Mr. ARTHUR LACHANCE (Quebec *Centre) (translation):
Mr. Speaker, at this stage of a debate which has been going on for more than two weeks, it would be rash on my part to lay claim to new arguments either for or against the Conscription Bill introduced by the Government. On either side, the subject has been threshed out so far as the House of Commons is concerned. All that remains to me, therefore, in order to avoid repetitions, is to briefly state what are my reasons for voting as I intend to do-
What has been the dominant reason for Canada's participation in the war of nations which is laying waste the old continent?
In the month of August 1914, the almost unanimous vote of the House of Commons, expressive of general public opinion, as voiced by the press and public speakers throughout the country, authorized Canada's intervention in the bloody conflict, even then almost world-wide, which had been precipitated during the last days of July.
Was it solely the fact that England was fighting that brought about this decision? No, Mr, Speaker. For the greater part of us, if not for all of us, this was inspired by an even more -generous sentiment.
Germany, in -defiance of her own signature, had brutally pounced upon Belgium, a small, defenceless, neutral nation, with a
that as enough men do not volunteer to complete the quota required, it becomes necessary to resort to conscription, in order to maintain at full strength our expeditionary forces on the firing line. I grant it, as a general proposition; but it should first be shown that those 100,000 men will be of greater use to the Allies overseas than they would be here.' Where is the proof of that fact to be found? When, on the 1st January 1916, the Prime Minister increased the expeditionary forces to 500,000 men, had he first of all ascertained whether such a policy was warranted by the economical conditions of the country? There is absolutely nothing to show that he had done so. Even to-day, what is there before the House to show us that those 100,000 men would better serve the interests of the Allies overseas than they would do here in the industries producing for war purposes and in the establishments dedicated to our national existence?
And should those 100,000 men remaining in the country be of greater practical use to the common cause, who would object to other men in the ranks of the Allied armies filling up the gaps in the Canadian army?
Many authorized voices have declared in the press and before public meetings that under present circumstances, the levy of 100,000 men would' result in creating disturbances in the farming industry, in crippling our finances and throwing out of gear our industrial machinery, which would affect prejudicially Canada and indirectly the cause of the Allies.
What are the Allies clamoring for? Is it not for munitions, for food and ships for transportation? Why do you not open shipyards and encourage as much as possible shipbuilding? Under the circumstances, assisting the Allies in that particular branch is an imperious necessity, while by so doing, you should be encouraging an infant industry of the greatest importance to the country. But will the Government rest satisfied with this appeal to coercion? By no' means, because next year there will be another levy of 100,000 men and as many more within two years. Did not the Minister of Finance state before the House a few days ago, that the war would be of long duration?
As will be seen, this new departure, this breaking away from our traditions, along the line followed by the Administration, may result most disastrously for Canada and for the cause of the Allies. You would be labouring under a delusion, in attempting to maintain in their integrity our Canadian forces, without providing for a cor-
responding efficient maintenance of our economical situation.
Now what was the position a year ago? What is our position to-day? The cost of living is going sky-high, prices are soaring and have reached fantastic figures altogether out of proportion to the revenue of the people. There does not seem to ,be any other remedy but a greater production, but so far (the Government have not suggested any. .But how are we to have more production without securing more labour? Where is labour to be found? Last year in the West of Canada there was an urgent demand sent out for farm help by the farmers, but to no purpose. Last winter agents were sent out by the Government for recruiting
50,000 farm hands in the United States, but they did not get any. And yet, despite this-shortage of labour, the people were amazed on hearing that 50,000 men have been called under the colours for the defence of the country. Against whom was the country to be defended? The question has so far remained unanswered. A most bewildering thing, indeed all the same, that mobilization which resulted in uselessly stationing in various camps, forts and citadels of Canada 50,000 men, at a time when the neighbouring Republic was being explored by Government agents for recruiting .the farm hands, and labourers needed in our cities and on the farms.
But what we are justified in inferring from that policy is this: ithe Government cannot prove that the 100,000 men whom they contemplate despatching to Europe will be of greater use to the Allies, than they would be here. Do not all those facts show that this conscription Bill originates in the temerity of the (Prime Minister apparently enacting on his own responsibility, on the 1st January 1916, that the expeditionary forces should be increased to 500,000 men.
This message seems to have been at first the ipse dixit of a Government leader who, on a New-Year's day woke up in the attitude of .a Oaesiar. But had he well pondered over the still latent possibilities of voluntary enlistment on the abundance or shortage of labour for the production of food and all the essentials and necessities for the effective prosecution o.f the war? That does not seem to have been the case. That there was temerity has been shown by the events, the message did not meet with the anticipated success.
But, because the Prime Minister did not rightly size up the probable results of voluntary enlistment, was he warranted on that ground in resorting to coercion, in
defiance of the most formal pledges given, from the very inception of 'the war?
