March 22, 1926

LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

The amendment has been declared out of order, as contrary to Rule 45. I suggested that the hon. member should move another one in conformity with rule 45. There is nothing now before the House.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

The main motion is before the House.

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LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Except the main motion, of course.

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CON

George Halsey Perley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE PERLEY (Argenteuil):

Mr. Speaker, at this late hour I shall not speak very long, but I would like to say a few words on this resolution.

In the first place, I take exception to the form of the resolution. I think I might make the same comment on it that the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre (Mr. Kennedy) did. I do not see how we can be called on to pass a resolution refusing to accept a responsibility when we have never been asked to accept it. I have another objection to the resolution, and that is that it raises indirectly the question of the future status of this Dominion, whether we are to stay out of the empire or not. I think a question of that importance should not be raised in this indirect way. It seems to me that if a matter of that kind is to be discussed it should be brought up by the government and some statement of government policy be given on the subject, in order that we may have a proper debate carried on from day to day, and that everybody may have a chance to express his opinion.

The hon. member for Labelle (Mr. Bourassa) has spoken to us a long time this evening on a great many subjects. May I suggest to him that when he is discussing a matter of this kind-really an important problem-he ought not to go over the whole past history of this

Canada's Imperial Relations

Dominion? As a matter of fact one is not surprised that he should remember with pride some of the things in the history of his ancestors, but the fact remains that we are now in the year 1926, and, as he said at the end of his speech, many things happened during the war. Precedents were created. Sir Robert Borden took a stand for this country which has never been equalled by any other Canadian statesman, a stand which resulted in our being recognized in every way as a nation having complete authority in all matters, not only of domestic concern, but in regard to outside questions affecting us as well.

Remarks have been made again this evening about our autonomy. Somebody said that it was absolutely unfettered and complete, a quotation, if I remember rightly from Mr. Asquith. The time has long since passed, Mr. Speaker, when any effort is being made in the Old Country to bring pressure on us, and no such effort will be made. No statesman over there would for a moment suggest that any pressure should be brought to bear on this country, and there is not a man in Canada, so far as I know, who would give up in the slightest degree our powers and our rights of self-government. Those things are all settled; we have got them; we are going to keep them; they are acknowledged by everyone; so why raise the question here? Why take up the time of this House in killing a dead horse?-for that is really what a great deal of this discussion amounts to.

The question before this country to-day and the empire is this: Can we so arrange matters that six independent countries shall work together in matters of foreign affairs and common concern? I am going to criticize this government for not taking some steps that I think they might have taken to help us along with this problem; and that could be accomplished by continuous consultation with the Motherland and with the other parts of the empire.

As I understand it, the great bulk of the people of this country want to continue our connection with the British Empire. The hon. member for Labelle this evening left me in a bit of a doubt. When he commenced his speech he said that he desired that the connection with Great Britain should be preserved, but when he came toward the end of his speech I could not make out where he stood, and I do not know now whether he thinks we should be independent or should continue as part of the British commonwealth of nations. However, the Prime Minister of this country, speaking in this House on June 9, 1924, stated his position. After oeinting

out that there were three avenues of political development, he said:

For my own part, I believe that the future of thi* Dominion will be happiest and best, most prosperous, and in every way most to the good, if its development is along the line on which it has been thus far, towards a fuller recognition of national status within that community of free nations which comprise the British Empire.

He went on to say that the imperial parliament was not a possible thing, and an imperial council was a thoroughly bad thing.

I entirely agree with him in both these statements, and in the idea that our best chance for future development lies within the British commonwealth of nations. But what has the Prime Minister done, and what has the government done, to try to bring that about? What have they done to further our relations with the rest of the empire?

In connection with our desiring to remain a part of the British Empire, I want to read from a statement which quotes a remark made by General Smuts, a man of as great ability,

I think, as anybody I have ever known. It quotes General Smuts as follows:

The empire was a priceless blessing and was to-day, with American abstention from the league, the main force supporting the advance of great human causes and ideals in the world. The maintenance of solidarity and a united front were therefore essential.

If we are to maintain the British commonwealth of nations we shall have to have more consultations from day to day than we have at the present time. We have to find some way, in between the Imperial conferences, by which we can have this consultation which is absolutely essential to our getting on together and seeing eye to eye in regard to matters of foreign affairs and common concern. As to the necessity of that and as to the feeling that people in England have on the subject, I want to read a couple of extracts. In the first place, Mr. Austen Chamberlain, when he brought in the Locarno treaty, referring to the Dominions, said:

Their liberty and freedom of action are safeguarded specifically under the treaty. It is recognized that only their own governments, acting with the authority of their own parliament, can undertake for them the obligations that we are asking the House of Commons to undertake for Great Britain, but we hope that we may discuss this matter fully whenever the next Imperial conference is set up, and that that Imperial conference 'may not be too long delayed. I do not think that it is possible to treat matters of this great consequence, covering so wide a field, by dispatch or cable across thousands of miles of ocean. For a true appreciation of the .position personal contact and personal explanation are necessary.

