THE CHALLENGE OF DEMOCRACY
AN ADDRESS BY HONOURABLE D. G. McKENZIE
Chairman: The President, Dr. F. A. Gaby.
Thursday, February 22, 1940
PRESIDENT: Gentlemen: It is with a great deal of pleasure that we welcome so prominent a Westerner as the Hon. D. G. McKenzie today, and one who has such intimate contact with Western problems. Mr. McKenzie, although a native Ontarian, has spent most of his life in Western Canada and has held many positions of prominence in its affairs. He was appointed Vice-President of the United Farmers of Manitoba in 1920. Later, he became Executive Treasurer, which position he resigned in 1927, when he was appointed by the Dominion Government to the Advisory Board on Tariffs and Taxation. In 1935, Mr. McKenzie joined the United Grain Growers Limited, and he is now the Vice-President of that body.
He is well known in Western political circles. In 1928 he was Provincial Secretary and Minister of Mines and Natural Resources in the Manitoba Government, and he was appointed Minister of Agriculture and Immigration in 1932. He was very much interested during this period in which he was in the Manitoba Government, in the development of the Manitoba Hydro in their rural districts which today, I understand from him is quite a success.
Unfortunately, Mr. McKenzie has had to make a correction in the title of his address, owing to not having received the essential data to complete his talk as intended, but he has been versatile enough on short notice to change to a subject that he is very conversant with, through his intimate contact with the Red Cross and other work, and that is on the lack of understanding among many in the West of the ideas of Canadian citizenship, and especially in regard to the attitude of our foreign citizens in the situation of today. Mr. McKenzie, therefore, has changed his subject from "Canadian Agriculture In the War and After" to "The Challenge of Democracy" and I have no doubt that he will deal with some of our national problems between the East and the West.
I have a great deal of pleasure in introducing to you the Honourable D. G. McKenzie. (Applause)
HON. D. G. MCKENZIE: Mr. Chairman, Honoured Guests and Gentlemen: May I at once express to you, Sir, my appreciation of the honour you have done me in giving me the opportunity to address the Empire Club of Canada. I desire, also, Mr. Chairman, to express to you personally my appreciation of the fact that you have so nicely let me out of apologizing for the fact that I have had to change the subject I wish to discuss with you.
These, Gentlemen, are very strenuous days, and days in which we are faced with many very serious problems. For at the very heart of all our problems and the very centre of our thoughts is the fact that Canada, with Britain, France and our sister Dominions is again engaged in a World War which will tax to the utmost all our resources, man power, financial and material. Every endeavour of the Canadian people must for the present, at least, be directed to make our war effort as effective as possible. To this end we must see to it that the people of Canada understand fully the ideals of Canadian democracy and the circumstances that impelled Canada to mobilize her entire resources and join with the Mother Country and her Allies in a war with the dictatorial country of Nazi Germany.
That, Gentlemen, is the centre thought that I want to discuss with you today, and to relate to that problem, that set of facts, some of the circumstances that we see developing in Western Canada.
Why should Canada again become involved in a World War? What are the issues that justify Canada supporting Great Britain and the Allies? How will the results of the War effect the future of Canada? How does our form of Government and social and economic structure compare with that of the dictatorial countries of Europe? Are these worth preserving or fighting for? and, if necessary, worth dying for? If they are to be preserved how may this best be done? Why must we again go forth to war and assume the enormous sacrifices consequent thereto?
These are major problems or, at least, some of the problems that are agitating the minds of many of our people at the present time, and to which they are desirous of finding an answer.
It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that two great forces seem to be struggling for supremacy in the world today. On the one hand we have the forces of liberty, liberty of action and freedom, of brotherly love and goodwill, the desire for service to humanity, all contributing greatly in many things that add to the standard of living of the people.
We see that exemplified in many directions. We see great advances being made in education and science. I don't think one need at the moment to amplify these suggestions. Similarly, we see a tremendous advance being made in medicine and surgery in the last number of years. In the mechanical world the same trend is evident. One only has to go out on the street today and see some of the road machinery to realize something of the advance made in the mechanical world. In transportation facilities the same thing has' happened and we see improvement in travelling conditions on land, on the water and in the air. Communication has been greatly facilitated by improvement in telephone, telegraph and by aerial broadcast. In the cultural world we have tremendous advances in music and art and all the other cultural influences of life. And in the promotion of goodwill a great service is being rendered by social clubs, by churches and many other kindred agencies.
But, unfortunately, Gentlemen, in contrast to this, mighty forces are engaged in a ruthless campaign for promoting the forces of destruction. We have agencies today that are developing nothing but international hatreds, suspicions, jealousies and distrusts. We have agencies employed in a ruthless disregard of the rights of minorities, and of weaker nations. We see agencies employed in the prosecution of religious organizations and their adherents, and I think to many of us, one of the most appalling facts of Europe today is that people no longer are able to freely engage in their religious devotions as we so much desire to do in our own country. We see labour organizations ruthlessly torn asunder, service clubs no longer permitted to function. All to what end?
In addition to all these things there is a ruthless breaking down of world trade. Chaos has been created in the world of finance by reason of the breakdown of the gold standard. Unprecedented public and private debts are being established, and we see countries organizing for the destruction, the wilful destruction of peoples and nations.
Surely we in Canada have much to be thankful for. Surely we ought to be happy that we are living in the western hemisphere today, free from the atmosphere that prevails on the Continent of Europe, free from the dictates, acid free from the oppressions of the iron fist, as is being so terribly manifest in most of the central parts of Europe today.
But Canada is now called upon to use the weight of her strength in support of right, rather than might. Canada must, of course, suffer from the result of such a struggle. I sometimes wonder if the people of Canada as individuals. are conscious today of the terrible situation that is resulting in Europe? I think it is very doubtful if the average Canadian has a real appreciation yet-of what the present war means. We are fortunate, indeed, that we live in the western hemisphere, far removed from the seat of war, and have for a neighbour a great nation, endowed with the same principles and ideals as ours. We have three thousand miles of boundary line between us without guns or fortifications, but with peace gardens that join rather than separate these two great countries. We have always been able to settle our international disputes by arbitration and peaceful negotiation.
Now, Gentlemen, I ask you this: What is it that we have in Canada today, that we have in the western hemisphere, that makes this thing possible, but which appears to be absent on the Continent of Europe? Is it that we have a higher average intelligence among our people? Is it that we have a land of opportunity and the right to plan our own lives? Is it that we have liberty of action and the right of self-expression? Or is it that we have a better and more efficient form of government?
Whatever the reasons may be, surely they must be sufficient to make us determined that every ounce of energy that we possess and every resource at our command will be dedicated to the defense of all those things that we hold to be sacred and fundamental, but it may be that we will serve our war effort best if we take steps in Canada to strengthen our general standards of citizenship and if we endeavour to inform our citizens of the true character of those ideals and privileges that are as sacred to us as is life itself. If the best is to be preserved and developed, what characteristic should we seek to develop in our citizens so that they, with us, can join in the preservation of these good things?
I suggest that first of all we need capable citizens, and I infer capable citizens as meaning people who must be intelligent, industrious, and frugal. Again, I am not going to amplify those suggestions, but people must be intelligent to judge wisely in the matters of public policy and to reject the fallacious doctrines of the demagogue who offers nothing but sweet sounding platitudes.
May I tell you now a little incident that occurred in my own experience, not more than two years ago, and I think perhaps this can be repeated in many of the larger centres of Canada. I happened to be out in a little town in rural Manitoba to address a group of young men. Before the meeting had convened I got into conversation with two or three of these boys. They were boys of university age but, unfortunately, because of the circumstances under which they and their fathers lived they were unable to pursue their studies. Many of them lived in little country towns where there was no opportunity for gainful employment. Imagine, if you will, the mental attitude of those boys. The seriousness of the situation was suggested to me in the fact that those boys said that our social order is wrong, things in Canada are wrong and they are going to give their support to certain other systems of which they knew nothing whatever. I said to them, "If you had the power tonight to transport yourself from Canada to the middle of Europe would you do so?" They said, "No." I said, "Why not? If conditions, in Canada are so bad as you suggest, and if the philosophies expounded by the proponents of the isms you now subscribe to are such as you think they are, why wouldn't you make the change?" Then I said to them, "In spite of all the difficulties we face, and we face very serious ones, do you know any country in the world where there is a better standard of living on the average than we have in Canada itself?" These boys hesitated. They said to me, "Mr. McKenzie, nobody has ever talked to us like that before. Will you give us a manuscript of what you have said? (Unfortunately I didn't have it.) We would like to take that back to our communities and call our boys together and discuss those things."
I am here today, Gentlemen, to suggest to you that there is a challenge in that situation that comes to all thoughtful citizens of the Dominion of Canada.
We must develop discernment to choose the right men for public office. For obvious reasons I am not going to amplify that statement. Our citizens must possess self-control to accept the decisions of the majority. What else does democratic government mean? They must be honest enough to seek the interests of all, rather than the selfish interests at the expense of the community. They must be public spirited enough to take trouble or to face danger for the good of the community. They must be free from class consciousness-no divisions between town and country, no divisions between east and west. And I say to you today, in all seriousness, a man in this country who makes his appeal for public support on the basis of trying to develop misunderstanding as between town and country or east and west is not a true citizen of Canada. (Applause)
A good citizen may be defined as the individual participating in the life of the community and recognizing the sovereignty of the state, seeking always to give his services to his fellow citizens and always loyal to his King and country.
A despotism can thrive on ignorance, but a democracy demands that if its citizenship is to be effective in its service to the community it must be intelligent and in formed. That, Sir, I think is basic to the welfare of the democracy. Hence our free state public schools, our colleges and our universities. Every good citizen must seek and support education, if for no other reason that it constitutes the chief defense of Democracy. Leaders must think more and harder about public affairs so that they can stimulate and aid others less instructed and careless in their thinking.
Then, too, the people must be moral. Moral character is the foundation of the state. It is this that gives the individual devotion and courage in battle, the will to sacrifice in war, insight and boldness in leadership, and manly independence to withstand the wiles and seduction of the corruptionists. Without this the result is dreary and a disillusion and a yielding to the despotism of those who have money or places or favours to bestow.
It seems to me, Gentlemen, the truth of that assertion is well exemplified in what we read of the position of the Russians at the present time. People are being forced into the battle front, apparently without any knowledge of what it is about and without any effort to develop a moral fibre behind it that will sustain them in time of battle.
It is equally necessary that the people must not be denied by power from the opportunity of self expression. They must enjoy the right of free speech, a free press, free assembly, free petition and free ballot which should never be regarded as a man's personal property to do with as he likes, but as something that belongs to the state, and to be properly and intelligently used in service to the state and his fellow citizens.
A man cannot be a good citizen, he cannot be free and independent and a strength to the state without a livelihood, without a home, without some property, or business or occupation, or some other interest to give him concern for the welfare and good order of the community.
Now, Sir, if I were to discuss with you economics, I would pose a question to you right here. In the recent Convention of the Chamber of Commerce we heard, I think, the finest statement on the rights of property owners, presented by Mr. Manning, of this city, that I ever heard in my life. It raises at once the problem of taxation on real property. Is it possible that our taxes may accumulate to the point that possession of real property becomes a very hazardous thing? Without our individual citizens having something that they can call their own, a piece of land that belongs to them, the problem of developing competent and able citizens becomes a very difficult one, indeed. Every honest and self-respecting citizen should have the right for self-support and for a reasonably adequate livelihood. But this must not be construed to mean that the State owes each of us a living without our working for it, or exercising the old characteristics of frugality, thrift and honest toil.
Sometimes I am afraid we have too many people talking about what the State owes to them and too few people thinking about what they owe to the community. (Applause) But it does mean that each citizen should have an opportunity to earn his own living.
And, further, a democracy demands that its citizenship be patriotic. Patriotism is love of country-the spirit that leads one to devote himself in service to his country and to the community by striving to know what is best for one's country as a whole, by placing one's country's interests above party or class or personal interests, by being willing to seek good government, whether it be Federal, Provincial or Municipal, and by using whatever personal capacities he may possess for the benefit of his fellow citizens.
Canada is a country of many nationalities. The true citizen will endeavour to understand the different racial viewpoints of the various elements which enter into our population. He will seek to divest himself of antipathy or prejudice towards any who have come to us from foreign lands, and will, by happy illustration of his own conduct, try to hasten appreciation of our Canadian ideals. A decade ago we sought by every legitimate way possible to induce these people to come to our country and join with us in developing it. Now, we must assimilate them and raise them to our conception of Canadian ideals and ideas, and see to it that nothing in the conduct of our personal and public affairs will lessen their faith in our way of life and form of government.
By far the great majority of these people are now loyal citizens of Canada. Many have acquired a piece of land and made homes for themselves. All are using our educational facilities for the education of their children. Canada is now their homeland and they stand ready to join in a united effort to defend and support our institutions and ideals. Horror of ruthless, despotic philosophies of Hitler and Stalin is expressed as freely by them as it is among our Anglo-Saxon people.
If I had time I would like to tell of some of the conversations I have had with some of our non-English speaking people in Manitoba, whose horror of what is going on in Europe today is just as vivid as is my own, but there is often a failure, on the part of these people, to understand in any very adequate way, the real reason for Canada's participation in the war, and the effect that the results of war may have on our Canadian ideals and way of life.
The heart of our cosmopolitan Canadian people is sound, as revealed in the response to our country's war appeal. Thousands of our best men are offering themselves for active service. Our women have freely registered their names for national service. The response to the war loan and to the Red Cross and similar appeals is really marvellous.
That is well exemplified, Gentlemen, in the efforts of the Polish people in the Province of Manitoba, where they have subscribed very, very generously indeed to the support and help of the people who are suffering so severely in Europe today. And we see the Finns in our midst endeavouring to do the same thing.
But for a moment may I tell you something of our experiences in our Manitoba Red Cross? In Manitoba the Red Cross was asked to raise $125,000.00. In three weeks, over $300,000.00 was collected. Our total now is $330,000.00, and a few simple illustrations will suffice to indicate the whole-hearted support received from all sections of our Province. In organizing our campaign we were almost innundated with offers of voluntary service. Our problem was not to find workers, but rather to use the many hundreds whose plea was, "Here am I, send me." In Greater Winnipeg all sections of the city, representing scores of different nationals, subscribed more than three times their allotment; and in a similar way the rural sections exceeded our most enthusiastic expectations.
I want to give a few illustrations of what happened in Manitoba and remember, Manitoba, like the rest of the West, has come through seven or eight very difficult years. in one little Ukranian community, 75 miles east of Winnipeg (I wish I had time to visualize for you the conditions under which these people are living in that little community, solidly Ukranian) one canvasser went out and in two days had gathered $125.00 from these poor settlers, who obtain only a bare living by selling cordwood. Our Mennonite districts voluntarily canvassed every home and sent in thousands of dollars. Our French communities were equally generous. In one little district in Northern Manitoba, with a mixed population, securing their living mainly by fishing and where money was very, very scarce, $56.00 was subscribed by a few poor families. One resident living in a mixed French and English district reported that he and his brother's family had decided that they would donate all the money that they had planned to spend at Christmas on each other and turned in $35.00 to our Red Cross campaign. That was not all. It just happened that in that little community no provision had been made for canvassing. This man came up and asked for a canvasser's certificate and the right to canvass his community. They asked me what to do about it. I said, "Any man who will voluntarily surrender his Christmas gifts in aid of the Red Cross could be judged worthy to go out and canvass in its interests."
Another farmer, and this man I happen to know personally, is an Englishman living in a Ukranian community, who is hardly able at any time during the summer to buy gasoline for his car, spent the whole week after buying his own gasoline, travelling the community, calling upon non-English-speaking homes, and in every case without a single exception, the people were waiting for him and voluntarily offered their money. A very aged German couple, a poor old man and his wife, came to our committee rooms in Winnipeg, and frankly stated that they had nothing to give but they pulled the wedding rings off their fingers and said, "Take these". We couldn't turn them away but that night when the Committee met there was turned in a paid up subscription for the Red Cross for that old couple, and we wrote a carefully prepared letter, expressing our appreciation of their desire to help, and their wedding rings were returned to them. All over the Province, many contributed by offering wheat or farm produce or cordwood or whatever they could offer.
So I say to you, Gentlemen, the heart of our people is good and we see manifest the desire of our Manitoba people to unitedly support our war effort.
Out of this campaign has come another factor that is bound to influence mightily the thinking and attitude of our people. Before the war we had sixteen rather inactive Red Cross Societies. Now we have 230 Societies, all actively engaged in war work, officered by competent men and women, and bringing together the men and women in those communities. The men and women of each district, irrespective of nationality, jointly working in an effort to create and provide those things that are so badly needed by the fighting forces of Canada. The impact of these things on the mental attitude of our people is bound to be enormous and will contribute perhaps as nothing else could to a determination to use every resource at our command in a defense of those things that are so dear to a democratic minded people.
The whole experience of our Red Cross Campaign indicated the desire of all our people to render active support to Canada's participation in the war. But during the actual contacts with these people it was found that there was a great deal of confusion in the minds of many as to why Canada was participating in another European war, and also an inadequate appreciation of Canadian democratic ideals. Some of these people, indeed many of them, had left Europe in the hope that they would forever get away from the conditions of war and, not knowing the ideals and the aspirations of our Canadian people they were asking in perfect sincerity and honesty, why is it necessary that Canada again should become involved in a European war?
Everyone sought for information and the information was hard to come by. With this in view the Canadian Clubs of Winnipeg decided to do something to fill the gap by attracting speakers here endowed with some degree of special knowledge on one or other aspect of the war, but this in itself was not enough. It might be possible to reach in this way audiences in Winnipeg itself, but what of the smaller centres more difficult to reach by speakers touring the Dominion? The Canadian Club, and I am not saying this boastfully, Gentlemen, therefore decided that, as part of its war programme, it might offer to provide speakers elsewhere in Manitoba where audiences were available if the speakers could be found.
Some of the cities and towns of Manitoba were therefore communicated with and the proposal made that the Canadian Club would try to send out the best available speakers if these communities felt their local audiences sought to be informed on the general questions rising out of the war.
Local Boards of Trade, Service Clubs, Returned Soldiers' organizations, Agricultural Societies and other local societies were asked to organize the local meetings, do the advertising and arrange the place and date of meeting, provide any additional local entertainment desired and, in short, do everything necessary to secure a well attended public meeting. The Canadian Club agreed to provide the speaker desired by the community; that is to say, we gave the community the right to select a speaker from a list with which they were supplied, and we assumed all the travelling expenses. If desired, a Forum Period would be conducted at the close of the address so that as much information as possible will be provided.
The assumption of this task by the Winnipeg Canadian Club deserves commendation. It is a modest attempt to spread information of vital importance to every citizen of Canada, and to put sources of knowledge available in larger centres of population at the disposal of smaller centres whose resources in this respect are likely to be less. The movement is now only just beginning, but it is altogether likely that other points within range of the Winnipeg Canadian Club will respond to the invitation now being generally made. There is something here which similar Clubs all across Canada might make their special duty so long as the war lasts, and indeed continue into the difficult days of peace that lie somewhere ahead.
So we believe that if we can do something to create in our Province and in this Dominion a more thorough and correct understanding of the whole purpose of this war, and the results that may come from it, we are much more likely to get unity in the prosecution of the war and unity in support of constructive programmes designed to meet conditions that arise out of the war.
Canada is a great country, rich in resources, rich in the ideals of its historical traditions, rich in its opportunities and rich in its relation to our Mother Country and sister Dominions. And in contrast to conditions in Europe, truly are we rich in the privileges that are ours in the freedom, liberty and right of self-expression that we enjoy. Surely ours is a country blessed of God, and a country that deserves our unyielding devotion and service. The preservation of all these things and life itself is the issue of this war. The despotic countries of Germany and Russia are determined to crush out everything that makes life worth living in order to satisfy the cruel, greedy, ambitions of the Power-crazed rulers of those countries. Once again, Britain and France are called upon to throw everything they possess into the defense of liberty and justice and to the overthrow of might without right, Canada proudly and determinedly takes her stand with the Mother Country in defence of all that we hold to be sacred and worthwhile and without which life itself would be worthless and without purpose. And so the challenge of this war to Canada is the challenge of life itself. Such a challenge must not only draw from us the complete consecration of all that we possess, our man-power and our productive and financial resources, but impose upon us the duty of informing our people on the issues at stake, the ideals for which we stand, and the sacrifices all must make so that by complete unity of action and purpose we can render the greatest possible assistance to our Mother Country and her Allies in their struggle to save Democracy for the world and future generations. (Applause)
THE PRESIDENT: Gentlemen, I am sure you all agree with me that the earlier remarks that I made at the commencement of this meeting were justified, and that the Honourable Mr. McKenzie has effectively demonstrated in his excellent address, the wide knowledge that he has, not only of the main industry in Western Canada, but the social and political economy of that part of our Dominion, and the racial problems involved. We greatly appreciate such an address from Mr. McKenzie at this time when democracies, as we know them, are going through a period of trial which will test the soundness of their foundations. Mr. McKenzie has made a valuable contribution to our knowledge of the situation and on behalf of the Members of the Empire Club, I thank him most heartily for his kindness in honouring us today. Thank you. (Applause)