July 19, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)


Rodolphe Lemieux



The United States has no more state church than we have in Canada, yet they have decided to exempt students. We are allies of the United States in this waT, our cause is theirs, and I do not see why we should not-do as they have done. I will therefore move in amendment to the motion made by my right hon. friend: That the words "divinity students" be struck off and replaced by the following:
"Students preparing for the ministry in any recognized theological or divinity school."
These are exactly the words of the United fdates Act. I move this amendment because, as has been explained by the right hon. leader of the Opposition (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) and as my hon. friend the Minister of Justice (Mr. Doherty) knows full well, the divinity students in the church to which he and I belong are tne professors in our colleges. In the province of Quebec we have something like twenty classical colleges. I am speaking from memory and may be wrong as to the exact number. The body of- professors is made up of those young theological students, and if the exemption does not cover them the colleges will be deprived of the services of these young men as professors. As I explained a moment ago, when a .young theological student has taught his pupils during his theological course, which lasts three or four years, he becomes an ordained priest, and is then attached to the institution, if he is a man of marked ability in the course of studies, or he takes a vicarage and later on a "cure", in the diocese, and thus becomes a regular member -of the diocesan clergy. He is the spirtual head of a parish, and as such is exempt in any event under the bill. If you refuse exemption to young theological students in our colleges you prevent the youth of our province from obtaining their education at those classical colleges. If the United States, where out of a total population of 103,000,000 there are barely 12,000,000 Roman Catholics-I am not exact as to the proportion-congress has thought proper to include this exemption in their Conscription Act, it seems to me in Canada, where 45 per cent of the population is Roman Catholic, we should not be afraid to accept what concession they have made on the matter. It was stated during the course of the debate that there would be a rush towards theological studies by the young men if such exemption were included in the Bill. That is a very poor argument indeed and I protest most strongly against the insinuation. No man of honour would desecrate himself to the extent of accepting Holy Orders with a view to avoid a duty imposed by legislation of Parliament. No young man with any conscience would attempt to do such an immoral act-the qualification is not too strong-in order to avoid service under the present legislation. I hope the committee will at least accept the text of the United States legislation on this subject.

Mr. GAUVREAU, (Temiscouata) (translation) : Mr. Chairman, not only shall I
vote for the amendment moved by the hon. member from Rouville (Mr. Lemieux), but moreover, I deem it incumbent on me to say a few words in this connection, after all, it is well that the country should know where we are at in regard to this clause. [DOT]
The original clause as it was amended at the request of the Prime Minister, the proposer of the Bill, must have been good since it was agreed upon by the House, and if my memory serves me right, when the amendment moved by the Prime Minister has been submitted to the approval of the House, the hon. members oh the other side were pleased to come and ask us not only to refrain from putting difficulties in the way, but even to further its enactment, for they said they had found it hard to have it agreed to. Consequently I believe if is well that the people of this country should be acquainted with what is going on here and with the reasons which may have induced the Prime Minister to so amend his own amendment and to turn about. I deem it my duty to say that the clause as amended by the Prime Minister himself - should remain in the Bill and that there is no reason whatever to revert now to the former clause as the amendment which he had moved was the one which in his own words was to be retained in the Act.

Subtopic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
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