April 5, 1918 (13th Parliament, 1st Session)


John Allister Currie



I am, very thankful to
you, Mr. Speaker, for calling my attention to this matter. Perhaps I was getting a little too lengthy in my remarks. However, I will try to come to the point quickly and say that the late Government introduced into this House the Military Service Act, and the Military Service Act that came before this House was not such a Military Service Act as that Government would have produced had there not been certain elements in the Government which were opposed to compulsion of any kind in order to send men. to the front. We all know of the trouble that occurred. Ministers resigned and left the Government. Finally we had this law brought down by which a hundred thousand men were going to be secured by means of what is called the draft. Everybody in the corridors knew that it was a joke, that that law which was 'brought down was not the law that was really required, but it was the law, and as such it was shot full of holes. The enforcement of the Act was virtually left to the lawyers and judges and officials; if they did not wish to enforce it vigourously, every man in the country could avoid coming under its provisions. Why was the law formed in that way? I will tell you. There was intense opposition to the law on the part of our friends from Quebec and of members from that province within the ranks o,f the Conservative party. There was a constant agitation and struggle so to keep down the Act that it might be delayed or that the war might end or something else happen before it could be really enforced. But the measure was brought

down; we passed it, and we passed also the War-time Elections Act. I say without hesitation that had the Military Service Act been adopted by this House after the passage of the War-time Elections Act, the provisions of the former would have been much more stringent. As it is, the law is not as strong as the first law they had in England-and in England that law was subsequently amended so as to be stronger. We shall likely have to do the same thing here before the session is over.
So, when the War-time Elections Act was passed, the Government had to face the possibility of hostility in the West as well as hostility east of the Ottawa river. I have nothing to say against my good friends in the province of Quebec. Men from that province fought with me in the trenches in the greatest battle of the war, and I can testify to their courage,
4 p.m. devotion and bravery, because no braver men ever lived. Had they been properly managed by their leaders; had they not been misled and misrepresented, I firmly believe in my heart that no part of Canada would have taken part in the war more joyfully or more gladly than the province of Quebec. If Quebec has not done its duty, it is not on account of the people of that province; it is on account of their so-called political leaders.
As I say, we had to face an adverse vote in Quebec and in tihe West, and men like myself realized that if the Government had gone to the country without first adopting the War-time Elections Act the control of the country would have been lost to anti-British

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