February 14, 1929

LIB

Samuel William Jacobs

Liberal

Mr. JACOBS:

Will the hon. gentleman

permit me to say that this parliament is contributing $7,000 per year to Doctor Banting.

Titles oj Honour-Mr. Bird

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UFA
LIB
PRO

Thomas William Bird

Progressive

Mr. BIRD:

With respect to Doctor Banting this house has acted with praiseworthy generosity. Let me proceed to stigmatize this motion once more. This idea of bringing titular distinctions back to Canada-and I do not care whether the title is before the name or after it-is just a revival of ideas that ought to have been banished from this world hundreds of years ago. They have existed only by their appeal to human vanity or else they would have vanished. Human vanity is the enduring thing and anything that appeals to it unfortunately endures with it. That is why these things have endured.

I sometimes think prefixes and suffixes are just like an appendix: they are the survivals of conditions that have long ago vanished. When we were climbing trees and eating the fruit from the top branches, an appendix had a function to perform, but in these civilized times an appendix is a liability and not an asset to any human being. It is liable, by its very existence, to upset the order of the body. It gives the doctors their chance. These prefixes and suffixes, these sirs and dukes and lords and LL.D's and D.D's all belong to the same order of things: they originated in medieval times and were meant to indicate class distinctions, those good old times when they prayed Heaven that they might be made content to stay in the position in which it had pleased Providence to call them. Those were the cast-iron, water-tight distinctions of medieval times. They had some excuse then. Probably civilization might not have escaped the chaos that followed the downfall of the Roman Empire if society had not been crystallized into these hard' and fast distinctions. But what reason have we to perpetuate these class distinctions now?

I should like to compare the obligations which attached to those distinctions in their origin with those that are associated with them norv. In the good old days of knighthood, which Tennyson so picturesquely tells us about, to be a knight meant to right wrongs, to defend the weak, to serve God and to honour the king. Whoever heard of a knight, or one of those vain Canadians that are lusting for knighthood, righting wrongs, or defending the weak, or fearing God, or honouring the king? Why, they dishonour the king. The hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George has just revealed to us that these knights or these distinguished Canadians are so vain that they defy King George. King George has graciously conceded to Canada

that no more titles shall be worn by Canadians and yet they have smuggled them in. Some third-rate power, somewhere in the world, has endowed some more or less worthy Canadian with a star or a ribbon and that Canadian, in his swollen vanity, has defied King George, has defied the Canadian government. Loyalty versus vanity! Yes, they do not honour the king; they dishonour him.

In conclusion let me repeat that these relics of times gone by are a menace to the body politic. I do not think this is an unimportant question. In that regard I disagree with the hon. member for North Winnipeg (Mr. Heaps). I sometimes think we have a lack of sense of proportion in regard to. matters which come before the house. This is an important question; it strikes at the very root of progress. If you are going to allow this reactionary spirit to creep back into Canada; if this house is going to open the gate ever so little, you are going to enervate the arm of progress; you are going to clutter up the ideals that we have been entertaining for a few years. It is a very important matter and what the hon. member for Labelle (Mr. Bourassa) told us the other day out of his personal reminiscences, struck one as being almost terrible in its significance-to think that in times gone by Canadian governments, under the leadership of men who were truly great, have been so venal that they would sell positions in the Canadian Senate to those who were capable of paying the price. It does not matter what more is said or revealed in the course of this session; that one revelation stands out as the most significant-to think that the greatest men of our past history should have such an imperfect ethical conception that they would use democratic institutions as matters to be bought and sold, thereby endangering the welfare of the people of Canada. If you are going to put into the hands of the government of Canada-I do not care who is at the head if it; I do not care if the Archangel Gabriel is taken in as private secretary-something to give away that is of value to the rich men of the country, you are going to open the way to the defeat of the will of the people. There is no other way of looking at the question. Moreover, you are going to encourage the development of an atmosphere in which it will be very difficult to conceive, let alone carry into effect, anything of a democratic character, an atmosphere creating a class distinguished by great names who will form a society within which there will be mutual recognition. This more than anything else will enervate the spirit which has been manifest in Canada for

Titles of Honour-Mr. Dunning

the past number of years, a spirit which has been determined to make the will of the people effective in this house. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I am opposed to the resolution going to the committee.

