Canada's Destiny
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 3 Oct 1940, p. 97-111
Ferguson, The Honourable G. Howard, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Looking at the word "Empire." A lack of clear understanding of just what the Statute of Westminster means and how it applies to the Empire. A quote from the Statute. What the term "Commonwealth of Nations" means and to what it applies. Canada as a self-governing people within the orbit of the British Empire. Canada's destiny. The desire to see Canada expand to the utmost limit and at the same time seeing her maintain, encourage and inculcate future generations with the basic spiritual impulses that have made the British Empire great. The British character and the British people. The ancestry of Britain's tradition. The tendency of the world for co-ordination, the co-operation of larger units of population and greater national organizations. How that will affect Canada. The common defence arrangement with the United States. The speaker's belief that it is our main duty to remain an integral part of the British Empire. The question as to what direction Canada is to take in the future as something for the Canadian people to decide and something that they must decide in the very near future. The speaker's belief that Canada is one of the countries that will benefit from the war through immigration. Our British inheritance in law and order. The British Navy, for centuries standing between us and danger. Holding fast to the things that are good.
Date of Original
3 Oct 1940
Language of Item
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Full Text
Chairman: The Past President, Dr. F. A. Gaby.
Thursday, October 3, 1940

DR. F. A. GABY: Gentlemen: I feel it is a very great honour to be the Chairman on this occasion and to be associated with such distinguished guests as are here to do honour to our guest-speaker today.

Before proceeding with the introduction of the speaker, we have a formality which is necessary at this particular time in order to comply with the regulations set down in the Constitution of the Empire Club. It is necessary that the report of the Nominating Committee be approved in open meeting before the election of the officers of our Empire Club. It was thought that the first official meeting would be a suitable time for this and seemingly appropriate, in view of our guest-speaker today. You will recollect at the last meeting of the last fiscal year, all the other officers were elected by the Club and the office of the President was left over for further action. I would like at this moment to ask the Secretary if he will, therefore, read the report of the Nominating Committee, dealing with the Presidency.

MR. H. C. BOURLIER: In the Minutes of the Annual Meeting, held April 25th, 1940, the report of the Nominating Committee reads in part as follows

"It is recommended the President for the ensuing Club Year be not elected at this meeting, but that the present President carry on for the time being, to which

he has agreed. Your Committee asks permission to continue in office until it may be in a position to nominate the President for the year 1940-41."

The Honourable G. Howard Ferguson, K.C. has signified his willingness to accept the position in question, and on behalf of the Nominating Committee, I so beg to report."

THE REVEREND WILLIAM HILLS, Rector, St. Barnabas' Church, seconded the motion.

DR. F. A. GABY: You have heard the resolution, moved and seconded, that Mr. Ferguson act as our President. As a matter of fact, he has been carrying on the duties since sometime in June. What is your wish, Gentlemen?


Mr. Ferguson, it is a great pleasure to officially announce your name as President of the Empire Club for the year 1940-41, and I am sure I am voicing the views of the membership when I say that the Club is to be congratulated on the acceptance of this honour by you. It is only because of Mr. Ferguson's keen sense of responsibility and loyalty to the British Empire that he finally consented to accept our invitation, and he has done this at possible sacrifice to his health and against the wishes of many of his friends who thought the strain might be too great. However, his anxiety to do everything possible to strengthen the war effort by such assistance in the development of a strong public opinion, following on a knowledge of the gravity of the situation, finally influenced Mr. Ferguson to accept and, as he has stated in his own words, identify himself with one of the organizations founded for the dissemination of the spirit of closer cooperation with the Empire.

