Norman Alexander McLarty (Secretary of State of Canada)
Hon. N. A. McLARTY (Secretary of State) moved:
Whereas the report of a special committee of the House of Commons on titles, honours and decorations was presented to the house on May 14, 1919, and carried, on division, on May 22, 1919; and
Whereas the opinion has been expressed that the application of the principles embodied m the report in the circumstances which have emerged during the present war had led to discrimination between the members of the Canadian armed forces, and others of his majesty's armed forces, between different ranks in the Canadian armed forces; and between Canadians actively participating in the present war, and others of his majesty's subjects; and
Whereas the further opinion has been expressed that it is impracticable to make provision for recognition of conduct and action involving gallantry, courage, meritorious service and devotion to duty without contravening the principles embodied in the report;
Therefore be it resolved:
That a select committee of the house be appointed to inquire into and to report upon the expediency:
(a) of maintaining the principles that form the basis of the recommendations contained in the said report and continuing in effect the said recommendations, or
(b) of cancelling, altering, modifying or adding to the said recommendations, in so far as they relate to honours and decorations which do not involve titles, and, if so, in what respect and to what extent.
That the committee shall consist of the following members: Messrs. Bertrand (Laurier-Montreal), Bruce, Fraser (Peterborough West), Gershaw, Graham, Hill, Kinley, Macmillan, Marshall. McCuaig, Stirling, Turgeon, Weir, Wood. Wright, and shall have power to send for persons and records, to examine witnesses under oath, and to report their opinions and observations from time to time to the house.
He said: In rising to move the resolution standing in my name I feel that it is rather
an anti-climax to the magnificent address we have heard from the Minister of Finance (Mr. Usley). We used to hear of the great addresses made by other ministers of finance such as Sir George Foster, Mr. Fielding and other capable ministers, and sometimes we have taken the position that things are not as they used to be, that we do not hear the magnificent eloquence which was heard in speeches made many years ago. That reminds me of an apropos remark which Punch made about the Times. When someone wrote and said that the Times was not as it used to be, Punch replied, "Yes, but it never was."
I think we have heard to-night as fine a budget address as this house has ever heard, and I am speaking not only of the present house but of the old house as well. Again I should like to congratulate my colleague upon a magnificent and splendid address. I should like also to congratulate Canada upon having a Minister of Finance who can prepare and deliver such a budget as we have heard to-night.
In moving the resolution standing in my name for the appointment of a select committee of this house to review the question of honours and decorations, it is not necessary at this stage to deal with it at any great length. It is, however, I believe desirable that I should deal briefly, in the first place, with the present situation and endeavour to point out to the house why it is desirable to have the proposed committee appointed.
As members of the house will see, no question of conferring titles is involved. The members of the house will recall that in the year 1919 a special committee considered the question of titles, honours and decorations and presented its report on May 14, 1919. This report was discussed by the house and was carried on division on May 22, 1919. It will not be necessary for me to read the full report, but I might give a summary of its contents.
The report provided for the submission of an address to His Majesty the King dealing with the exercise by the king of certain legal powers which formed a part of the royal prerogative. It involved an expression by the House of Commons of its views to the effect that:
(1) No titles of honour or titular distinctions should be conferred upon British subjects domiciled or ordinarily resident in Canada save such appellations as might be of a professional or vocational character or which appertain to an office.
(2) Hereditary titles of honour or titular distinctions or dignitaries or titles as peers of the realm should, by legislation or otherwise, be extinguished upon the death of the holder if domiciled or ordinarily resident in Canada, and no further hereditary titles should be conferred upon Canadians.
Honours and Decorations
(3) The titles "right honourable" and "honourable" should be continued.
(4) The practice of awarding military and naval decorations such as the Victoria Cross, the Military Medal, the Military Cross, the Conspicuous Service Cross, and similar decorations to persons in military or naval services of Canada for exceptional valour and devotion to duty should be continued.
(5) No person domiciled or ordinarily resident in Canada should accept or use titles of honour or titular distinction conferred by foreign rulers or governors.
The policy recommended in the report has been followed by the governments which have been in power since 1919, with one exception. In 1934 and 1935 certain recommendations of Canadians for titles and honours were made and a number of titles and honours were granted.
It will be observed that in the proposed terms of reference in this motion, one of the suggestions is that the committee should consider cancelling, altering, modifying or adding to the recommendations in the report of the committee in 1919 in so far as they relate to honours and decorations which do not involve titles.
