January 19, 1937


Hon. FERNAND RINFRET (Secretary of State) moved for leave to introduce Bill No. 7, to amend the Dominion Franchise Act.


Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)




Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret (Secretary of State of Canada)



The purpose of the amendment is to postpone the revision of the existing list for one year. It is similar to the one adopted last year.

Motion agreed to and bill read the first time.



Hon. C. D. HOWE (Minister of Transport) moved that the house go into committee at the next sitting to consider the following proposed resolution: That it is expedient to introduce a measure to amend the Government Harbours and Piers Act to substitute the Minister of Transport for the Minister of Marine and Fisheries; to except from the operation of the act harbours under the management of the national harbours board; to confer on the minister power of appointment of officers, clerks and employees; to deal with the collection and disposition of tolls and dues and to charge certain expenses against such tolls and dues. He said: His Excellency the Governor General, having been made acquainted with the subject matter of this resolution, recommends it to the favourable consideration of the house. Motion agreed to.



On the orders of the day: Mr. 0. B. ELLIOTT (Kindersley): I wish to direct a question to the Prime Minister Death of Indian Boys (Mr. Mackenzie King) regarding the enlistment of Canadian volunteers in the Spanish civil war. The question is this: Is it the intention of the government to support the British policy of banning the recruiting of Canadian volunteers for the civil war in Spain?


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


Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

My hon. friend was kind enough to give me advance notice of this question. I shall give him at the moment an answer which will perhaps serve the immediate purpose, but the subject is a large one and there may be something more to be said with respect to it later on.

In view of recent developments, the question whether any special action should be taken regarding control of enlistment in Canada for military service in foreign countries has been under examination. Canada is not included in the twenty-seven countries, all European states, which are represented on the non-intervention committee organized to deal with the Spanish situation, and which has made recommendations to the governments represented thereon for the prohibition of the substantial enlistment on both sides in the Spanish conflict which has taken place from European centres. The question, however, will continue to be given consideration.



On the orders of the day: Hon. NORMAN McL. ROGERS (Acting Minister of Trade and Commerce): When the orders of the day were called yesterday a question was addressed to me by the hon. member for Royal (Mr. Brooks) respecting the admission of Canadian certified seed potatoes into the Cuban market. I find that the information which would answer this question is somewhat technical and does not lend itself to an oral reply. If the hon. member would be willing to place his question on the order paper, I think that would be a more satisfactory means of affording the information desired.



On the orders of the day:


Angus MacInnis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. ANGCJS MacINNIS (Vancouver East):

I wish to ask the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs whether he will make a statement to parliament with reference to the death of the four small Indian boys who were

found dead on the ice of Fraser lake in northern British Columbia on the morning of January 2. The circumstances under which these boys died have been commented on in the press throughout Canada and I think that, inasmuch as they were wards of Canada, parliament is entitled, to a statement from the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs.


Thomas Alexander Crerar (Minister of Mines and Resources)


Hon. T. A. CRERAR (Minister of Mines and Resources):

I thank the hon. member for giving me notice this morning that he intended to ask this question. May I correct him on one point. There is no longer a superintendent general of indian affairs, since that office was merged with the Department of Mines and Resources.

The information we have at the present time with respect to the sad occurrence to which the hon. member refers is very briefly as follows: On New Year's Day, January 1, four small Indian boys, ranging in age from seven to nine years, left the Indian school at Lejac in northern British Columbia, on the main line of the Canadian National Railways, for home, and were frozen to death. An inquest was held a few days later. As far as the facts are disclosed by the report of the coroner's inquest, and also the report of the Indian agent for the district, they appear to be as follows: On January 1, which was of course a holiday, these youngsters asked in the morning or some time later in the day if they might be allowed to visit their parents some seven miles distant across Fraser lake. Permission was refused by the school authorities for the reason that the distance was so great. The boys were present at four o'clock in the afternoon when refreshments were served to the Indian children. At six o'clock they were reported absent from attendance at the evening meal by the Sister Superior. Apparently that report did not reach the principal of the school until nine thirty, according to the information we have. In the meantime these youngsters had left to travel seven miles to their home. The weather was rather severe at that time, and as hon. members will know, since this district is in the neighbourhood of the 50th parallel of latitude, the evening falls early there. They probably did not leave the school until dusk or approaching dusk. The principal assumed that they had gone home. Now here there comes a conflict in the reports. In a letter which the principal of the school sent to his superior in Winnipeg he stated that there were a number of Indian families visiting at the school on this day, the parents of these children not being among them, and they surmised that the youngsters had gone

Death of Indian Boys

back to the reservation with one of these families. Unhappily this turned out not to be correct.

