Canada and Great Britain
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 24 Jan 1929, p. 20-34
Clar, Sir William H., Speaker
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Item Type
The wide field of the mutual inter-relations of Canada and Great Britain. This theme peculiarly appropriate to the City of Toronto, and how that is so. The slow development of the speaker's position, some responsibilities of which were formerly taken on by the Governor-General. The immediate occasion for the creation of the High Commissionership in Canada arising out of the Imperial Conference of 1926, and reasons for it. The essential issue of improving means of communication between Canada and Great Britain. The somewhat paradoxical contention that the continuous evolution in the principle of autonomy should have made for a closer union between our peoples. Ways in which the full development of self-government has meant the elimination of points of friction which arise when someone else handles one's affairs. What will be gained by Canada handling her own foreign affairs. The real scope for partnership. Some safeguards for divergent policies. Ties other than political: mutual economic interests, mutual concern in trade, finance and migration, the exchange of goods, the exchange of capital, the distribution of our peoples. Increasing Canadian exports to the United Kingdom. A detailed discussion on the question of immigration.
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24 Jan 1929
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Full Text
24th January, 1929

PRESIDENT EAYRS, in introducing the distinguished speaker, said:-It is a great privilege to have with us today as guest of honour and speaker of the day Sir William Clark, High Commissioner for Great Britain in Canada. I think it is peculiarly fitting that Sir William's first official visit to Toronto should be made for the purpose of addressing this Club. The motto of the Empire Club is "Canada and a United Empire". Sir William's presence and mission in this country I take to be a sign and token of the practical application of that motto. If ever a man's work was in the interest of a United Empire the work of Sir William Clark is. His function as High Commissioner is best described in his own words-"It is to provide a still more intimate channel of communication to assist in bringing about a still more efficient co-operation between His Majesty's Government in Great Britain, (which he has the honour to represent) and the Government of the Dominion, in all the many aspects of their mutual concerns."

Sir William Clark said: I have chosen an august topic on which to speak to you today, no less than the wide field of the mutual inter-relations of Canada and Great Britain. It is a theme which is peculiarly appropriate to the City of Toronto, that City which grew to greatness because your ancestors preferred exile to the loss of British citizenship; that city which has assiduously preserved among the struggles and con troversies that have attended Canada's political development, the same eager loyalty to the British connection and 20 the British Crown; which in its University and schools has maintained yet another link with the mother country through their cultural system that runs so closely parallel to our own; which honours the same sports as we honour at home, as I know very well after watching from the Leander lawn last July Joe Wright win his glorious victory in the Diamond Sculls-a victory all the more glorious for having been so unkindly deferred. It is a theme which is very appropriate too before members of the Empire Club which has set itself, as I understand its aims, to study and elucidate the diversified problems implied in the very existence of an immense aggregation of states such as the British Empire of today.

And there is another apology which I had better proffer to you in advance. Since I have been in your hospitable country I regret to say that, encouraged by the kindness which I meet on every hand, and oblivious of that modesty which is so becoming in a man and so essential in a civil servant, I generally end or begin, whatever my official theme, by talking about myself. But on this occasion I may plead perhaps that that is not wholly to be avoided, since my presence here is in its degree one of the outward and visible signs of where the relationship between Canada and Great Britain now stands; and I hope it will not be amiss if I take this opportunity to put before you, on this first occasion when I have been privileged to speak to a Toronto audience, something of what I believe this appointment means, something of how I hope it may be possible for it to help, in however modest a degree, in what all here, I am sure, have at heart, the steady, continuous strengthening of the ties which bind Canada and Great Britain together. (Applause.)

