Mr. BICKEKDIKE (Montreal, St-Law-rence):
It is not my intention to deal with
the Bill generally. I wish to confine myself principally to the clause by which we disfranchise some half a million of the very best women in Canada. I would not ask that any one opposed to the Allies, such as Germans, Austrians or Bulgarians should have the right to vote in this country, but I claim that every honest, loyal citizen in Canada should have the right to vote. Why should we discriminate to that extent? I think it would be well to state to the House what the law of New Zealand is. The section reads:
Every adult person who has resided for one year in New Zealand and who has resided in the electoral district for which he claims to vote during- the three months immediately preceding his resignation on the roll of the district, and who is a British subject either by birth or naturalization, or a half-caste, is entitled (subject to the provisions of this Act) to be registered as an elector and to vote at the election of members of Parliament for that district.
Every man and woman in New Zealand 21 years of age, who is a loyal British subject, has the right to vote. In the small country of Finland there is only one Chamber consisting of 200 members. The system of voting is known as direct and proportional. The Finns have equal suffrage, and some 18 or 20 women are members of the House. I certainly welcome this Bill, in as far as it permits a large number of women to vote at the next general election, but it does not go far enough. It is narrow, it is drastic, and savours largely of kaiser-ism. I must take exception to the clause restricting and limiting the votes of women in Canada, and insist on that clause being amended, so as to give to all women who are truly loyal British subjects, if they choose, the right of voting. I say that a serious injustice will he perpetrated if the Bill becomes law as it stands. Why should there be any discrimination against one form of national service and other forms of service equally honourable, equally indis-pensible to the prosecution of the war? For the first time in this country, a Bill has been introduced which ignores workers for the Red Cross, and the win-the-war nurses, the different patriotic fund workers, Belgian relief workers, and tens of thousands of women engaged in the munition factories who will, under this measure be denied the right to vote. This Bill should be amended so as to confer equal political rights on women. We should give the loyal women of Canada the same political rights and privileges as are enjoyed by the men, with power to fill any office at the constitutional disposal of the Crown; and furthermore, to
Become candidates, and if elected to take their seats in this House of Commons. Then, and only then, -will the reforms so long advocated in this House by a numbef of the members become law. Penitenitary and prison reforms ably advocated by the hon. member for Frontenac (Mr. Edwards), reform in the liquor traffic by our good friend from Bonaventure (Mr. Marcil), and last, but not least, abolishing of the death penalty in Canada. You are depriving of the vote by this Bill five hundred thousand truly loyal Canadian women, who have been doing all this good work ever since the war commenced. It is, to say the least of it, an autocratic, undignified measure and unworthy of any government of this great Dominion. I cannot understand how any government resort to such a subterfuge under the guise of a war-time election Act, and I hope that the right hon. leader of the Government (Sir Robert Borden) will accept my suggestion, and amend this clause. If he does not do so, I am sure he will regret it for years to come; and on the other hand, if he accepts my suggestion he will be able to look back upon this measure with pride, pleasure and satisfaction.
I must quote what President Wilson has just said in a message to the people of the state of Maine. It is an evidence that all over the civilized world Women are going to get the vote, and get it soon. He said:
May I not express through you my very great interest in the equal suffrage campaign in Maine? The pledges of my party are very distinct in favour of granting the suffrage to women by state action, and I would like to have the privilege of urging all Democrats to support a cause in which we all believe.
We are going very far away in this Bill from our democratic principle. I remember, in my young days, we used to say we were democratic-yes, "democrats to the hilt"-but there is nothing of a democratic nature in this Bill. The opinion of the people of Vancouver on this feature of the Bill is indicated by the following newspaper despatch:
Vancouver, September 7.-The Vancouver Trades and Labour Council last evening passed a motion protesting against the manner in) which the Dominion Government intends to extend a part franchise to women, and calling upon Premier Borden to give all women of the Dominion full privileges at the polls with men.
We have the following communication from Winnipeg:
Winnipeg, September 8.-"I am absolutely opposed to it," declared R. A. Rigg, secretary of the Trades and Labour Council, in referring to the new franchise legislation. "The country is falling into the grip of autocratic rule. The last semblance of democracy is vanishing. If
they continue along the lines they are now following, autocracy will undoubtedly be firmly established in this country."
In Montreal several associations have had meetings, and resolved on sending petitions to the Government and have passed resolutions opposing the Bill as it stands to-day. I will refer to one case. The People's Power League and Equal Suffrage League met last Thursday night, and the following is a report of the proceedings:
The resolution submitted by the Equal Suffrage League deprecated the idea of differentiating between one form of national service and other forms of service equally honourable and equally indispensable to a successful prosecution of the war, and that for the first time in this country a Bill has been introduced which ignores workers for the Red Crqss, Red Cross Nurses, Patriotic Fund Committees, Belgian and similar relief funds, also the tens of thousands of women engaged in munition factories, etc., who are denied the vote. It was also pointed out that many undesirable analogies will develop, and that it does not take advantage of the present psychological moment to confer upon women equal political rights with men, and that the British House of Commons and the United States have made no such distinctions in their recent franchise legislation.
It was, therefore, resolved, "That this meeting implores the advisers of the Crown to withdraw their Franchise Bill and draft immediately a measure that will invest women with the same political rights and privileges as are shared by men, with power to fill any office at the constitutional disposal of the Crown."
Here is one of the statements made at that meeting:
As regards the votes given to all female relatives of soldiers, nobody would grumble with that if adult suffrage for all women were established. But a slur is cast on every woman [DOT] who may be without soldier relatives, and she is declared unfit to exercise' the franchise! Why? What is the spedial reason for singling out a special class of women voters? It is not any frank recognition of woman suffrage, but as Mr. Meighen says, "to give added strength to the vote of the soldiers of Canada." Thus to 400,000 soldier votes will be added from half a million to a million soldiers' relatives' votes -a special class that no doubt the Conservative Government feel can be specially appealed to by being told the ridiculous rubbish that the soldiers at the front will be deserted if they do not all vote Conservative.
I appeal to the Government on behalf of these women who are doing so much good work. I will cite two concrete cases with a view to touching the heart of the Secretary of State, if I can.
Topic: '6578 COMMONS