Mr. FREDERIC DORION (Charlevoix-Saguenay):
My first words in this house are words of thanks: thanks to you, Mr. Speaker, for the kindness you have shown me since I have been here; thanks to the hon. members of this house whom I have had the privilege of meeting in the course of the last two weeks, for their hearty welcome; thanks especially to the hon. members for Gaspe (Mr. Roy), Temiscouata (Mr. Pouliot) and Laval-Two Mountains (Mr. Lacombe), who dared to come and help me during my recent electoral campaign; but thanks over and above all to the electors of Charlevoix-Saguenay for the magnificent support which they gave me on the 30th of November last.
I wonder whether all hon. members have a true knowledge of the constituency which I have the honour to represent. May I be allowed to give a short description of it so as to complete if necessary the information they already have?
If we look at the map we can see that it is the largest constituency in the dominion. It starts from Chateau Richer, a place situated fifteen miles below Quebec on the north shore of the St. Lawrence, and it goes as far as Labrador, over eight hundred miles farther. It encloses all the northern part of the province of Quebec from the St. Lawrence to Hudson bay and Hudson strait.
I must tell the house that this very large area of our country has not yet been developed as it should have been, owing to lack of means of communication. In the western part, that is to say west of the Saguenay river, we have roads, and one railroad which goes as far as Murray Bay. In the eastern part, east of the Saguenay river, which is the larger area, we have just one road about a hundred miles long, as far as Comeau bay, and beyond that we have only the water and the air as means of communication.
I know, Mr. Speaker, having been informed by experts, that our country possesses great natural resources. There are huge water powers,
The Address-Mr. Dorion
rich mines, wonderful forests, and in numerous places the soil can be cultivated to great advantage. The best and probably the only way to provide this country with the necessaiy means of development would be to build a road along the north shore of the St. Lawrence. In this regard I wish to draw the attention of the government to the fact that the building of such a road would be very useful for the defence of our country and for the help of our allies; in fact it could be used to carry food and war materials to the Atlantic coast and to Newfoundland. Would it not be the safest way to provide the eastern military stations with the necessary equipment, food and war materials?
Furthermore, this road, which would be very useful for military purposes during the war, would also be immensely advantageous after the war. It does not happen very often that we have the opportunity of undertaking military works which will become necessary improvements after the war. The building of this road is one of them. That is why I urge upon the government that they consider this'project and execute it as soon as possible.
Now, Mr. Speaker, allow me to tell you that this constituency is inhabited by over 65,000 right-minded and peaceful people whose only desire is to devote themselves to their country and their families. They love this country which has been built up by their forefathers and to which they are loyal. They like the democratic system under which we are living and they want to keep it. They have fought in the past for the maintenance of their rights, their creed and their tongue, and having been successful in preserving them, having no attachment to any other part of the world, they are deeply rooted to the soil out of which they themselves, like their forefathers, have extracted their living, and they are not much interested in international disputes. They understand, however, that we are now fighting for the safeguarding of democracy, and they are willing to share the war effort in so far as it does not annihilate altogether their national patrimony. They believe that the right definition of democracy has been given by Lincoln, as follows:
Government of the people, by the people, for the people.
They believe also that, as was expressed by Mr. H. E. Manning, K.C., a few months ago:
The essence of democracy is respect for the rights of minorities. In their contempt for the rights of minorities lies the iniquity of totalitarian systems. Beware lest in the heat and stress of war we trample upon the rights of
minorities. If we do we shall have cast away the thing for which lives are being sacrificed and fortunes squandered.
We believe also that if our efforts to-day must be directed towards the winning of the war, we must not forget that we have to prepare for the post-war period. The publication of the Beveridge report containing a programme for social security in Great Britain has aroused world-wide interest. In the United States the national resources planning board has placed a somewhat similar programme before President Roosevelt, calling for extension of social security measures. The technical adviser of the board, Mr. W. J. Cohen, recently said, commenting on the Beveridge report:
If Great Britain during her life and death struggle can find the time to undertake during the course of the war a comprehensive evaluation of her whole social security system, then surely we can follow a similar course. It is becoming increasingly clear that an extended social security programme is as necessary to victory as is production of guns and ships.
The people of Charlevoix-Saguenay, like the people of the whole province of Quebec, desire earnestly the establishment of a true national unity throughout Canada, unity not only in words, 'but in facts, unity not only in war time but also in peace time. They want to remain what their fathers were at the time of the building of the confederation, that is to say, the partners of their English fellow citizens, and not their inferiors. They want to do their utmost to attain the object our fathers had in mind, the building of a great nation.
On this point, may I be allowed, Mr. Speaker, to tell this house that we in Canada must at last attain our unity not in regimentation, but in a balanced, well-knit cooperative diversity. Otherwise our historic and present mission will not be fulfilled. Lord Tweedsmuir said five years ago:
Canada can never be quite like her neighbour, and that is all to the good; for it means that she has a specific contribution of her own to make to North American civilization. I like to think of her, with her English and French peoples, as in a special degree the guardian of the great Mediterranean tradition which descends from Greece and Rome, and which she has to mould to the uses of a new world. I want to see her keep her individuality; for that is of inestimable advantage, not only to her, but to her neighbour.
If we, the members of this parliament, followed these wise admonitions, I am sure we would contribute to the settlement of many internal misunderstandings.
We must not forget, either, that we are here to participate, as representatives of the people, in the government of this country. But,
The Address-Mr. Dorion
looking around me, since I have been here, and trying to find out what we had to do, I came to the conclusion that most of our privileges had been vested in numerous boards and commissions. We have built up an enormous bureaucracy; we have administrators of every conceivable trade appointed by the wartime prices and trade board; we have controllers of every kind. We have different boards and different administrators giving conflicting orders and conducting duplicated and triplicated investigations of the same thing, and we have an immense amount of red tape. What is worse, many of these administrators and controllers are young men without experience, and are the real makers of the laws of this country.
Think of it just a moment, and see if it is fair and reasonable that our whole economic system should be in the hands of these dictators. The people of this country are not satisfied with this state of things, and the government should bring in the necessary corrections. [DOT]
Even if our efforts and our energies must be directed towards the winning of the war, we must not forget that we shall have to live again in this country after the war. We must, if our political system has failed to bring us all the satisfaction we wanted, do our utmost to improve the situation. This is the reason why, in September 1941, at the suggestion of the hon. member for Gaspe, a few hundred people, from all parts of the province of Quebec and from all ranks of society, met in Quebec and adopted the following resolution:
This meeting expresses the wish that the efforts of the people of Canada in this war be rewarded with success; and this gathering prays the Almighty to stand by our armies and those of our allies in order that a definite victory be achieved.
Our country will then enjoy a lasting peace which will favour the full development of the vital forces of the various technical groups and will foster an intimate collaboration among them, this to be achieved in a spirit of constitutional liberty and social justice; thus paying the way to the creation of a truly and exclusively Canadian nation.
This resolution contains a real programme which could and should be accepted by all true Canadians.
Before closing my remarks in English, I cannot refrain from referring to a declaration made the other day by the right hon. the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King), which was reproduced in big headlines by some newspapers. He was referring to the sinking of enemy submarines by Canadian corvettes. Addressing himself to members sitting in this 72537-30
comer of the house he was asking us if we were not proud that a corvette manned by Canadians and bearing the name of the city of Quebec was able to sink an enemy ship on the waters of the Mediterranean. As this argument did not press upon me very strongly, I really could not prevent myself from smiling. It was then that the Prime Minister added:
Yet at this critical time, of all times, hon. gentlemen in the far corner opposite find it necessary to separate themselves from colleagues in their province in order to support an isolationist view with regard to the war effort of Canada! Their action does credit neither to themselves, nor to their province or to our country.
I thought at the time he was addressing himself to the hon. members sitting to my left, but the following day I noticed in the papers that my name was connected with those of the members for Beauharnois-Laprairie and for Beauce, and therefore that the public was under the impression that I too was pointed at as supporting an isolationist view.
I must state, first, that I am not associated with the hon. members who recently formed this new political group called Le Bloc Populaire, and I have not to come to their defence. But speaking for myself I wish to say that I have no lesson of loyalty to receive from anybody, because during the last war, instead of travelling through the United States, I enlisted at the age of nineteen in the Royal Air Force. I went and served overseas and I came back with my commission of lieutenant in the imperial army. To-day my only son, who is twenty years of age, student at law at Laval university, voluntarily enlisted two years ago in the Canadian Officers' Training Corps. I think that settles the question.
Furthermore I found it very peculiar to hear the Prime Minister speak about isolationists. I wondered whether he did not remember what he and his colleagues had been telling the people of the province of Quebec during the last twenty-five years. I do not hesitate to declare that considering the attitude taken by the Liberal party during this period of time, no member of this party has the right to accuse anyone from the province of Quebec of being an isolationist.
(Translation)': Mr. Speaker, even if I could speak English as readily as French, I would make it my duty, on the occasion of my first speech in the house, to say in French what I have to add to my previous remarks, in order to stress the officially bilingual character of the house.
A few moments ago, I enumerated the reasons why the electors of Charlevoix-
The Address-Mr. Dorion
Saguenay have put their trust in me, on November 30 last, and I wish to complete this statement.