The house has not yet heard in a frank way what is the principle of the motion. Is it that the .committee should' honestly set to work to tighten up the conditions so that nobody anywhere in Canada can any longer wear these titles? Is that the idea? I do not think anyone of us can so interpret it. The idea of this motion, as interpreted by the speech of the mover, is that this committee should so canvass the situation that somehow or other, without unduly shocking the public opinion of Canada, there should be a return to the idea of merit and titular distinctions. If that is so, and I cannot see how it can be otherwise, surely we are not going into a committee to try and prevent these people from wearing these badges-these vain empty-headed Canadians who will wear these peacock feathers. Surely this parliament is not going to lower its dignity by setting a committee in motion with the idea of counteracting the vanity of certain Canadians, of whom there may be only half-a-dozen after all, whose honours may not be worth considering. I know that when the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Ladner) brought in his motion in 1923 in regard to Dr. Ashton, it was the order of the Legion of Honour that was in question. There was a great power, France, which, when it discovered there was a ban on titles in Canada, acted . as a great nation should, and as a great nation only can, and in a spirit of international courtesy, France said1: We cannot deliver the Legion of Honour to a Canadian citizen. So I am sure that it is only some little back-woods nation in, perhaps central Africa, that is bestowing these orders, and why should we worry one moment because some Canadians we have never heard of are determined to wear these orders in spite of anything this .parliament or King George has said?

Hon. CHARLES A. DUNNING (Minister of Railways and Canals): From some of

the speeches which have been delivered in the course of this debate, one would almost think that there was somewhere a proposal to restore titles in Canada. Looking over Hansard, in order to ascertain the true situation, I find that only one member who has addressed the house thus far has indicated even a qualified support of the idea of reintroducing titles into this country, and that was the hon. member who moved the resolu-

tion (Mr. Cahan), and he spoke in moderate terms. But all who have followed him from either side of the house have I think expressed very clearly what I am sure all of us believe to be the will of the people of Canada, which is that titles should not be restored in this country. When that is the case, why should we, in addressing the house attempt in any way to misrepresent the situation? I would not have spoken at this time were it not for the remarks of the hon. member for North Huron (Mr. Spotton), who endeavoured to put into the mouth of the Prime Minister words which he did not utter, and endeavoured to attribute to the Prime Minister a desire to see titles restored in this country. Not only do the Prime Minister's own words not permit of that construction, but I am in a position to say, knowing every member of the government, that not one member of the government is in favour of restoring titles in Canada, and the Prime Minister least of all.

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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:

Hear, hear.

Mr. DUNN'ING: The remarks of the Prime Minister on the subject and the remarks of the hon. leader of .the opposition were perfectly proper; they deallt with the subject matter of the resolution, which asked for a committee to consider and report upon the advisability "of qualifying, amending or rescinding the address to His Majesty." All of the speeches to which we have been listening for the past few days bear upon the possibility of that one word "rescinding" being uppermost in the mind of the committee, if and when it is appointed, when, as a matter of fact, every member of this house knows that if such a committee were appointed, the last thing it would consider recommending to this house would foe the restoration of titles. Whatever qualification it might introduce by way of getting rid of some of the anomalies referred to by the mover, or the Prime Minister or the leader of the opposition, anomalies which are well known to all of us, it is unthinkable that a committee of this house in this day and generation should bring in a report which would indicate a desire on the part of this House of Commons that titles should be restored in Canada. That is not debatable, indeed, because as I said at the outset, the cnlv member thus far speaking who had supported that idea is the mover of the resolution himself.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

Where do you find that in my speech? I cannot find it.