We are indeed appreciative of the honour you are conferring upon the Empire Club, Mr. Ferguson, and the effort that you are putting forth in order to serve Canada and the Empire at a time when we need the support of public men to maintain the morale necessary to strengthen our war effort. I do not need to tell this audience of the long public service that Mr. Ferguson has unstintedly given Ontario, Canada and the British Empire. In a forceful manner he has carried out the administration of the various offices he has held. It is over thirty years since he first entered public life as a Member of the Ontario Legislature and during this period he was also honoured with the position of Minister on various occasions. He was Premier of the Province from 1923 to 1930 and Canadian High Commissioner to Great Britain from 1930 to 1935.

We all know that Mr. Ferguson is a keen Imperialist and a true Canadian and he champions all that means closer union of the Empire. We are fortunate today in having him to speak on "Canada's Destiny". (Applause.)

THE HONOURABLE G. HOWARD FERGUSON, K.C.: Dr. Gaby and Gentlemen: I would like to assure you that I not only appreciate the very flattering things that Dr. Gaby said about me but I appreciate much more the honour you do me in asking me to be your President. Dr. Gaby has said, quite correctly, that having arrived at the age where they won't take one into the army, and one can't work in a munitions factory, there is nothing left for one to do but to talk about these things. I felt that perhaps being actively connected with one of the great agencies for the dissemination of public knowledge might enable me to make a small contribution toward the arousing of greater Canadian interest in the development of Canadian citizenship and the closer co-operation of all parts of this great Empire of ours.

I like that word "Empire". (Applause.) Many people criticize the use of it. I have heard people say that it means domination; that it means autocratic control; that it means robbing people of their democratic rights. That is not the view I hold. I think the word "Empire" imports greater things than that. Vastness of outlook, grandeur of stature, dignity of position, influence in the world, a guarantee of protection to all those who come within the orbit of its influence.

Perhaps I should say this: I think many people are confused and misled by the lack of a clear understanding of just what the Statute of Westminster means and how it applies to the Empire. We hear so frequently the use of the term "Commonwealth of Nations" in discussing Imperial relations and Empire affairs that they are regarded by many people as interchangeable, while as a matter of fact the terms mean two very different and distinct things.

I should like to quote exactly the words of the Statute of Westminster, so that you may get more clearly than I can express, just what its meaning is and what its limitations are. The Statute of Westminster, dealing with the Dominions, defines their position as follows: "Great Britain and the Dominions are autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or internal affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations."

Now, it must be clear to you that the term "Commonwealth of Nations" applies only to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the four great self-governing Dominions-Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. But that is a small section of the British Empire, considering either the geographical point of view, its population, the extent of territory, the force of its influence or the ramifications of its people all over the world. The total population of the Commonwealth of Nations is approximately seventy-five million, and they are spread over about one-tenth of the earth's surface. The population of the British Empire is approximately four hundred million and these occupy one-quarter of the whole world. Surely a vast and important difference!

When people talk about the word "Empire" importing coercion and autocracy, we have only to look about us to be convinced of the fallacy of such views. We have had a complete answer since this war began and it should be convincing to the mind of any person. It is to be found in the widespread, universal, enthusiastic, voluntary assistance that has been contributed in the way of dollars and cents, pounds, shillings and pence, as well as in men and equipment, from the various sections of the Empire; from the little islands in the South Sea; from the West Indies; from India; from Newfoundland and all the colonies and outposts scattered in every part of the world. Wherever the spirit of the British Empire has touched the people; wherever they have been inspired and taught what Empire means, as administered by British people, they have given the most unquestioned evidence of their loyalty to it and their desire to see it perpetuated. (Applause.) That, it seems to me is a complete answer to people who talk about decadent empires and autocratic empires.

We are a self-governing people within the orbit of the British Empire, and I hope, I believe, I am confident, that-even unconsciously-we respond to her leadership, because there is no other aggregation of people since the world began that has given the same, unselfish, inspiring, uplifting leadership to the common people as has the British Empire. (Applause.)

Now what is Canada's destiny to be? That, I think, is what I told the Secretary I would talk about. What is our future to be? "Without vision the people perish." In other words, we must have always a constructive outlook in the course of our conduct and our action, and if we are dealing with the nation's affairs, it must be an outlook that will be of advantage to the nation as a whole and to the individuals who make up the nation.