We in Great Britain are essentially a conservative race, not prone to change, inclined to let things carry on as they are unless there is a very evident reason for embarking on something new. But for that, I conceive, we might have followed somewhat sooner the example you set us fifty years ago when you first appointed a representative of Canada to Great Britain and created that post of High Commissioner in London which is now held by a distinguished citizen of your great city. It is a remarkable fact that Great Britain which for centuries has maintained an important service for the conduct of her business with foreign countries, has had no corresponding organization for the transaction of her affairs with her self-governing dominions, business no doubt different in some aspects, different certainly in the angle from which it is approached, but certainly no less considerable in importance and, of recent times, growing rapidly in bulk. But it has ever been our practice in all things to proceed gradually at first and tentatively, and so when self-government began the GovernorGeneral remained charged with a dual duty-he was at one and the same time the representative of the King and the channel of communication between the Government in London and the Government in Ottawa. But inevitably as Canada has advanced in nation-hood, she has stood more and more on her own feet in each and every aspect of her affairs, more and more emphasis has been laid on the Governor-General's function as representative of the King. The greater that emphasis, the less appropriate it has become for him to be concerned also in the ever increasing detail of business between the governments, and especially, of course, in respect of matters where any element of controversy could arise. And so it has followed that, almost imperceptibly, the means by which the two governments may get into really intimate touch with one another, may know what is in one another's minds before projects ripen into policy or develop into action, have become less effective-less effective despite the continuous developments of the physical and mechanical means of inter-communication, less effective, although effectiveness has become increasingly necessary with the growth of the dominions as nations-as nations coming more and more, whether they wish it or not, not only as members of the British Empire, but on their own individual standing, into the wider circle of the world powers. Just one illustration of what I mean. Twenty years ago, while the commercial interests of foreign nations and foreign manufacturers and merchants were looked after throughout our Empire by their multitudinous consular officers, British traders had no official representative in the dominions to perform similar services for them, for it was hardly possible, of course, for the Governor-General to come down into the market place. That gap has now been filled by our trade commissioners, and it is worth mentioning that the first institution of the service was due to a suggestion at the Imperial Conference of 1907 by a Dominion Prime Minister who felt that in his Dominion the interests of British trade were being prejudiced for lack of such representation. And he was entirely right. I was at the Board of Trade, the British Ministry of Commerce, in those days, and saw something of the matter from the other end. In such things as tariffs, customs regulations and the thousand and one regulations and requirements which in all countries surround import trade, no single one perhaps of enormous moment in itself, but cumulatively important, our interests suffered, simply and solely because there was no means of bringing to the notice of the Dominion Government, except by the unsatisfactory procedure of the written despatch, obstacles which might be prejudicial to our commerce and which if matters could have been fully explained to them, they would very certainly have been ready to remove. Indeed the point hardly requires labouring. Toronto is a great commercial city, and there are doubtless many business men present today. They will, I conceive, endorse from their experience the simple doctrine that personal contact and the spoken word are worth a great deal more in the putting through of business than much writing of letters, and if this is true of business it is perhaps more true still of the relations of governments who have sometimes been accused in their correspondence of exercising caution, a commendable quality in itself, at the expense of that no less essential adjunct, clarity.

The immediate occasion no doubt for the creation of the High Commissionership in Canada arose out of the Imperial Conference of 1926, out of the conclusions promulgated by the assembled prime ministers regarding our relations one to another within the Empire; but it was also considerations such as those I have just mentioned, which influenced His Majesty's Government in sending me here to represent them in Canada and to bring them into closer touch with their colleagues of the Government in Ottawa. They felt that the time had fully come when a further channel of communication should be set up to facilitate the despatch of all the multifarious business between us, and especially to help in achieving the closest possible co-operation in the conduct of foreign affairs and other matters of high policy. I have only been some four months in Canada, and happily during that period no critical questions of imperial or international policy have arisen, but looking back I feel that the despatch of the current business between our two countries has been expedited, merely because of the opportunities now afforded for verbal discussion between the representatives of the two governments discussion which itself has been immensely facilitated by the generous reception accorded to myself and my officers by all ministers and officials with whom we have been brought into contact. (Hear, hear.)

If I have emphasized this aspect of the relations between Canada and Great Britain, I hope you will not think it is from a desire to magnify the importance of my post, or worse still of myself. I dwell upon it because this, the practical; working side of the recent constitutional developments is the side on which I can at least speak with some personal experience. Perhaps as a civil servant I am tempted to attach especial weight to the mere mechanics of government business, but I venture to think that there is something more in it than that when history sums up the outcome for our imperial structure of these ten pregnant years since the war, one of the factors that will emerge as not the least important will be the attention paid to the devising of machinery for giving a new, fuller, and more practical meaning to that hardworked word co-operation. (Hear, hear.)

