Joseph Miville DECHENE

DECHENE, Joseph Miville

Personal Data

Athabaska (Alberta)
Birth Date
October 22, 1879
Deceased Date
December 1, 1962

Parliamentary Career

March 26, 1940 - April 16, 1945
  Athabaska (Alberta)
June 11, 1945 - April 30, 1949
  Athabaska (Alberta)
June 27, 1949 - June 13, 1953
  Athabaska (Alberta)
August 10, 1953 - April 12, 1957
  Athabaska (Alberta)
June 10, 1957 - February 1, 1958
  Athabaska (Alberta)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 4 of 42)

February 1, 1955

Mr. Dechene:

-to speak on a matter of

very great importance to the province from which I come. During the year 1955 we shall celebrate the golden anniversary of the entry into this confederation of the great province of Alberta. I feel it is proper for me to speak because, in looking over the records, I find that of the men who took part in the development of Alberta, those who

were there from the beginning and who contributed to its success, there are only two left in public life. I refer to the Hon. Senator MacKinnon and the member for Atha-baska (Mr. Dechene).

As I looked back upon those fifty years, I felt that I had a duty to perform and an obligation to fulfil to those people who made it possible for members to come here to represent Alberta. There is some history attached to this which I believe, unfortunately, has been overlooked. During the last few weeks and months competitions have been held in the schools of Alberta. Students have been asked to write about the province, and prizes have been offered to those who write the best articles. So far as I have been able to discover, however, no one has made any reference to how this province came into being or to the men who were responsible for this great development in the west. If I mention Alberta particularly, it is because other men better qualified than I am will speak for Saskatchewan and also because the territorial government had its headquarters in Regina for many years. The people in that province were used to government, but we in Alberta were in the outlying area near the Rocky mountains.

We did not have any experience in government, but we were proud to achieve the population which warranted this House of Commons passing the Alberta Act in 1905, declaring that on September 1, 1905, Alberta would become a province. A lieutenant governor was named and appointed. He chose a temporary government which, later in the fall, had to go before the public for either support or rejection. May I mention the names of some of these men who did so well? The first premier was the Hon. A. C. Rutherford, from the town of Strathcona on the south side of the river Saskatchewan. He handled also the portfolios of education and finance. He had experience because he had sat in the assembly at Regina for a number of years. He chose as his cabinet colleagues the Hon. W. T. Finlay of Medicine Hat, minister of agriculture; the Hon. W. H. Cushing of Calgary, minister of public works; the Hon. C. W. Cross, Edmonton, attorney general; and Mr. De Veber of Lethbridge, as minister without portfolio, a very able man who later became a member of the other house and who, of course, has long since departed.

As I said, there are only a few left to bring back the memory of this great achievement, and it was an achievement. In 1892, 63 years ago next April, my father went west as a homesteader with a family

The Address-Mr. Dechene of ten. After the construction of the Canadian Pacific, the west became stagnant. Up to that time, there had been some advancement, some settlement, and then it died out. Many of us, and I was one, had to come back east to try to find employment. There was nothing in the west for a young fellow to do. We sold our oats for 15 cents a bushel. Sometimes we got 17 cents and we were very happy. We had to put the oats in sacks and carry it up to the warehouse where we emptied it into bins. There were no elevators in those days, and I did that.

Then Sir Wilfrid Laurier came into office. At that time he chose as his minister of interior and minister of immigration one of the outstanding public men in the west- although I did not always agree with him- Clifford Sifton of Brandon, later Sir Clifford Sifton. He initiated a new policy of immigration designed to bring about progress in the west. We had tried to get people from Ontario. We got some, the best, because they had the spirit of adventure of their ancestors. We got some from Quebec and from the maritimes, but only a few.

The government therefore opened the gates to settlers from other countries. These people saw the possibilities in the rich soil of the west, and they were looking for freedom and liberty. They promptly accepted the invitation to come to this land, where they could in a few years become Canadians and enjoy prosperity and freedom. I recall very well when they started to come. I went back to the west in those days because my father wrote and said there was something to do; there was a new deal in the west and prosperity was coming back. He said we were going to build more railroads, and we were going to bring in a lot of people.

How well I remember all this. If I recall these events to the house, it is only because of the historical value. Thousands of people poured in from central Europe, the British Isles, from the Scandinavian countries and from across the line. Some came from Ireland, some of the best. They took advantage of what we had to offer, our fertile soil, our freedom and our laws. They came by thousands.

