Right Hon. L. S. ST. LAURENT (Minister of Justice): On behalf of the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Mackenzie King) who is unfortunately prevented from being in the house at the moment, I should like to read a statement which had been prepared for him in connection with a defence agreement with Newfoundland.
I wish to table copies of an agreement recently completed between Canada, the United Kingdom and Newfoundland concerning the disposition and post-war use of certain defence installations in Newfoundland.
Before the recent war the defence of Newfoundland was generally deemed the exclusive responsibility of the United Kingdom, but it maintained there no defence installations nor military establishments. At the outbreak of war the United Kingdom had neither trained personnel nor equipment to spare for Newfoundland's defence, and overtures were made to Canada shortly thereafter by the Newfoundland government for equipment and assistance in training a local establishment. At the time, however, little assistance could be rendered because of shortages of equipment here in Canada.
Following the military collapse of western Europe in 1940, a battalion of Canadian troops was promptly dispatched with the full approval of the Newfoundland and the United Kingdom governments to guard the Newfoundland airport at Gander, and this initial force was greatly enlarged within the following year by additional army, air and naval establishments. Arrangements were also made with Newfoundland for the coordination of Newfoundland home defence forces and Canadian army forces under an over-all Canadian command. Following the lease of bases in Newfoundland in 1941 to the United States for ninety-nine years, very considerable United States forces were also established in Newfoundland.
Shortly after the despatch of the first Canadian troops to Newfoundland, by agreement with Newfoundland Canada assumed responsibility for the operation and control of Gander, Gleneagles and Botwood air bases for the duration of the war, and later constructed Goose Bay air base in Labrador and
Torbay air base near St. John's. By agreement with the United Kingdom and Newfoundland governments, Canada also contracted on British admiralty account a naval base in St. John's. These various bases were available to the United States and United Kingdom throughout the war and were of inestimable importance in the conduct of the war. Without them the task of maintaining supplies to Britain, and of building up there a striking force, would have been immensely more difficult and victory in the desperate battle of the Atlantic would have been much longer delayed.
With the cessation of hostilities the continuance of a large armed establishment in Newfoundland and the maintenance there of most defence installations established during the war have fortunately become unnecessary. The armed services have accordingly been withdrawing their personnel as rapidly as possible consistent with the care of equipment and properties. By now virtually all personnel have been withdrawn except from Goose Bay air base to which Canada has been granted a lease for defence purposes for ninety-nine years.
The strategic importance of Newfoundland for the defence of Canada and North America generally and for the maintenance of communications across the North Atlantic has, however, been greatly enhanced by developments in aerial warfare and aerial navigation. The Newfoundland, United Kingdom and Canadian governments are therefore in agreement that some continuing arrangements for the defence of Newfoundland are essential. The agreement which I have tabled is designed to meet this need,, as well as to provide for the disposition of Newfoundland air bases which have been under Canadian control during the war. It provides that control of the air bases at Gander, Gleneagles and Botwood are to be handed back to Newfoundland as of March 31, in accordance wdth the original understanding between the two governments. In the event of an outbreak of hostilities involving Newfoundland and Canada, Canada may however take over control of Gander airport for the duration of hostilities. Canada will continue to operate Torbay airport as a civil airport for the Newfoundland-Canada service and may use it for military purposes as required. Article 5, which provides for continued cooperation in defence, reads in part: "the governments of Canada and Newfoundland, and as necessary the government of the United Kingdom, will consult with one another from time to time as occasion may require