OUR DEMOCRATIC HERITAGE
AN ADDRESS BY W. J. LINDAL, K.C.
Thursday, April 27, 1939.
PRESIDENT: Gentlemen of The Empire Club of Canada, today we have the great pleasure of having as our guest speaker a prominent Canadian from western Canada, and a member of The Empire Club of Winnipeg. So far as I am aware, this is the first time we have had an opportunity of welcoming a member of our sister organization. The speaker, Mr. Walter J. Lindal, K.C., was born in Iceland. He came to Canada with his parents at a very early age and with his parents went on a farm. From the farm, of course, he went to the University and became a barrister. His practice of law was interrupted by the Great War, where he served with great distinction but at considerable cost to himself, because as a result of gas he developed tuberculosis. But, like the good fighter he was in the war, he fought tuberculosis, and he is now completely free of that dread disease. (Applause)
When I learned that Mr. Lindal was going to be in the East I could not help telegraphing him that we must have him speak to us before he returned to the West. It is my happy duty now to present to you Mr. Walter J. Lindal, K.C., member of The Empire Club of Canadain Winnipeg, who will speak on the topic, "Canada's Democratic Heritage"--Mr. Lindal. (Applause)
MR. WALTER J. LINDAL, K.C.: Gentlemen, may I, on behalf of The Empire Club of the City of Winnipeg, extend greetings and may I also state how great an honour it is to me to be offered the opportunity of addressing The Empire Club of the City of Toronto.
In the very troublesome world of today, when for the sake of self-preservation if for no other reason, certain nations or groups of nations are finding it necessary to unite their forces in their common defence, it is not out of place to let our minds wander back into history in order to see if a common ground of ideas and ideals cannot be found which might be made a background upon which such a common policy of defence might be based. On account of differences in race and religion, geography and climate, national ecconomy and outlook, this common policy of mutual protection will probably never assume a definite, tangible form. But, as the bond of union is more or less invisible, it is the more essential that the qualities of mind, and the special characteristics which these groups of nations have inherited through the ages, and the outward manifestations of these special attributes should be constantly kept before us. These qualities of mind and the institutions which they have brought into being form the subject matter of this address which I have entitled, "Our Democratic Heritage."
I propose to deal with our democratic heritage under four headings:
(a) It's origin.
(b) Canada's responsibilities under the Statute of Westminster, 1931.
(c) Canada's position in the British Commonwealth of Nations.
(d) Canada's position as one of the world's democracies.
The Origin of Our Democratic Heritage
A casual study of European history will reveal that certain groups of peoples in Northern Europe had some very definite and special characteristics which appeared to be common to them all. For want of a better word, this group of Northern European peoples may be referred to as the Nordics. Professor Carleton S. Coon, in a book on anthropology, just off the press, called "The Races of Europe" says that the word "Nordic" is the most famous word in anthropology. Probably what he should have said is that the nations which have descended from the old Nordics are the most famous in all the world. The most typical Nordic, he says, is the Duke of Windsor.
Some Germans, notably Herr Hitler, have attempted to appropriate to themselves the word Nordic. This is quite erroneous. What Nordic blood there was originally in Northern Germany has disappeared. Professor Coon states that the Prussians are related to the Slavs, whom they so despise, and are partly of Mongolian origin. He also points out that Russians, on the other hand, in the area extending from Finland to the Ukraine, through migrations and infiltrations of blood are more Nordic than the Germans.
A famous English anthropologist, Prof. F. G. Parsons, says (Winnipeg Tribune, April 7, 1938): "As a matter of fact, I don't believe they have any Nordic blood left in Germany. It has been completely bred out by admixture with the Central European Alpine, a fundamentally different racial type. England has a great deal of Nordic blood and practically no Alpine, which disposes of the erroneous tradition there is cousinship between Germany and England."
Who were these people? Let me take you back to Northern Europe a little over a thousand years ago. The area I have in mind centres around the Jutland Peninsula. To the north were the Northmen, or Nordmen, who occupied the southern part of the Scandinavian peninsula. In, and immediately south of the Jutland peninsula, were the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. Farther south were the Low Germans and to the southwest the Frisians, in the territory now known as the Netherlands.