In the light of our experience, founded upon the knowledge we have, being guided and influenced by the conduct and example of others, has anyone here the slightest doubt that while we all desire to see Canada expand to the utmost limit, at the same time we want to see her maintain, encourage and inculcate future generations with the basic spiritual impulses that have made the British Empire great.

After all, Gentlemen, material advantages, of course are most valuable in the progress of a people and contribute to their happiness and well-being, but the great impelling force, the force that inspires, the force that consciously or unconsciously gives direction to all thought and action, is a great spiritual force that has more to do with the shaping of events and lives of peoples and nations than any material interest can possibly have.

When I say a spiritual force, I use the word in a broad sense--not only from the religious standpoint, but from the standpoint of better life, greater outlook on life's problems, clearer vision. The man who lives at the top of the hill has a wider horizon and a clearer view of the landscape and its conformation. He has all the brilliance of sunshine, as compared to the man who lives in the valley, in the shadow, in the dampness and the depression. This Empire of ours stands out on a great eminence, visible to all the peoples of the world and carries aloft the torch that was thrown to future generations from falling hands. It is the only nation in the world that has made any attempt to fulfill that obligation which we undertook as a result of the tremendous trial through which we passed from 1914 to 1918. The very fact that Britain carries that torch gives her courage, gives her steadfastness of purpose, aye, gives us all confidence in the ultimate success of our cause. (Applause.)

I remember, in the days when I read the writings of great thinkers, reading the essays of Herbert Spencer. Two of them impressed themselves indelibly upon my mind,--one essay upon The Influences of Heredity Upon the Future Generations, and the other, The Influences of Environment, and really when one got through reading those two discussions, it was difficult for one to make up one's mind which was the most influential factor in the shaping of one's course in life.

But fortunately, in the case of the Britisher, we don't have to rely upon one or the other of these factors in the moulding of the British character. The British people have the unique advantage of enjoying both influences. We have inherited a long line of inspiring achievements that have given us a proud background for the shaping of a constructive national course. We have consistently maintained, even in the old crumbling abbeys and the ivy-mantled towers, the impressive solidarity of the buildings, the beauty of the countryside--we have maintained an environment in Britain that couldn't do otherwise than elevate men's minds and teach them affection and loyalty to the country in which they live.

Look on the ancestry of Britain's tradition-Nelson and Drake, Wellington and Roberts. Aye, and on the cultural side, Shakespeare and Milton, Dickens, Scott and Burns-all through the ages there, have been filtering into the atmosphere and keeping alive and active, the things that influence men's minds, shape their character and mould their future conduct.

A familiar quotation that constantly comes to my mind and that has a world of truth in it, is Kipling's pregnant words--"And what should they know of England who only England know?"

You can apply that to the whole of the British Isles. Travel from end to end-all its physical beauty, all the ancient monuments, all the towers that mark the mile posts of her progress and her greatness-we can see all those and yet we don't know England. We can come away filled with admiration, inspired with the sight, impressed with the peaceful atmosphere, and yet we don't know England. To know England you must know the British people. You must have an opportunity to come in contact with them and study their character, because it is character that is counting for us now. Don't make any mistake about that.

Part of my mission in life has been to know everybody I could know, either for good or bad. I think that there is no more valuable educational contact that you can make than with your fellow-man, and during my stay in England I sought to perpetuate the habit because I found (politically anyway) it worked well over here. So I studied the people of every section I could, particularly in, that great old City of London which is the shrine of the world's greatness. (Applause.) I have tramped through Limehouse and Sarah Streets, Whitechapel, Shoreditch, Bethal Green and all the rest of the interesting districts down through there. I have talked to the simple workaday people, talked to them about their country, their lives and their outlook, and have endeavoured to ascertain if they have complaints to make and what they think of Great Britain's future. It was heartening to get the assurance from the old flower girls or those Cockneys, those away-down-east-dwellers. They didn't express it so, but what they meant was what has been expressed in that song, "There'll Always Be An England", and day after day, for the past many weeks, night after night, these men and women and children, these simple people have suffered without complaint and with resolute spirit as perhaps no people in the world for a thousand years at any rate, have been called upon to suffer and endure. With what result? There is a challenge to their character and their greatness. They believe in the country. They have confidence in themselves and they are determined that to the last man and the last shot, England, Great Britain, the Empire shall survive and it will survive. (Applause.) That is character--British character, in all its greatness and glory--asserting itself.

I am perhaps not talking much about Canada's destiny, because I can say it in a very few words. The tendency of the world is for co-ordination, the co-operation of larger units of population; greater national organizations, if you like to put it that way. That is the trend of thought. Are we going to be drawn into that flood? Undoubtedly we will. Undoubtedly we will be influenced by it. Unquestionably we are facing it now, whether we realize it or not. It is well for us to have all the defence that it is possible for us to establish to maintain inviolate our own country and protect our own liberties. But stop and think to what extent, in a country as vast as this, with the wealth it has, with its population of ten or eleven million, we can create and maintain defences that will keep off the unscrupulous, marauding brigands that are abroad today.

Now, there are two alternatives. One of them is being discussed today--closer co-operation with our neighbours to the south. If I may express a personal opinion, I think this common defence arrangement is a good thing-a splendid thing. We have many similar conditions and reciprocal obligations and I think we can work them out better as two contiguous countries working together for that object. But I stop there and I stop for this reason. I believe the future greatness of this country depends upon its retaining the tradition that has made Great Britain great. (Applause.) I believe that there is inspiration to be had from that source that we cannot have from any place else, and with my highest respect and good will and gratitude to our neighbours to the south of us, I believe that our duty, our main duty, is to remain a part, an integral part of the British Empire.

Now, I told you some time ago that I had put my politics in cold storage. I have an awful time keeping the door locked.

You know, there is an old Spanish proverb which runs like this-"At the end of the street called Bye-and-Bye, stands the hostel Never." You can't go on hesitating and procrastinating and postponing. You must be definite in your course and you must be forward in your action. The question as to what direction Canada is to take in the future is something for the Canadian people to decide and something that they must decide in the very near future, if for no other reason, for an outstanding material reason. I believe that Canada is one of the countries that is going to reap tremendous ascendency and opportunity as a result of this war. In Europe they have had three wars since 1870. They are in the midst of the third one and from all I can learn, from correspondence and from people with whom I have come in contact in Europe, there are tens of thousands of people who are not going to bring up their children to face the prospect of another destruction such as they have had to go through. They are going to seek security and peace and the opportunity for individual advancement in a country where it will be guaranteed to them and where they can enjoy all that is good in life without being subject to the attack of the beasts in human form that are abroad today.

There will always be men of that type in the world and if you read the pages of history you will find that periodically their sheer fanaticism draws people about them. Selfishness induces their action-egotism, megalomania, a fanatical craze for power and domination, and they stop at nothing. You see, since the rise of this mental and moral pervert in Germany there is no scruple, no limitation. Who can give us any guarantee that it won't recur with future generations?

That is the way thousands of people in Europe are looking at this problem today, and if the few letters I get from people whom I know are at all representative of the general opinion-and I think they are-great numbers of these people, great hosts of them, are going to get out of Europe. Where are they going? Canada is the closest in contact. Of course our friends to the south will attract a lot of people, but it is out duty now, I think, to begin with some forethought and foresight to prepare a well-thought-out plan, not only of admitting people, because we really haven't any plan now. I don't mean at the present time only, but we never have had. We have to work out some scheme that will bring to this country the proper people and direct the people who come here to proper locations, where opportunities will be available to them and where their surroundings will be congenial.

If we do that, the accretion of wealth and people will give Canada such an opportunity as she has never before experienced and will put her in the forefront, not only of the nations of the Commonwealth, but will give her ascendency and an influence in world affairs such as she has never thought of.

After all, influence in world affairs, I think, is one of the great objectives that any people should have. We can all manage our own little household, our own little business, our own community, to suit ourselves but if we have high standards, moral codes and spiritual influence behind us, there is no reason, with the extent of territory, the opportunities, the great variety of wealth in almost fabulous quantities that lie here-there is no reason in the world why the next generation in this country shouldn't find themselves in a position to make a great contribution to Canada's national life. The essential thing Canada must do is continue to take her inspiration from the fountain of all good things that is to be found across the Atlantic Ocean, in the Homeland shrouded in the fog and mists of the North Sea.

I remember when I had to travel in Europe a bit. When I put my foot on British soil again at Dover or Folkestone, or any British port, I got a thrill in my pulse, a different outlook on life, a sense of freedom, liberty, security. What has she done to promote that? I have said something about spiritual influence and what it comes from. One of the most important factors is the sense of security she has created by the just interpretation of her laws and the careful administration of them. Where will you go in the world that people don't point to and comment upon the interpretation that is put upon life's conduct as portrayed by our Parliament, our representative institutions?

I believe that one important factor is the solemnity, the earnestness, the sincerity with which they carry out their public duties. I don't know how many of you have ever seen the opening of the Courts in London. It is one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen in my life. All the judges are assembled in the house of Lords under the Lord Chancellor, and from there they march in orderly and dignified procession to the old Abbey where a solemn service is held, asking Divine guidance and blessing upon their deliberations and judgments and that they may be guided in their wisdom in the best interests of all the people of the Empire. They proceed to this service in their long black gowns and their ermines and full bottom wigs. At the head of the procession is the Bible, then the Mace and the scales of justice. After this service they go back to the House of Lords and from there disperse to the various courts. This ceremony is an integral part of their judicial administration. If you were to see the thousands of people who crowd about old Parliament Square and other places of vantage to see that procession, to see how earnestly and seriously these men take their duties, the men to whom their future security and well-being is entrusted. The mere fact that this ceremony is carried out year after year and is witnessed by huge crowds made up of all classes is surely convincing evidence of its importance to the people and its influence upon the national life. The judgments of the British courts are quoted in every country in the world and shape the life of all civilized peoples everywhere.

This same high standard of the interpretation and administration of law and order is part of our inheritance. We have inherited our parliamentary institutions, our judicial organizations. We started to follow Britain with our Civil Service but we have slipped badly in this important matter. Over there they provide a career for you. In this country they only go so far as to provide a job and a mighty uncertain one, but we will get there after a bit. The tendency is to provide a career for men who go into the Service with the earnest desire to make their contribution in whatever field they may choose toward the improvement of the country.

Why is it that for all the years that we have been carrying on our affairs and our methods of life modelled after principles of the Mother Country we have not been interfered with? Why haven't we been invaded? For the very same reason that the President of the United States gave the other day for their never having been invaded. The British Navy stands between them and interference.

The British Navy for centuries has stood between us and clanger. Since the founding of this country it has stood between us and the man who would be tempted to invade us.

Mr. Chairman, I am afraid this has been a bit of a rambling talk, but I wanted to bring home to you what, in my view, should be the course followed by this country, what should be the outlook of all our public men in this country and what should be the urge of all Canadian citizens. Hold fast to the things that are good. Remember the advantages we have had. Don't forsake your spiritual fathers. Never let your children forget the traditions upon which Britain's greatness is founded. (Applause-prolonged.)

DR. F. A. GABY: Those in this room have indeed been fortunate to have had the opportunity of listening to this excellent address today. It has been a loss to our radio hearers because of the regulations that have been adopted that a manuscript must be submitted forty-eight hours previous to each broadcast on the radio. Unfortunately, under stress of time, and probably disability, Mr. Ferguson was unable to prepare the manuscript in time. Therefore, this address has not been broadcast today.