In addition to the question as to the desirability of conscripting Canadian manhood, there is the legal and constitutional issue. In this connection, I have in mind the axiom so often quoted in debate: "When Great Britain is at war, -Canada is at war." Granted, but this axiom should be thus qualified: a belligerent with Great Britain has the right of attacking our country, even though Canada were standing aloof in the conflict; in case of such an attack, Canada could not invoke the status of neutrality.
But this axiom does not convey the meaning that Canada ought to participate in all the wars of Great Britain or that, even if she took -part in -any w-ar she could not withdraw from it.
Under the Constitution, Canada could recall to the last man all her expeditionary forces, being in no way bound to send overseas men to fighit in this world-shaking wiar.
To the accuracy of that statement an eminent statesman, the right hon. Arthur James Balfour bore witness in this House. From his oration of May 28, delivered before the House of Commons and the members of the Senate in joint session, let me quote what follows:
Moreover, remember that the foreign speculators about the British Empire must have thought before the war began. They said to themselves: This loosely constructed State
resembles nothing that has ever existed in history before ; it is held together by no coercive power ; the Government of the Mother Country cannot raise a corporal's guard in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or wherever you will ; she can not raise a shilling of taxation ; she has no power. When, unexpectedly, without giving an opportunity for preparation or discussion, oi propaganda, war burst upon the world, even those animated by such a feeling might well have doubted whether this great Empire-each unit of which had it in its power to hold aloof had it so desired-might act as one organization animated by one soul, moved by one purpose and driving towards one end.
As will be seen from the above quotation, the Government of the Mother Country could not raise a corporal's guard in Canada nor in any other colony, and every colony could have stood aloof, had it so desired. Therefore, granted that if Great Britain has no power to coerce us into participating in her wars, liow can the Government take authority to enact legislation for coercing us? No, the Government have no such power, neither in justice nor in equity.
Among the obligations involved in the status of citizenship is that of military service for the defence of one's country: but you could not quote a single case of legislation imposing military service for the defence of another country.
Now, to put it in a nutshell, what the Government said amounts to this: conscription is a case of emergency or at least it is the unavoidable result of Canada's participation in the conflict, as it is necessary to fill up the gaps and to maintain at full strength our expeditionary forces.
Now, to 'this I reply: You have secured our participation under false representations, because you kept repeating " ad nauseam" that there would be no such emergency and no such conscription as a consequence; and you cannot frame a law for conscripting Canadian manhood grounded on a consent which was not given freely, but erroneously, and that isthe reason why I say that you should appeal to the people, in order to get the power that is lacking and which you cannot bestow on yourselves. Up to a few weeks iagio, did -any one pretend that our Canadian mianihood could be conscripted and sent abroad in order to fight the battles of England and the Allies?
Besides, how could such a departure have been contemplated, in view of the fact that under the Militia Act of Canada no troops could be sent abroad on voluntary service? The leader of the Opposition (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) has made that point very clear; he has grounded his opinion on the views held by the Prime Minister and the Government in the despatches of August 1 and 5, 1914, to the Secretary of State for the Colonies and in the order in council of August 6 authorizing the mobilization -of the first contingent.
This interpretation squares with the policy and the principles embodied in all the legislation relating to the Militia Acts enacted in Canada. This was fully shown by my hon. friend from Kamouraska (Mr. Lapointe) in the exhaustive review which he made of that legislation, going back as far as 1808 and resting his case on the best authorities and the most competent exponents of the policy of that legislation.
It follows, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the Militia Act of Canada has nothing to do with the proposed conscription Bill; that the Government who pretend to graft it on the Militia Act are not acting in good faith; that Great Britain has no right to compel the people of Canada to go and fight her battles, and " a fortiori ", that the Government have no right to enact a law in order to force upon the people compulsory service.
I approved of Canada participating in this world-war, and I do not feel regret for it, as the cause of the Allies deserves the! co-
operation of all those who are far or near connected with it. In the province of Quebec, a certain school of thought has been manifesting, more ostensibly than they have been doing in some of the other provinces, its opposition to the country participating in the war. In the opinion of this group of anti-participationists there is no blinking the fact that our entry in the war results from what they think was the blameworthy stand taken, at the time of the South African war in 1898, and from the legislation enacted in 1909 and 1910 in connection with the Naval service and also from the contribution of $35,000,000 for the construction of these dreadnoughts to be incorporated in the British navy. But there is no similarity. In those three instances the question was as to the desirability of the Government proffering the assistance of Canada to the mother country. Now it is no longer a question of Great Britain prosecuting a redress or a conquest, but it is a case of the most peace-loving nations which, after repeatedly ignoring the most humiliating provocations, are now rising in their might and taking up arms on behalf of international law or the law of nations, and in vindication of the treaties guaranteeing the neutrality of Belgium, which Germany might and autocracy pretend to trample upon with impunity; in short it is the case of a nation, threatening all liberty, despising all the rights bequeathed to the world by the English Revolution and the French Revolution. Thus is spite of the anguish of spirit and the: heart-rending anxiety we *were a prey to, from the inception of this orgy of destruction, I am still of opinion that Canada has done right in helping those of her sons who volunteered to go overseas and whose valour in this world-shaking war has stood equal to the noble cause espoused by them.
