§ 4.35 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
I beg to move,That this House, mindful of its debates in February and March, 1867, which led to the passage of the British North America Act and to the establishment of the Parliament and Dominion of Canada and recalling the hopes then expressed that the foundation had thereby been laid for the development of strong and self-reliant parliamentary institutions in that country; notes that these hopes have been amply fulfilled in the continuing vigour and vitality of the parliamentary system in Canada and sends most friendly greetings and warm congratulations to the Canadian House of Commons on the centenary of its establishment, and all good wishes for the second century of its existence.Moving in another place the Second Reading of the British North America Bill on 19th February, 1867, the then Colonial Secretary, the Earl of Carnarvon, argued at some length the advantages which he expected would accrue from the creation of a Confederation of the Provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as—in the terms of the Bill—one Dominion under the name of Canada".As a Minister in the Government of a nation of shopkeepers, it was perhaps inevitable that he first drew attention to the commercial advantages—to the benefits of the abolition of tariffs, of the rationalisation of currencies and of an amalgamation of complementary economies. He looked forward to the time—as did all those who had a hand, on both sides of the Atlantic, in the creation of this Confederation—when it would extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific as one single economic unit. There were, too, he pointed out, the military advantages of having a single army under a single command rather than a number of separate militias each concerned only with the defence of its own province.
But it was not the economic and commercial, or even the military, aspects on which the Minister laid main stress. He reserved his peroration rather for the impetus to the growth of political responsibility, of Parliamentary institutions and of the concept of responsible government which he hoped would result from the Act of Confederation. Now, 100 years later, we are in a position to judge how well these potentialities were assessed and 339 how effective were the means proposed for achieving them.
As far as economics and commerce are concerned, there can be no doubt. A pioneer society of about 3½ million people has been transformed into a front-ranking industrial nation of nearly 20 million people with one of the highest standards of living in the world. But no less an achievement is to be seen on the political side. As I pointed out in a message which I sent to Mr. Pearson at the outset of this Centenary Year, Canada has opened up a road to constitutional independence which has since been trodden by two dozen other Commonwealth countries.
Since 1867, we have seen the Canadian Parliament, together with the Parliaments in each of the Provinces, conduct the affairs of that huge Dominion in a responsible, democratic manner which has been an example to the other nations of the Commonwealth and of the world: an example which, while it may have been lost sight of here and there and from time to time in other countries, is one which I firmly believe will be seen in the light of history to have pointed the way for nations striving to achieve prosperity and a free and democratic way of life for their peoples.
Canada has shown that an underdeveloped nation, with little more than the basic human and material resources available to it, can achieve for itself not only a prosperous way of life for its people, but also the mature and responsible political institutions to enable the people to live their lives in freedom and govern themselves in an effective democratic way.
In international affairs, also, Canada plays a distinctive role. She is a staunch ally in N.A.T.O. and our oldest Commonwealth partner. In Commonwealth affairs, the Canadian Government's attitude is constructive and enlightened; she has given disinterested aid to the developing nations of the Commonwealth. We value highly our continuous and close contact with the Canadians on current international problems. Of particular value has been their practical support for the United Nations and their willingness to devote men and resources to essential United Nations tasks, particularly in the sphere of peacekeeping. It is a happy coincidence, and indeed an index 340 of Canada's outstanding contribution to the work of the United Nations, that in this her centennial year she should be serving on both the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.
I think, therefore, that this House and this country can share with Canadians their pride in their achievements over the past 100 years. The hopes of those who had a hand in the creation of Canada have been amply borne out. At the end of his speech on the Second Reading of the British North American Bill, 100 years ago, the Minister, Lord Carnarvon, said:We are laying the foundation of a great State—perhaps one which, at a future day, may even overshadow this country. But, come what may, we shall rejoice that we have shown neither indifference to their wishes nor jealousy of their aspirations, but that we honestly and sincerely, to the utmost of our power and energy, fostered their growth, recognising in it the conditions of our own greatness.It is in that same spirit that I move this Motion.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
Mr. Speaker, I gladly join with the Prime Minister in expressing the support of this side of the House for the Motion which he has so eloquently moved.
My right hon. and hon. Friends yield to none in our admiration for the achievements of the Canadian people which have, throughout these last 100 years, been based on a healthy and effective Parliamentary system. Although the Canadians have done so much to build up their own prosperity, they have not been content to confine their energies and activities to their own land, but have supported the democratic countries elsewhere in the world, notably in two world wars, and, in particular, have played a most distinguished part in the Commonwealth and all its activities. As the Prime Minister has said, they are strong and loyal members of N.A.T.O. None has been more active in the work of the United Nations throughout the world than have successive Canadian Governments.