Before extending our thanks and appreciation to our President, I would say we have with us the "Grand Old Man" of Ontario, Sir William Mulock, and he has consented to extend, on our behalf, our thanks and appreciation for the address of today. (Applause.)

SIR WILLIAM MULOCK: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ferguson, Dr. Cody and Gentlemen: I will not spoil the able address of Mr. Ferguson by attempting in any way to review it or comment on it in detail. It was thoughtful, it was inspiring, it was encouraging. It was a masterful address, representing, I believe, the hearts and views of everybody in this assembly and practically of all Canadians in dealing with the subject, "Canada's Destiny". I apprehend no doubts whatever on that subject. I received this morning two letters from two soldiers of Toronto who have gone abroad. They each, although writing from different parts of England, referred to beautiful England and the flowers of England. I was reminded of those letters when Mr. Ferguson referred to beautiful England. He spoke of the inspiration of the environment. There England, like a jewel, rests upon the unadorned bosom of the ocean. That is England today and as England will no doubt be in the future.

Mr. Ferguson referred to the Westminster Act as a bond of union between all parts of this Empire. The union holding together all parts of this Empire depends upon no legislation. There is one bond of union, enough for us all, a union the strength of a silken cord, mightier than that of the heavier rope-the love of Great Britain and all old England stands for. (Applause.) I care not whether you call it an Empire, a Commonwealth of Nations, or whatever you may call it, it means a united British Empire.

As to the title of Mr. Ferguson's address-"The Destiny of Canada"--has anyone any doubts, whether Great Britain survives or not, that we will be with her in all her troubles, in all her successes, to the end of time? (Applause.) Whatever may be the future of the old Empire, there will Canada be. I shall repeat to you some words that I think fairly represent Canada in its relation to the Empire. They are the answer of Ruth to her mother, Naomi, when Ruth was being urged to live apart from her mother: "Where thou goest, I will go, where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people; thy God shall be my God, and where thou diest I will die, and there will I be buried." (Applause.)

Those words, in my opinion, represent Canada's future in relation to the Empire.

On your behalf I will convey to our speaker of to-clay our grateful thanks for his instructive and inspiring and patriotic address. (Applause.)

DR. F. A. GABY: Thank you, Sir William, for the very admirable way in which you extended the vote of thanks of the Empire Club.

The members of the Empire Club will be pleased to learn that Lieutenant Commander H. F. Pullen, newly appointed to command one of the United States destroyers transferred to the Royal Navy, and by it transferred to the Canadian Navy, now the H.M.C.S. "St. Francis", is a son of Mr. Frank Pullen, member of our Executive Committee. Also Lieutenant Commander Morson A. Medland, who was appointed to H.M.C.S. "St. Croix", is a nephew of Mr. Gordon Medland, also a member of the Empire Club. We are all gratified for the service being rendered by these young men.

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Canada's Destiny

Looking at the word "Empire." A lack of clear understanding of just what the Statute of Westminster means and how it applies to the Empire. A quote from the Statute. What the term "Commonwealth of Nations" means and to what it applies. Canada as a self-governing people within the orbit of the British Empire. Canada's destiny. The desire to see Canada expand to the utmost limit and at the same time seeing her maintain, encourage and inculcate future generations with the basic spiritual impulses that have made the British Empire great. The British character and the British people. The ancestry of Britain's tradition. The tendency of the world for co-ordination, the co-operation of larger units of population and greater national organizations. How that will affect Canada. The common defence arrangement with the United States. The speaker's belief that it is our main duty to remain an integral part of the British Empire. The question as to what direction Canada is to take in the future as something for the Canadian people to decide and something that they must decide in the very near future. The speaker's belief that Canada is one of the countries that will benefit from the war through immigration. Our British inheritance in law and order. The British Navy, for centuries standing between us and danger. Holding fast to the things that are good.