March 21, 1924 (14th Parliament, 3rd Session)


William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)


Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister) moved:

That it be resolved by the [DOT] [DOT][DOT]
House of Commons that it is expedient that parliament do approve of the convention between His Majesty and the President of the United States of America, signed at Washington on the twenty-third day of January, one thousand nine hundred and twenty-four, for the purpose of avoiding any difficulties which might arise between them in connection with the laws in force in the United States, on the subject of alcoholic beverages, a copy of which has been laid before parliament.
That a message be sent to the Senate informing their honours that this House has adopted the above resolution and requesting that their honours will unite with this House in the approval of the above-mention convention.
And that the clerk do carry the said message to the Senate.
He said: Mr. Speaker, very shortly after the opening of parliament, I laid on the Table a copy of a convention between the United Kingdom and the United States of America, respecting the regulation of the liquor traffic. This subject was one of consideration and of discussion at the Imperial Conference last fall. It is referred to in the summary of proceedings of the conference which has also been tabled. I might quote from the reference, to be found on page 12 of the summary, the paragraph that is pertinent. It reads as follows:
During the session of the conference, the question of the regulation of the liquor traffic off the American coasts and of the measures to be taken to avoid a serious conflict either of public opinion or of official action was seriously debated. The conference arrived at the conclusion that, while affirming and safeguarding as a cardinal feature of British policy the principle of the three mile limit, it was yet both desirable and practicable to meet the American request for an extension of the right of search beyond this limit for the above purpose, and negotiations were at once opened with the United States government for the conclusion of an experimental agreement with this object in view.
I should like to give to the House the essential provisions of the convention, or treaty as it may be called, and will do so, in as brief a form as possible:
The principle that three marine miles from low water mark constitute the proper limits of territorial water is upheld.
Appropriate provision is made for the searching of British vessels under stated con-
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ditions; and when there is reasonable cause for belief that the vessel has committed or is committing or is attempting to commit an offence against the laws of the United States prohibiting the importation of alcoholic beverages the vessel may be seized and brought into the United States for adjudication.
It is provided that this right of seizure may be exercised within the distance from the coast that may be traversed in one hour by the vessel suspected of endeavouring to commit the offence. Where a transfer from one vessel to another is contemplated, it is the speed of the latter vessel which is to determine the distance from the coast within which seizure may be made.
The treaty also provides that no penalty or forfeiture under' the laws of the United States shall attach to the carriage of alcoholic liquors by British vessels when listed as sea stores or as cargo destined for a port foreign to the United States, provided that such liquors are kept under seal continuously while the vessel is within the territorial waters and that they shall not at any time or place be unladen within United States territory. Such carriage is to have the same status as now provided by law with respect to the transit of alcoholic liquors through the Panama canal. Provision is made for reference to a joint commission of claims for compensation where a British vessel has suffered loss or injury through any unreasonable or improper exercise of the rights conferred by the treaty. The treaty is subject to ratification in the usual manner, and is to remain in force for one year from the date of the exchange of ratifications. Three months before the expiration of the year modifications may be suggested by j either party, and if no agreement is made with respect to them the treaty is to lapse; otherwise it is to continue from year to year subject to a similar right of proposed modifications. The treaty is also to lapse if either of the parties is prevented by judicial decision or legislative action from giving full effect to its provisions, and in case from any cause the treaty comes to an end, such party is to enjoy all the rights he would have possessed had it not been concluded.
The convention was signed at Washington on January 23 of this year by the British ambassador, Sir Auckland Geddes, representing His Majesty the King, and by the Hon. Mr. Hughes, Secretary of State of the United States, representing the President. It has since been ratified by the Senate of the United States on March 13, by a vote of 61 to 7.
It will be ratified by the King as soon as approval of the treaty has been given by the

parliament of the United Kingdom and the parliaments of the several self-governing dominions. On January 12 of this year the Canadian government was asked if its ministers approved of the terms of the treaty, and also if they were agreeable to having the British ambassador sign the treaty. On the day following a reply was sent to the British government intimating that the terms of the treaty were agreeable to our ministers; also that the government was agreeable to having the British ambassador sign. The reply drew attention to the particular clause in the treaty which refers to vessels which may be illegally seized and brought into port. We fell, that if the vessel seized should happen to be under Canadian registry it was but right that the British representative on the board appointed to adjudicate upon the matter should be a person nominated by the Canadian government ; we also felt that the government should only give its approval subject to the subsequent approval of this parliament. These two intimations were given in our despatch, and in the reply which was received from the British government it was intimated that the wish of Canada in both those particulars would be fully respected.
I will, for purposes of greater accuracy, indicate to the House more or less in the language of the despatch itself, the form in which our approval as a government was given to the terms of the treaty. The despatch, sent on January 12 intimated-that: The government of Canada, subject to acquiescence by the British government in the conditions therein mentioned, approved of the proposed treaty with the United States, and approved of the signature of the treaty by His Majesty's representative at Washington. It had been decided that parliamentary approval should be obtained before concurrence in ratification should be intimated. It was stated that the Canadian parliament would probably meet before the end of February. That the Canadian government's present approval of the proposed treaty was given on condition that it was understood that if a joint board to report upon the claims of compensation by a vessel of Canadian registry is required to be constituted under Article 4, the selection of the person whose name is to be submitted to his Majesty for appointment to the board will be made by it. In conclusion the despatch said it was assumed that an undertaking by the British government on this point would be sufficient and that provision with reference thereto need not therefore be included in the treaty.
The reply sent stated that it was quite understood that the Canadian government

