Mr. G. H. BOIVIN (Shefford):
Mr. Speaker, since your appointment to the
honourable position which you now hold, I have not taken up too much of the time of this House in discussing the different measures, some very good, others not so good, submitted by this Government for the successful prosecution of the great war in which Canada is engaged as part of the British Empire-a war, Sir, which every member of this House desires to see brought to a speedy and successful conclusion, not only for the honour and glory of our King, our country and our flag, but for the peace, liberty and civilization of the entire world.
The measure which now confronts us is so important, involving as it does the liberty of the subject, that I cannot vote thereon without explaining to this House and to this country, for the benefit at least of the electors whom I once represented here, the reasons why I intend to vote against the sub-amendment of the hon. member for Berthier (Mr. Barrette), if it is declared to be in order, for the amendment submitted by my right hon. leader, and if that amendment is defeated, then against the second and subsequent readings of the Military Service Bill.
Referring to the electors of Shefford county, I used the expression: "The electors whom I once represented here," because, Sir, when a majority of them gave me their votes and their confidence on September 21, 1911, they elected me as their representative for a term of five years-no more-and I feel that since the month bf September, 1916, when another general election should have been held, I have no longer the same right and the same authority to express their views and voice their sentiments and opinions. I may be asked why I tacitly consented to a renewal of my mandate by an amendment to the Canadian constitution made by the Imperial Parliament at the unanimous request of both Houses of the Parliament of Canada. If so, I will promptly answer that when the petition asking for an extension of the present Parliament was unanimously approved by both parties in this House, I, like many other hon. members on this side, was under the impression that the war policy of the Government had been clearly defined and would be faithfully carried out. Its policy, as I then understood it, was to send to the trenches in France and Belgium, every Canadian citizen who had the courage and patriotism to enlist, to see that he was supplied with the best arms, ammunition and clothing that "science could devise or money could buy," to see that his dependents did not suffer at home during his absence, nor after his glorious death
and that in case of his being returned, maimed, wounded and disabled, to surround him with all the care, attention and assistance that he so righteously deserved. The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Burrell) had preached production and more production; the Minister of Finance (Sir Thomas White) had counselled economy and more economy, and the Prime Minister had placed the natural resources of Canada at the disposal pi the Mother Country, in order to insure the soldiers of England as well as those of Canada and their dependents, against famine and .starvation, while they were risking their lives for the common cause. It is true that the Prime Minister had, a few days before the opening of the last session, without any authorization from Parliament or the country at large, promised that our contribution would attain the figure of 500,000 men. It was a New Year's gift from the Prime Minister to England, which was later ratified by an Order in Council, and subsequently called a pledge, although the Prime Minister himself admits that it should not be so considered. But pledge or unauthorized gift-call it what you like-that contribution was to be voluntary. This is proven by the statement made by the right hon. gentleman which, although already quoted during the course of this debate, I must repeat. Sir Robert Borden on January 17, 1916, said:
My right hon. friend has alluded to conscription-to the idea in this country or elsewhere-[DOT] that there may fbe conscription in Canada. In speaking in the first two or three months of this war I made it clear to the people of Canada that we did not propose conscription. I repeat that announcement to-day with emphasis.
Later on during the same session, when proposing the adoption of the petition to the Imperial Parliament, asking for an extension of the life of this Parliament, Sir Robert Borden on February 8, 1916, said:
On the outbreak of war, the Government of Canada pledged the assistance of the Dominion to the Empire, and when the subject of war was brought before Parliament in the August session of 1914, the Government presented proposals regarding assistance to the Empire in the war upon a larger scale than had ever before been proposed or undertaken. It might have been urged by persons who are specially influenced by constitutional usage that a mandate from the electorate should have been then sought for that reason.
The Government considered that public opinion was practically unanimous in supporting the course which the Government proposed.
