Hon. T. A. CRERAR (Minister of Mines and Resources):
At the request of the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King), who is absent to-day, I wish to make the following statement:
1. I am tabling, for the information of members of this house and for distribution, the following documents, both in English and in French:
Exchanges of notes, June 9, June 10, 1939, and October 30 and November 2, 1940, between the Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs and the United States Minister to Canada, relating to the application and interpretation of the Rush-Bagot agreement.
2. The Rush-Bagot agreement was embodied in an exchange of notes between His Majesty's minister at Washington and the United States Secretary of State, concerning the naval force to be maintained on the great lakes (Washington, 28-29, April 1817). This exchange is to be found in the publication filed in the Department of External Affairs, entitled "Treaties and Agreements Affecting Canada, in force between His Majesty and the United States of America, with subsidiary documents 1814-1925'' at pages 12 and 13. This volume is, of course, available
to members of this house and to the public generally in all libraries, but for the convenience of the members of the house I shall read into the record a short excerpt from Sir Charles Bagot's note, which sets forth the operative provisions:
His Royal Highness, acting in the name and on the behalf of His Majesty, agrees, that the naval force to he maintained upon the American lakes by His Majesty and the government of the United States shall henceforth he confined to the following vessels on each side-that is:
On Lake Ontario to one vessel not exceeding one hundred tons burthen and armed with one eighteen-pound cannon.
On the upper lakes to two vessels not exceeding like burthen each and armed with like force.
On the waters of lake Champlain to one vessel not exceeding like burthen and armed with like force.
And His Royal Highness agrees, that all other armed vessels, on these lakes shall be forthwith dismantled, and that no other vessels of war shall be there built or armed.
His Royal Highness further agrees, that if either party should hereafter be desirous of annulling this stipulation, and should give notice to that effect to the other party, it shall cease to be binding after the expiration of six months from the date of such notice.
3. In modern terminology it may be said that this was an agreement for quantitative and qualitative naval limitation on the great lakes. It is more than a century old and for a good while both Canada and the United States have mutually recognized that the technical scheme and definitions do not fit the actual present-day conditions, and that in fact they can reasonably and safely be waived without vitiating the underlying political spirit and objective which must be maintained.
4. It is clear from a study of the documents relating to the negotiation of the agreement and its early history that the objective of the negotiators was to provide a solution of an immediate and urgent problem arising out of the war of 1812, and the terms of the agreement themselves support the view that its indefinite continuation in force was not anticipated. The governments of Canada and the United States have in fact from time to time by informal interchanges mutually recognized certain variations from the technical scheme and definitions. The agreement itself, however, has survived unchanged for more than one hundred and twenty yeans, and with the passage of time has assumed a symbolic importance in the eyes of the peoples of Canada and the United States.
5. Recent negotiations between the Canadian and United States governments, affecting the agreement, took place in June, 1939. It was the desire of the United States government at that time to substitute other naval vessels of larger tonnage for certain naval vessels
already in the great lakes. The United States government also desired to use these vessels for training purposes and to equip them with armaments of heavier calibre than those permitted under the terms of the agreement. It was found possible to give effect to the wishes of the United States government by means of an informal exchange of notes and without the necessity of amending the agreement itself in any way.
6. The outbreak of war brought about the need for a further understanding between the two countries with regard to the problem of naval construction on the great lakes. It was therefore suggested by the Canadian government that a further "interpretation" of the Rush-Bagot agreement be made, without involving any deviation from the basic intent of the agreement, namely that important naval vessels should not be built for service on the great lakes. An understanding was accordingly effected by an exchange of notes in November, 1940, to the effect that armaments might be installed on vessels built in great lakes shipyards, but dismantled for the voyage to the sea.
7. It will be observed that the exchanges of notes, now being tabled, are in the nature of informal understandings as to the interpretation and application of the original agreement. They are not intended to rescind the Rush-Bagot agreement or to prejudice in any way the principles underlying that agreement or the underlying political spirit and objective which both countries have maintained. The position is continued whereby the great lakes are recognized as being an area in which naval armaments are not maintained by either country. At the same time, an arrangement has been worked out whereunder the resources of both countries within this area can be utilized to facilitate the defence, both of Canada and the United States, from external attack.
The documents which I now table contain the correspondence referred to in the statement I have just made, and they are submitted in both English and French.