January 27, 1942 (19th Parliament, 3rd Session)


William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)


Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

May I say to my hon.
friend, in the first place, that I have nothing before me and he has nothing before him with
respect to what Mr. Godbout is alleged to have said last night. I am therefore not in a position to say whether or not any remarks attributed to the premier of Quebec have been correctly reported.
That, however, is not "as important as a direct answer to the question with respect to my position in regard to conscription both within Canada and for service overseas, in relation to the past, to the present and to the future.
I tried yesterday to make that position quite plain in my remarks, which now appear in Hansard. I then repeated what, in part,
I had previously said in this house on those matters. I now give to my hon. friend as reply to the question which he has asked what I said yesterday, which appears in Hansard at page 44, restating what I said in this house on November 12 last:
So far as conscription stands for compulsory selective national service, that is a principle which this government has embodied in its National Resources Mobilization Act passed at a previous session of this parliament. As^ to how rapidly that principle should be applied, and how far it should be extended, is a matter which the government must decide and will decide in the light of all the knowledge which it has with respect to the needs of our war effort and the position of the country in meeting them.
I want it to be distinctly understood that so far as the principle of compulsory selective national service is concerned for Canada, in Canada, I stand for that principle. I have never taken any other stand. It is the position that I have held all along. It has been applied in connection with military training, _ and applied in a number of other directions I might mention. How much further it will be applied the house will learn as the government takes its decisions on that matter.
And the further quotation also from what I said on November 12 last which appears on page 48 of yesterday's Hansard:
But so far as conscription for service overseas is concerned in the armed forces of Canada, that question was submitted to the people of Canada at the last general election, an election which was held in war time, and in which the leaders of all political parties made their statements to the electorate, and the people of Canada decided against conscription for overseas service. So far as I am concerned, without any consultation of the people on that subject, I do not intend to take the responsibility of supporting any policy of conscription for service overseas.
That is my position-as stated, I might say, repeatedly in this house, but certainly most clearly and emphatically on November 12 last and again yesterday in this house.
Replying further to my hon. friend's question as to what I intend to do as a result of the plebiscite, I thought I had also anticipated the answer to that question in my remarks yesterday afternoon, which will be found on page 32 of yesterday's Hansard, when I said:

Contributions to Britain
When my hon. friend goes on to ask me what 1 am going to do with respect to any expression of view which may be made by the people in connection with any reference which will be made to them, may I say to him that in seeking to get relief from past commitments I am not going to begin by making new and fresh commitments. In seeking freedom on the part of the ministry I am not going to start in by seeking to tie my own hands.
That is the answer to that part of the question.
My hon. friend asked a further question, whether there was any understanding between myself and Mr. Godbout, express or implied, as to the position which I would take as a result of any plebiscite that would be presented to the people. May I say to him that there is no understanding, express or implied, with Mr. Godbout or with any other person on earth with respect to the attitude that I propose to take after the people have expressed their views with regard to giving the government a free hand.
May I add that such attitude as I shall take at the time will be taken in the light of all the circumstances as I may know them as a member of the government, and of all conditions as I know them in regard to this country and, as far as I am able to know something about them, conditions in other countries as well.

Full View