Arnold Chan, the Canadian Member of Parliament for Scarborough-Agincourt, died of cancer in September 2017 at the age of 50. Chan was raised in Toronto where he earned masters degrees in political science and urban planning. He also had a law degree from the University of British Columbia. Chan first won his seat in a 2014 byelection but was diagnosed with cancer shortly afterwards. He embarked on a treatment regime of radiation and chemotherapy. He felt healthy enough to run in the 2015 federal election and became the Liberal Party’s deputy House leader after they took power. However, he revealed in March 2016 that his cancer had returned. On June 12, 2017, Chan rose to speak in the House of Commons with his wife and family looking on. He was to address a motion put forward by the Conservative opposition criticizing the Liberal government’s record on the economy, but he used most of his speaking time to implore his fellow MPs to treat one another with civility and compassion in debate and to “ditch” their canned talking points.
As Hitler attacked the Jews in the 1930s many of them sought refuge in other countries, including Canada. Prime Minister Mackenzie King counseled Canadian Jewish groups and concerned MPs to work quietly behind the scenes, implying that something would be done, but he took no action. There was a significant public sentiment in the country against Jewish immigration, and Canada actually turned away a ship containing Jews fleeing Germany. On 30 June 1939 a Quebec MP tabled a petition signed by thousands demanding that the government not allow Jews into Canada. That prompted A. A. Heaps, a CCF MP from Winnipeg, who had accepted King’s advice about quietly diplomacy, to rise in the House and criticize both the prime minister and his government’s inaction. Heaps was one of the few Jewish Members of Parliament. Continue reading A.A. Heaps on Jewish exclusion, January 1939
One hundred years ago, in 1917, there was a divisive debate in Canada over military conscription. It was led by Conservative cabinet minister Arthur Meighen. Brilliant, opinionated, and incisive, Meighen was one of Canada’s great parliamentary orators. Born in Ontario, he moved to Manitoba to practice law and was elected to the House of Commons in 1908. He served in the Borden government, where he was instrumental in drafting the legislation for conscription and other wartime measures.
Most Canadians believed the war in Europe would be a brief one, but it dragged on in trench warfare and sporadic large battles that cost tens of thousands of lives. Initially, the Canadian government was confident that it could provide troops through voluntary enlistment, but by 1916 there was a growing demand, particularly among Canadians of British ancestry, for the government to impose conscription to raise more troops. That enthusiasm was not shared in Quebec, where people had little allegiance to Britain. In 1916, Prime Minister Borden attended wartime meetings in London and visited with Canadians troops, particularly those wounded and in hospital. He was shocked and moved, and returned to Canada committed to conscripting men for compulsory military service. Meighen drafted the legislation, and he entered the debate on June 17, responding to an amendment proposed by Opposition leader Wilfrid Laurier that the legislation be deferred and put to a national referendum. Here is Meighen’s speech: