June 23, 1942 (19th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Leslie Alexander Mutch


Mr. L. A. MUTCH (Winnipeg South):

Mr. Speaker, I am not insensible of the difficulty which confronts one in attempting to follow the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Ralston), particularly in view of the fact that some of the things I desire to say closely touch his department. I should say in the beginning that on the plebiscite I personally voted "yes," and the constituents of Winnipeg South also voted "yes" by twelve to one. So that on my own and on their behalf I support this motion, and I now declare that if and

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when the time comes that it is found necessary by the government to exercise the power which the passing of this legislation will give them, I will support conscription for overseas service or the conscription of the man-power and woman-power of Canada for any purpose whatsoever.
In this debate, as in every other debate into which there enters the element of sentimentality, there has been a considerable amount of nonsense talked. In that respect it is my desire to mention one or two things which I think have not helped in deciding this issue but which have rather had the effect of disillusioning our citizens, when they consider what is being done here. We have had various descriptions of what a conscript is and what may be expected of a conscript. The general consensus, whether you take the viewpoint of the red-eyed conscriptionist or that of the dyed-in-the-wool anti-conscrip-tionist, seems to be that conscription is all right for the army; the implied suggestion is that the army is a disreputable conglomeration of people anyway, but that conscription is thoroughly impracticable for the air force or the navy, this in spite of the fact that the traditions of the navy which is described as the mother of our navy have been built up on the success of naval battles fought by sailors who had been shanghaied from every port of the island. The conception seems to have got abroad that we are still operating with a sort of bow-and-arrow army, for which any sort of mentality is sufficient.
I cannot understand why the belief is generally held that conscription is all right for the army but no good for the air force or the navy. The fact is that when a call is issued by the Department of National War Services, recruiting in the Royal Canadian Air Force, in particular, jumps by leaps and bounds. If the definition of a conscript is one who has been called by his government to do his duty, I cannot see where there is any substantial difference between a man so called up who answers the call and the man who enlists in the R.C.A.F. or the navy, or a special branch of the army, a few days before he is due to report for training. Advertisements have recently appeared in the newspapers to the effect that if a man is called up for service in the defence of Canada he will not be able to transfer to another service. The young men of Canada were told that if they had any idea of getting into the R.C.A.F. or the navy they had better do it right away. That was the type of propaganda put out by at least one of the other services. I am a little tired of this attitude, and I rather fancy
that the public of Canada are somewhat disillusioned. The idea is abroad that the man who is conscripted would be of no use to these services. If that is so, then there must be more than a few thousand of them who could be released with advantage to the army so that soldiers could be made out of them. However, my purpose is not to introduce any recrimination into this debate.
For a moment I should like to speak for the people of my constituency in connection with the motion now before the house. The majority of the people of Winnipeg South are in favour of conscription now, and I have no doubt that almost all the people of that constituency would favour conscription at any time that the government regarded it as necessary. Knowing that, I could not, even if I wished, refuse to support the motion simply because it fails to satisfy all. Those in that constituency who cry "forward" with respect to conscription, and even those who cry "back", if there be any, would turn with a unanimous voice to rend either me or anyone else who might by his attitude on this question seek to overthrow the government at the present time.
There is another matter about which I think all the people of that constituency, perhaps all the people of the province, are in agreement. We do not want any more debate on the subject of conscription. In 1935, in 1940, and again in 1942, the people of Canada asserted their confidence in this administration and in the policies of this government. Nothing that can be said or done will add anything to the authority which this government has now. Once this motion carries, the responsibility will then lie fairly and squarely upon the shoulders of the government. Any further discussion would be regarded as temporizing or evading responsibility, and in my opinion it would merit that criticism. I welcome the assurance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) that the government on their own responsibility will act when and if it is necessary and stand or fall by the result. That is the practical working out of the democratic system.
In connection with man-power I should like to draw to the attention of the Minister of National Defence and of the government generally, the fact that considerable wastage is still going on in that because of lack of education or inability to take the training required to-day for troops, volunteers who have come into the service although physically fit, have had to be discharged or used in the home establishments. They have not been able to assimilate the training [DOT] which is essential if they are themselves to have a