In 1903 I went back to the west. My father said: "Now, there is a new deal here; come on home, son. There is work for you here." I went home on the train with immigrants because it was cheaper and it was more interesting. I recall leaving Montreal, and I believe it took us eight days to travel to Calgary. We then had to take a small branch line-I forget the name of it-which ran from Calgary to Edmonton. The train was loaded with immigrants, most of whom came

The Address-Mr. Dechene from central Europe and the Scandinavian countries. There were a couple of carloads of people from the British Isles. They were happy. I recall walking through the train watching these people and thinking how far away from home they were. They came from Galicia, a province in Austria, from Bukovina, some from Germany and from Scandinavia. They had been told by those who came in the advance guard what we had to offer in the west. It took eight days to travel to Calgary, and then I had to take this train to Edmonton. If I recite these facts, it is only because I have something on my mind. I bow to my friends from the west, who were there in those days-and they were important days for us. We landed in Strath-cona, on the south side of the river. There was no bridge at that time. Well, perhaps that is not quite correct, because there was an old river bridge. Most of the people went down by tallyho-four horses going along at about 25 miles a hour. It took a good man to ride with them; in fact most people did not dare to do it, because it looked dangerous.

Then, there was a little train, a little railway-and perhaps it was the shortest railway with the longest name that has ever been known in the world. It was the Edmonton, Alberta, Yukon, British Columbia and Pacific Railway, and travelled about five miles. It just had to go down a hill, and up again. And I say all this because I think there is something of great importance attached to it.

Instead of taking the tallyho, as we called it, which ran downhill at breakneck speed- although I was not afraid of it; I was almost a cowboy in those days-I rode the train. It consisted of four wooden cars, loaded to the roof. And as we went down that hill we could see the lights across the river on the heights of Edmonton.

On that occasion I saw a man up at the end of the car. He was a tall man, a fair man, evidently a Scandinavian, and he began to sing. Mr. Speaker, it has been my lot at times to hear some fine singers. I have listened to Caruso, on gramophone records; and yet I must say that I never heard anything finer or better than that Scandinavian-although, unfortunately, I could not understand a word he said.

It was obvious however that he was singing a song of farewell to the country he had loved, and from which he had come, and at the same time a song of welcome to the country to which he had come-a country so vast, with its limitless prairies. But this man was pleased; he felt strong-a regular Viking, coming to a new land. And he sang all the way along, until everyone was spellbound.

As I say, I did not understand a word he said; but one could understand his feelings. Here was a land of liberty, a land of plenty, a land that gave scope for his strong arm and for his will, he was singing to it. Those of us who were there never said a word, all the way along. We just listened to that magnificent song. No speech could have expressed better the meaning of his song.

And when we got to the top of the hill- and, Mr. Speaker, it took us a long time-we got off at Edmonton. My folks were there to meet me-and I hope, Mr. Speaker, that I am not wearying the house, because I do not speak in this way simply to relate a personal matter but rather to illustrate the development that has taken place out there. Immediately I told my father about the man I had heard singing. It seemed, I said, as if he loved this land, and I said that I believed I loved it more since I had heard him sing. I did not realize the value of what we have, did not realize as well as this man who had come all the way across the seas, and who sang about the wonderful things we have here- the size of it, the breadth of it.

Everybody was so happy in those days. That was a time when there were no strangers: we were all brothers in the west. The old-timers from out there will remember that.

Then some years later I happened to be electioneering north of Edmonton, not for myself but for the great architect of Alberta's destiny, the late Hon. Frank Oliver. And, away beyond Edmonton, perhaps some 30 or 35 miles, I called at a nice, tidy little shack which had been placed in a clearing in the bush at a place then known as Independence. It was clean as a whistle, good buildings, well kept fences. The man came out to see me, to welcome me. I looked at him and at once recognized the same man I had heard singing on the train. But now he could speak English. That man was still singing, but singing louder and better than ever. He was singing about the possibilities of this great land. And when I speak today I do so to draw the attention of hon. members in the House of Commons and to those who come from the west to the fact that in those early days we were happy; we were proud of ourselves. We did not ask for any government favours. We would have been insulted if anyone had offered us something for nothing. And that was the feeling throughout the land.

I mention this because, as a result of a great immigration policy, the land of the west became cultivated, villages were built across the prairies, and railways were constructed. And, referring to railways, I can remember Frank Oliver repeating day after day and year after year the necessity for

railway competition, because we were then at the mercy of one line. If oats went up a cent a bushel in British Columbia, then the freight rate went up by that amount. We could sell nothing at a profit.

And then the Canadian National Railways came along, and the Grand Trunk, and there was competition, bringing hope to the land. The population increased rapidly, and two new provinces were cut out of the prairies- Saskatchewan, and the one in which I am more interested, Alberta the sunny.