After all, what is the really essential issue? Putting aside for the moment all question as to the respective status of the several parts of the Empire, whether before or after 1926, whether before or after the war, whether now or in remoter years, has not the really essential issue always been for an Empire so diverse, so widely scattered as our own has been, to devise means that policy can be so built up and ordered as to preclude or reduce to a minimum the possibility of disagreement between any of our peoples on any question of capital importance, or on any series of questions leading up to such an issue? How is that possibility, so far as is humanly practicable, to be eliminated? The answer can only be-by removing, so far as may be, causes of discontent; by improving so far as may be means of communication, for there are few proverbs so wise as that which tells us that the absent are always in the wrong.

The last occasion of capital difference, culminated over 150 years ago in the declaration of American independence and was the beginning of the end of the first British Empire. It may well have seemed of evil omen to those who troubled themselves with such things that in that same year of 1776, when the Empire of England was threatened for the first time, and they could not know it would be the last-with disruption and decay, Mr. Gibbon should have issued the first volume of that august production, the "History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire". But there were also planted in that same year the seeds of developments which between them have made us safe, as we legitimately believe, from such a catastrophe in the future,-the beginnings alike on the political side and on the side of physical, material things of a newer and closer relationship, which made for the conditions I have just postulated. One of these also was a book, Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations", a book destined above all others for the English speaking world, to set in motion ideas which formed the prelude to the new libertarian age; the ideas which affected profoundly not only fiscal theory, but what was so intimately allied with it, colonial policy, which led up ultimately to the principle of self-government and with it, though it was scarcely to be foreseen at the time, a new path to unity between the peoples of the Empire. Nor was that all. That same year is also cited as the date when Boulton and Watt, the Birmingham engineers, produced their first steam engine on a commercial scale, a year on the very threshold of the age of steam, and all that steam has meant in cheap and efficient transport to an empire whose countries are scattered over the whole surface of the globe.

The continuous improvements in the physical means of communication speak for themselves, but it may seem something of a paradox to contend that the equally continuous evolution in the principle of autonomy should also have made for a closer union between our peoples. But, first, was there a point at which the process should or could, have stopped? Lord Durham would have stopped short of fiscal freedom, admittedly an impossible position to maintain. That point conceded, for a long time autonomy was strictly limited to matters of domestic concern. Then, in the years before the war, the prime ministers assembled at the Imperial Conference were admitted to the confidence of the British Government regarding foreign policy, the growing anxieties of the situation, and the urgent problems of imperial defence. Canada, meantime, had negotiated treaties of her own. Would it have been possible to have arrested the process at that point, to have taken no further steps forward despite the new position in relation to the world in which she found herself after the war? Would it have been possible to have arrested the process there? Would it, and this is the really crucial question, have been worth while to make the attempt; would there, indeed have been any adequate reason for making it?

I think the answer, as ministers say in the House of Commons when invited to reply plainly "Yes" or "No", must be in the negative. The logic of the situation which had actually arisen, the position in which the Dominions found themselves at the end of the war, the ready recognition of that status by foreign countries, all seem to show that the tide had flowed irretrievably on.

Let us look at the other side. The full development of self-government has meant the elimination of points of friction which arise so easily when someone else handles your affairs for you. It is so easy to think that others have not taken as much trouble, that they have not dealt with them as carefully, as wisely, as you would have done yourself. I was profoundly embarrassed the other day at a dinner party when a lady, I hasten to add of English birth and most loyal to her native land, challenged me indignantly, over the soup, about something England had done or not done in connection with events that took place many years ago. I will not be more specific, but I reached the fish with a deep sense of personal guilt and a no less profound regret that the statesmen of our Empire had not attained the conclusions of 1926 several decades earlier. But in all seriousness, it is no small gain that there will be no room now for such sentiments, now that Canada handles her own foreign affairs, but there will also be something more than that there will be something positive and concrete gained. In foreign affairs Canada and Great Britain have each their special concerns, but they have also their common interests. Your chief pre-occupations are necessarily with the great Republic to the south of you and with the Empire across the Pacific Ocean. We in Great Britain, distinct from the European continent, thanks to the few miles of sea which divide us from its northern shores, are yet part of Europe, traditionally and of necessity concerned in its affairs. But Canada, too, having accepted her obligations under the Covenant of the League, having been accorded the high honour of a seat on its Council, is no party to a doctrine of isolation from European affairs and is no stranger to the problems of the European orbit. (Applause.) There is a real scope for partnership between us. We can each advise and help the other as regards each our special spheres, you from your special knowledge of the new world, and we from ours of the old; and, again, when we stand side by side in the great international gatherings of the times. For the British Empire, with all its peoples, to be represented on such occasions, by the envoys only of a single government, would be surely almost a contradiction in terms.

I suppose we could any of us, if we troubled to do so, suggest contingencies which might arise if this or that government of the Empire were to pursue a divergent policy; we could any of us, if we sat down to it, construct an edifice of alarming inferences on the basis of such hypotheses. I do not, myself, believe it is a very wise way of spending one's time, but if one does, what are the safeguards? Well, first and foremost, making for unity, above and beyond everything else there remains the supreme bond, common to all our nations, of loyalty to the King, the desire to serve the Crown, to avoid any action which might involve the Crown in any constitutional embarrassment. (Applause.) There is no need to stress how real, how fervent that loyalty is. It has been demonstrated, if any demonstration were needed, during the past unhappy weeks by the eager anxiety with which His Majesty's subjects all over the world have followed the daily bulletins of his long and courageous struggle with his illness. There is next this that liberty and the sense of responsibility, as our constitutional history whether in Canada or in Great Britain has so often shown, go and grow hand in hand; and so with the greater liberty you will find, I believe that each government of the autonomous group recognizes increasingly the duty laid upon it to have regard in its policy to the interests of the other nations as well as of its own. And lastly, a humbler, more pedestrian affair, but still as I believe with an importance of its own, there is the factor on which I dwelt earlier in this address, the improvement in the machinery of inter-communication which these developments have induced-the new arrangements by which not merely are the decisions of our several governments reported to one another, but every endeavour is made through less formal channels to keep each other aware before decisions are taken of what each has in mind, of the policies each may severally contemplate. Success, as I see it, will be won through good will and good sense, qualities surely in an especial degree characteristic of our peoples goodwill and good sense finding their scope not only at the periodic meeting of the Imperial Conference, but through this constant interchange of information, opinion and counsel.

So much for our political relationships, but there arc other ties which can be no less effective, the ties of mutual economic interests, of mutual concern in trade, finance and migration, the exchange of goods, the exchange of capital, the distribution of our peoples. This is not unfamiliar ground to me who have, in the last ten years at the Department of Overseas Trade in London, had to learn something about the great commercial countries of the world. It has been very pleasant of late years to watch the figures of our trade with Canada moving once again in the right direction. It has been very pleasant, since I have been here, to see the manifest signs of Canadian prosperity as evidenced by all the many statistical measurements which you owe to the industry of the Dominion Statistician. It has been very pleasant in these last few weeks to hear at the annual meetings of your great banks, bankers, usually a cautious clan, singing together like the morning stars in a united paean of contentment and confidence and joy. (Laughter.) The latest figures show that we in Great Britain have our share in these good things, for our mutual trade is still on the upgrade. I see that in the twelve months ended last November Canada's exports to the United Kingdom increased by nearly forty million dollars over last year's and her imports from the United Kingdom increased by some ten million dollars. These increases are largely, of course, the results, directly or indirectly, of your splendid harvests, of the advances that you have been making in manufacture, and of your larger purchasing capacity, but we can also, I think, as we contemplate these figures, congratulate ourselves, British and Canadians alike, on what is being achieved by the movement on both sides of the Atlantic in favour of the purchase, wherever possible, of Empire goods-the movement stimulated at home by the work of the Empire Marketing Board, and in Canada by the Shopping Week campaign of last year with which Toronto had so much to do and which I am glad to see is to be repeated this year. (Applause.) Your steadily growing import trade, of course, still affords British manufacturers plenty of worlds to conquer, plenty of opportunities to pursue which are now going elsewhere. They are going after them, I am glad to say, with an ever increasing appreciation of their importance, and they have your goodwill, I am no less sure, on their side.