The bodies were not discovered until the next day. The following forenoon, or about noon, the school authorities dispatched a sleigh to bring the youngsters back to the school. When the homes of the parents were reached it was discovered that the boys had not arrived; search was instituted and in a short time the bodies were discovered on the ice of Fraser lake.

An inquest was held on January 4, and the school was exonerated from any blame. It may be of interest to the house, because the occurrence is a very sad one, if I give the finding of the inquest. After stating that death was due to exhaustion and consequent freezing, the jury reported:

We, the jury, feel that such circumstance was unavoidable in view of the evidence in this case.

We feel, however, that more definite action by the school authorities might or should have been taken the night upon which the disappearance took place.

Further, it is our opinion that more cooperation between the authorities and the parents of the children would in future help to lessen the danger in the future of any repetition of such an incident.

Also that excessive corporal discipline, if practised, should be limited and that better understanding would exist between pupils and disciplinarians if the latter were Englishspeaking.

There is no evidence that there was any corporal punishment. It is true 'that a report appeared in some of the western papers that the youngsters had received corporal punishment as a result of which they had left the school. I think that is unlikely, especially in view of the fact that they left on a holiday when the ordinary school was not in session and when apparently they were having the festivities usually associated with New Year's Day. We have not yet received, although we have wired for it, a copy of the evidence taken at the inquest. In fact I am not sure the evidence was reported verbatim, and I am unable at the moment to inform the house on that point. But if it was reported verbatim the report will ibe received in due course and will be studied. In the meantime I am giving consideration to the matter of recommending to my colleagues that an inquiry into all the relevant facts be made by a judge. But before reaching a final decision on that I prefer to wait and study the evidence taken at the inquest if it is available.




Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister) moved the second reading of Bill No. 1, respecting alteration in the law touching the succession to the throne. He said: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to secure the assent of the parliament of Canada to the alteration in the law touching the succession to the throne set forth in the act of parliament of the United Kingdom intituled, His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act, 1936. The United Kingdom Act is printed as schedule two to the bill, which is now before the house. It may perhaps serve to limit discussion and to make clear exactly what is intended by the provisions of His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act if I read, to the house what was said at Westminster by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on the second reading of the bill, and also what was said in the House of Lords by the Lord Privy Seal, who was in charge of the measure in the House of Lords. As hon. members will recall, the abdication bill was introduced in the commons at Westminster on December 10 and received its first reading on that day. The second reading took place on the morning of December 11. Speaking on the second reading, the Right Hon. Stanley Baldwin said: The provisions of this bill require very few words of explanation from me at this stage. It is a matter which of course concerns the dominions and their constitutions just as it concerns us. As the house will see, four dominions-Canada. Australia. New Zealand and South Africa-have desired to be associated with this bill. As regards the Irish Free State, I received a message from Mr. de Valera yesterday telling me that he proposed to call his parliament together to-day to pass legislation dealing with the situation in the Irish Free State. The legal and constitutional position is somewhat complex, and any points with regard to that which anyone desires to raise would more properly be dealt with at a later stage. The bill gives effect to his majesty's abdication, and provides that His Royal Highness the Duke of York shall succeed to the throne in the same way and with the same results as if the previous reign had ended in the ordinary course. It is necessary to have an act of parliament because the succession to the throne is governed by the Act of Settlement, which makes no provision for an abdication or for a succession consequent upon an abdication. It is also necessary expressly to amend that act by eliminating his majesty and his issue and descendants from the succession. This is affected by subsections (1) and (2) of clause 1. Subsection (3) deals with the Royal Marriage Act, of 1772. This act provides, in effect, that Succession to the Throne-Mr. Mackenzie King no descendants of George II, other than the issue of princesses married into foreign families, shall be capable of contracting a marriage without the consent of the king, with the proviso that where that consent is refused in the case of such a descendant above the age of 25, he may give notice to the Privy Council, and the marriage may take place after twelve months unless within that period both Houses of Parliament have expressly declared their disapproval of the marriage. The act was passed merely to provide a measure of control over the marriages of those who might succeed to the throne or whose descendants might succeed. It would be clearly wrong that the provisions of the act should apply to his majesty and his descendants, who, on the passing of this act, will cease to have any right in the succession. Those were Mr. Baldwin's words on the second reading. Viscount Halifax, Lord Privy Seal, spoke as follows in the House of Lords on the second reading: The bill itself is a plain and simple and short one. Your lordships will observe that in the second paragraph of the preamble the bill records the consent of the Dominion of Canada and the assent of the Commonwealth or Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa to it. The preamble is drawn in rather complicated form consequent upon the statutory form of the Statute of Westminster, and the preamble represents the result of protracted consultations with the governments of the dominions, and as it stands, carries the full agreement of all the dominions that are mentioned in it. Clause 1 gives effect to his majesty's declaration of abdication and makes the necessary provision to that end. I might perhaps particularly call your lordships' attention to the words in subsection (1), "and there shall be a demise of the crown." Tile purpose of those words is to make it clear that the passing of the crown by other than death does in fact constitute a demise of the crown in order that what I may call the machinery of the state shall continue without interruption. I believe that up till a certain date in our history that was not so-various remedial measures to avoid such interruption have from time to time been passed, and these remedial measures have always talked about demise. Therefore it is important to secure the remedial effect of those measures for the continuation without interruption of the matters to which they referred by employing that phrase in this bill. Subsection 2 makes it plain that the necessary alteration of the Act of Settlement follows the surrender by his majesty, on his behalf and of his descendants, in the succession to the crown, and, lastly that that having been done and his descendants being thereby excluded from the line of succession, subsection 3 makes it plain- as indeed would be no doubt considered appropriate-that the Royal Marriages Act no longer applies to any such issue. I might supplement what is set forth in these two statements by adding that the title to the crown was vested by the Act of Settlement of 1701 in the heirs of the body of Sophia, Elec-tress of Hanover and granddaughter of James 31111-5J I. This provision involved the crown descending, with certain exceptions, as if it were real property, under the law of inheritance of the United Kingdom before 1926, when this branch of the property law was altered. Power remained in the king inparliament to alter the succession. Until 1931 this power to alter the succession was vested solely in the parliament of the United Kingdom. In that year formal recognition was given to the fact that the succession to the throne was a matter of direct and deep concern to all the members of the British commonwealth of nations. That recognition is set forth in the Statute of Westminster, both in section 4, which was read repeatedly yesterday, and in the preamble. Let me re-read section 4 of the Statute of Westminster: (4) 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 that dominion has requested and consented to, the enactment thereof. ' As the parliament of the United Kingdom could niot, under the terms of the Statute of Westminster, pass an abdication act which would extend or be deemed to extend to Canada unless the dominion had requested such legislation in advance and consented thereto, steps were taken in the most expeditious and appropriate manner to convey that request and consent and to secure their expression in the United Kingdom Act. Steps are now being taken to secure the assent of the parliament of Canada necessary to the alteration in the law touching the succession to the throne. I need not repeat what was said yesterday with respect to the manner in which this dominion signified the request and consent of Canada to the enactment of the abdication act. I wish, however, to answer, if I may, a point which was raised by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth) on a previous day, when he inquired whether it was not a fact, if the action of the government on December 10 was constitutional, that further legislation was unnecessary. My reply to that question is, certainly not. The action of December 10 was designed to secure immediate legal effect to the change. The present legislation is designed to carry out the constitutional convention expressed in the preamble to the Statute of Westminster. Let me read the constitutional convention as it appears there. Of course the preamble, as hon. members know, is not an operative part of the statute; nevertheless 68 COMMONS Succession to the Throne-Mr. Mackenzie King whatever appears in the preamble is of special significance in relation to the purposes of this statute itself. The constitutional convention is set forth as follows: And whereas, it is meet and proper to set nut by way of preamble to this act, that, inasmuch as the crown is the symbol of the free association of the members of the British commonwealth of nations, and as they are united by a common allegiance to the crown, it would be in accord with the established constitutional position of all the members of the commonwealth in relation to one another that any alteration in the law touching the succession to the throne or the royal style and titles shall hereafter require the assent as well of the parliaments of all the dominions as ot the parliament of the United Kingdom. The act which has been passed by the British government does alter the law touching the succession to the throne, and it is for that reason we are now asking the assent to its provisions of the parliament of Canada.

January 19, 1937