Canada was thereby pledged by the then legally elected representatives of her people, without a dissenting voice, to the voluntary contribution of all that she could give
and all that she cpuld do, to avenge Belgium, punish Germany, for her disregard of treaty rights, and assure the continuance of that democracy, liberty, and freedom of which we always have been, yes, of which I hope we may always be so proud. We were to have no conscription, our contribution was to be voluntary, and our duty as members of Parliament resolved itself into carrying out the pledges made when we had a right to make them. We did not know, we could not believe, in spite of the then current rumours to this effect, that there would be troubles and disagreements in the Cabinet itself, and that politics, patronage and graft would continue to exist in the party opposite as has been clearly proven on many occasions since that date. We consented to an extension of our mandates to save the turmoil of a general election and to demonstrate to the world, what the people of Canada already knew, that unlike its opponents, the Liberal party was more concerned about winning the war than in attaining office and dispensing party favours to party friends. I have been told by speakers who favour this Bill, that, because conscription has been adopted in France, in England and in the United States, conscription must be adopted here. I will refer to England later on in my address and show that conscription has not been so popular nor so successful there as was originally hoped for. I remember the words of the hon. member for Humboldt ('Mr. Neely) yesterday, when he heaped praise upon the United States for their entry .into this world-war, and for the immediate adoption of conscription in that country. With him and with those who applauded those words, I heartily agree.
It was a great date in the history of humanity when the United States entered this war. Despite the Monroe doctrine, despite German immigration, despite the ties of all kinds binding the two countries, the aggressive policy of Germany forced into the war the nation which was most firmly resolved to remain at peace. President Wilson conducted his policy from the first, like the great man of law that he is. His impassibility and his refusal to pass judgment sometimes surprised us, but his attitude from the very first gave his final decision the force of a verdict, the verdict of the conscience of humanity before the tribunal of history. But although the moral influence of the United States will be great, her material assistance counted in men-conscription and all-is for the present limited to
less than one million-proportionately the same number sent by Canada during the first few months of the war. France has given, and is giving, the last drop of her blood. All honour to her for it.
But, Sir, even if because conscription was adopted in those countries, is that a reason for us to impose it upon the Canadian people? In which of those countries did the leader of the Government tell the people until the very last minute that conscription would not be necessary, and then impose it upon them witnout preparation and without education, like a cloud-burst from a clear blue sky. I blame this Government for having misled the people. If that is too strong a term, then, for having failed to inform them in advance of the gravity and dire necessities of the situation which confronts us. Is it any wonder that this Bill is not accepted with enthusiasm by all the people? Is it any wondeT that hundreds of petitions bearing thousands of signatures from all parts of Canada, have been laid upon the table of this House, protesting against conscription and asking this Government to consult the people by means of a referendum before adopting this measure?
What mandate have I, what mandate have any of us, to do more than carry out the pledges made by this Government when, in the words of the Prime Minister himself, it had the people of Canada solidly behind it? Can it claim that solidarity now? Who can tell me that I would today be the member for Shefford, if an election had been held in 1916? Who can say that the Prime Minister would be the representative of Halifax city, much less, that he would continue to hold his present position, if he had sought re-election as required by the unamended law in 1916? And if we had been so re-elected and returned upon the pledge then given of "No conscription in Canada," what authority would we now have to force our electors to become soldiers against their will? I will not pretend that this is an illegal Parliament. I do not say that our mandate could not legally be extended by the Imperial Parliament, but I do say that we should adopt no new policy and introduce no new measure of such vital importance without consulting the people. Besides, this Parliament is- not complete. There are twenty-three vacant seats to be found here and those twenty-three votes which cannot be given, the eloquence and sound reason of those twenty-three unknown men who cannot be heard upon the merits of this
measure, might possibly make a material and permanent difference in the result of the votes upon the Military Service Act.
