June 25, 1925

LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

I do not think it becomes me to suggest what authority or right the provinces have in the matter. They jealously regard that as a question for their own governments to deal with.

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Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

The minister has

stated definitely -that in his judgment the Dominion government has not the right to ratify certain conventions. I ask, then, have the provinces that right?

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Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

I can only answer my hon. friend by assuming that the provinces have the full right, each within its own juridiction, to take the action recommended by the International Labour conference. If, accepting those recommendations, they so advise the federal government, then the federal govern-

Supply-Labour

ment will be glad to convey that information to Geneva.

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Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I understood that

these were treaty obligations. Is that not right?

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Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

They would be treaty

obligations when they had been properly adopted and ratified by the provinces and further ratified by the federal government in treaty form.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

The minister is

seeking to confuse the issue altogether. I am not speaking of some treaty in the future; I am speaking of a definite treaty already made, the treaty of Versailles. Now, are not these treaty obligations?

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Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

Not in my hon. friend's sense of the word.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Never mind my sense of the word. I am asking a straightforward question as to whether certain conventions, such as that relating to the eight hour day, are or are not treaty obligations.

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Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LIB

George Newcombe Gordon (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Is not that a question

of law?

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Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Mr. Chairman, I

am asking the minister whether he does not himself regard them as treaty obligations.

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Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

And the minister is not disposed to give my hon. friend the answer that he would like to receive. I will tell the hon. gentleman the plain unvarnished truth, and that is that Canada will at the proper time and in the proper manner enter into treaty obligations in relation to the eight hour day. When the various provinces, with certain constitutional restrictions, have taken the necessary action to place the federal government in a position to ratify such a treaty; but the federal government cannot act until that is done. My hon. friend may not have read the text of the decision which was handed down a few days ago from the Supreme court on this particular question; but he would hardly expect me to set up my personal judgment or to express any view of my own on a question which has so recently been submitted to the Supreme Court of Canada for decision.

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Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Did the Supreme

Court of Canada give any judgment whatever regarding Canada's obligations in relation to the treaty?

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Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

We shall secure a copy of the court's decision on the matter and give

it to the hon. gentleman for his information. I will not undertake to add to or take from that decision.

Mr. W00DSW70RTH: I am not discussing the Supreme court's decision; indeed, the whole text if read here would not touch the point I am raising. As I understand the matter, Canada entered into certain treaty obligations and signed the Peace treaty of Versailles; and the various conventions are the working out of that treaty. I understand that the Dominion of Canada has these obligations, and I understand further that no province can carry them out. It would seem to me therefore that the ratification of the treaty is a matter for the Dominion and not for the provinces. Does the Minister of Labour dispute that statement?

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

The Minister of Labour concedes that that is absolutely right, that the ratification of such a treaty would be the duty of the federal government when the provincial governments have indicated to the federal government that it has a right so to act on their behalf.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Mr. Chairman, I asked whether the ratification of a treaty would not come prior to the carrying out of its terms by the provinces. I submit that the ratification comes first; afterwards it is for the provinces to decide how that treaty is to be carried out in detail. Does the minister dispute that statement?

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

Surely my hon. friend will agree that any authority, before entering into an agreement, would decide on the proper way to make effective the terms of that agreement. Undoubtedly it would be altogether improper for Canada to undertake to ratify, on behalf of the nine provinces, something that the provinces themselves had absolute authority to deal with. This parliament could not impose its wish on the provinces with respect to certain matters that have been dealt with in the conventions and recommendations emanating from the International Labour conference. The trouble wiith my hon. friend is that he is trying to localize all these questions, and to deal with them here-I presume because he is here to deal with them. That might be a very desirable thing to do, but unfortunately under our constitution we cannot usurp the authority of the provinces and undertake, in complete disregard of provincial rights, a certain course of action with respect to matters that my hon. friend might like us to pursue. He has stressed this same question

Supply-Labour

so often, he has found fault so frequently with what he terms our "dereliction of duty," that I wish he would realize that Canada in this respect is doing all she is obligated to do under the treaty of Versailles in connection with the International Labour conference. Perhaps he would indicate one case wherein Canada has fallen short of discharging her international obligations. Certainly I am not informed of any such case. In other words, as these matters come along we have tried to deal with them in the proper way by referring them to the appropriate authorities. Last session, as my hou. friend knows, three of these conventions from the International Labour conference were passed through this House. We have not ratified them yet, for the simple reason that in one or two of the matters we have been waiting for the Mother Country to take similar action. We want to keep abreast of the imperial authorities in respect to these matters. I think my hon. friend should rather co-operate with us in doing that which we have the right to do, and not, on behalf of labour, ask us to take action in entire disregard of provincial rights. It cannot be done-and I say to my hon. friend it will not be done in that way. We are going to take cognizance of the rights of the provinces in all these matters and consult and co-operate with them.

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Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LAB

William Irvine

Labour

Mr. IRVINE:

Then, Mr. Chairman, I fear that Canada had really no right to sign the treaty of Versailles, since it has not the constitutional powers to carry into effect the principles of the treaty.

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Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

That is a rather difficult question for me to deal with. I think my hon. friend realizes that the treaty of Versailles was signed by Canada as a federal state and involved principles which do not apply to many of the conventions and recommendations which now come from the International Labour conference, and which this federal State has no right to impose on the provinces. The two propositions are entirely different.

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LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

The point I have

raised, Mr. Chairman, was, I believe, raised by counsel for the Ontario government before the Supreme court. The point has also been raised, I am given to understand, before the International Labour conference. It is a question as to which should come first,- action by the provincial authorities, or the ratification of the treaty by the federal authorities. I submit that if Canada had the right to sign the treaty-and I think she had-then as a nation Canada must go forward

and ratify the treaty. The carrying out of its details is a subordinate question. I think it is evident to all that in treaty obligations the provinces have no juridiction whatever, and they might very well take the ground that they must wait until Canada ratifies the treaty before they decide their own policy.

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Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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PRO

Neil Haman McTaggart

Progressive

Mr. McTAGGART:

Was not the. treaty

signed conditionally on the provinces agreeing to its provisions?

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR
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June 25, 1925