July 10, 1917

LIB

Charles Marcil

Liberal

Mr. MARCIL:

In the centre of Canada farming is a basic industry, and all over Canada agriculture is important, but there are parts of the country where mining or fishing are of the first importance. As I understand the explanation of the Solicitor General, no man can claim exemption because of his calling, but any man who cannot be replaced may be exempted because of the importance of the services which he renders here. This principle, I understand, is based upon the principle adopted in England. A man in any calling, therefore, may be exempted, and a man in any calling may be forced to go to the front.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

It would be hardly correct to use these words with regard to exceptions, but using them with regard to exemptions, my hon. friend's understanding is quite correct.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

The subclause that we are now discussing is an exemption provision; it is a provision to enable everybody to be exempted. There is no necessity for the following subclauses in the section, because this subclause covers everything and everybody. In section 2 provision is made far the compulsory service of everybody, and in section 11 provision is made for the exemption of everybody. This is supposed to be a deliberative body, responsible to the people for the result of legislation passed with the authority of the House. We are told that the purpose of this Bill is selective conscription, but after over an hour's discussion we have not a scintilla of information as to what the selection is going to be, or on what basis it is going to be made. Parliament is asked to endorse a Bill of that character, affecting the lives and the honour of 100,000 of its citizens. Is the Solicitor General serious when he tells us that there is to be no regulation by authority of Parliament of the conduct of tribunals under this section?

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I was quite serious

when I told the committee What I did tell it, but I did not say what my hon. friend

suggests. Any regulation recommended by the central appeal judge and approved by the Governor in Council is made under the authority of this Parliament and may look to uniformity in the application of this Act. They have been able in Great Britain to formulate such regulations; there is no reason why they should not !be able to do so here, having regard, of course, to the somewhat different conditions prevailing in Canada. I cannot answer the extreme assertions of the member for Edmonton that this clause provides for the exemption of everybody. A similar clause was in the British Act, but it did not provide for the exemption of everybody there. I know no reason to believe that we cannot have as intelligent tribunals in Canada as they have in England. But we cannot with too great particularity or solidity of rule define just what a tribunal must do in any individual case. Nor can we say in broad language to the tribunal: exempt a man if you think it is in the national interest, and send him to the front if you think that is in the national interest. One would be much too narrow; the other very much too broad; a line must be found between. The line is this: that we endeavour here to lay down principles that will guide the tribunal in determining what is in the national interest and what is not.

Sir WILFRID LAUR1ER: What is that principle?

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The principles are set out in (a), (b), (c), (d), (e) and (f) of section 11. These are almost identically the principles that have been found sufficient in England. After many months' trial of the statute there, various amendments were suggested to Parliament and various improvements proposed in connection with different features of the Act, but they left those principles as they defined them initially, because they had found them satisfactory. It is not, I think, asking the committee too much to suggest that we have at least some regard to the experience of Great Britain in that matter. We will get the advantage of their decisions wherever they will be of use to us. I do not think, however, that we can afford on the one hand, to be more exacting, or, on the other hand, to be broader and more indefinite.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

Perhaps the Solicitor General will tell us who amongst the citizens of Canada cannot be exempted under subsection (a)?

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

It is not the part of the Solicitor General to perform here the duty

of tribunals. The duty of the Solicitor General is to explain the principle of the Act, not to say what the tribunals should do in any individual case. But if my hon. friend were himself a member of the tribunal, I should not have the least hesitation in bringing before him many men whom he and I commonly know and to whom he would have no difficulty in applying those principles.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

It is not a question, as

to how far my friend and I might agree in regard to the application of these principles; it is a question of the responsibility of this Parliament of Canada for knowing how those principles are to be applied. I asked what I thought was a very reasonable and simple question, but my hon. friend was not able, or not willing, to give me an answer, and for the very good reason that only one answer was possible, and that was that under the section as it reads any tribunal may exempt any citizen of Canada from military service. There is no doubt about that. Will any member of this committee point out what citizen of Canada may not bo exempted under this subsection from military service by a tribunal?

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CON

William Humphrey Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. W. H. BENNETT:

Assuming that a man were

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I have asked a plain question, and asking another question is not answering mine. I have asked a plain question, and if I cannot get an answer to it I shall have to be permitted -to continue my remarks.

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CON

William Folger Nickle

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. NICKLE:

Take the case of a man engaged in ;a non-essential .and non-productive industry.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

Who is to say that the

industry is non-essential and non-productive except the tribunal? And the tribunal can say whatever it .pleases.