Who will speak for the electors of An-tigonish, whose member resigned on the 30th May, 1916? Who will speak for the electors of Bellechasse, whose member resigned on the 12th of May, 1916? For the electors of Brandon, whose member resigned on the 16th of July, 1915? For the electors of Brome, whose member, the late George H. Baker, was killed at Ypres on the 3rd June, 1916? For the electors of Carleton, Ontario, whose member resigned on the 28th June, 1916? For the electors of Grey East, whose member was appointed to the Senate on the 3rd of December last? For the electors of Hamilton East, whose member died on the 20th of June? For the electors of Kings and Albert whose member has recently been appointed to the Senate? For the electors of Kings, Nova Scotia, whose member resigned on the 24th of April, 1915? For the electors of Lincoln, whose member, the late Mr. Lancaster, died on the 4th of January, 1916? For the electors of Lisgar, whose member resigned on the 16th of July, 1915? For the electors of London, whose member died on the 12th December, 1916? For the electors of Mont-magny, whose member resigned on the 6th of June, 1916? For the electors of Montmorency whose member also sits for Charlevoix? For the electors of Nicolet, whose member, Mr. Lamarche, resigned on the 21st of September, 1916? For the electors of Prince, P.E.I., whose member died on the 9th of March, 1915? For the electors of Quebec County, whose member died on the 29th December, 1916? For the electors of Regina, whose member resigned on the 20th of October. 1916? For the electors of Resti-gouche, whose member died on the 17th of November, 1915? For the electors of Sou-langes, whose member also sits for Quebec East? For the electors of Yarmouth, whose member died in the memorable Parliament Buildings fire on the 3rd of February, 1916? For the electors of Stanstead, whose member died on the 17th of October, 1916? And last, but not least, who will speak for the electors of Terrebonne, whose member, Mr. Gedeon Rochon, died on the 11th of February, 1917, and to whom, in the absence of the Prime Minister, not even a passing reference was made in this House by the leaders whom he had served so faithfully and so well.
If I had authority to speak for the electors of Shefford and bind them by my vote in this House; if I was to vote upon this
measure according to the wishes of the majority of those electors I could do nothing else than vote as I have already s'tatedT I do not pretend for a. moment that they are all opposed to conscription; far from it. Three-quarters of the population and two-thirds of the electors are French Canadians. One-quarter of the population and one-third of the voters are English-speaking Canadians. Most all of the former and a large number of the latter are opposed to conscription and have frankly told me so. The majority of the English-speaking electors are in favour of conscription. They favour compulsory military service. Many leading citizens of my county and city, high up in the financial and business life of our Dominion. have not waited for conscription to give their lives, their brothers and their sons to our sacred cause. I cannot believe, Mr. Speaker, that after making such a sacrifice for British freedom and British democracy, they can to-day advocate that popular sovereignty be trampled under foot by a Parliament without a mandate from the people which it pretends to represent. They are in favour of conscription though their neighbours be against it. They believe that the majority of Canadians are in favour of compulsory military service, but whether this be so or not, they are willing that the people of Canada should be consulted, and they are prepared, believing, as they do, in government of the people by the people, to abide by the result of that referendum, whatever it may be. Is that not the spirit which should animate every true Canadian? Is not that the stand which should be taken by ail those who, like my right hon. leader, desire that inter-racial and initer-provincial strife shall forever cease, and that upon the golden wedding anniversary of Confederation, peace, harmony and happiness shall prevail in every corner of our great Dominion? The French-Canadians are a small minority in this country. They are willing that in every matter where their rights and privileges are not concerned the will of the majority should prevail. This measure relates to militia and defence; it is a Federal matter, and all they ask is that the people of Canada be consulted. Not the people of Quebec, but the people of all Canada. They are ready and willing to submit to the will of the majority. Do they ask too much?
The majority of my electors desire a referendum, and if that referendum is refused they ask me to vote against the Bill. On the 2ftth of June I handed to the Clerk of this House a petition which bears 1,439 signatures, among which are to be found
those of several of the aldermen of the city of Granby, the mayor of that city, the pastor and curates of the Catholic parish .of the same name, and hundreds of our leading citizens, including that of a proud father of two sons, one of whom has been wounded and the other killed somewhere in France. The petition is as follows:
To The Honourable The House of Commons,
In Parliament Assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned inhabitants of the City and Township of Granby, in the County of Shefford, in the Province of Quebec Respectfully represents
1. That on the 17th day of January, 1916, the right Honourable Sir Robert Borden, Prime Minister of Canada, speaking in the House of Commons, said: "I made it clear to the people of Canada that we did not propose any conscription. I repeat that announcement to-day with emphasis
2. That on the same date, the Right Honourable Sir Wilfrid Laurier, speaking in the House of Commons, said : "There is to be no conscription in Canada
3. That it was only after these statements had been made that the life of the present Parliament was extended by the Imperial Parliament;
4. That when the people of Canada through their representatives asked for the extension of the present Parliament, it was with the distinct understanding clearly stated by the leaders of both parties that there would be no conscription in this Dominion;
5. That on the 18th day of May, 1917, the Right Honourable Sir Robert Borden, Prime Minister, announced that he would introduce a measure into the House of Commons providing for compulsory military service in Canada;
6. That the present Parliament whose life was extended upon the express understanding that there would be no conscription, has no mandate to enact any law or resolution providing for conscription for overseas service;
Wherefore Your Petitioners pray that Your Honourable Body do not pass any Bill or Act imposing compulsory military service upon the people of Canada until the mandate of Your Honourable House has been renewed by means of a general election and until the people of Canada have been consulted by means of a referendum ;
And, Your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Granby, Que., June 3, 1917.
Copies of resolutions from four municipal councils in my county contain the same request. I am sure that the House will bear with me, while I read them in the exact words in which they were received:
Province of Quebec,
Municipality of Roxton Township.
At a special meeting of the municipal council of Roxton Township, in the county of Shefford, held in the Secretary Treasurer's office, in the village of Roxton Falls, Saturday, the 26th day of May, one thousand nine hundred and seventeen, at the ordinary hour of the sitting of said council, at which meeting were present councillors Hyacinthe Dupuy, Wilfrid Boileau, Alfred Brisebois, Edward CotS and Didace Bedard, all the councillors forming a quorum of the members of said council, with Mr. Damase Briu, the mayor, as chairman.
The Secretary-Treasurer was also present.
Councillor Charles Brisebois is absent, but he was duly notified.
""Whereas it is understood that the Prime Minister of Canada, the Hon. R. L. Borden, is introducing a Bill, with a view to provide for conscription in the Dominion of Canada.
Moved by Councillor Hyacinthe Dupuy, seconded by Councillor Wilfrid Boileau,
That Mr. Georges Boivin, member for the county of Shefford in the House of Commons, be asked to give his vote against this law and that he demand by speech in Parliament that, before such measure be adopted, the people of the Dominion of Canada be called upon to express their views concerning it by means of general elections and that copy of the present resolution be addressed to the said Georges Boivin and to La Presse.
('Signed) Damase Briu, Mayor.
E. Dalp6, Sec.-Treas.
(Signed) E. DalpS, Sec.-Treas. Province of Quebec,
Municipality of Roxton Falls Township.
At a monthly and regular meeting of the council of Roxton Falls Village, held Monday, the 7th day of May, one thousand nine hundred and seventeen, at the ordinary place and hour of the sittings of the council, in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Code of the Province of Quebec; at which meeting thus adjourned were present: Mr. F. X. Racine,
Mayor; Councillors J. B. LavallSe, P. D. Mc-Grail, L. Beauregard, A. Racine, W. Despart, J. Bouchard, forming a quorum, with His Honour the Mayor as Chairman.
It is enacted by resolution of the council as follows:
Whereas the Prime Minister of Canada, the Hon. R. L. Borden, is introducing a bill which provides for conscription in the Dominion of Canada, it is moved by Councillor W. Despart, seconded by Councillor J. B. Lavall6e, that Mr. Geo. H. Boivin, member for the county of Shefford in the House of Commons, be asked to vote against this law and that he demand by speech in Parliament that, before such measure be adopted, the people of the Dominion of Canada be called upon to express their views upon this question by means of a plebiscite, and that copies of the present resolution be addressed to the said Geo. H. Boivin and to the press.
(Signed) L. Tranchemontagne,
Province of Quebec,
Municipality of the Parish of Ste. Anne de Stukely.
At a regular meeting of the council of the parish of Ste. Anne de Stukely, held Monday, the 7th day of May, one thousand nine hundred and seventeen and adjourned until the 4th day of June, at the ordinary place and hour of the sittings of the council, at which session, so adjourned, were present: Mr. Achille Lagrandeur, Mayor, Councillors UldSric Brien, F61ix Ther-
that Canada requires her men for her farms and factories. They are opposed to conscription because of the almost frantic appeals made by, the Department of Agriculture for more production and greater production. They are opposed to conscription because they are aware of the fact that farm labourers for western Canada are advertised for in the American press and that they are promised immunity from compulsory service.
They are opposed to conscription because they have been told that there will be less wheat harvested in Canada this year than last year, and that there are this year less acres of wheat land under cultivation.
They are opposed to conscription because they consider it will be a great deterrent to European immigration after the war has been concluded and peace restored.
They are opposed to conscription because they are convinced that, with national service properly organized, the few thousand young men now found idle upon the streets of our cities could do better work and more effective work upon the farm than in the trenches.
They are opposed to conscription because they consider that Great Britain, with her small territory and large population, needs food supplies worse than men.
They are opposed to conscription because they have read of the German submarine campaign and the ravages it has caused in the merchant shipping of the Empire. They believe that more boats, both large and small, should be speedily built, and that our surplus men should be employed in building them.
They are opposed to conscription because it will, by placing conscripts and volunteers together, diminish the glory of our gallant boys now at the front.
They are opposed to conscription because they consider that Canada's contribution of 420,000 men should be proportionately equalled by the other allied nations and sister dominions before Canada is asked to do more.
They are opposed to conscription because they lack confidence in the present Government, and have their doubts about the fair and impartial operation of the selective system.
They are opposed to this measure because the age limit is even greater than the age limit in the conscription law of England, because married men with large families of children are placed in the same class and will be called at the same time as
married men without children, and because the system of appeals for the privilege of exemption, from one tribunal to another, no matter how fair these tribunals may be, will favour the rich and prove a hardship to the poor.
They are opposed to conscription because they consider this war to be a war of attrition and their own country in no immediate danger of attack.
They are opposed to conscription as it is now proposed, because the present Bill conscripts man-power alone and leaves wealth and riches untouched.
They are opposed to conscription because Nationalist eloquence, paid for by Conservative gold, has argued that Canada owed nothing to England.
They are opposed to conscription because their boys who volunteered were not left under the command of the officers in whom they had confidence and to whom they had been confided by their fathers and mothers, but were sent to other regiments and their officers returned home.
They are opposed to conscription because the only member from my province who holds a mandate direct from the people, the hon. Minister of Inland Revenue, obtained that mandate under false pretences by assuring the electors of Dorchester that there would be no compulsory military service in Canada.
They are opposed to conscription because they love their province and their homes, and do not care to follow the advice of the Postmaster General and avoid service by crossing an unguarded boundary line of 4,000 miles between Canada and the United States.
They are opposed to conscription because selective conscription has not been a success in England, as evidenced by the following article entitled "The Great War," by Brigadier-General F. Z. Stone, in the Saturday Review, May 12, 1917 :
"What are we doing- to give them the men? Some of the tribunals have gone on strike, because th<y object to the revision of their findings by the appeal courts; friction is in many cases becoming increasingly evident between the military representation and the civil members of the local tribunals, Brig. Gen. E. A. Grove stated in a letter read at the sitting of the Chesham (Bucks) tribunal that there were 50,000 exemptions current in his district, most of which were unconditional without any time limit. He also stated that since January 1st 40,831 applications had been made for exemption, and three out of four men had been exempted. If this is representative of the average state of affairs throughout the country, we may, at all events, congratulate ourselves on the vastness of our untapped re-
sources, whatever we may think of the spirit in which the call for men has been met hitherto.
They are opposed to conscription because, as pointed out so ably by the hon. member for Kamouraska, it is opposed to the spirit of the Canadian constitution.
They are opposed to conscription because they consider that the law was introduced more for the purpose of winning the next general election and causing people to overlook the scandals of this war Administration, than to assist in winning the war.
They are opposed to conscription because they fear that Canada, in spite of her vast natural resources, cannot do more than provide adequately for her volunteers and the pension fund required to do justice to the iboys already at the front.
They are opposed to conscription because of the campaign of slander carried on against Quebec in the other provinces, and the statements made even by a minister of the Crown in this House, that the Bill was introduced because Quebec had not done its duty.
The Honourable the Minister of Labour, speaking in this House on June 20, 1917, said, as reported at page 2592 of the unrevised Hansard:
''If they (recruits) were to come as numerously from that province (Quebec) as they have from some of the other provinces, neither the Militia Act nor the Military Service Act would be necessary at all."