There is much more one might say on this topic but I must abstain, as there is one other to which I wish to refer before I have done. That is the question of immigration, a question which is intimately associated with one of the closest ties that there can be between two countries, the tie of race. The point I wish to make is simply this-that just as Canada is entering on a new and important phase of her political history, so there is good ground for the belief that she is entering on a new and no less important phase of her economic development, a phase in which we may reasonably expect to see a very definite forward movement in the growth of her population based on an increased flow of immigration duly assimilated and retained within her borders. And if I am right about that, I think you will wish that, within the limits of the reasonably possible, these immigrants should be British. (Hear, hear, and applause.) And, again, I am bold enough to suggest that circumstances combine to make this juncture one of a singular aptness because, the trend of conditions in our islands is such that men and women of British race are freely available now, but may not be so freely available before many years have gone by. In fact, to my mind, the indications all point in the direction summed up in that admirable maxim, "Do it now".

There is much misapprehension now-a-days about the term "over-population" or "under-population", which are so freely bandied about in these discussions. People talk about Great Britain as being densely over-populated and attribute to this supposed excess of her people the unhappy numbers of her unemployed. They point to the fact-a startling fact, no doubt-that England and Wales carry some 650 persons to every square mile of their relatively restricted territories. But the truth is that these geographical considerations have very little to do with the issue. One of the most flourishing nations in Europe, a country which alone among the countries of the world has, I believe, no taxation, flourishing, it is true, for fantastic reasons, with its prosperity based on a fantastic industry, that same country is also perhaps the most densely populated in the western world, with nearly 2,000 people to the square mile-I mean the Principality of Monaco. (Laughter.) Yet were the pastimes of Monte Carlo to lose their attraction for mankind, a contingency, I opine, in the highest degree remote, Monaco, no longer prosperous, her one industry reft from her, her people deprived of their one employment, would become at a stroke over-populated. So, to take a more serious example, was it with Vienna before and after the war, before the war the natural focus-point of a great empire, in which were concentrated the governmental machinery of its huge area and the ultimate control of its commerce, industries, transport and finance; after the war, a head manifectly too large for the shrunken body of the new republic. So would it be with Great Britain were the conditions of today to persist, a possibility in which we are none of us, I hope, so faithless as to believe. Great Britain has been through all this before. A century ago her population was about a third of what it is today and yet to the gloomy eye of Mr. Malthus even that modest figure seemed excessive for her resources; yet within a hundred years, stimulated by the prosperity of the Victorian age, her people had trebled, and so far from suffering in consequence, the average standard of living was far higher than at the close of the Napoleonic wars.

Now once again, the old doubt has revived. Our economic structure is such that through our staple industries we have suffered more acutely perhaps than any other nation from the changes brought about by the war, and we have to face a far longer period of readjustment than was at first supposed; but I do not think anyone seriously doubts that the readjustment will be secured, and with it our present surplus of unemployed will be re-absorbed. And meantime, there has been another factor at work, the extent of which is often not fully appreciated. The birth rate of our population has been falling in a measure masked only by the even steeper decline in the rate of death. But to the latter process, even after all allowance has been made for the progress of medical science and sanitation, there must be a definite limit; and the best authorities believe that an increase of another three or four millions in our people may bring us to the point at which our numbers will be getting near stagnation. We have admittedly a surplus now, but no one can say for how long it will continue.