What, if anything, did those people have in common peculiarly characteristic and distinct from other European races?
They were individualistic, they were impatient of restraint, they were restless and they were adventurous. The love of liberty and freedom; the right of every man to hew out his own destiny; independence in thought and action-these are the warp and woof of the Nordic races. But, coupled with that independence, is the desire to band together for the common good. That instinct was probably inculcated by slow degrees through centuries of struggle with the forces of nature. But that banding together was not at the expense of individual freedom. There was a determined opposition to any forced submission to dictatorship, whether an absolute monarchy or in any other form. In short, it may be said that in the qualities of mind and special characteristics of those peoples are seen the fundamental or root elements of present-day democracy.
Lord Baldwin, in the series of addresses delivered a few days ago, refers to the same qualities of mind in present day English character which he describes as "the curious combination of individualism and the power of co-operation." They are the same qualities that existed in these people over a thousand years ago.
As was to be expected, these people moved to other lands. They travelled east and west. They brought with them their racial characteristics. In the new soil they were transplanted, cultivated and often improved.
Early in the Fifth Century the Angles, Saxons and Jutes began their expeditions to Britain and, within a comparatively short time, drove back the Britons and settled the country. Local forms of government soon emerged: the hundred moot, the shiremoot and the Witenagemot. Here we find the foundations of presentday parliamentary and municipal forms of government.
This migration was later followed by another migration to England, but it took a different, a more circuitous route.
Late in the Ninth Century tribes of Northmen, whose Chief was one Hrolfur--or Rollo--moved to what is now a part of Northern France. The softened form of the word Northman is Norman and the district they settled was called Normandy. The recognized establishment of the Normans in France took place in 911 in a treaty between King Charles, the Simple, of France, and Rollo, who became the first Duke of Normandy. William the Conqueror, a direct descendant of Rollo, crossed the English Channel in 1066, fought King Harold at the Battle of Hastings and proceeded to conquer England.
In the Normans we see at its best the Nordic capacity for adaptation and rapid outward assimilation, while still retaining their own essential attributes. In Normandy they adopted the French tongue and the French manners. But, what is more important, they very quickly absorbed the passion for organization which the French had inherited from Rome. This they brought with them to England. And there the task fell to them of bringing about a much-needed stability and a greater centralization of power. They found close kindred in the English and the Danes and proceeded to improve upon the customs, usages and forms of Government of a people in which they themselves became completely merged.
Some of these people moved east and southeastward to territories that are now part of Russia, Poland and the Ukraine. The first King of the former Kingdom of Ukraine, Hrorek, headed one of these expeditions. In these areas these people became as completely merged as the Normans in France.
Two other Nordic or Northman migrations should be mentioned. In the latter part of the Ninth Century King Harold, the Hair-fair, had conquered most of Southern Norway. Many of the nobles and odalsmen refused to become his subjects, quitted their lands and sailed to Iceland. The innate desire of these people for an orderly form of government for the common good soon found expression. In the year 930 the leaders met and established Althing, a thing, or Parliament, of all the people. In 1930 the people of that island celebrated the thousandth anniversary of their Parliament.
Perhaps a brief digression at this point might be pardoned. Partly in order to correct an erroneous impression which may have been created through misinterpretation of discussion in the House of Commons, but more so in order to place evidence before you supporting the argument I am advancing, I desire to point out that in the last war, voluntary enlistments from Canadians of Icelandic descent were, by population, higher than the average of the Canadian-born, and higher than those of any national group, other than the English and Scottish. (Applause) I cite this, Gentlemen, only to prove that the stronger the Nordic strain, the more deep-rooted the desire to preserve the principles of democracy, and the more immediate the willingness to make sacrifices for those principles. Hence the response from these people in the last war.
About the same time as Iceland was settled, a Northman colony was founded in the Isle of Man. There, also, a Parliament was soon established. The present composition of the House, now called the House of Keys, is twenty-four members, the same as that of the original. Until 1916 all laws passed by the House were proclaimed on Tynwald Hill. Tynwald is a changed form of the old Icelandic or Norse word "Thingvoll," meaning a plain where a Thing, or Parliament is held.
