Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY
Is the hon. member for Peel desirous that the Canadian people should fight world war II all over again?
That is a silly question.
I do not think it is.
Ordinarily, Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Renfrew North asks much better questions than that, and I think he does himself less than justice by seeking to intervene at this time with a question as irrelevant as the one he has put.
To continue, I may say that the debate took place later in the house, but without the Drew correspondence, and without the evidence which is now being asked for again, it was largely, as must be obvious, a debate in the dark. There matters stood until General
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Maltby, in January of this year, with the consent of the British war office, released his report as commander of the Hong Kong force.
We now come to the chronological position with respect to the Drew correspondence, as the matter was then revived. On January 29 the leader of the opposition asked for the tabling of the Drew correspondence. He asked for it then because the Maltby report had been released and the whole question of Hong Kong had been thrown open to the public. Perhaps General Maltby's report is the best answer to the hon. member for Renfrew North as to whether or not world war II should be fought all over again. In any event the leader of the opposition asked for the tabling of the Drew correspondence. On January 30 the Prime Minister answered. I shall not read the whole answer, unless someone desires that it should be put on the record; but the pertinent parts-and I want to be fair about this-I think are as follows. This is the Prime Minister's answer as reported at page 715 of Hansard-.
The government will now have, among other things, to consider with the government of the United Kingdom whether the reasons given in that opinion for declining to table the letter continue to be valid.
Then on February 6 the leader of the opposition again asked about the Drew correspondence, and this, in part, is what he said as reported at page 937 of Hansard:
Some days ago I asked the Prime Minister if in view of the war office release regarding the Hong Kong incident he would table the Drew correspondence with respect to it. He later intimated that he would take up the matter with the United Kingdom government. My question is: Has the Prime Minister any reply,
*and if so, will he now table the correspondence?
To which the Prime Minister replied:
I did take up the matter immediately with the United Kingdom government at the time my hon. friend spoke about it in the house, but I have not as yet received a reply.
On February 201 asked a question which was collateral to the question of the production of the evidence taken by the Duff commission. The Prime Minister said at page 1430 of Hansard:
A little later I shall be glad to give the house the views of the British government on the matter, but I wish to show the leader of the opposition a cable I have received in reply before I make a public statement.
This is in reference only to the evidence.
The communication was received only yesterday, so I have not been able to bring its receipt to the attention of the house before today.
Then came my question:
May I ask the Prime Minister if his remarks with respect to the Hong Kong evidence apply equally to the letter written by Premier Drew, about which there has been some discussion in the house?
Mr. Mackenzie King: I should think it
would, but I would have to re-read the letter of Premier Drew to make sure whether it contains references to parts of the evidence to which the British government takes exception to publicity being given.
On February 24 another question arose in connection with this matter. Once more the evidence was under discussion and a point was very properly brought up by the hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker), who at page 1553 of Hansard said:
I should like to address a question to the Prime Minister arising out of his statement here today, with particular reference to the letter from Premier Drew. Will the Prime Minister produce all letters, wires and memoranda containing any requests to. the high commissioner's office and from the high commissioner's office to His Majesty's government in Great Britain regarding complaints put in against the production of that letter, so that the house and country may judge whether or not production was actually asked for or the request was made in such terms ias to amount to an invitation to His Majesty's government not to consent to the production of it?
The Prime Minister replied:
Mr. Speaker, I resent very strongly the insinuation of my hon. friend that I have been sending messages to His Majesty's government in the United Kingdom to induce that government not to have Mr. Drew's letter produced.
As a matter of fact I think there might be some resentment on another side of the house over the fact that the letter had not been produced long ago. The Prime Minister continues:
May I say to my hon. friend at once that the communications with respect to the Hong Kong inquiry which are included in the evidence took place before Mr. Drew's letter was ever addressed to myself. Mr. Drew's letter came some time after the report of the Hong Kong inquiry had been tabled.