Let us turn to Canada. Just as Great Britain is accused of over-population, so it is often stated that Canada is under-populated, because her people average only about two and a half persons per square mile of her territories, the mileage including, I suppose, for greater effectiveness, the superficial area of her immense lakes and multitudinous rivers, her still virgin forests, and the grim regions of her remotest north. (Laughter.) I attach but little importance to such figures; but it may, I suppose, be admitted that in past years, while she has received her fair share of immigrants, she has not always found it easy to retain her people as against the drawing power of the great prosperity across her borders to the south. But what of Canada's present position--the steady growth of her cultivated area; her ever-developing industries; the rapid progress made with the opening up of her mineral resources; the recent figures of her trade; the increase year by year, and in some respects this is the most significant item of all, in the volume of hydroelectric power which her stations produce. There is the evidence too of her employment index showing year by year a rising demand for labour, and in these last months a marked diminution in the usual seasonal decline as winter comes on. Or again, there is the record of Canadian citizens returning from across the border to settle once again in their native land. Who can doubt that Canada's absorptive capacity stands on a quite different footing to anything that has been attained before in her history, a footing infinitely securer, I imagine, than in that period of somewhat hectic prosperity in the ten years before the war? I cannot sum up the case better than as it was put by your fellow-citizen, Sir John Aird, the other day at the meeting of one of your great banks:

"If but a tithe of the expansion which looms ahead of this country takes place," he said, "we shall be able to find employment for, and offer a career to, many thousands of settlers of all kinds." And again, "Indeed of taking away the employment of those now in the country, the new-comers will create new trade and new employment for the purpose of filling their needs, and will thus contribute substantially to the further development of the country."

That is precisely what I believe, but it comes with infinitely greater authority from him. (Applause.)

The stage then is set, and so you know the two Governments and the shipping companies have been working together to make the movement of our people easier, the special facilities for boys have been extended to include lads up to 19-young, vigorous, in no way affected by unemployment or set in their ways. So far as agriculture is concerned, the British Government through their training camps are helping men who have followed other vocations all their lives to turn over to farm labour. I visited one of those camps last summer with your Prime Minister, and I think he will agree that the men were being put through pretty searching tests to try out their adaptability to farm-work, and were being taught some, at any rate, of the rudiments, of the way you do things in Canada. I will only make this appeal to you and to Canadians in every part of the Dominion-that you will give, as I am sure you will, a helping and a welcoming hand to those who may now be able to come and share with you in your splendid heritage. (Loud applause.)

I have not yet thanked you, gentlemen, as I should have done for your kindness in receiving me here today. Yet it is indeed of good omen for my work in Canada; for that work, I am very sure, cannot be done only in the capital city; it means taking every opportunity of meeting those who are building up Canada and Canada's prosperity in that long chain of provinces and communities which is strung out, in the proud words of your national motto, "from sea to sea". The Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairie Provinces, British Columbia, so diverse in their origins, so different necessarily in their pursuits and interests, they are held together in the last resort not so much by the adamantine sanctions of the law as by the silken thread of loyalty to the Canadian name. (Hear, hear.) So it is with the British Empire. We do not ignore the importance of historic precedents and constitutional statutes, but what will matter most as the years go by will be the spirit which lies behind, the determination, based on loyalty to the Crown, to see that the freedom of each detracts nothing from the unity of the whole. If, as between Canada and Great Britain, I am able to help at all, in however modest a degree, in so great a cause, I shall indeed feel that my years in your great Dominion will not have been spent in vain. (Loud and continued applause.)

Six THOMAS WHITE conveyed the thanks of the Club to the speaker.

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Canada and Great Britain

The wide field of the mutual inter-relations of Canada and Great Britain. This theme peculiarly appropriate to the City of Toronto, and how that is so. The slow development of the speaker's position, some responsibilities of which were formerly taken on by the Governor-General. The immediate occasion for the creation of the High Commissionership in Canada arising out of the Imperial Conference of 1926, and reasons for it. The essential issue of improving means of communication between Canada and Great Britain. The somewhat paradoxical contention that the continuous evolution in the principle of autonomy should have made for a closer union between our peoples. Ways in which the full development of self-government has meant the elimination of points of friction which arise when someone else handles one's affairs. What will be gained by Canada handling her own foreign affairs. The real scope for partnership. Some safeguards for divergent policies. Ties other than political: mutual economic interests, mutual concern in trade, finance and migration, the exchange of goods, the exchange of capital, the distribution of our peoples. Increasing Canadian exports to the United Kingdom. A detailed discussion on the question of immigration.