It will also be observed that in the report of the committee of 1919 the statement is made that the committee do not recommend the discontinuance of the practice of awarding military or naval decorations to members of the military or naval services of Canada for exceptional valour and devotion to duty. At that time the Royal Canadian Air Force had not been established, and this accounts for the fact that no reference is made to members of the air force. Carrying out the policy approved by the house in adopting the report in 1919. the prohibition on the recommendation and acceptance by Canadians of titles of honour or titular distinctions has been interpreted to mean that Canadians may not receive any medal or award in an order of chivalry, on the ground that such an award, for example, as a companionship in the Order of the Bath or the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, or the Order of the British Empire, involves membership in an order of chivalry in which the highest grades involve knighthood.
The medals and decorations mentioned in the report of the committee of 1919-the Victoria Cross, the Military Medal, the Military Cross, and the like-are medals and decorations which are awarded, in the main, for conspicuous gallantry in action. While the Victoria Cross may be awarded to men of all ranks in the army, the navy and the air force, some of the others, such as the Military Cross and the Military Medal, are awarded only to officers or men below certain ranks. For
example, the Military Cross is restricted by royal warrant to officers below the rank of major and to warrant officers, classes 1 and 2. The Military Medal can be granted only for gallantry in action and can be awarded only to warrant officers, classes 1 and 2, non-commissioned officers and men.
An examination of the provisions of the report and of the debates in the House of Commons, indicates that there is some doubt as to whether the House of Commons, in 1919, intended to impose a ban upon military decorations other than those which involved titles or titular distinctions. In the text of the resolution, the prohibition is confined to "any title of honour or titular distinction"; while in the debates there was much confusion as to whether the prohibition was intended to extend to military decorations, such as the lower classes in the orders of chivalry, which do not involve either titles of honour or titular distinctions.
When the question of awards arose during the present war, the position taken was that ordinary medals and decorations might freely be awarded to members of the Canadian armed forces and to Canadians serving in others of his majesty's armed forces as members thereof or as attached personnel. The awards thus made available included the ordinary medals and decorations, such as the Distinguished Service Order, the Distinguished Conduct Medal, and the Medal of the Order of the British Empire, as well as mentions in dispatches and commendations. All awards involving titles, and awards in the lower grades of those orders of chivalry which, in their higher grades, involved titles, were regarded as coming within the prohibition involved in the report. It was, therefore, open to Canadians to receive the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order, the Distinguished Flying Cross and similar decorations. On the other hand, such awards as Knight Commander of the Bath, Companion of the Bath (military), Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George and Companion of St. Michael and St. George, Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Officer of the Order of the British Empire, and Member of the Order of the British Empire (military) were not available to Canadians.
In the present war, civilan decorations have been instituted by His Majesty the King. The report does not preserve any rights in respect of civilian decorations. There was a good deal of doubt as to whether, upon the institution of the George Cross and the George Medal, it would be open to the Canadian
Honours and Decorations
government to provide for recommendations without contravening the provisions of the report. The position taken was that a ban upon the award of the George Cross or the George Medal would not be in accord with the general spirit underlying the report and, accordingly, steps were taken to make these civilian awards available for Canadians.
It is desirable that the position with regard to the classes of the orders of chivalry which do not involve titles should be clarified and that doubt should be removed with regard to the availability of the George Cross and the George Medal.
A further question has arisen by reason of the nature of the present war. In total war the dangers of the burdens fall heavily upon the civilians as well as upon the soldiers. There are Canadians serving in positions of great personal danger who are showing qualities of courage and devotion to duty that are clearly comparable with those which result in awards to the armed forces. Such civilians are all excluded from recognition except in cases which qualify for the George Cross and the George Medal. It is thought that the House of Commons would desire to review the whole question of recognition of civilian service in the light of the conditions which have arisen during the present war.
Another problem results from the nature of naval warfare. It has been increasingly evident that seamen of the merchant navy are showing qualities of courage and devotion to duty which require recognition. It is desirable, therefore, that the house should consider whether members of the merchant navy should not be placed in a position of equality with members of the armed forces. It will, of course, be understood that the British mercantile marine is given recognition in the matter of awards fairly comparable with that which is accorded to the Royal Navy and it is probable that members of the house would desire that Canadian seamen should receive similar treatment.
Under the present position, immediate awards take the form of medals and decorations and have been available to Canadians on the same basis as to members of the armed forces of other parts of the British commonwealth. Individual actions of gallantry in the' face of the enemy have led to awards to Canadians without discrimination. On the other hand, under the system which has been in force in the past and which is applied to the members of the armed forces of the British commonwealth with the exception of Canada, a substantial number of awards for courage and devotion to duty are made periodically, normally at the New Year and on the occasion
of the king's birthday. These lists include operational awards earned by continued courageous action and devotion to duty during operations, and also awards for exceptional devotion to duty in the course of services rendered outside active theatres of war. These periodic awards normally consist of the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, Knight Commander of the Bath, Companion of the Bath. Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire, Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Officer of the Order of the British Empire, Member of the Order of the British Empire, and the British Empire Medal, all in the military divisions of the orders. Of these only one, namely, the British Empire Medal, has been regarded as being available to Canadians. The Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, Knight Commander of the Bath, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire, and Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire are higher classes of orders of chivalry; the recipients of these awards have the right to the title "Sir" during their lives and their wives are entitled to be called "Lady". They are thus clearly within the wording "titles of honour or titular distinctions" as set forth in the report. The other awards, Companion of the Bath, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Officer of the Order of the British Empire and Member of the Order of the British Empire, are lower classes of the same orders of chivalry which do not carry titles. The recipients of the awards are entitled to wear ribbons on their uniforms and formal insignia on ceremonial occasions. These awards are, however, regarded as being so associated with titles of honour or titular distinctions as to be excluded by the provisions of the report.
In the practical working out of the British system of recognition of courageous action and devotion to duty, the present position results in discrimination between Canadians and members of the armed forces of other parts of the British commonwealth; and also in discrimination between officers and warrant officer's, on the one hand, and non-commissioned officers and men on the other hand.
The best illustration of the first type of discrimination would be found in the case of commissioned officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and aircraftmen who are charged with the direction and maintenance, under conditions of grave danger and hardship, of aircraft engaged in operation. Their courage and devotion to duty lead to extended recognition in the awards to ground personnel of the Royal Air Force, and of
Honours and Decorations
other air forces operating with the Royal Air Force, including awards in the Order of the British Empire, and medals of that order. In the cases in which equivalent courage and devotion to duty is shown by commissioned officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and aircraftmen of the Royal Canadian Air Force, no awards involving membership in the Order of the British Empire can be made by reason of the principles set forth in the report. Other concrete illustrations might be taken from the experience of other branches of the Canadian armed forces.
The other element of discrimination is between members of the Canadian forces. Here, again, the best illustration would be found in the ground crews of a Royal Canadian Air Force squadron. Assuming that, through a difficult period, continued courage and devotion to duty had been shown by a pilot officer, a warrant officer, second class, and a leading aircraftman; under the present position, a British Empire Medal could be awarded to the leading aircraftman,, but the warrant officer, second class, and the pilot officer would have to forgo recognition.
It is thought that the House of Commons might want to examine these aspects of the question, with a view to devising some means whereby discrimination, if any exists, could be avoided. Within the terms of the reference to the committee, it would be possible to submit recommendations to the house which would lead to the removal of any element of discrimination from members of the Canadian armed forces, except in the case, of course, of officers holding the rank of Rear-Admiral, Major-General, Air Vice-Marshal, or higher ranks. Under the existing system of awards it is not possible to arrange for recognition of the services of these higher ranking officers without providing for the revival of titles in Canada-a course which I am sure this house will agree would be unlikely to commend itself under present conditions.
In the making of recommendations with regard to these matters it will of course be understood that, under our constitution, the crown is the fountain of honour, and that any recommendations which may be made should take the form of recommendations with a view to their submission, through the appropriate channels, to His Majesty the King, for approval.
We are all conscious of heroic deeds which are being performed and of distinguished services which are being given by self-sacrificing and patriotic Canadian men and women in the armed forces. I think it will also be agreed that Canadians who are serving in many parts of the world and on many battle
fronts beside their comrades from the United Kingdom, from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Indian empire should, subject to the limitations of the resolution, be eligible for official recognition which may be regarded as equivalent to that given their comrades.
This is one of the reasons why the government has reached the conclusion that the whole question at this time should be studied by a select committee of the house. I trust that after the committee has examined the question from all points of view, the report which it may submit will be such as to commend itself to the judgment of parliament.
Subtopic: APPOINTMENT OF COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER APPLICATION OF PRINCIPLE ACCEPTED IN 1919 TO MEMBERS OF CANADIAN ARMED FORCES