As has been pointed out, people of Northman descent settled in Northern France. France is now a democracy. But in that country there is a tendency toward either the extreme left or the extreme right. It seems to lack the balance so noticeable in Great Britain and in the other Northern European democracies. That is, I believe, because such a large percentage of the people of France are of Latin and Alpine origin. The Northman settled only in Normandy and Brittany.
It is interesting to note that most of the French people who settled in Quebec came from Normandy and Brittany. In many of their descendants can be seen the features and characteristics of the old Normans. That is the reason neither Communism nor Fascism find so ready a soil in Quebec as in France.
One more example. It is pretty generally conceded that Spain was destined to go to the one or the other extremes of dictatorship. The failure of democracy in Spain shows how difficult it is to transplant the principles of democratic rule among people in whom are not the qualities of mind essential for democracy to flourish. In anthropology the Spaniards are referred to as Mediterraneans, people of the same origin as the Moors, the Egyptians and the old Carthaginians. In the Spaniard there is lacking the necessary blending of individual and collective responsibility, on the one hand, and the corresponding liberty and privilege, on the other. Spain was a democracy for a few years. But those who happen upon freedom cannot long retain it. The will to freedom must be innate in the individuals themselves if democracy is to thrive.
The Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands and Belgium all have well-established forms of democratic rule and are not experiencing any difficulty in resisting extremes of movements in any direction.
Wherever the Nordics settled or wherever the Nordic strain is strong or predominates, democratic governments have been established and still survive. But though democracy still prevails in all these countries it should not be forgotten that it was in England where the main battle was fought for the most of present-day democratic principles and ideals. The British Parliament is not the oldest but, in every sense, it is the Mother of Parliaments. It was in England that a Magna Charta was signed in 1215. It was in England that a king was beheaded in order that the rights and liberties of the people might be preserved. It was in England that the Bill of Rights was passed. It was in England that fundamental principles of democracy were laid down, such as responsible government, freedom of thought and religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It was in England that the move was initiated for the emancipation of slaves and the ultimate abolition of slavery. Every lover of liberty and freedom, every person who can appreciate what democracy means--whether he live within or without the Empire--should bow in reverence as he meditates upon what the people of that little island have accomplished in laying the foundation for those ideas and ideals we value and cherish so much. (Applause)
British conceptions of government and human action have been transplanted in many lands, at times in a soil congenial, at times wholly barren of what was needed for democracy to thrive and flourish. For that reason democratic institutions have in some places been uprooted; in others they are threatened. The resistance was not sufficiently strong; the Nordic strain, "the curious combination of individualism and co-operation," as Lord Baldwin described it, was lacking, or at least was not strong enough.
Canada's Responsibilities Under the Statute of Westminster, 1931
Although it may be freely admitted that democracy, as it obtains today, and as transmitted to us, has its many weaknesses and imperfections, nevertheless, it may be safely said that certain fundamental and elementary principles have, through the centuries, become so thoroughly imbedded in every system of democratic or parliamentary form of government as to be a part and parcel of the system.
The following might be mentioned as a few examples:
(a) Freedom of the subject in his person and property.
(b) Abolition of slavery.
(c) Freedom of thought and religion.
(d) Freedom of expression of opinion in the press or otherwise.
(e) Freedom of assembly and of association.
(f) Freedom from imprisonment without trial.
(g) Freedom from confiscation of property without legal process.
I have sometimes wondered whether the Canadian people realized what was involved when they obtained autonomous powers over their own affairs in the passing of the Statute of Westminster in 1931, and the responsibility which was cast upon them in their new independence of preserving those fundamentals of democracy to which I have alluded.
Prior to 1931 certain safeguards did exist. In 1865 the British Parliament in its wisdom passed the Colonial Laws Validity Act. Section 2 of the Act reads as follows: "Any colonial law which is, or shall be, repugnant to the provisions of any Act of Parliament extending to the colony to which such law may relate, or repugnant to any order or regulation made under authority of such Act of Parliament shall to the extent of such repugnancy be and remain absolutely void and inoperative."
A wise precaution, though fortunately it has not often been necessary to invoke it.
It should be noted that colonial laws repugnant to laws of England extending to the colonies were null and void. Disallowance was not necessary. But now all that is changed and quite properly so, in view of our new status. Sections 1 and 2 of the Westminster Act read as follows:
(1) "The Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 shall not apply to any law made after the commencement of this Act by the Parliament of a Dominion.
(2) No law or provision of any law made after the commencement of this Act by the Parliament of a Dominion shall be void or inoperative on the ground that it is repugnant to the law of England."
Where does the responsibility now lie for guarding the essentials of our democracy? I submit, largely on the Dominion Government and, to a lesser extent, on the Provincial Governments. The Dominion power of disallowing Provincial Acts may in the past not have been of much importance but, since the passing of the Statute of Westminster, it has become vitally important.
I sometimes think that our political leaders do not realize as yet to the full the responsibility which the Statute of Westminster has placed upon them.
Our Federal political leaders must be ever alert in the guarding of the fundamental rights and liberties of the Canadian people. And a similar duty rests upon our Provincial leaders, lesser perhaps, but that is only because of the protection afforded in the Dominion power of disallowance.
Canada's Position in the British Commonwealth of Nations
I intend to approach this from two points of view: First, Canada's duty to the Commonwealth at the present time. Second, the unifying influence upon Canada of the British connection.
I need not picture to you the world situation as it is today. It has from month to month been getting more ominous, more threatening. A few days ago, when the world was on the brink. of a catastrophe, a temporary lull was brought about by the eleventh-hour noble effort at conciliation made by President Roosevelt. We can; but hope and pray that it may meet with some measure of success.
It seems to me, therefore, that our present duties as Canadians may be approached from a purely Canadian point of view--possibly a narrow-minded, selfish point of view. Sentiment, British or Anglo-Saxon tradition, should perhaps not be allowed to influence us. I, for one, regard that sentiment as a virtue rather than a vice. There is one criticism sometimes made that I resent very much. I, as a Canadian of other than Anglo-Saxon descent, can refer to it. It happens altogether too often when a Canadian of Anglo-Saxon descent is extolling the British Empire, is advocating the retention of the British connection, he is at once charged with being a jingoist, being a blind sentimentalist, or being an Imperialist, using the word in its worst connotation. I say I resent that charge against men who appreciate the British Empire, appreciate what it has done for them and are only too anxious to retain it. (Applause) I said I regard that sentiment a virtue, not a vice. But, in our approach to this question let us discard sentiment. In any case it does not enter into the make-up of a portion of our population. But we, as Canadians, are concerned with the preservation of what we have; we are concerned with the preservation of Canada itself.
There are those to be found among us who adopt an extremely narrow-minded, an isolationist point of view. As these men do not belong to any particular political party or national group I feel that I am not entering into a political controversy in criticizing their point of view. They view with indifferent detachment all that Great Britain has done in the past, all that Great Britain is doing today to maintain world peace. They accept the British fleet and not only that, but Great Britain's tremendous armament expenditures as their first line of defence. But they see a second line of defence, if the first fails. In the policy of the United States of enforcing the Monroe Doctrine and resisting foreign aggression on this continent they see their second line of defence. For that reason they do not seem much disturbed over the possibility of the dismemberment of the British Empire. In that case, they argue, Canada need but fall back on her second line of defence. There is nothing very heroic in that attitude of mind.
I find it difficult, Gentlemen, to appreciate this attitude of mind in any Canadian of any descent, but in a Canadian of Anglo-Saxon descent it is little short of contemptible ingratitude. (Applause)
A narrow Canadianism, closely akin to that of isolationism, and largely supported by isolationists, has emerged recently. Its appearance at the present time is, because of the international situation, not only regrettable but actually injurious. I refer to the move precipitated last winter in support of neutrality legislation. It centres around a Bill introduced in the House of Commons, asking that Canada declare her right to neutrality in case of war.
The status of Canada-if Great Britain becomes involved in a war-has already been well established in addresses on the floor of the House of Commons by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Minister of Justice. It can be briefly summarized as follows: If Great Britain is at war, Canada is at war; but the nature and extent of Canada's participation will be decided by Canada itself.