First, my election constitutes an evident proof that the citizens of the province of Quebec refuse to support either of the two older parties. After forsaking the Conservative party, they long held to the hope that the Liberal party would guarantee the accomplishment of their legitimate yearnings. They honestly and loyally put their trust in the leaders of the Liberal party in their province of Quebec, who strongly condemned the Conservative external policy and promised that a just and fair solution would be found to the internal problems; they now realize to what extent they have been deceived.
After having, for 75 years, been tossed between "reds" and "blues" with the only result of serving as stepping stones to power, and without any advantage to themselves, they have become wary and, although not sure of the political orientation they will ultimately adopt, they have decided, for the present, to support men, who, having broken with old ties, can offer them guarantees of sincerity and above all, unselfishness.
If the citizens of the province of Quebec have reached this point, which I may call a strategic turn in their political history, it is because they have understood that their representatives in the past had been but a minority in both old parties and had been incapable of upholding their interests and, unfortunately, too often unequal to the task.
The French Canadians intend to play the part assigned to them in both political fields of the country. In the dominion field they want the spirit of the confederation pact maintained. They' ask for no more, but they are insistent on this point.
Is there, in this whole country, a single man who-could honestly claim that in the dominion government, the French Canadians get their rightful share? And is not this truer than ever since we have resorted to be governed by commissions? Let us review the list of these dictators who presently control the economic life of Canada, without any responsibility to the people through their representatives, and let us examine whether the French Canadian element gets its rightful share.
I do not claim that the solution of this problem lies in the granting to French Canadians of a few positions in the civil service or in the various dominion departments. This matter goes much deeper.
What is needed is that, through actual and active sharing of responsibilities by French Canadians in the government of the country,
our whole economic set-up should show plain evidences of the dual character of our institutions rendered necessary by the two racial elements making up the Canadian nation.
They want the representation in this house to be proportionate to the populations of the various provinces, as provided by the confederation pact. In my opinion, the government should, at this session, introduce a bill to effect such a redistribution of the electoral seats. Otherwise, we shall once again tear up another section of the confederation pact.
They claim that Canada, in its international relations, should be guided solely by the interests of its inhabitants; not as has so often been the case in the last 50 years, by the interests of some other nation.
They realize that Canada is an American country and that as long as its leaders endeavour to manage its international affairs as though it were European, they will never attain the object intended by the Fathers of Confederation.
They also claim that Canada should assume its proper place in the Pan-American Union and thereby reap all the privileges enuring from association with natural allies.
Indeed, whether we want it or not, in spite of the ready communications, which have lately brought all the nations of the world so much closer together, it remains true, nevertheless, that on each side of the Americas, there are oceans which will always have to be reckoned with, especially when we consider that, at the start of the present war, a 20-milewide channel has been enough to halt the ravaging hordes of the German dictator.
In the same train of thought, I take this opportunity to state that we are wondering why we are still allowed to have our legal problems solved by the Privy Council in London. The right of appeal to the Privy Council constitutes, in my way of thinking, a vestige of the former domination of the mother country over her colonies and I feel that this right of appeal should be abolished.
In the provincial field, I repeat what I said a few moments ago: all that the French Canadians want is the enforcement of the confederation pact. Unfortunately, jurists and politicians have not always been of a mind as to the proper interpretation of the British North America Act. respecting the relations between the provinces and the central government.
Two theories have been vigorously upheld. There are some who claim that the central government has precedence over the provincial administrations; they take the view that the confederation act is an act passed by the
The Address-Mr. Dorion
Imperial government and accepted by the contracting parties; the others say that it is a contract based on an agreement concluded by the provinces in 1867. This last theory has been brilliantly defended by a number of legal and political lights; it has even been accepted, in a certain measure, by the courts of law, at different times.
In the course of an enquiry held by a parliamentary committee, in 1935, to consider ways and means of amending the constitution, certain opinions have been expressed from which I shall quote the following extracts:
Hon. Mr. Veniot: Confederation is not based entirely on the Quebec resolutions.-
Mr. W. S. Edwards (Deputy Minister of Justice): I know.
Hon. Mr. Veniot: Because the Quebec resolutions make provision for certain jurisdiction on the part of the provinces which at the time of confederation when the act was passed in Great Britain were not included; for instance, jurisdiction with regard to immigration, and certain other matters such as fisheries were given to the provinces by the Quebec resolutions. When the Act of Confederation passed these were transferred to the dominion; and further than that, it must be understood I maintain that it was a strict agreement between the provinces.-
And Mr. Edwards added:
I agree with you, that it was an agreement.