Then the first war came along and created a condition over which no government, provincial or otherwise, had any control. In many areas there was dissatisfaction among the people; there was division and discord. The west was ranged against the east. Then in 1921 I believe I was the only survivor in the northern part of the province of the Liberal legislature which went to the people in the month of July of that year. I believe there were nine in the whole of the province who survived, five of whom were in Edmonton-and I recite these things, Mr. Speaker, because in the minds of some people both here and elsewhere there appears to be the idea that Alberta was born either in 1921 or 1935.

Alberta has been looked upon right in this House of Commons, sometimes through the eyes of a banker whose name I will not mention, as something quite different from what it is. I do not need to mention his name, because some of my friends over there have named him often, and have recited his opinions to the house. Of course we are talking about a province in which everything had to be done-the building of the legislative buildings, the erection of normal schools and public schools, the building of roads and bridges-all those things. The entire province had to be covered by a brand new government, and the revenue to do this had to be found. We did not listen to the banker, because if we had done so we would not have a province out there, even yet. But as public men we knew it was our duty to provide facilities for the settlers, those who had had the courage and the fortitude to go out there and carve out a little kingdom for themselves.

Perhaps I should say in passing that I am not speaking from notes, but that I am freely asking you to join us in our golden anniversary celebration in Alberta the fair, which has contributed so much to the advancement and the welfare of this country. And we have only begun, as everyone knows.

In a few months at most enough gasoline and oil will be produced in Alberta and Saskatchewan to supply the entire Canadian market.

The Address-Mr. Dechene

Millions and millions of dollars' worth of new wealth has been created by the people of our provinces of the west for themselves and for the people of Canada; but I want to pay a tribute through you, Mr. Speaker, to a class of our people in that land who in some parts of the country are referred to as immigrants. Well, there is nothing wrong with being an immigrant. We are all immigrants; we emigrated from somewhere in this country or from some other lands not so long ago.

Take that country north, east, southeast and northeast of Edmonton, all around Edmonton clear up to the Peace river. In that area you will find men and women who came from Europe, from the Ukraine, from Germany, from Poland, from the British Isles, from Scandinavia and from other countries. I hope some of you will have the privilege of visiting Alberta next summer when we celebrate our jubilee. If you do you will see miles and miles of countryside, right up to my section, a distance of 175 miles, which 50 years ago was wild but today is a garden of Eden growing everything under the sun. You will see the sod shacks and mud houses have disappeared and now there are the finest of homes to be found anywhere. You will see silos and thoroughbred cattle in the fields. I admit to you, sir, that I resent the picture that is often painted of my province of Alberta. From 1921 to 1930 we were called the I.O.U. province. They cannot call us that any more because we have paid off all our debts at a high interest rate.

I want to pay this tribute to the Ukrainians. It is not a matter of politics. Do not worry; I am not going to bother you again after this parliament, but I should like to also pay this tribute to the Poles, the Germans and the Scandinavians who are all far away from home. I should like to tell you a story about them. I should like to tell you what they have done. Today in the public life of the west you will find men of the second and third generation in important positions. You find them in the judiciary; as you know, you find them in our parliament. You find them in our legislatures, and you find them in our cabinets in the western provinces. The mayor of Edmonton, the booming and greatest city in the west, nobody can deny that, is a second generation descendant of a pioneer settler. His ancestors, whom I knew very well, came from a part of the constituency of Athabaska. I want to praise them publicly for the tremendous achievements they have made.

It was easier for us from old Ontario, Quebec and the maritimes. I admit we were pioneers in the development of the west, but

The Address-Mr. Dechene it was easier for us. They were great men and women but it was easier for us because we were in our own country. We knew the rules and the languages. I am proud to say to you this afternoon, sir, there are thousands of those Ukrainians, Germans, Poles and Scandinavians in the constituency of Atha-baska. We have the greatest respect for one another. I say to you publicly in this house that these men and women have done a wonderful job in the west.

When we talk about 1903 I want to show you how the policies, politics and the vision of public men influenced the people of the country. You could find the same feeling all over the land, ambition, belief in the country, confidence in its future. Sometimes some men in public life have made it their business to try to destroy that confidence, to destroy in the souls and in the hearts of these men and women the spirit of Canada, the spirit of the pioneer. I can boast that I was one of them, and I can boast, sir, that I never had to ask any favour from any government. I am proud and pleased that God gave me life to be able to make these remarks today without any preparation. I did want to pay tribute to that valiant population.