Then came a very important statement by the Prime Minister, which I think should be linked with what the Prime Minister previously said and which I read into the record:
So far as Mr. Drew's letter is concerned, I have made no communication to the British government one way or the other with respect to it.
I want to leave the matter there, because while there was some further discussion I think that was the only clear statement made at that time. That, I think, shows clearly that the refusal to publish the Drew correspondence was not a decision of the Brilish government
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but a decision of the Prime Minister of Canada and his cabinet, on whatever advice he may have been given. I am not constituting myself the sole judge as to the propriety of the Prime Minister's decision with respect to the tabling of the Drew correspondence, but certain published allegations which are known to the people of Canada I think should be placed before parliament, whether or not the letters are ever tabled, to give this parliament and the people some basis on which to judge for themselves whether or not these letters should be tabled.
I want to refer to today's issue of the Toronto Globe and Mail, which I believe throws further light on the matter or at least makes it apparent that parliament is entitled to a much fuller and franker statement by the Prime Minister than he has given so far. I want to read into the record this short paragraph :
What is of interest at this date is whether the government knew before the sailing of the expedition that conditions in the Pacific had changed, and that war was an imminent possibility. The Duff report states categorically that ''the best informed opinion available to the Canadian authorities was that hostilities would not arise in the near future." This statement was vigorously challenged by Mr. Drew, in a letter to Mr. King dated July 11, 1942. It is this letter, in particular, which Mr. King is so loathe to release, although he promised to table it on July 14, 1942, only to retract his promise within two hours.
Could it be that Mr. King's reluctance, which is going to fantastic lengths, is due to the fact that Mr. Drew referred to a communication- from a high British diplomat-dated October 24, 1941, telling Mr. King that "altered circumstances" obtained in the Pacific? Is this the document he is afraid to put before the public, because it shows that Mr. King knew, three days before the sailing of the Hong Kong expedition, that these untrained, unarmed men would not be facing a period of ordinary garrison duty, but the virtual certainty of brutal war?
This is something, of course, the public can read; otherwise I would not be able to give that information to parliament today. What I want to know, however, and what Canadians generally want to know is, did the Prime Minister receive, see or have any knowledge of the communication referred to in this editorial? If the Prime Minister did have such knowledge, how can he condone that part of the Duff report appearing on page 46, which says:
In considering the character of these additions, as well as in considering the question of the selection of the units, we should remind ourselves once again that in October. 1941, there were no hostilities in the Pacific and the
best informed opinion available to the Canadian authorities was that hostilities would not arise in the near future.
Here, at least apparently, is the core of one of the issues at stake in this controversy. I suggest in view of what the public already know, and in view of the position in which the matter now stands, that things cannot be left as they are now. That is the point I want to make in this connection. The hon. member for Quebec South (Mr. Power) was quite right when he said on February 24, at page 1552 of Hansard-.
... I cannot do anything else but ask the Prime Minister to request the British government to review its decision and have it produce eveTy available bit of evidence.
His statements, of course, were in connection with the evidence taken before the commission, but I think his remarks go to the root of the whole matter. He went on, and I think this is the important part of what he said:
I shall be most unhappy if every dispatch, every report and every item of evidence is not laid before the people of Canada.
I want to say just one word in closing. From what one can gather, in the correspondence between the Premier of Ontario and the Prime Minister, which has never been tabled, there are charges against the Prime Minister personally. In view of what the public does know, in view of the necessity to lift the lid off this whole Hong Kong business-surely the public of Canada have the right to know the whole story and be able to judge from the evidence at this stage so long after the war has been concluded-in my opinon it is not proper for the Prime Minister or any member of the government to hold back from parliament charges which apparently have been made in this letter, thus rendering it unnecessary for the Prime Minister or the government to meet those charges either in parliament or out of parliament.
I want to leave the situation there just as it is, in the hope that the government and the Prime Minister will see their way clear to review the position which has been taken and finally let the public of Canada know what are the facts of this whole Hong Kong matter.