Although I believe that the right of appeal to the Privy Council should be abolished, I am evidently not questioning the ability of the legal gentlemen sitting on that court. So that I have no hesitation in seeking a solution for our outstanding problems of the moment in the opinions which they have expressed. In this manner I have found in the rulings of the Privy Council arguments in favour of this second proposition regarding relations between central and provincial authorities.
In the case of John Deere Plow Co. versus Wharton there is mention by the Privy Council of a political agreement.
In the reference of the Initiative and Referendum Act, the Privy Council states that the constitution of Canada was adopted in 1867 by the Imperial Parliament in order to give effect to the wishes expressed in the resolutions adopted at the Conference of Canadians held at Quebec in October, 1864.
In the case of Edwards versus Attorney General for Canada, the Privy Council, referring to the B.NA. act, mentions that it is a case of compromise.
Again, in the reference concerning Regulation and Control of Aeronautics in Canada, the Privy Council once more mentions a political compromise.
Another theory has been put forth in recent years, known as the theory of Institution, and 72537-301
here is what an eminent Dominican sociologist, Reverend Father Delos, has to say about the definition given by Georges Renard:
An institution, says he, is the result of a communion of men in an idea, it constitutes the body, the reality, the being born of this communion. An idea to be realized, a purpose, "establishing solidarity between them who entertain it together or successively"; a community of purpose arising between contemporaries and successive generations. An institution, again according to Mr. Renard. is an idea supported by appropriate ways and means of eventual establishment, of realization, through the assumption of shape and objective being. . . . It entails the giving of an internal statute and organisms permitting external action, a coming into being as a social body enjoying internal life and external activity.
This doctrine has been upheld by men whose functions afforded them more than most others opportunities for a close study of the mechanism of the British North America Act. I would quote the opinion given by a journalist, Mr. Leopold Richer, which is to be found on page 125 of "Notre probleme politique''-.
We regret that up to tiie present our jurists should have offered commentaries on our national constitution which on the whole are rather superficial, oftentimes even of a controversial nature. It is not sufficient to state that our constitution is a legislative act; its nature, its finality and its origin must also be accurately defined. Nor is it sufficient to contend that the British North America Act does or does not constitute a contract or to dispose of the matter in a few pages.
But, for practical purposes, I am convinced that we are bound to conclude that the Canadian confederation was established, following an agreement between the various provinces and that, consequently, we must always consider the legitimate aspirations of each group forming the constituent elements of the dominion.
Although each province is interested in safeguarding its rights and privileges as conferred by the British North America Act, for the province of Quebec it is of essential and paramount importance. As a matter of fact, the history of the province of Quebec begins 100 years before that of the other provinces. We cherish special traditions; our culture does not spring from the same sources and our civil Law differs from that of the other provinces. We have, therefore, a very special ethnical character and that is why the citizens of Quebec are so anxious to safeguard the autonomy of their province at all costs, so that they may keep what they cherish above all else and thus avoid, in another field, useless arguments and dissensions.
The Address-Mr. Dorion
Unfortunately, in the last few years, and especially since the beginning of the; war, this provincial autonomy has been severely assailed.
Under the urgency of war, the dominion government has passed a number of laws curtailing the activities of the provinces to a large extent. We are often told that this centralizing policy is of a temporary character only; however, I must frankly admit that, this statement, in itself, does not constitute, in my opinion, a sufficient guarantee of an eventual return to normal conditions at the close of the war.
For these various reasons, the citizens of the province of Quebec, fearing, more than ever, that their provincial autonomy might disappear, are averse to supporting the old political parties who have both, each in its turn, shown tendencies toward centralization.
Once more, I say that they wish to cooperate with their English-speaking fellow-citizens. They are ready, as they were in 1867, to extend to them a loyal offer of cooperation in the erection of a great nation. They claim, with 'reason., that cooperation between the various elements of our population, when properly understood, does not mean assimilation, but the very opposite.
In conclusion, I ask my English-speaking fellow-citizens not to judge the ideals actuating the citizens of Quebec from reports that are too often fantastic. I believe these ideals are perfectly and briefly described in the following few sentences taken from the concluding remarks of a lecture given by Father Lionel Groulx, at the Monument National, in Montreal, on September 16, 1942:
Let us re-create our economic, political and national solidarity. Yes, doubtless, we form only a small, a very small people. We are reminded of this fact often enough, at the present time, when we are ceaselessly told that minorities have to submit to the harsh rule of majorities. But we know that, in the eyes of God, nations are not valued by their material, political or military strength, but by the nobility of their souls. And our faith, as well as our history, teach us that, in heaven, there is a merciful and generous Providence for the small nations who have the strength to accomplish their mission.
Topic: GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY