January 22, 1942 (19th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Richard Burpee Hanson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Hon. R. B. HANSON (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, if the routine
business of this afternoon has now been completed I desire the indulgence of the house while I make a brief statement, somewhat in the nature of a matter of privilege. After careful perusal and intensive study of the statement made yesterday by the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Ralston) regarding the Hong Kong expedition, I have now come to the conclusion that a very serious situation is revealed and one with which I feel bound to deal. When I made -my statement yesterday I was not dealing specifically with the question of man-power.
I do not believe that anyone who reviews the minister's statement will find in it a satisfactory answer to the questions which have been asked by the public about Hong Kong in particular, and the man-power situation in Canada generally. A thorough study of the minister's statement has revealed to me certain facts which, as a non-military man, I did not fully appreciate at the time that very technical and, may I add, subtle statement was made. Having since reviewed it carefully, I am impelled to make a further statement, and I crave the indulgence of this house while I do so.
In my opinion the country is entitled to further information and I propose to indicate the method by which I believe that information should be made available. The fact that from 138 to 148 men with less than minimum training were sent to Hong Kong definitely and inescapably establishes the serious lack of trained man-power in Canada. It must be assumed that if trained man-power was available, they would have been sent. One cannot easily believe that the Minister of National Defence, or the military officials, took untrained men if trained men were available.
This fact raises squarely the question of the state of reserves of trained man-power which we have in Canada. The matter is one of such vital importance that I do not believe it can be properly settled without an open and immediate investigation by a committee of this house. How can we as members of parliament, and how can the people of this country pass upon the question of compulsory service and kindred subjects until we and they have full,

Canadian Regiments at Hong Kong
exact and precise information regarding the present standing of trained man-power in Canada?
The second fact made evident by the minister's statement is that the failure to provide universal carriers, which are fighting vehicles, and other transport at the port of embarkation at the proper time rests with the Canadian authorities. The direct responsibility for this failure must be determined and those responsible must be disciplined. The third fact revealed by the minister's statement is that the commander of the expedition, Brigadier Lawson, was disappointed at the lack of mechanical transports which he should have had. His cable from the boat leads to no other conclusion.
Having regard to all these factors, the country is entitled to know why the expedition was not recalled until such time as the transport and equipment could be provided to go along with the expedition. These are questions upon which the country is entitled to receive specific and factual information, and the only manner in which such information can be provided satisfactorily is by a searching public investigation by a committee of this house. I think the minister himself should welcome a public investigation. A departmental investigation will not satisfy public opinion. Therefore I invite him to set up a special committee of this house to investigate the factual and exact situation regarding what happened in connection with sending these men to Hong Kong.

Topic:   THE WAR
Full View