Hon. BROOKE CLAXTON (Minister of National Defence):
Would the minister-
I should prefer to finish first and answer later, because I want to follow my hon. friend's argument as closely as I can.
The exhibits also included communications received from the British government. They were put before the commission after the consent of the British government had been obtained to that course. That was done in accordance with the invariable practice existing between governments whereby documents marked "secret" or "most secret" or "confidential" are not revealed to anyone without the consent of the government from which they were received. In addition there was a limited number of cables, I think five in all, which did not deal specifically with the expedition to Hong Kong but dealt with general political considerations. They were all marked "most secret" and at the suggestion of the chief justice the government asked the con-
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sent of the British government to make those cables available to the commission. The British government agreed, but only subject to the express condition that these cables would be shown to the royal commissioner and to counsel only, that no copies would be made, and that they would be used only for the purposes of the commission. There was no objection made to that course.
Was not that after the evidence had been taken?
Yes. My recollection is that it was after the conclusion of the taking of the evidence, before the receipt of the evidence General Crerar on commission from Britain, and before argument had been completed. It was before the argument. The condition on which these cables were disclosed was well understood, and so far as I have been able to ascertain it was lived up to in every particular except by one of those taking part.
Following the taking of evidence, which went on from the 2nd to the 31st of March, counsel were asked to file written arguments, which they did. Then they met the commissioner, and in accordance with the understanding the commissioner asked them to file with him all their copies of the transcripts of evidence and written arguments and all notes used in connection with the inquiry. As far as anyone knows that course was followed at that time.
The report is dated June 4, 1942. It was made by the chief justice after he had heard the evidence, seen the witnesses, read the arguments, and heard the supplementary arguments. Of all people in Canada he was the one best qualified, first of all, to sit as a royal commissioner, and second, having sat, to make a report. In fact he is the only person so far as I know who has any kind of qualification to deal with this matter in its present state, because I venture to say that no one else has read all the evidence, and certainly nobody else has had the advantage of seeing the witnesses.
Will the minister permit a question on that?
I should complete my statement, and then at the end if the -hon. member desires to ask a question I shall be glad to answer it.
It was just this. Will the minister clarify this point? What justification is there for the commissioner being able to refer to selected excerpts from the exhibits while the public is denied the
whole exhibits to ascertain whether or not the conclusion arrived at by the commissioner was supported by the exhibits?
The hon. member must accept that situation as an inevitable consequence of any commission being held in camera. Either we should have commissions in public, in which event everyone can see the evidence, or if they are held in camera, and I think everyone will agree that in this case it was necessary that that course should be followed-I have never heard anyone suggest the contrary-we must recognize and accept the consequence that the royal commissioner would have to deal with matters in just that way. As I say, the Dardanelles commission and the Mesopotamia commission both quoted parts of the evidence that supported the conclusions of the royal commission, and in exactly the same way the royal commissioner in this present matter quotes parts of the evidence and attaches two exhibits to his report. The only other way would have been to have an open commission with the consequences that would have followed.
Is there not a difference between a secret commission and one in camera?
No, there is no difference here. The royal commission was appointed for the purpose of making a finding. I will read the terms of the order in council, P.C. 1160, dated February 12, 1942, which gives the scope of his reference. He was appointed to inquire and report upon-
The organization, authorization and dispatch of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, the selection and composition of the force and the training of the personnel thereof; the provision and maintenance of supplies, equipment and ammunition and of the transportation therefor; and -as to whether there occurred any dereliction of duty or error in judgment on the part of any of the -personnel of any of the departments of the government whose duty it w-as to arrange for the authorization, organization and dispatch of the said expeditionary force resulting in detriment or injury to the expedition or to the troops comprising the expeditionary force and if so what such dereliction or error was and who was responsible therefor.