Now Mr. Chamberlain states a truth which we all know, namely, that you cannot discuss intricate and delicate matters unless you are

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Canada's Imperial Relations

face to face with the men with whom you are dealing. In connection with the same matter he said:

The Dominions could not be committed to obligations without their assent, but he earnestly hoped that not only might those negotiations not be an obstacle to future co-operation, but that they might excite in every government of the empire a keener desire to find a machinery by which our foreign policy could become in every act and at every hour the foreign policy of the empire and not of this country alone.

In other words, statesmen over there would welcome some method 'by which we should have continuous communication or consultation between the different parts of the empire, a method -by which the government here would be constantly informed through their own representative about what was happening over there. That representative would have no plenary power, but he would act in such a capacity the government would know from day to day exactly what was happening every hour as they cannot know from cables or letters. A number of thoughtful articles appeared in the London Times last year on this subject, and I should like to read an extract from just one of them:

If British foreign policy is to be one which will command the approval and support of all parts it must be the outcome of collective discussion and agreement about the ever-changing problems of the international world. Unless that consultation can be brought about it is only a question of time, as recent incidents have shown, for a crisis to arise which will show opinion so divided that action is paralyzed or the unity of the empire endangered.

We are living in a very interesting age. We are making now, in the British Empire, an experiment which has never been tried before in the history of the world. Canada has complete autonomy. Nobody has challenged it, and nobody ever will. When the hon. member for Labelle states that there are people in this country wihom he calls imperialists who want to have the control of affairs in Canada centred' in London, I think he is making a mistake. I do not know where they are. If there are any such people, they are a negligible quantity.

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IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

I do not think there is

any number of people suggesting that our affairs be settled in London.

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CON

George Halsey Perley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE PERLEY:

Centred.

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IND

Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa

Independent

Mr. BOURASSA:

Oh yes, the hon. member is quite right; I do not believe that either. But I think there is a large number of people who believe that all imperial affairs, even those which concern ourselves, should be settled in London.

Sir GEORGE PERLEY, The hon. member means Canadians?

Mr. BOURASSA, Yes.

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CON

George Halsey Perley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE PERLEY:

All I can say is that there must be very few of them. They must be a negligible quantity, because most of us in this country are of one mind. All governments from confederation on whether Liberai or Conservative, have asserted the right of this Canada of ours to govern herself and never was that right asserted more strongly than by the Conservative government during the war. If there were time to-night, I could cite several instances which came under my direct notice where steps were taken definitely to assert the right and authority of Canada in regard to her own affairs, whether they had to do with matters in this country or after our troops had left for overseas. I would also like to read, for the benefit of the hon. member for Labelle, a statement made by Lord Milner, one of the most ablest of the English statesmen, who has unfortunately passed away, regarding this delicate question. He said:-

The only possibility of a continuance of the British Empire is on a basis o-f absolute out-and-out equal partnership between the United Kingdom and the dominions. I say that without any kind of 'reservation whatsoever. It is very easy to say that; -but undoubtedly the working out of it in practice without bringing about the severance of relations between us and the dominions -will be one of the most complicated tasks which statesmanship -has ever had to face. I am not afraid of it, and yet I have to admit that the difficulties are such that our best efforts may end in failure. I hope not. At any rate, there is no other way out.

That is from a speech made by Lord Milner in England, and I heard him say it. It was a carefully made statement; it expresses the situation exactly as it stands, and I agree with every word of it.

I am one of those who hope and believe a way can be found for having the independent nations within the British Empire act together in matters of common concern in foreign affairs. I remember one Dominion day before the war when we had our annual dinner in London and I was in the chair, I made some similar remarks pointing out that the question was a difficult one, but that I believed the energies and abilities of the English nation were such that it could be solved. The hon. member for Labelle, who was present, said1 to me: you are just trying to square the cirde; you are trying to do the impossible. I am still of opinion that by care this question can be solved, but before it can be solved the government of this country should take the proper steps to see that we have some system of continuous consultation with the people of the rest of the empire.