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CON

William Folger Nickle

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. NICKLE:

That is not the question

my hon. friend asked. He .asked any member of the committee to name any class of men who would not be exempt under this subsection. I say that under that subsection no man ishould be exempted who was engaged in a non-productive and non-essential industry, because it would not be in the national interests to exempt him.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

The answer to that is that the tribunals are vested with the fullest possible discretion, and it is for them to say whether a given industry is a national necessity or not. If my hon. friend from Kings-

ton (Mr. Nickle) cannot give me a diiect answer to the question that I asked, it is probably not within the competence of any member of this House to do so. So the matter stands exactly as I have stated it, and certainly we are not dealing fairly by the people of Canada unless from our places and at this time we require from the Government some method of limitation or direction that will make it possible for us to .say to the people of Canada: This is a

declaration of principle which will be given effect to under these circumstances and to this extent.______________________________

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I do not know but that a tribunal which flagrantly and dishonestly violated its duty could not exempt any person. I do not assume, however, that our tribunals are going to be dishonest, negligent or unfaithful; I presume they will be honest, diligent and faithful. Assuming that, then I know that in the application of the Act the men can be secured in Canada, and without injury, I believe, to the country. No judge of the land interpreting the law is not able and competent within the sphere of his own jurisdiction to remit the sentence of any criminal and release him; he is, however, liable to appeal, and so is this tribunal. All these appeals come before a final court, and it is for that final court to interpret this statute, just as it is for the final court in the land to interpret other statutes. That is a very brief statement of the principle of all enactments that are left in their working out to judicial or semi-judicial tribunals. I know of no other way of effecting the end desired, but I should be very glad of suggestions from the hon. member for Edmonton (Mr. Oliver) as to how he would work out selective drafts if he had charge of the matter himself.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

What I would say is this. I am not in favour of the principle of selective draft as it seems to be understood by the framers of this Bill. I certainly think that the principle embodied in the Militia Act, and which has recently been adopted by the United States, is a very much more desirable principle, because it is based on fairness, while the principle here is based absolutely on unfairness, and we are leaving the administration of the Act entirely to the good-will and honesty of the tribunals. Now that is not our business. Our business is to see that legislation passing through our hands is safeguarded so that it will he as little dependent as possible on the good-will or

honesty of those charged with its administration. That is our share of the responsibility, and I should be glad to assist in discharging my share of the responsibility.

If my hon. friend cannot bring down to this House a system of selective draft that will guarantee fair play between man and man, and between section and section of this country, then he should not bring down this measure at all. But as he proposes this selective system it is up to him and his colleagues to' bring before the House some measure that will guarantee that fairness which it is our responsibility as members of this Hu use to see embodied in the provisions of this or any other compulsory service Bill.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The Solicitor General

(Mr. Meighen), in the innocence of his heart, believes he has a system here which will -bring about, so far as any human system can, just what my hon. friend desires, namely, a fair system of selection. I may be right or I may be wrong, but I have asked in vain for a better system from my hon. friend. He -has referred very vaguely to the United States system. Will he explain to the House wherein the United States system differs for the better from this?

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I cannot. I am not familiar with the United States system, but I know this: In the United 'States system there is .an enumeration of -the people. There is also a distribution of responsibility according to population, and after selection has been -made there is a balloting as between those who have been selected. That is a guarantee of fair play as between state and state, as between man and man, and as between occupation and occupation. But there is no provision of that character in this Bill. I do not ask my hon. friend, when he brings in -a Bill, to bring in such a Bill as was introduced in the United States, but I ask when he is 'bringing in a Bill based upon the selective system, that such a measure be introduced as will guarantee a fair selection; that is -all I.n&k.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

My hon. friend .states

that the United States' system differs from ours in two particulars. First, there is an allotment of a certain number of men from each state. If my hon. friend is anxious that that system be introduced into Canada would he be good enough to say so, and .state how he would make the allotment? In the second place, he thought that the balloting added to the fairness. Will he

,be good enough to explain how the introduction of a hit-and-miss selection by ballot is going to add to the fairness of selection?

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

My hon. friend is pushing his inquiries very closely, and if I am compelled to answer him I will say very frankly that the system of selection 'by ballot has been considered the fairest system since the foundation of the world and since people began to count.

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July 10, 1917