The chief justice made his report, and I shall read only the conclusion in which he says:
In October, 1944, the Canadian military authorities undertook a task of considerable difficulty. Subject only to my observation concerning twenty of the two hundred and twelve vehicles of the mechanical transport, they performed that task well. Canada sent forward, in response to the British- request, an expedition that was well-trained and (subject as
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aforesaid, an so far as shipping facilities allowed) well provided with equipment. In spite of the disaster that overtook it soon after its arrival in Hong Kong, it was an expedition of which Canada can and should be proud.
The war came upon us when we were unprepared for it. In such circumstances, recalling military history, one would perhaps not be greatly surprised to discover that even two years after its commencement some military enterprise bad been undertaken which had proved to be ill-conceived, or badly managed. The Hong Kong expedition falls under neither description.
That is the conclusion of the report. An appendix is attached to the report, which is incorporated to form part of it, in which the chief justice deals in considerable detail with the various matters contained in his terms of reference. That was the report of the royal commission.
The report was dated June 4, 1942, and on July 11, 1942 Mr. Drew wrote the first of the letters to which reference has been made. That was followed by a further letter on July 16. Copies of these letters were sent to the then leader of the opposition, Mr. Hanson, the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar, and the leader of the Social Credit party, and on July 14 the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar asked whether the Prime Minister would produce the letter of June 11. The Prime Minister immediately said that he would, but next day received the letter printed at page 4254 of Hansard for July 15, 1942. from Mr. George A. Campbell, counsel for the government at the commission, expressing the view that it would not be proper to publish the Drew letter because it referred to communications from the United Kingdom which had been made available to the commission on the express condition that they should be kept secret. This is the important point about tabling the letter. The Prime Minister read the passage to the house from Mr. Campbell's letter in his statement, as reported at page 1550 of Hansard. In that opinion Mr. Campbell has this to say:
At the conclusion of the hearing for the taking of testimony in this matter, and some days before the date fixed for completion of the hearing of oral argument, all counsel concerned received notice from the commissioner requiring them on the day of the final bearing of oral argument to deliver up to the secretary of the commission any and all transcripts of evidence, exhibits and copies thereof, written arguments and copies thereof, notes of evidence and any and all other writings and documents relating in any way whatsoever to the matters in question.
It appears from Mr. Drew's communication that it purports largely to be based upon his written argument to the commissioner, of which presumably therefore he retained a copy in his possession. In bis letter he gives a number of verbatim quotations from the transcript of evidence and exhibits.
Mr. Drew's letter purports to give the effect of a number of confidential communications received by the government of Canada from the government of the United Kingdom, the disclosure of which was only consented to by the government of the United Kingdom subject to a specific condition that the disclosure was to be limited to the commissioner and counsel only, and solely for the purpose of the inquiries; and the commissioner was- not permitted to reproduce these communications in his report. Any disclosure, therefore, even to the House of Commons, would in my opinion be a violation of the substance of that condition.
If, therefore, Mr. Drew's communication is tabled by you before the House of Commons I am of the opinion that you will be violating a condition under which the government of the United Kingdom consented to the disclosure to the commissioner and counsel of those telegrams.
That is only an, ex parte opinion.
I know that my hon. friend does not like it, because it discloses a breach by Mr. Drew of the condition-
It does nothing of the kind.
-of confidence and secrecy on which the information was given and on which the inquiry was held. I know the hon. member does not like it because also, while it is an opinion, it is an opinion from- a very distinguished lawyer whom I described to the house a few minutes ago. Certainly it is not an opinion which any government that respected its word, and wanted to have its word respected by others, would lightly break or depart from.
I ask hon. members, and I ask the people of this country, if they would suggest for a second that this or any other government of this or any other British dominion would table communications sent to it marked "most secret" to which tabling objection had been made by the government which had sent those communications. I venture to say that anyone who is honest, and anyone who has any respect for himself and seeks the respect of others, will have no uncertain answer to that question.