Undoubtedly being given that we are at w,ar, we should grieve at having erased from our national records such glorious deeds as those performed by our soldiers who held high the honour of Canada on so many bat-tie fields; those soldiers, I say, who at Ypres and Saint Julian saved Calais, those who died at Festubert and Givenchy and Saint Eloi, those who fell at Neuve Chapelle, those who gave their lives at Courcelette and who offered the supreme sacrifice at Vimy.
In the same order of things, Canada has risen to the height of the cause for which she is fighting, .and the magnitude of the effort exerted by her has been recognized by military leaders and statesmen alike. In proportion, our contribution as .a whole is ahead
of that of any other colony and it has been estimated that even the United States would stand our equal only when they have put in the field an army of five or six million soldiers.
Now, Mr. Speaker, should we not be disregarding, to a certain extent, that great generosity on the part of the people, were we to introduce coercion for the purpose of increasing .a contribution which, as admitted by competent parties, has already reached the extreme limit of this country's economic power?
Considering the .results already obtained, voluntary enlisment, reinvigonated, skilfully directed, kept .alive, would indeed have brought ito a worthy completion Canada's participation in the war.
In order to justify conscription, Great Britain's example is invoked, but there is no analogy between the two oases. England had signed the treaty Which Germany has tom to pieces ; on pain of everlasting disgrace, she owed it to her honour to see that her signature respected, putting, if necessary, into the effort her last man and her last shilling. Canada on the other hand had signed/ no treaty; legally and constitutionally she was in no wise obliged to intervene in this war; her sacrifices have been inspired by her magnanimity and were made to the full extent of her resources.
Because Canada, heeding her generosity and self sacrifice, has sent over and maintained to this day an army at the front, is it logical to take for granted that she is bound to continue maintaining it in full numbers, notwithstanding any other considerations, when volunteering proves inadequate and when, on the other .hand, volunteering has been the determining, essential, sine qua non reason for our original participation?
Arguing from our colonial status, some people in this country speak and protest as if Canada should be sacrificed to the insatiable Moloch that is, for the past three years, swallowing up the vital forces of the old world; as if Canada should trail along until spiritless, bloodless and emaciated, she drops gasping at the Allies' feet.
A colony, be it so; but a free and selfgoverning country whose citizen has the right and alike the duty of speaking his mind. Canada is your country as well as it is ours, but in a different manner. Our ancestors were its discoverers and settlers; they have brought to it civilization; wherefore is it our country not in the sense that it is yours, you, Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotchmen, who may claim also another
country as your own. Our fathers have spread over it the atmosphere of liberty; it needed, it is true, a revolution and bloodshed, but liberty, indeed, never had any other cradle nor any other nursing; besides, there is not a single Canadian, who stops to reflect, that does not applaud to-day that revolution of yesterday. How is it, therefore, that you cannot understand our fear lest a misplaced generosity should throw this country into a deadly state of languor, should paralyze our growth, and that, without improving to a perceptible degree the Allies' general situation.
That is the point upon which we ask the judgment of all Canadians. This country has already given too liberally of its blood and its gold, that the Government should to-day mercilessly treat it as liable to unlimited taxation and hard labour, whether in its individual or in its national life, and pay no heed to the views or the will of the people.
Canada must remain in the struggle, that is the feeling of all of us; but the Government wants to introduce coercion; we answer : You have no right to do it without the consent of the citizens. Let, therefore, the question be submitted to them. What do you fear? If you are convinced that conscription is necessary, you. will have no trouble in satisfying the people of its necessity. Do you mistrust them? And why should you, if you are in good faith, if you have, as you contend, performed your duty. Would it be that you foresee a hostile verdict upon conscription? In my opinion, yes, that is the reason for your refusal. But then, it is the ipse dixit of a government group in defiance of the popular will.
As a parting word, let me say: Trust the people; they will be your supreme support, your only strength in the crisis which Canada, as the rest of the world, is going through; they are broad-minded, generous; sacrifices are easy to them; they will lighten your path. But if you have no confidence in them, in the people who have entrusted you with their destinies, they, your masters and your judges as they are ours, how can you expect us to have faith in you?
Topic: MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic: DEBATE CONTINUED ON MOTION FOR SECOND READING AND ON THE AMENDMENTS.