Titles oj Honour-Mr. McGibbon

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

My hon. friend denies it himself, and I accept his denial. I have the words here that he used; they are very moderate, and if he will permit me, I will read them. He said:

For myself I am of the view, having regard to His Majesty's position in the government ot this Dominion as well as of the empire, that this House of Commons should not restrict and in fact prohibit His Majesty, in the exercise of his prerogative, from conferring distinctions and decorations upon his subjects in Canada who have given distinguished services to the state or to society.

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CON
LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

My ho-a. friend was not referring there to titles?

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CON
LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

If my hon. friend was referring only to distinctions, I beg his pardon.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

The hon. leader of the opposition made that so distinctly clear that there dhould be no doubt about it.

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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

I have not been accustomed to regard the hon. leader of the opposition as always speaking for my hon. friend from St. Lawrence-St. George.

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CON
LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

I was only taking my

hon. friend's own words, and I am sorry if I did him an injustice. Perhaps he will forgive now that I have given him an opportunity to correct me. There is of course a difference between a title such as Sir or Lord, and a distinction which appears only in the form of letters after a person's name, such as many hon. members are now in a position to write after their names. ^ It does seem rather anomalous that while universities have the right to confer the kind of distinction involving letters after one's name, His Majesty the King apparently is not desired to grant distinctions involving the same thing. That is one of the anomalies which might justify consideration by a committee. On the other hand, might I with all respect point out that this House of Commons can scarcely with propriety say to His Majesty that we desire him not to grant one kind of distinction, but that we shall be very happy if he will grant some other kind of distinction which lies within his power. I doubt very much if it would be courteous on our part, to say the least, to indicate to His Majesty the kind of distinctions that we would be willing to 78594-8

accept, as well as those distinctions that we do not desire should be conferred on British subjects resident in Canada.

My own view is that this committee should not be appointed. It is very evident-I am not impugning in any way the motives of my hon. friend for St. Lawrence-St. George-that an effort will be made to convey the impression in the committee, if it is appointed, just as my hon. friend from North Huron did in his address a few moments ago, that the government of Canada is desirous of bringing back the bestowal of titles, when, as a matter of fact, nothing is further from the truth Personally I intend to vote even against the setting up of a committee.

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CON

Peter McGibbon

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. PETER McGIBBON (Muskoka-On-tario):

It is not my intention to occupy the time of the house very long; in fact, it seems to me, after the speech of the Minister of Railways (Mr. Dunning), that the government and its followers are wandering into the bush so far as this resolution is concerned.

As one who supported the abolition of titles in 1919, it does seem to me that the present resolution of the hon. member for St. Law-rence-St. George (Mr. Cahan) is quite in order. I think that in 1919 we were affected more or less with a kind of war hysteria, and we were led to do some things that possibly might better have been left undone. I do not wish to be understood for a moment as supporting titles as we ordinarily understand them in this country, but I do think that this parliament went too far when we deprived ourselves of all our power to do honour to any of our own citizens. It seems to me to imply a lack of courage and a lack of confidence in ourselves when we are constantly surrounding ourselves with a hedge of prohibitions so that we may do no wrong. The name of Doctor Banting has been mentioned frequently in this debate. I do not know what right these hon. gentlemen have to speak for Doctor Banting, but when hon. gentlemen get up here in parliament and make rash statements such as have been made here today regarding Doctor Banting, statements such as the hon. member for Southeast Grey (Miss Macphail) made regarding the men who won decorations during the war, they should back up their statements with proof. The mere statement of an alleged fact in this house does not make it a fact. I have never discussed the matter with Dr. Banting. I know he has been honoured by various universities, and he has graciously accepted those honours. But when a man has made one of the greatest discoveries in the history of the world, something that men

Titles of Honour-Mr. Edwards (Frontenac)

were seeking even when Christ was on earth, it seems to me regrettable that as a nation we are absolutely powerless to recognize his worth. It is true we granted him a few paltry thousand dollars. If he had commercialized his discovery he could have been a multimillionaire overnight. So we have done little or nothing in recognition of his great discovery.