I did not read the whole of the Prime Minister's remarks of June, 1924, but I take

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it for granted we all desire to remain as part of the British commonwealth of nations, and I am starting with that assumption. If that is so and if we are to avoid breaks and make the thing work, wTe must have some other method of consultation. From a business point of view it is idle to think we can get along under the present system. When I came back from England-naturally I took much interest in and heard a great deal about this question-it was my pleasure to call upon the present Prime Minister and to talk the matter over with him. He has always been most courteous to me, but I am going to charge him now with exhibiting either indifference or neglect with regard to this important matter. He gave me all the time I wanted to talk the matter over and to explain my feelings in regard to it. I had ideas of my own as to how the plan ought to be carried out, but that is a secondary matter. Ail I want to press home to-night is that some way must be found of continuous consultation among the various parts of the empire if it is to hold together. It is impossible to imagine our going on as we are now with the possibility at any moment of some serious question developing. The inaction of the government in this respect has brought us into difficulties on several1 occasions. The despatch about Chanak would never have happened if there had been any system of consultation by which somebody close to the government had been in London and could have talked these matters over with the foreign secretary or the Prime Minister and have been given access to them for that purpose.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I do not wish to interrupt my hon. friend, but I think he knows, with respect to the Ohanak communication that came from the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, that even the members of the British government had not had a cabinet meeting in regard to it. They did not know anything about it and they repudiated the message afterwards. So I fail to see how, even if we had had a representative in London, we should have had a word to say about it.

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CON

George Halsey Perley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE PERLEY:

I accept what the Prime Minister has said. I thought there was some dispute about that subject; it was not very definite whether it happened or not.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

The late Mr. Bonar Law said-I do not remember the exact words he used-it was taking a big chance with the whole imperial structure for a communication of that kind to be sent without a consultation between the different

members of the government. I think the present Prime Minister of England has also made it quite apparent that one of the reasons he left the Unionist ministry was because of the way in which that despatch was sent out.

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CON

George Halsey Perley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE PERLEY:

Did Mr. Churchill not state that the cabinet had been consulted?

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

No. I think

he claimed the then Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, had knowledge of it, but I do not think he said for a moment all the cabinet had.

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CON

George Halsey Perley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE PERLEY:

Whether that is correct history or not has really nothing to do with the argument I am trying to make. If it did not happen in that case, it happened in some others. Perhaps Lausanne would be s. better example. At any rate I simply want to make that argument. I am firmly convinced that if the government really want to find a way of making independent nations within the British commonwealth work together, they must help provide some system of consultation which will be continuous. Backing that up, I read another extract from the Times article:

If the Dominions and Great Britain then find themselves unable to work together we shall at least know that the empire has perished because there is a real and unbridgeable gulf between the opinions of its parts. But it is at least permissible to believe that, despite all changes in status, they will succeed, in the future as in the past, in working together, if only they are provided with means for understanding the international problems with which they have to deal.

In conclusion, I may say that I have spoken many times in London on themes similar to this. I have tried to put before the people there our feelings and desires in Canada and the fact that some way must be found by which Canadians shall have something to say about the foreign affairs of the commonwealth of nations. Never have I found anybody who did not acquiesce and agree with that. As for the method, may I say to the Prime Minister that I am sure the statesmen of Great Britain would welcome any plan put forward by the government of this country to bring about this consultation? It was suggested at one time during the war that there might be a representative of the Dominion government in England, either a minister or some official who would have access to the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and a resolution of the war cabinet was passed in 1918 which provided that, in order to secure continuity in the work of the Imperial War Cabinet and a permanent means of consultation during the war on the more important

Easter Adjournment

questions of common interest, the prime minister of each dominion should have the right to nominate a cabinet minister, either as a resident or as a visitor in London, to represent him at meetings of the Imperial War Cabinet, to be held regularly between plenary sessions. That authority was never taken advantage of, and I urge as strongly as I can on the government of the day that they give this matter their consideration and that, instead of the inaction which has characterized them during the last four years, they undertake in earnest to find some way by which the different parts of the empire, so far as Canada can bring about that result, may consult continuously with a view to obviating any possibility of friction or of serious difference of opinion.

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LIB

Georges Parent

Liberal

Mr. PARENT:

When representations were made in this matter by the hon. member, was he a member of the cabinet?

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CON

George Halsey Perley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE PERLEY:

It was when I was about to resign my position as High Commissioner in 1922; I came back to Canada and consulted with the Prime Minister before actually putting in my resignation. Now, I submit that this is too serious a question to be brought up in the form of a private member's resolution, and I take exception to the method that has been adopted. It seems to me that if we are to discuss the matter we should do so on a motion by the government, with a statement of their policy. For these reasons I move the adjournment of the debate.

Motion agreed to and debate adjourned.

On motion of Mr. Mackenzie King the House adjourned at 11.37 p.m.

Tuesday, March 23, 1926

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March 22, 1926