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chance of survival or if they are not to endanger their fellows with whom they will serve. When we consider the man-power of Canada we must take into consideration the not inconsiderable numbers who, although physically fit, have not been assimilated into the armed forces. Those who have thought that men with superior education could be used in the navy or the air force and the remainder used to fill out the ranks of the army must realize that it requires just as good physical condition and just as good education to be an operator of a tank or other motorized or mechanized equipment as it does to qualify for the other services. I know of at least one man who was refused once for the army, and another one who was refused twice, who are now training as aircrew.
Before sitting down I should like to address a word to the government as a whole with respect to Canada's war effort. Canada's part is not being adequately played up in the news of the war. The responsibility to see that Canada and Canadians are played up in the news of the war is a responsibility of the government itself. The jumble of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force in England has deprived Canada and Canadians of a knowledge of what our boys have been doing in the last few weeks or months. Had this information been given to us, and I think we had a right to expect it, it would have proved an inspiration to the people all across Canada.
Canada's navy is known everywhere but in Canada. I should like to suggest to the Minister of National Defence for Naval Services (Mr. Macdonald) that he discard this tradition of the navy being a silent service, that he leave that to those who coined the expression. This is a new navy in a new world. It may be well to keep the traditions which have made the British navy what it is, but we should discard some of the snobbish ideas, one of which is that the navy should be the silent service. We should be told what is being done. No matter what happens in England, or on the continent, in north America when you have something to sell, your best idea is to advertise. This is one thing the administration has failed to realize, both in time of peace and in time of war.
We in the Dominion of Canada do not seem to have grasped the significance of nationhood, and so when we argue with each other in the house, and English-speaking Canada attempts to explain to French-speaking Canada what their conception of Frenchspeaking Canada is, and French-speaking Canada gives up the almost hopeless task of explaining to English-speaking Canada what 44561-225 i
their conception of Canadian life is we are overlooking the fact that if, instead of having so much explanation, we were living and practising the idea of all being Canadians in Canada, particularly at this time when all our energies are centred upon the war, it would no doubt have more educational value than all the speeches which have been made on this subject.
I should like to make one or two suggestions to the Minister of National Defence.
It is no sign of a lack of confidence in him or a lack of appreciation of what the Canadian armed forces are doing if I take a minute or two to examine one or two things which I think are important.
As I listened to the able speeches which* have been delivered by the ministers who have spoken, I found myself sitting back in. my chair with a comfortable feeling that perhaps everything is all right, and that scares me worse than anything else on earth. Consequently if I suggest to the minister, having followed his speech with close attention, that I am still in a questioning frame of mind, not only with respect to some of his decisions but with regard to some of the advice he gets,, and certainly wdth respect to some he takes, he will understand that I am trying to keep myself from getting into a frame of mind where I shall be convinced that the Germans will be stopped before they get to Alexandria, and that they can never get to Vancouver or Seattle, and that if we just keep rolling along, the good Lord will raise up somebody to lead us to victory.
History shows that very few of the great' conquerors of the world were professional soldiers. We need only go back to the last war. I remember as I am sure the minister and many other members do, those anxious days when we did not know just what was happening before Paris, and when we learned afterwards that the man whom the French called the little tiger, with his hard hat, was riding back and forth behind the French lines in an old taxicab, saving the day, although he gave the credit to Petain. We remember these things, and also the situations that arose in Great Britain. We remember when Lloyd George was working miracles with the civilian population, and, thank God, helping to win the war, although his actions were regarded by the military men as unwarrantable interference in the administration of the army.
There is a little disquiet in my mind when I hear the expression so often used in this house, that the government will act on the advice of their experts. Experts is a word I am suspicious of, perhaps because I come

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from the west, where some of our people believe that an expert is somebody in Montreal or Toronto who knows somebody in Ottawa very v'ell indeed. Another definition of an expert is somebody who is a considerable distance away from home. The war situation is too serious for one to feel quite content if he thinks that the strategy which is guiding the war effort of Canada is coming from the ranks of those who were satisfied with the crumbs from the table of Canada's militia during peace years. One wonders whether men with that mentality who were content with the environment of those years are capable of being transformed all of a sudden so that they can conceive of modern warfare in global terms. The senior ranks during the period of peace had become, I am inclined to think, pretty much civil servants all [DOT]dressed up, and the changes which have been made in the selection of the senior officers who &re overseas to-day is a healthy indication of the recognition of the fact that it is not enough to leave the devising of strategy solely to men who are professional soldiers.
I should like to feel more than I do now, that the leadership of Canada's war effort from a military standpoint was being more largely directed by the ministers in council. I would be happier if I felt to a lesser extent than I do, that the ministers in council too often concern themselves only with the point of view of the professional soldier. There is no doubt that men trained in technical military proficiency should be those charged with carrying out the military policies. But if I could arouse in the minds of members of this house, and especially in the mind of the government, a sense of the danger of leaving the concept of what we might call global warfare to those limited professional minds, I would have more assurance that when the day comes that Canada's sons stand in some future Tobruk or Singapore we shall not have recriminations in Canada to the effect that those in charge of directing our military effort lack the vision to think in terms of a war which is newer and vastly different from any we have had before. I hope that we shall not find ourselves looking about as this people of England are looking about today for some explanation of another unfortunate set-back, with the half-formed and ill-expressed thought in the back of their minds that they have left the problems of to-day and the security of the future too often to men whose minds belong to yesterday.

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