Like many other hon. Members, I have paid a number of visits to Canada and, on those occasions, I have been in the Canadian Parliament. I always find on going into that Parliament, as I do elsewhere in other member countries of 341 the Commonwealth, that one has the feeling that, somehow, one is coming back home. We all have the same feel in the Chamber and the same attitude toward debates.
On this occasion, perhaps it is right that we should also remember the support which the Canadians have given to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, not only in its conferences but in its work from time to time throughout the Commonwealth. So it is really one member of a family, and the Members of Parliament in that family, sending our congratulations and good wishes to another member of the family on the remarkable achievements of a century.
I do not think that it will have escaped the notice of hon. Members, and I am certain that it will not escape notice in Canada, that the Prime Minister has moved this Motion after having made his statement about the application of the Government to join the European Economic Community. This has a particular significance for Canada as the senior member of the Commonwealth and, therefore, one with an important part to play in this period of our history.
There is a growing understanding in Canada of the importance of the European policy for Britain in the modern world. I have never believed that it is a question of choice between a European policy and the Commonwealth. No doubt it means changes in some of the trading arrangements between this country and Canada, and for the Dominion which was the home of the Ottawa Conference and all that that has meant for this country over the last 35 years, this is obviously bound to be important.
Apart from that, all the links between Britain and Canada, the links of the Crown, the links of language, the links of the same basis of common law and administration, the links of professional and business connections and, above all, the links between families and friends will continue. Forming the basis for the whole of this connection in the future, as in the past, will be that we both have the same Parliamentary democratic system.
So I believe that Canada will understand, as other countries of the Commonwealth will understand, that a European policy is not one which weakens the Commonwealth but provides the basis 342 for a stronger relationship in the years which are to come. It is in that spirit as well as the spirit of members of the family that I would support what the Prime Minister has said this afternoon.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Having returned from Canada last weekend, where I was privileged to attend the House of Commons in Canada and also the opening of the Exposition of 1967 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Confederation, may I associate myself enthusiastically with everything which the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have said?
Quite apart from the domestic achievements of Canada, she has given enlightened leadership abroad, whether it is, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, in her support for the United Nations, which, I believe, has led her to supply troops in every peacekeeping force which has been created by that body, whether it has been in giving support to the Commonwealth at some very critical stages in its history and evolution, whether it is in the recent move and initiative made by Canada in the hopeful solution of the Vietnam war, whether, indeed, it is in the solution of the very difficult problem of provincial government and the devolution of powers in countries which have those problems; in all those matters she has given wise statesmanship. She has provided great statesmen in the past, and she is still continuing to do so at this moment.
It is a very moving experience to walk along the corridor leading to the Members' Dining Room and see on one side many pictures of Canadian Prime Ministers and, on the other side, a collection of prints of British Prime Ministers going back to the time of Walpole. There are truly great bonds between our two countries.
In view of the Prime Minister's statement today, it is relevant to point out that Canada is the only country which speaks the language of France and of the new world, and she may have a great part to play in bridging gaps between those two Continents in the future.
Canada has the right to be justly proud of her achievements. As we salute the senior partner in the Commonwealth, we not only express our admiration for 343 everything which she has done, but wish her every possible success in the future.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I venture to add a few words in support of the Motion which the Prime Minister has moved, and I do so for the reason that my father was born in a log cabin in Ontario, that as a young citizen of Canada he lived through the momentous events of 1867, that he came to this country and was for many years a Member of this House, that I visited Canada many times in his company, and that through him I have had the privilege of the friendship of all the Prime Ministers of Canada and many other Ministers since the days of Sir Wilfrid Laurier until today.
I had exceptional opportunities in the League of Nations, the United Nations and elsewhere to appreciate the greatness which Canada has shown as a nation, and I look forward to Canada playing a still greater part in achieving world peace and disarmament in years to come.
§ Question put and agreed to.
Resolved, nemine contradicente,
That this House, mindful of its debates in February and March, 1867, which led to the passage of the British North America Act and to the establishment of the Parliament and Dominion of Canada and recalling the hopes then expressed that the foundation had thereby been laid for the development of strong and self-reliant parliamentary institutions in that country; notes that these hopes have been amply fulfilled in the continuing vigour and vitality of the parliamentary system in Canada and sends most friendly greetings and warm congratulations to the Canadian House of Commons on the centenary of its establishment, and all good wishes for the second century of its existence.