I am of the opinion that a discussion of this subject at the present time is not only untimely, but actually injurious to the cause of peace.
There is only one question we should ask ourselves. Can the march of the Dictators be halted? I think it can. It is being temporarily halted and I think even Canada can make its small contribution toward further staying their aggression.
It may be that eventually nothing will deter the Dictators. The deterrents, if any, are:
1. The heavy arming of Great-Britain and France.
2. The changing attitude in the United States.
3. The solidarity of the British Empire.
4. Defence alliances of the democracies of the world.
One of the redeeming features of the Munich tragedy (and I am not condemning it) and the present international lawlessness and brigandage is the change in the United States. Newspapers have again and again referred to the revulsion in the United States to the Dictators, the withdrawal of American opinion from the isolationist point of view and the narrowing of the gap between them and the western democracies.
You are all familiar with the pronouncements which President Roosevelt has made from time to time culminating in that supreme offer of mediation made a few days ago. In these pronouncements, President Roosevelt, a true lover of democracy, is leading the American people toward the western democracies. He has at times, in his impatience, found himself far in advance of his people, and has had to pause, and even retrace his steps, in order that American opinion might catch up with him.
As I read the outbursts of indignation which appear from time to time in the German press against President Roosevelt, I can, in my mind's eye, see Herr Hitler, I would say, frothing at the mouth. But I can also see him winking one eye and chortling to himself when he reads about neutrality discussions in Canada. Press dispatches from Europe only a few days after the neutrality debate took place in Ottawa show how much those discussions have pleased Herr Hitler. In an interview which Hitler had with former Chancellor Von Schuschnigg, shortly before the Anschluss, he stated that the Dominions would not take part in an Empire war and that, in such a war, the break-up of the Empire was not only likely but extremely probable.
But at the very time when President Roosevelt is leading an American crusade toward the western democracies, we in Canada, with the isolationists in the van, are to select the same moment to give notice to the world of dissension among us and to declare our right to neutrality. To do so in this hour of peril, when all our forefathers fought for, all we hold nearest and dearest to us is threatened, is to my mind a narrow minded, an unpardonable and blind selfishness which I fail to comprehend. (Applause)
At the present time we should bend backward to show a unity of the Canadian people and a solidarity of the Commonwealth. No one knows the fighting qualities of the Canadians better than a German soldier and Herr Hitler served in the ranks.
The Unifying Influence of the British Connection
I think we should be sufficiently charitable to those who are preaching isolationism, neutrality and other forms of narrow Canadianism, to credit them with sincerity. They are sincere in their desire to see a strong, virile and united nation develop in this country. We all want to see that.
The mover of the Neutrality Bill stated on the floor of the House of Commons: "Canada should . . . . not take part in war unless some principle greater than peace itself is involved-such as the civilization of the world, Canada's national existence, or the liberty of her people. If these are involved they are greater than peace, but no issues other than these are greater than peace."
This is, generally speaking, the point of view of those favouring neutrality legislation. It will be noted that an attack on Great Britain and the possible dismemberment of the British Empire are not mentioned as issues sufficiently serious to warrant Canada's participation. But does it ever occur to those who hold these views that two of the three issues which are mentioned, namely, Canada's national existence and the liberty of her people, are closely related to the British connection? They are, to my mind, to a very considerable extent dependent upon the British connection. These men, it seems to me, fail to grasp what it was that brought about Confederation and, in their pleas for Canadian unity, forget one of the main forces which will maintain that unity.
Within the borders of Canada there are five distinct groups: The Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairie Provinces and British Columbia. By reason of geography, climate, race and creed, these groups have little in common. Their interests are diverse rather than mutual.
There was something deeper in the minds of the Fathers of Confederation than a mere desire to join together separate colonies in North America. Today there is something deeper in the minds of those who want to see a united Canada than keeping together nine far-flung provinces. Part, though not all of that something deeper, is the British connection. What really binds us together, Gentlemen, is the voluntary association in a Commonwealth of Nations, or rather, a commonwealth of democracies, whose ideas and ideals are the same as ours. What will keep us united as a nation is a loyalty to principles and ideals, rather than to any particular race or even a particular territory. It is because these principles and ideals are largely inherited from Great Britain that the British connection is and always will be one of the strong unifying forces in the Dominion of Canada.
This is a fast-shrinking world. Australia is as close to Canada today as Saskatchewan was to Nova Scotia a few decades ago. Sentiment in Central Canada to British Columbia and Nova Scotia is perhaps not much more deep-rooted than sentiment to Scotland, England, or even New Zealand. Geography is no longer the determining element. What binds us together is a common crown, a common heritage, common ideas and ideals.
If the British connection is broken, I fear for the future of Canada as one nation. If the British Empire is dismembered, I fear for democracy anywhere in the world.
Canada as One of the World's Democracies
In October last Clarence K. Streit, a Rhodes scholar from Montana, published a book which he calls "Union Now." It is already in its sixth edition. His book, which is well-documented, is a plea for a federation of democracies. The conclusion he reaches is that world stability can be brought about only through a defensive alliance of the fifteen leading democracies in the world. There are: The United States, Great Britain, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway, South Africa and New Zealand.
I delivered an address on this subject a year ago before The Empire Club of Winnipeg-long before I had heard of Mr. Streit. It may appear somewhat strange that he should include almost identically the same nations as I did. But yet it isn't strange. The nations he enumerates are those in which the Nordic strain dominates, or is very strong.
Mr. Streit points out that though there are differences in these nations, brought about by geography, race and creed, yet these people have for over a hundred years lived in peace with one another. These people, he shows, are alike in their outlook on life, in their love of personal liberty and freedom and in their ability to so blend collective responsibility and individual freedom as to be able to govern themselves and ward off every form of dictatorship.
President Roosevelt, in his appeal to the Dictators, enumerates the same European democracies and some others east of the central powers. I think it can be truthfully stated that in the case of most of the nations east of the central powers, democracy, where it does exist, has been transplanted, rather than grown from the virgin soil. His plea, therefore, is in its essence for the federation of these nations which have nourished and developed democracy from its rude beginnings. In any case, they will have to bear the brunt of the defence of democracy if it is challenged in a world war by the Dictators.
In referring to the President's offer of conciliation, our Prime Minister said, "No country can reject that opportunity for saving civilization and saving itself."
Today, we in Canada, Gentlemen, should forget internal differences. We should stand united, and in that very unity show the solidarity of the British Empire. And though only a small nation, we should make our contribution to that larger, world-wide, democratic front. We should be ever mindful of the fundamental Nordic traits and qualities of mind which are the foundations upon which western civilization rests. That foundation, that common heritage, may provide an invisible but yet a very powerful bond of union and co-operation among those nations in which those very qualities are still strong, namely, the British Empire, the United States, France, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries.
But we must not forget that it is Great Britain which has in the main provided the bulwark against dictator aggression in the past; we must not forget that it is Great Britain which has built up most of the hitherto, shall I say, impregnable defences for democracy. We are not worthy of our heritage if we seek to weaken rather than to strengthen that bulwark and those fortresses. (Applause)
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Lindal, on behalf of the members of The Empire Club of Canada in Toronto, we thank you most sincerely for your instructive, enlightening and inspiring address. We would ask you, Sir, to carry back to The Empire Club in Winnipeg the very best wishes of its sister Club in Toronto, and to express our hope that the Toronto Club may shortly after the beginning of its new Club year have an opportunity of listening to another such inspiring address frcm another member of The Empire Club of Winnipeg.
Now, Gentlemen, this is our last regular meeting of the year.
To Dr. Gaby I extend my sincere thanks for his all too flattering remarks in connection with the little I have been able to do during the year. We have all endeavoured to do our best and I must say it has been a great encouragement to the President and the Members of the Executive to note the splendid interest on the part of the membership in the activities of the Club. I would also say it has been a great encouragement to receive letters and telephone calls from the vast audience that listens to us by means of the radio. To them and to you, the members of The Empire Club of Canada, your retiring President expresses his most cordial thanks.
The meeting is adjourned.