At page 2595, in the same speech, he throws out these remarks:
The question is not whether our sons fought valiantly at Queenston Heights or Chateau-guay-some people think we should live on that as long as possible-but whether the sons of those sires have inherited the heroism and the valour that enabled their fathers to do credit to themselves and to their country on the field of battle. The spirits of our sires who fought at Queenston Heights and Cha-teauguay hover over us to-day; God grant that they do not look down upon any degenerate or recreant sons.
My answer to those remarks is not that Quebec has done as much as any other province, but that it has done more than it has received credit for, and more than any other province would have done under similar circumstances. There are men in our province, many of them, both Conservatives and Liberals, both English and French, who have sought for and found the reasons for the lack of enthusiasm -among our people, so far as recruiting is concerned.
The hon. member for Rouville (Mr. Lemieux) referred to the defects in the recruiting system. I need not repeat, but let me add that patronage and partisanship resulted in the dismissal, or placing upon the reserve list, of several men who were willing to sacrifice home, business, family and fortune, for the privilege of leading a battery or a battalion to meet the Germans.
I will cite just one example. It is the case of Col. J. Bruce Payne, of Granby. I cannot, without infringing upon the rules of debate, give all the details, 'but I propose to do so when the Militia Estimates are again considered in Committee of Supply. Col. J. Bruce Payne, who is a well known cigar manufacturer, had for years been in command of the 15th Shefford Field Battery, and had been for some time officer commanding the 7th Brigade. The fact that he was a Liberal in politics drew upon him the ire of Col. Morrison, Director of Artillery at Ottawa, and during the first days of the war Col. Payne was placed upon the reserve list of officers, without excuse other than a pretended offence, which was later brought home to another officer. The former Minister of Militia and Defence, to whose attention the matter was brought by myself, took the required steps to replace Col. Payne upon the active list, and soon after authorized him to recruit the 27th Battery for overseas service. He gladly accepted, left his large cigar business and other interests in the hands of his employees, and, having the confidence of his fellow-citizens, he found no difficulty in securing the consent of their parents to bring with him to England and France a large number of the young men who were members of his local battery. He successfully passed his medical examinations, and, after training at Val-car-tier and replacing several drafts made upon his battery, proceeded with it overseas. Some time after the arrival of the Battery at Westenhanger hutments in England, General Morrison, who had also gone overseas, was given command of the Artillery Division. Without reason or justification, so far as Col. Payne knows to this day, he was removed from his command and sent to Ross Barracks, where he remained for almost two months, and from where 'he sailed for home, to report for instructional duty, and later, secured his discharge. London Truth of November 3, 1915, has the following to say about General Morrison:-
"If there is any truth in statements current at Folkestone, the military authority in Canada will do well to keep an eye on Brigadier-General E. W. B. Morrison. This officer having gained the D.S.O. at the front, returned to take
oyer, at the beginning of October, the command of the Canadian artillery training in that part of Kent. After about three weeks he summarily removed the officers commanding five batteries and an ammunition column commander. This was apparently done without warning or reason given. All these officers, some of whom, if not all. have come out in command of their batteries from Canada, are transferred to the Reserve Brigade which means that their prospects of going to the front are closed for an indefinite time in favour of the new selections of the brigadier. Such a wholesale shunting of men at such short notice will require a good deal of justification. The brigadier seems to have had in Canada the reputation of being rather "a harbitrary gent" and arbitrariness on the above scale may have its disadvantages in a voluntary army."
In the meantime, .the fathers and mothers who confided their sons to Col. Payne have worried over the welfare of their children, and, in many cases, young boys have been kept from enlisting in other regiments owing to the incident just referred to. Col. Payne was removed from his command 'to please General Morrison, who wanted to even up old political scores in Canada and give the best positions to his own favourites.
The General remains in command of an Artillery Division and no redress is possible under this Government. Proper admonition to the political general, and, better still, his return to Canada, where he could be kept under the eyes of the Headquarter's Staff, would have assisted recruiting, but it would have spoiled the political game which must be played, even at the price of conscription.
Subtopic: DEBATE CONTINUED ON MOTION FOR SECOND READING AND ON THE AMENDMENTS.