June 4, 1947 (20th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt

Progressive Conservative


-without impressing upon the government their duty to keep the house informed on this subject.
I wish for one moment to deal with the amendment of the C.C.F. and to say a word about the suggestion of the hon. member for Regina (Mr. Probe) that the united nations should be consulted before any such step as this is taken. I do not agree- with the hon. member for Regina in that suggestion. I fear that if Canada has to run to the united nations before she makes a friendly arrangement with a great and friendly foreign power, there is danger that our liberty of action may be too seriously curtailed. I do not believe that we must follow the principle that Canada can take no step in external relations without reference to the united nations organization. Canada is a great supporter of the united nations organization; but, as I see it, Canada should influence the united nations for good by taking part in its councils, but should not at any time become the mere object of directives from that organization. For that reason I cannot agree with the hon. member for Regina in his suggestion.
Having said so much about the parliamentary limit which we could place upon the policy of the executive in inviting foreign forces into the country, may I say another word upon a limit which is much more important to me; that is, the practical and real limit which we could place upon any such invitEttions. The extent to which we may require to invite foreign forces into our country to share with us our task of defence will be limited by the extent to which we are prepared, reasonably, to defend ourselves. When I see this change in the policy of the government between 1938 and today in connection with this kind of invitation, I wonder why I do not see the same change in policy reflected in our own defence forces. It seems to me that Canada has not had, since the end of the- war, any defence policy, and that may have a serious bearing upon the extent to which we may be obliged to take advantage of this power of invitation. I wish to read what the present Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott), who was then Minister of National Defence for the army, said on October 16, 1945. He was talking about the permanently employed active force, and he said this at page 1135 of Hansard:
This formation will be maintained as a trained field force, fully equipped, ready to meet whatever commitments may arise. Until we know more about our international obligations and consequent requirements, these active force units will be retained as a minimum and would be subject to whatever expansion might later be

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required in the light of any obligations which we might accept to assist in maintaining the peace of the world. Preliminary estimates indicate that the numbers involved in the active permanently employed force will be between 20.090 and 25.000 all ranks.
We know now that we have not 20,000, much less 25,000 in all ranks in our active force. It seems to me that the safest limit we can place upon this new policy, which none of us, I suppose, wholly likes, would be to get rid of the interim force idea, get rid of the idea that we must wait until the security council gives us our task before we determine what our own defence forces will be, and get back to that principle which was laid down as long ago as the imperial conference of 1923, and which was referred to by the present Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Mackenzie), when he was Minister of National Defence in 1939, "The primary responsibility of each portion of the empire is for its own local defence."
I simply wish to say, in conclusion, that if Canada does the maximum within her power to secure her own local defence, without help from outside our borders, our sovereignty will be secure, even though we may want the additional cooperation of other friendly powers. But if Canada should ever do less than the maximum within her power for her own local defence, and if she should ever rely on foreign forces to carry out her own share of that defence, then our sovereignty will be really challenged, not by the presence of the foreign forces, but rather by our failure to do all that we could do for ourselves.

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