Mr. E. LAPOINTE:
Quite true, the officers of the Great War veterans proclaimed their neutrality. But it is also true that the returned soldiers by thousands have evinced their sympathy with the strikers of Winnipeg. In order to try to show that the strikers are animated by Bolshevistic ideals, much is said of their having issued their famous licenses with the words, " By leave of the strike committee." The strikers had no right (to do this, Mr. Speaker. Such a usurpation of power cannot be tolerated in any constitutional country. They made a mistake, and they seem to have realized it, because they have discontinued that course of action. But is that a sign of Bolshevism and disloyalty? The first city in any British country which gave such an example was the city of Belfast. A few months ago when the gas and electricity workers joined the strike, Belfast went without light except so far as the strike committee gave leave to relax their prohibition in that regard. Yet nobody will gainsay that Belfast is a loyal city. It is the loyal city 'par excellence-it is the
[Mr .E. Lapointe.]
capital of loyalism. Belfast is so deeply and profoundly British that the mere prospect of self government being given to Ireland kindled the flames of rebellion four years ago. The strikers at Belfast were wrong when they arrogated that right to themselves; so were the strikers at Winnipeg; but the latter are not more antiBritish or disloyal than the former.
With regard to the action of the Government in trying to effect a settlement of the strike, it has been rather' unfortunate. Senator Robertson seems to have sided with one party to the struggle, and obviously his usefulness as a mediator is gone, and I do not wonder that he is on his way back to Ottawa. His last performance in sending an appeal to Mr. Gompers, the head of the American Federation of Labour, is a most extraordinary one. Here is that despatch as I find it in the Montreal Star:
President of the American Federation of Labour,
May 29.-A general sympathetic strike involving some ninety-five unions was called in the City of Winnipeg for May 15, resulting in a complete tie up of all business and declaration by iStrike Committee of control over civic affairs as well as interference with provincial and federal employees.
As is the case in all general strikes of this nature it has already defeated itself, but I feel it proper to say to you after toeing on the ground for several days that in my opinion the prestige and authority of international unions whose endeavouring, to embroil their members in other cities in sympathetic strikes in support of the lost cause here, should receive the earnest and serious consideration of the executives of the various organizations concerned, particularly of what is know as the metal trades.
The underlying motive in calling the strike is undoubtedly in support of what is known as the "One Big Union," movement and which has for its purpose the destruction of the international trades unions if possible. Will you give this matter your personal attention and communicate with the executives of the various internationals as you may desem desirable.
This is an appeal, clamouring for help, by a Canadian minister of the Crown to a foreign labour leader.
.More humiliating action on the part of a responsible minister in a British country has never before been witnessed, and I hope may never be witnessed again. It stands as a monument to the statesmanship and national ideals of that combine of the best brains of the country which was once gathered together in Canada by some sort of collective bargaining under the name of Union Government.
I have no hesitation in saying that the Acting Minister of Justice (Mr. .Meighen)
was the last man in the world who should have been selected to act as conciliator or mediator. Nobody has more admiration than I have for the ability and talent of the minister, but his temperament, mentality and training disqualify him altogether for the difficult task of mediator. He stands in Canada as the Apostle of arbitrary enactments and despotic legislation. He is the father of the closure in this House. His Italian hand may be discerned in the War-time Elections Act, that nefarious piece of legislation which is still a blot on the statute books of Canada. If there exists in some quarters of the country a feeling of distrust of Parliament and Parliamentary institutions, I believe the Acting Minister of Justice is one of those who are largely responsible for it. Be that as it may, he is so considered by quite a number of people in the country, and he will not be welcomed and trusted by those people as a fair mediator. When, a few weeks ago, I moved in this House that labour should be given representation on the Board of Directors of the Canadian National Railways, it was the Acting Minister of Justice who said in reply that I was favouring a very unsound, principle. He was unable to understand that employees of a railway have an interest in the system different from and larger than the interest of the rest of the community. Yet the principle of allowing labour a share in the management of industry is accepted to-day and advocated by both employers and employees in Great Britain and the United States as the best way to enlist the whole soul and energy of the workingman in the thing he is doing. Individual employers in that respect have been ahead of legislation and universal practice. They have set an example which has, in all cases, been most successful. Why does not the Government of Canada set an example in this country? Why refuse a reasonable concession now and be forced to grant it afterwards? The Government may yet grant it so that such concession of a fair demand shall not take on the appearance of a surrender on the one side and a triumph on the other. I do not wonder that the labour men of Winnipeg could not consider my hon. friend as being able to enter into their minds sympathetically, in order to discover their ideals, aims and desires.
But the situation is becoming more serious every day, in spite of ministerial optimistic announcements we have daily at the opening of the House and the interested denials in the newspapers. Still I ask: What shall we do? What shall the Government do? The Mathers' Commission does not possess the authority or prestige that would give its report or its finding a large degree of influence. It is by no means representative. As was stated in the last issue of Maclean's Magazine by a member of the Press Gallery, it could hardly be considered as a satisfactory camouflage, and that was all it was intended to be. The commission was told in all the cities: " There is something rotten in the state of Denmark." We all knew that. Why does not the Government issue a call for a large national conference of employers and employees, as was done in England? If labour in Canada acts as labour acts in England, why should not Canadian statesmanship be able to follow the example of British statesmanship? Let such a conference be called and let labour select its own representative. When a man is selected by the Government to represent labour on a committee, or commission, or conference of some kind, that man does not properly represent labour; he represents the Government. I have the fullest confidence that the Canadian employers and employees could find a common ground and agree together as British employers and employees have succeeded in doing. In the meantime, as a token of goodwill, could not Parliament and the Government agree to have a labour representative on the Board of Directors of the Canadian National railways?
The Government states that it has no power to enact eight-hour day legislation. I admit there is grave doubt as to that, but there is no doubt that the Government can enact eight-hour day legislation as to its own public works, and such legislation would go a long way towards securing the general adoption of that reform. Something must be done quickly to endeavour to convert class struggle into class harmony, to convert retaliation into reciprocity. But Mr. Speaker, I believe the Government has already delayed too long. Something must be done now, and these are my concluding words to the Government: Do something and do it now.