I grant you that in the past the conferring of titles has been abused, but I firmly believe that the people of Canada are quite capable of exercising wise, sane and judicial discretion in honouring those citizens who have so signally benefited their native land. We passed the resolution of 1919 because in the background we were led to believe there were thousands and thousands of people waiting for war decorations, people who had never been at the front but had been occupied in war work here or in England. That was largely the argument used when we passed that sweeping resolution. To-day we find it is full of anomalies. As one who supported that resolution, I think those anomalies should be removed, and for that, if for no other reason, this motion should go to a committee. It is ridiculous to my mind that foreign decorations should be worn by Canadians and yet His Majesty King George be precluded from conferring similar decorations on our citizens. The situation is so absurd that it should be remedied without delay. Little as I think of this government, and anxious as I would be to see it put out of office, I would not be afraid to trust it to recommend to His Majesty the bestowal of honours, subject to certain safeguards that might be set up by parliament. I think that right should be inherent in the administration of the day. To my mind it belittles the dignity of this country that we should be so helpless that we cannot recommend the sovereign to honour those Canadians who have achieved so much for humanity.

As one without any ambition and without any hope in this regard, I sometimes wonder what is in the back of people's minds when they are so opposed to the merit of others being recognized. Is it a spirit of jealousy because they have fallen behind in the race of life that they are so anxious to withhold all reward to others? Or are we so democratic that we want to make everybody conform to the same standard as though turned out from one mould. Everybody knows that that cannot be done. We are born unequal. If the human race would grasp that fact, that at birth we are limited intellectually and cannot overcome the handicap, I think it CMr. McGibbon.]

would add much to our contentment and happiness.

Consequently we should not become afraid of this question as the hlinister of Railways (Mr. Dunning) perhaps is. We should not be afraid to send this resolution to a committee to discuss. And we should not be afraid to discuss it in this house. I think this parliament should have power to recognize the meritorious deeds of its own people. I am utterly opposed to creating knights, to making class distinctions; but to say, no matter what a Canadian may achieve in the field of science, medicine, art, literature, that parliament can do nothing to show their recognition of such achievement, is putting a limitation upon its powers that we should not allow. Therefore, sir, I shall vote in favour of this resolution, so that the committee to be appointed may see if out of the resolution of 1919 something cannot be gathered that is sane, workable and fair.

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CON

John Wesley Edwards

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. J. W. EDWARDS (Frontenac-Ad-dington):

I shall take but a few minutes,

Mr. Speaker, to touch on one phase of the discussion. I do not care whether people have titles or not; they are the same people. I want to express my disagreement with those who have gone into hysterics this afternoon in regard to class distinctions. I remember an expression 'of the late Sir Wilfrid Laurier, that he was democratic to the hilt, but when Her Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria saw fit in recognition of his great services to confer upon him a knighthood, he did not become less of a democrat. No person will say that Sir John A. Macdonald was less "John A." after he got his title of " Sir.'' So far as my limited experience and observation go I have been unable to see that the conferring of titles has made any particle of difference in those so honoured. To me they appear just the same ordinary individuals as they were before.

I intended to support this resolution for the reason that there are certain anomalies, which have been touched upon by the hon. member for Muskoka (Mr. McGibbon,) and which I think possibly a committee might be able to remove. But I do not know-I think perhaps there is a danger. Listening to the hon. member for Nelson (Mr. Bird) and some others who have expressed themselves in rather vigorous, if not violent, terms this afternoon, I think perhaps we should safeguard the country against the possibility of any titles being conferred upon such gentlemen. I do not think they would survive the honour.

Titles of Honour-Mr. Irvine

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CON
CON

John Wesley Edwards

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. EDWARDS (Frontenac):

Yes. Now, at times in the course of my somewhat extended political career I have felt, although I never had any desire for any person to call me Sir John, that if I had had conferred upon me some easily pronounced appellation, it might have relieved me from some other names that were not very pleasant. Perhaps that is one reason why some hon. members would like to have titles restored, so that when their friends or enemies could refer to them as Sir Charles, or by some other similar title, they might escape being called something worse. But in view of the statement made by the hon. Minister of Railways, Sir Charles Dunning-

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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February 14, 1929