January 18, 1937

CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

The initiation of it, yes; but if he had left England, then parliament would have had to deal with the situation and pass an act in order to create a demise of the crown. There is no demise on the mere signing of abdication.

Topic:   GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH
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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

The authorities I have consulted on the matter all indicate that demise may take place in one of two ways, either by the death of the sovereign or by abdication.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

Yes, when accepted by parliament.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

That is quite sufficient for me, and that is all I wish to convey to my hon. friend

that the abdication of the sovereign was what in effect created the demise of the crown. The fact that parliament subsequently agreed to the abdication is quite a secondary consideration.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

Oh, no; it is equally essential as the signing of the abdication.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Well, assuming it is equally essential, it could not have altered the situation one whit so far as this parliament is concerned, unless my hon. friend is going to suggest that we might have held up the abdication for a week by waiting until the members were summoned. Perhaps that is the point he has in mind.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

I will make my point at

the proper time.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

This government sought to meet the wishes of King Edward in his communication, namely, that effect might be given to the abdication as quickly as possible and that his brother might succeed to the throne without delay, so that there might be as little disturbance as possible politically throughout the country. And that was the wish which the British government sought to carry out. My hon. friend may be contending that we might have waited for a week or two and not assented to the abdication until parliament could have been brought together here.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

I am suggesting no more

than I stated, that the act of signing the document of abdication did not effect an abdication until that was accepted by parliament.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Well, I will not contend further with my hon. friend on the point. It is a very minor one so far as the

issue that I am discussing now is concerned,

no matter which way it is decided. The real question at issue at the moment is whether the present government adopted a proper procedure in requesting and consenting to the act which was passed by the British parliament, rather than refusing to take that course and summoning our own parliament to deal with the matter by legislation. If we had adopted the latter course there would meanwhile have been uncertainty, confusion and doubt as to the legality of executive and judicial acts. We would have been inconveniencing every hon. member of this house; we would have been adopting what I think hon. members and the country generally would have regarded as an absurd course, losing altogether the spirit of the constitution and accepting some letter, straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. But more than that, I would like to know what hon. gentlemen opposite would have had to say about a government which found it necessary at that critical time in the history of the British commonwealth of nations to make Canada's apparent separation from the other members of the commonwealth so marked to all the world. That was the real alternative; that is what we would have been getting in the way of criticism to-day if we had waited for a week for Canada's parliament to assemble and act. Hon. gentlemen opposite would have been saying: When you had the Statute of Westminster before you, and when it contained a clause which gave you all the power needed to have a new sovereign become the King of Canada the moment he became King of the United Kingdom, and you did not take it, what possible explanation is there other than that you are seeking in some way separation from the rest of the empire? That is what we would have heard.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

Does the right hon. gentleman suggest that in view of the relations which exist between Canada and the United Kingdom there could be a King of Canada apart from the King of the United Kingdom? If so, I wish most emphatically to dissent from that suggestion.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I am saying what hon. members opposite would have said.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

Well, you might leave them to say it.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Some afternoon we might have a pleasant debate on that one question. But I certainly do not want to raise it at the moment.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

But the right hon. gentleman might make his argument without suggesting what other people would say, until they say it.

44 COMMONS

The Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

The trouble is my hon. friend interrupts so often that I

almost forget the argument.

May I draw the attention of hon. members to the clause in the Statute of Westminster under which action was taken? I have already read it in the order in council, but I think hon. members ought to observe how clear and emphatic it is. After what the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett.) has already pointed out, it should hardly be necessary for me to repeat it. But it may serve the purpose of helping to remove doubt if I remind the house that he and I are agreed on the propriety of the course pursued under this section. I shall read to the house the clause as it appears in the act:

4. No act of the parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this act shall extend, o-r be deemed to extend, to a dominion as part of the law of that dominion, unless it is expressly declared in that act that that dominion has requested, and consented to, the enactment thereof.

Hon. members will notice that the language used is, not that the government has consented, or parliament has consented, but that that dominion has requested and consented to the enactment thereof. I am reading from a collection of British dominion papers in The World's Classics edited with introduction and notes by Arthur Berriedale Keith, he being an outstanding authority on Constitutional matters. I read from this particular document because, opposite the word " dominion " there is an asterisk which directs attention to a footnote, and the note is as follows:

The necessity of parliamentary requests was negated by dominion representatives. See parliamentary debates 260, page 279.

The fact is that at the time this particular statute was being considered at Westminster it was moved in amendment that instead of the word "dominion" there should be substituted the word " parliament." But the mover of that amendment was told by the minister in charge of the bill that at the wish of the dominions themselves the word " parliament " should not be inserted, and that the word " dominion " should be left as it was, in order, as the right hon. leader of the opposition has pointed out this afternoon, that in the event of some emergency necessitating action by the government rather than parliament it would be possible for the government to act.

Now let me quote from the debate in the United Kingdom parliament, Parliamentary Debates, vol. 260, page 279:

(Parliament of the United Kingdom no-t to legislate for dominion except by consent.)

Sir J. Withers: I beg to move, in page 3, line 8, after the second word " that," to insert the words " the parliament of."

If my amendment is accepted the clause wrill read:

" No act of parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this act shall extend, or be deemed to extend, to a dominion as part of the law of that dominion, unless it is expressly declared in that act that the parliament of that dominion has requested and consented to the enactment thereof."

This amendment, to a certain extent, is a drafting amendment. The parliament of each dominion is always referred to as the authority for testing the opinion of that particular dominion, and, therefore, to make the clause read properly, the words I have suggested ought to be inserted.

Mr. J. H. Thomas: -

Mr. Thomas was secretary for the dominions at that time.

*-If I had only to consult my own personal wishes I should be quite willing to accept this amendment, but the clause was drafted in its present form at the request of the dominions themselves. The government were indifferent on this point, but the real answer is that as far as the government was concerned we did not care which method was adopted, but what is now proposed was put in at the request of the dominions.

Amendment negatived.

I think perhaps my right hon. friend may have been present at conferences where the matter was discussed, and among others may have given reasons why in his opinion it was better to allow the word "dominion" to stand rather than insert the word "government" or "parliament."

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I think that is correct.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

To meet possible emergencies. But may I draw the attention of tihe house to a further reason, which appears in the statute itself, for believing that it was not the intention by the use of the word "dominion" to imply parliament, but rather to leave it optional with the government. That reason appears from subsection 3, clause 9, which relates to Australia. It reads as follows:

In the application of this act to the Commonwealth of Australia the request and consent referred to in section 4 shall mean the request and consent of the parliament and government of the commonwealth.

Now if by "dominion" had been meant the parliament, the Australians would not have asked to have placed in the statute the section which I have just read, which says that notwithstanding what is said in section

The Address-Mr. Mackenzie King

4 with respect to any dominion, the request and consent of the parliament must be required, as well as that of the government of the commonwealth.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Air. BENNETT:

That was done at the instance of Sir Jaimes Latham, now the chief justice, then the attorney general. We discussed it the other evening.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

And Australia has never accepted section 4?

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January 18, 1937