June 29, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)


Honoré Achim


Mr. H. ACHIM (Labelle) (translation):

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with a great deal of attention to the hon. member for Two Mountains (Mr. Ethier) and I am happy to state that, beside all the qualities I know him to possess, he showed he was endowed with still another one, when he made a confession. It is a confession which the province of Quebec has been awaiting for almost six years. Of course, the hon. member for Two Mountains took occasion to state that all the members of this House are without a mandate. We, of the province of Quebec, have been satisfied for six years that the hon. member for Two Mountains was sitting here without a mandate. As a matter of fact, considering that the little incident I refer to is about six years old and that the member for Two Mountains has been occupying his seat in this House close on to six years without interruption, it may be assumed that he sits here by prescription, but I will not press the matter any further just now.
Being radically opposed to the principle of conscription, to the principle of the Bill now before this House, I shall not follow the hon. member for Two Mountains through the deep and detailed study he has made of it, section by section.
However, as the hon. member for Two Mountains has spoken at a certain length, what happens to long-winded orators was his lot: he has not remained throughout consistent with himself, as I shall show presently. But before so doing, let me state, Mr. Speaker, that I hold no mandate to defend the Bill, nor the Government, as
the rest of my speech will prove later on. Speaking upon the Bill, the hon. member for Two Mountains exclaims that he is completely opposed to this selective conscription measure and he asks himself what selective conscription means and, in an outburst of eloquence of no uncertain breadth, he exclaims: "I will not have selective
conscription, I want every one to go to the front, since conscription is needed."
He enumerates the different kinds of people who should go to the front and he ends by saying, with much generosity, that he wants to send overseas the "cures" as well as the Protestant ministers; but, a little further in his speech, he cries out: "What the Allies need is production and still more production."
Well, I repeat it, I have no mandate to defend the Bill, but I will .say this: That selective conscription means that there are persons whose presence in this country is more essential than that of others. For instance, the presence of a farmer is of more consequence to the country than that of a bar-tender or of a store-clerk.
That is exactly the view of my hon. friend, the member for Two Mountains, and I will not offend his legal sense or his sense of the present responsibilities by believing that he is actually ignorant of what selective conscription means. Besides this, the hon. member for Two Mountains having taken the liberty of making an assertion which, to my mind, reflects on the Bench of this country, I think it is my duty, as a member of this House, to look up the matter. It is when he says that there is some distrust against that section of the Bill which provides for the appointment of two persons in order to choose among those who will be sent to the front and those who shall remain at home.
It is most evident that one of these two appointees, if I understand the Bill, should be designated by the Parliament of Canada or by the Minister of Justice and the other one-and that is where I find a guarantee of impartiality-by one of the district judges.
The hon. member for Two Mountains is, like myself, a country lawyer and he knows that we can most assuredly rely upon the impartiality of our magistrates who preside over the administration of justice in our districts.
There is another reference, made by the hon. member for Two Mountains, which concerns me in a particular way. Not that I hold a brief to defend the hon. Postmaster General (Mr. P. E. Blondin) who is now in active service, or the hon. minister of In-

land Revenue (Mr. Sevigny), because they are members of a Conservative Cabihet, but simply because they are both personal friends of mine. It is when he says that the hon. Postmaster Genei-al and the hon. Minister of Inland Revenue, during the Dorchester election, last winter, would have advised the electors of, Dorchester, were conscription voted, to run aiway, to cross over the lines and go to the United States.
The hon. Secretary of State has made in this Houise a declaration to that effect, a declaration which, if I rightly understand Parliamentary procedure, must be accepted, which I have myself accepted, which the hon. members on the other side of this House have accepted, and which the hon. member for Two Mountains has no right to call in question.
In the absence of the bon. Secretary of State, I think 1 should defend him against such attacks, and as for the Minister of Inland Revenue, I do not believe he has ever mentioned isuch a thing itn his speeches and he has not been accused, as far as I know, rf having .given any such advice to the eiectors of Dorchester.
I would be assuming too much, at this advanced stage of the debate, if I flattered myself with the thought of adding any new fact, to the mass of information already supplied by the best speakers representing the three main conflicting views. Far from being able to aduce new facts, I believe is most difficult even to evolve from a further consideration of them arguments and conclusions different from those already stated in this House. But, coming from a province where the Bill we are now discussing has created, I shall not say more anxiety than elsewhere, but. a commotion which has expressed itself more violently on the surface and made it the object of aspersions on the part of some hon. members, I believe it is my duty to say a few words which may help t/o dispel, if possible, the prejudices of those honourable gentlemen. My name having been mentioned as a seconder of the motion for the six months'hoist, I think I should claim the attention of this House for a few minutes.
I have listened closely to all the speeches made heretofore, from the most important down, considering that no opinion is unimportant under such exceptional, circumstances-I have even read them carefully over and yon will perhaps allow me to interest myself more particularly to one of these which is not the less remarkable, both

in its substance and in its form, that of my hen. friend the minister of Inland Revenue-
My congratulations to him in the first place for having remembered that the two party leaders have pledged themselves from the very start, in their own name and that of their followers, according to the very words of the'leader of the Opposition: "That the discussion of this measure would bear the stamp of impartiality and moderation, that is would be free from all acrimony and bitterness."
While I think of it, Mr. Speaker, I may improve the opportunity to say a few words about the charges which have been made against me by the hon. member for St. Hyacinthe (Mr. Gauthier) and by the hon. member for Frontenac (Mr. Edwards). These honourable gentlemen have thought fit to have this House amuse itself at my expense; the latter upbraids me for still being in this country, though an officer of the Canadian voluntary militia, I mean the 54th of Sherbrooke, an honour which I share with the hon. member for Berthier. There is a great difference between a volunteer officer and a conscript. It is true the hon. member for Frontenac is not an officer, but nothing prevents him from enlisting if he feels like it. The difierence there is between him and me is this he remains very quietly with his family and would compel all others to enlist, while I am also quietly at home, but without trying to force any one into active service.
I also wish to refer to some remarks emanating from the hon. member for Frontenac, *concerning the honour I have had, some years ago, of seconding the address in reply to the speech from the throne.
The hon. member for Frontenac has no right to represent my conduct on that occasion as being inconsistent with the one I take to-day. When I accepted that honour, I did not suspect that the military craze which has taken hold of our country would impose upon us an effort out of proportion with our strength and our resources. I also said that I was in; favour of Canada's participation in the war, on the condition that the 'Constitution be respected and that the constitutional status which binds us to Great Britain would not be violated. I was justified in taking such a stand at the time, but at the present moment, as the Bill introduced into this House tears into shreds the. Canadian constitution, I propose to oppose it, and to do so as strenuously as I possibly can. If as a member I cannot approve of the views of the hon. minister, I am proud, as a friend, to acknowledge that he has succeeded in replaeing the debate on a level where both leaders wished

it to remain, above the range of political meanness to which certain members had lowered it.
If elevation of thought and beauty of expression were the equivalent of correctness of views, my hon. friend would have made the speech of his life.
Far from me the idea of crossing swords with_the hon. minister-I have neither the inclination nor the capacity-but his stand upon this Bill being directly contrary to mine, one of us two must be wrong, and I will surprise no one by admitting that I do not believe it is your humble servant.
Were I as eloquent as my hon. friend, I would try to persuade him that the fault is on his side.
His whole speech leaves the impression that his attitude is inspired by the most disinterested sentiments, and I hasten to say that I believe him entirely sincere, although I attribute such sentiments to false ideas.
Here is what the minister says at page 2747 of Hansard, unrevised edition.
Why should our minority be isolated on this continent of America, where we are surrounded by English provinces and by the American nation with her hundred million inhabitants?
This is a sincere feeling of concern; I admit that I have myself been a prey to it and that it has caused me long hesitation in deciding what policy I shall follow.
But considering the facts, was this disquiet justifiable? in fact, is our province isolated, when the whole Liberal party has the same ideas and is ready to give the same vote as the representatives of the province of Quebec?
I do not see that the Quebec delegation is in such bad company, when it follows the leader of the Opposition, a man in whom English Canada as well as French Canada, from coast to coast, have had entire confidence during fifteen years.
Is the province of Quebec isolated when it is in such company as that of the hon. member for St. John; the hon. member for Edmonton, and the hon. member for Pic-tou?
Is the province of Quebec isolated when it seems admitted that it is of one mind with the Maritime Provinces?
If such be isolation, allow me to say, Sir, that it is a splendid isolation.
No doubt the leader of the Opposition has seen leaving him talented men whom he held dear and who could render invaluable service for the defence of his ideas. But there is still around him a solid following of English members, and after hearing the speeches of both sides, I think that the ' 183
first have sacrificed reason to sentiment, while the others have held to principles and sound doctrine.
With this theory of isolation, is it not1 to be assumed, after all, that outside of this House the majority of the electorate is in favour of conscription?
That is a gratuitous assumption, which the facts do not justify and which the hon. member for South Wellington admits to be false. Could I not answer it by the no less gratuitous but more probable statement that the great majority of the electors of the other provinces, including those of the ultra-loyal Ontario are opposed to conscription or at least in favour of a referendum?
As my opinion is well worth that of anyone else, whence he may come, I shall hold to it till the Government has had the courage to consult the people, the only one interested-the people who labour, who weep and who die in this war. No; T repeat again that the French Canadians are not alone in favour of a referendum.
Everyone outside of this House is loudly calling forjt, and the voice of a whole people, whatever is done to smother it, will at last be heard.

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