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would wish to obtain the approval of the Canadian parliament before ratification, and that a similar course was contemplated in the United Kingdom; that his Majesty's government would readily leave to the Canadian government the nomination of the person to be the member of the joint board referred to in Article 4 in respect of vessels of Canadian registry and agreed that it was not necessary to make provision in the treaty, further that the same procedure was contemplated in case of other dominions.
As I have intimated, the treaty was signed on January 23rd by the British ambassador. In this connection may I point out to the House that the practice followed with respect to the signature of this treaty is the one decided upon at the recent Imperial Conference and set out in the report of the Summary of Proceedings of the Imperial Conference to be found on pages 13, 14 and 15 in the part of the report relating to negotiation, signature and ratification of treaties. With reference to the signature of treaties there are the following provisions:
(a) Bilateral treaties imposing obligations on one part of the Empire only should be signed by the representative of the government of that part.
The Halibut treaty which has been the subject of discussion in this House is of that character. It is a bilateral treaty which imposed obligations only on Canada, not on other parts of the British Empire, and as such according to the procedure which the Imperial Conference has thought proper in this matter, it should be signed by a representative of the government of Canada. Now I continue to quote from the report of the proceedings:
The full power issued to such representatives should indicate the part of the Empire in respect of which the obligations are to be undertaken, and the preamble and text of the treaty should be so worded as to make its scope clear.
(b) Where the bilateral treaty imposes obligations on more than one part of the Empire the treaty should be signed by one or more plenipotentiaries on behalf of all the governments concerned.
This treaty between His Majesty and the President of the United States is a bilateral treaty which imposes obligations on more than one part of the Empire. It imposes obligations on all parts, and therefore it is, in the language of the procedure set forth by the *conference, to be signed by one or more plenipotentiaries on behalf of the governments concerned. It would seem quite sufficient that the British Ambassador should be sole plenipotentiary for this purpose. I might say I am informed that the governments of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Newfoundland, and the Irish Free State have all approved of the terms of the treaty, and have all expressed their acquiescence in having the British Ambassador sign the treaty in so far as their interest in the matter is concerned. The act of ratification is an act of the sovereign. The treaty while it has been ratified by the United States has not yet been ratified by His Majesty the King. That ratification awaits, as I 'have already intimated the concurrence of the governments of the several parts of the Empire before that step is taken.
In regard to the ratification of a treaty, the Imperial Conference has the following to say with respect to procedure:
Ratification of treaties imposing obligations on more than one part of the Empire is effected after consultation between the governments of those parts of the Empire concerned. It is for each government to decide whether parliamentary approval or legislation is required before a desire for or a concurrence in ratification is mtimated by the government.
It will be seen by the statement I have just read that it is not essential to ratification that parliament should approve treaties. Ratification being an executive act may be taken by the executive independent of parliament altogether, should the executive of the country, in other words the government concerned, so desire. We have felt that in these important' matters of treaty the parliament should be asked to approve before the government would concur in the ratification. It is with a view of obtaining the approval of the parliament of Canada that to-day we are asking this House to pass the resolution which I have just presented. In recommending the adoption of the resolution, I do so on the grounds which have been urged in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, namely: First of all, there is the ground of morality, that it is obviously desirable for countries to unite in endeavouring to give effect to the laws of other friendly countries, particularly where those laws have in view serving a great moral purpose. There is next, and closely allied, the ground of international good-will. There is reason to believe that the
United States is most anxious that this course should be taken; that this treaty should be passed, and we in Canada, as a near neighbour, will I think, feel gratified at an opportunity of being able to facilitate in any manner possible the furtherance of friendly relations between Great Britain and other parts of the British Empire and the United States. By giving our approval in a whole-hearted manner to this treaty, I think we shall be helping to serve that end. Finally, it has been represented by British shipping interests that it will be very much to their
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advantage that this treaty should be enacted. While, on the one hand, it gives to the United States government the privilege of the right of search beyond the three-mile limit to a point which, roundly speaking, it has been estimated might be set at somewhere within the vicinity of twelve miles, with a view of assisting the United States government to enforce its legislation restricting the importation of alcoholic beverages, on the other hand, it gives to British shipping interests the right to carry alcoholic beverages under seal into United States ports, provided that those alcoholic beverages are kept under seal when within the three-mile limit. On these grounds, therefore, of commercial interest, moral obligation and international good-will, I recommend the adoption of the resolution by the House.

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