ranks and preserve the peace of the country, threatened by the unavowed ambitions of the group of agitators whom we all know. A plebiscite will thus be held in a few months. I am convinced that the people will welcome it as a truly democratic measure and answer it conscientiously and in the best interest of the nation.
For my part, I approve the principle of this appeal to the people because of the special circumstances which necessitate it, and I understand that the government will submit, after the conclusion of the present debate, a bill which will permit us to examine and determine the details of this plebiscite.
The main motion before the house asks the members for a vote of confidence in this government.
An adverse vote, on whatever ground, would be a condemnation of the policy generally followed by our leaders and an indication of want of confidence in the authority of the Prime Minister.
I congratulate the government on having maintained as the first principle of their war policy that the might of our country and the efficiency of its cooperation with the allied powers must be based on the unity and common action of all sections of her population, for the one purpose dear to all Canadians, namely, the ultimate victory of o-ur forces.
I note with pleasure the wonderful balance given to our war effort, which has been kept free from passions and injustices which were rampant during the last conflict and which it is sought in certain quarters to revive.
I say to the Prime Minister without hesitation that we admire the mastery with which he is guiding the ship of state through the difficulties of all kinds constantly being raised. I wish to assure him of our unswerving confidence and to say that as representative of the *constituency of Verdun, I will vote against both amendments and in favour of the main motion.
Topic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY