Hon. H. A. BRUCE (Parkdale):
Mr. Speaker, we meet here at a time of great events which are shaping the future of the whole world. Our course should be in keeping with the lofty purpose of those who are driving fonvard to victory without counting the cost. The political fortunes of any government or of any member of this parliament are wholly unimportant. The one thing that matters is the full and unreserved support of our
War Effort-Government Policy
fighting men in these crucial days of mounting military struggle when every man, every weapon and every ounce of strength are needed to finish off our tottering enemy before he can regain his strength and his military resources. It is from that point of view that we must examine the facts.
The units of our land forces are in need of reinforcements and in desperate need, as we now know. We have in Canada many thousands of men in various stages of training. The one question for us to answer is whether we have the courage to meet our honourable obligations to our fighting men and see that all men physically fit in uniform will be available as reinforcements without any reservations as to numbers or procedure. That, Mr. Speaker, I submit is the one and only issue before this house. The people of Canada want all-out use of its man-power. They will not be satisfied with any halfhearted and uncertain measure such as the one now before us, and our men overseas most certainly will not be satisfied with anything but honest, open-handed support.
We are told that this course will send 5,000 men over as reinforcements next month. That is not enough. We have been sending that many month after month for years. Normal wastage from sickness and accident would call for that many men under present conditions. It will do very little to bring the fighting units and reinforcement pool up to strength.
It has been claimed by General McNaughton that we got no help or very little help from conscription when it was imposed in 1917 in the last war. Nothing could be farther from the truth. By this means, in the ten months following conscription in the last war the average of recruits obtained was approximately 16,000 a month. The contribution made by Canada's armed forces to the triumph of the last 100 days of the last war was the result of conscription honestly applied. It should be no less to-day. By this limited conscription we are hoping to secure only 16,000- men. If the 156,000 that were obtained under conscription in the last war constituted very little help to reinforce the four divisions then operating in France, what use will 16,000 men be to reinforce the five divisions overseas to-day? This half measure which is proposed will solve nothing. Sixteen thousand draftees are to go, but when, we do not know, and the new Minister of National Defence has not enlightened us. But what of the other 44,000 draftees now in uniform, and what of the thousands who will be drafted during the next few months as they come of age? Are they to
fight or are they not? That is what our men at the front wish to know. Already there is a deep and burning sense of injustice in the minds of our fighting men in the active army. Now a new type of injustice is to be introduced between different groups of draftees. What a spectacle for our allies at a time when their respect and goodwill are so important!
The Minister of National Defence replies that the compulsory system produces inferior fighting men, at a time when the full load of battle on land is being borne by the men of Britain, the United States, Russia and other allied countries whose armies were all raised by total compulsory use of man-power. What strange arguments we have heard! The government is to compel a limited number to serve, but it still does not believe in doing it in that way. The new Minister of National Deferice makes it appear that it would be a grievous sin against national unity if we employed our men in uniform where those men would be of some use. Then in the very act of sinning in this way he vigorously proclaims his unblemished virtue because he has not sinned still more.
This is simply one more shameful episode in five long years of eager searching for the line of least resistance. When we hear of the bitterness which might be caused if we do our duty here, let us all remember the bitterness there will be in the minds and hearts of young men about to risk their lives for our freedom if they learn that once again they are to have some vague formula in the place of reality. Two years ago it was "conscription if necessary but not necessarily conscription.'' Now, at this turning point in the world's history, when General Eisenhower tells us that every man is needed at the front, we have a new formula offered us, "compulsion if necessary but not necessarily compulsion."
Unless the members of this house show that they are red-blooded men, worthy to be called Canadians, and demand the all-out use of our soldiers in uniform wherever they are needed, we shall be shamed before the whole world and we shall have sown in the minds of the best of our youth seeds of injustice which may bring stern retribution when they return again to their homes in Canada.
The hon. member for Prince (Mr. Ralston), the former minister of national defence, returned recently from the fighting fronts in Italy and northern Europe. What he saw and heard convinced him that reinforcements are desperately needed in the infantry. The former minister of defence is a competent observer. He knows from the experience of three years as minister of defence that the
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voluntary system will not produce adequate reinforcements. Accordingly, the conscription of able-bodied men of military age for service overseas is imperative. Our men at the front are asking for trained reinforcements. The wounded in the hospitals are pleading for help for comrades still locked in mortal combat with the enemy.
This is a matter of men's lives. Gallant soldiers are spilling their blood while we talk. Brave boys are dying on the Rhine while this government manoeuvres for votes. Any cabinet minister who shrinks from the duty of sending reinforcements is not worthy to occupy a place in the government of Canada. If the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) will not discharge the sacred duty of his office which he has been entrusted with, he should efface himself in the national interest; he should make way at once for a real war leader who is prspared to enact and enforce total conscription to maintain our gallant fighting forces in full strength.
In the speech, made by the Prime [DOT] Minister on June 10, 1942, he said, as reported in Hansard, at page 3234:
It is not the intention of this government to resort to conscription for service overseas unless circumstances should arise which would render the use of compulsion imperative, such for example as the maintenance of the necessary reinforcements for Canada's army overseas.
The former minister of defence says that this time has arrived. However, the Prime Minister dismissed his trusted friend the former minister of national defence because the latter did not give him the advice he desired. His action reminds me of an old friend who never liked to give up his liquor, and when advised to do so by his doctor, got over the difficulty by calling in another doctor. In the same way the Prime Minister would not take Colonel Ralston's advice, but, like my friend, called in another doctor who gave him the advice he wanted. This advice was tendered by General McNaughton in spite of the fact that only a week before he had refused to express an opinion on the reinforcement situation owing to lack of knowledge, because he had been out of the army for nearly a year.
Declarations were made by the former minister of national defence, the minister for the navy and several other ministers in regard to the adoption of conscription for overseas when necessary. I need not repeat those statements. May I say to them that their opportunity has now come to show that when they speak they mean what they say and that the integrity of their word of honour means more to them than the trappings and emoluments of office.
We are led to believe that so bankrupt is the Liberal party in leadership, and this by the Prime Minister, who ought to know, that if he resigned there is not one in his government who can replace him and the government of the country could not be carried on, that it is a case of "King or anarchy." This statement should be resented by at least two or three members of his cabinet. The vote of confidence by his followers for which he is now asking means nothing because they were elected four years ago and the views of the citizens of Canada to-day are overwhelmingly against the Prime Minister and his government. Neither would an affirmative vote retain the confidence of the troops overseas, who are very much perturbed by the limited proposals made by the government.
No country has been so humiliated as we have been by our Prime Minister, who stands condemned before the Canadian people. May I congratulate the former minister of national defence upon the very frank statement he made a few evenings ago, in which he repeated with even greater emphasis the imperative need of additional reinforcements overseas by the end of December. If the Prime Minister had accepted his advice these reinforcements would have left Canada last month in ships already arranged for and been over there in time.
Although the Prime Minister is primarily responsible and must bear the major part of the blame for this delay, the present Minister of National Defence must assume his share of responsibility, as must also the other members of the cabinet. We do not yet know what this delay in the arrival of desperately needed reinforcements will cost in the lives of our brave men at the front, but whatever the cost, the parents and -wives and relatives of those men will hold the Prime Minister and his government responsible.
The present Minister of National Defence has said that arrangements were made soon after the passage of the order in council, for ships to transport 5,000 additional reinforcements towards the end of December. The situation which the former minister of national defence envisages, namely, that there will be a delay in sending these reinforcements unless the present government receives a vote of confidence is not a logical one. The order in council has been passed and is now in effect, and the movement of troops has started and will continue even should there be a change of government or a general election. The activities of the United States arniy did not cease during the presidential election, nor did those-
War Effort-Government Policy
Subtopic: THE WAR
Sub-subtopic: POLICY OP THE GOVERNMENT IN MAINTAINING VIGOROUS WAR EFFORT-CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON MOTION OF THE PRIME MINISTER