I want to describe to you this afternoon the visit of Sir Wilfrid Laurier. When the western provinces entered confederation, Laurier did not send a messenger to Regina or Edmonton; he came himself. I do not think there was any greater public man. There may have been others with more ability but I am not going to make comparisons. Comparisons are odious. What I wish to say is that there was no greater lover of Canada, no greater advocate of its possibilities, no greater friend of the western prairies-that spirit still lives in our Minister of Agriculture-than Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

Frank Oliver would wake up at two or three o'clock in the morning to go to meet a settler coming from the country to see what he wanted, and what he could do to help him out. That was the spirit we had in those days in the west.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier came to Edmonton, and I should like to remind the house of this because I think it is worth-while. Crowds came from all over the countryside. There were perhaps a dozen cars in the city of Edmonton those days; there were none in the country. People came from all over the country with the horse and buggy and the wagon; some came with oxen and some walking in order to hear Wilfrid Laurier, the champion of western Canada's advancement, progress and settlement. If I should live a thousand years I shall never forget the speech he made. It was a masterpiece not only in

eloquence but in patriotism. I well remember the welcome he gave us. He knew them all. Thousands were there and many came from other lands. I should like to repeat some of the words he used in his welcome. He said: Many of you came here from other lands, from central Europe, from the United States, from the British Isles. You know now how welcome you are in this land of the free and the brave. I want to give you some advice. I give it to you as an old man getting on in years and as prime minister of this country. We are not asking you in Canada to forget the land of your ancestors. No, do not do that. We know that every nation in the world has many things to be proud of. Nobody has a monopoly of courage and of intelligence in this world. Remember the land where your ancestors lived, struggled and died, because if you remember the land of your ancestors you will be better citizens of the land in which you are now making your home and where your children will take your place and carry on. He said: "Remember the past, remember your land, remember the old country; but I am asking you today, when this land is becoming a province, a new jewel in the crown of confederation, which is today the most brilliant with its tremendous resources, to think of the future. Remember the past, but think of the future. Think of your children. Be grateful to the people of Canada who spent money and who granted you the privilege of coming to live in a land where you can be free."

There may be lots of good lands in the Ukraine, some as good as any that can be found anywhere in the world, but there was one thing lacking, namely, freedom, liberty of expression, liberty of thought, liberty of religion. They found that, sir, in Canada. This year we are celebrating our golden jubilee in this fair land of ours.

I am not sorry that all through these years it has been my first love. I say to you Canadians through this forum of the Canadian people, through this parliament, that this celebration, which will run from June to September next, is worthy of the sons and daughters of Saskatchewan and Alberta who came into this confederation on September 1, 1905. I have argued very often in this house, not through ill will, that we should never forget what we have contributed to the wealth of this nation, although sometimes we are accused of asking for too much. Unfortunately there are speeches made to gain some local advantage, some political kudos, because of the great majority of people on the western plains, but we are not asking for any favours.

I know I will be pardoned if what I say at this stage is said without any more preparation. I do not write my speeches. I have some notes with me that have been made hastily. I do not write my speeches, first because it is a rule of this house and, second, because I believe that I know enough about this country of mine to speak about it without having to write or having somebody else write notes for me.

So on that September 1 we did see a wonderful picture up that hill. I think I have said this once before. I do not think that anywhere in Canada you will find a more magnificent setting for a celebration than those flats down the river below that big hill on which is situated the hotel Macdonald at Edmonton. The spectacle is magnificent. You have the Saskatchewan river flowing through there to lake Manitoba and lake Winnipeg. There is the magnificent site on which the city is built. The trees across the river were in their full early fall foliage. The people gathered, on what was called the Ross flats. They were settled first by an old Scottish Liberal named Ross and they still carry the name of Ross fiats. There was no city then, it was just a garden. I do not think that I ever saw a better show anywhere in the world than I saw that day.

May I say in a spirit of unity and not at all as a partisan that as a Canadian I do not ever want to hear a word about our immigration policy. I know the wealth it has produced because there were no other hands available. They could not get them anywhere else.

I want to end with this message. You will find courage and fortitude in the west. It has been said that the soil is fertile in the west, that everything will grow there. We have had some bad years, but is there any country in the world which has not had bad years? That soil will grow grain; it grows flowers to that height, and it raises the finest livestock. It even grows ideas. People think it will grow money. The only way I found to grow it was by earning it.

I say to hon. members of this house this afternoon that, from their hearts and souls, they say to their constituents throughout this country when June 1 comes around and Alberta begins its celebration of its golden anniversary of joining this great country, they have a thought for Alberta and to those who are so inclined to raise a toast to the people of the province of Alberta.

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February 1, 1955

Mr. J. M. Dechene (Athabaska):

In rising

to ask for the privilege of speaking in this assembly, Mr. Speaker, I wish to immediately assure this audience that I have a special reason for doing so, otherwise I would not inflict a speech upon them. Today, sir, I believe I am qualified by age and by experience-

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February 26, 1954

Mr. Dechene:

That refers to the C.C.F.

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January 15, 1954

Mr. Dechene:

A soldier wants to run the country.

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May 14, 1953

Mr. Dechene:

That is silly.

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