April 15 1920


April 15 1920

IN the editorial comments of Canadian newspapers during the past weeks one question stands outprominently: Is Canada to have a navy? And if so, what kind of a navy shall it be? The findings of Lord Jellicoe, who visited Canada at Canada’s invitation to consider the naval problems as they apply to this country, have been made public. These findings outline four possible policies involving annual expenditures of anywhere from four to twenty-five million. The public have had the opportunity to consider the possibilities and obligations of each course of action, and the general result of this consideration as evidenced by the editorial comment thereon appears to be emphatically opposed to any naval expenditure at the present time. There are, it is true, some staunch advocates of an immediate naval program, and some who maintain a more or less neutral attitude, but the great bulk of opinion is definitely opposed to the expenditure that would be entailed by any naval policy at the present time.

The interest in this important question has been quickened by the surprisingly sudden action of the Minister of Marine in demobilizing the entire present navy equipment and personnel. Since this action was taken a statement has been made regarding it by the Minister, to the effect that it was to clear the decks for a re-organization of the Department. Since then, also, an announcement has been made in the House that Canada will accept a contribution of one light cruiser and two destroyers to replace the obsolete Niobe and Rainbow.

In considering the editorial opinion of the Canadian press, it would seem that not only is the country adverse to an enlargement of the naval program, but is opposed to the general idea of accepting contributions of ships from Great Britain. Among the opponents of any policy of adding to Canada’s obligations by the adoption of any further naval development is the Toronto World.

"A considerable body of Canadian opinion,” says the World, “thinks it is premature to consider as practical any new naval embarkations. One reason for this is that in Britain itself there is no confident judgment as to what the naval policy of the country ought to be.”

But its opposition continues in this and other editorials in a still more definite tone, a tone that implies a criticism of the suggestions of Admiral Jellicoe as well as opposition to the general principle involved:

“Underlying the report is the universal uncertainty as to Canada’s future relation to imperial naval defence. Lord Jellicoe is like a man advising a prospective Benedict how to furnish his house, without knowing what his income will be. But he is thinking of the young man’s father’s house, and is tempted to say that the old gentleman has some really serviceable stuff that he might give as a wedding present.”

Or again, commenting on the proposal that Canadian naval officers should be trained in England it says:

“It is remarkable how the Admiralty persists with its under-estimation of the strength of national sentiment in Canada. It is more remarkable still that those who have strenuously fought naval contributions from Canada should be willing to accept contributions to Canada. If we cannot pay for our own navy, we cannot do anything worth while with it from the point of view of a member of the League of Nations, equal in status with all the other members, including Britain and the United States. Once permit it to be said, ‘What Canada has in a navy Britain pays for,’ and it would be time to end the talk about our having arrived at nationhood.”

Can Afford to Wait

THE Montreal Star is by no means as emphatic in its mode of speech, but despite the gentler manner of dealing with the subject, its attitude is none the less definite. “If ever Canada wants a navy,” it contends, "then this report, emanating from so well posted an authority, will be of value.” The one word “If” indicates very clearly its feelings on the matter. It continues:

"Canada had an opportunity to do something to strengthen the Imperial Navy at a time when her example might have counted for peace and for shortening the war. The circumstances are changed now. The time will come when we must make preparations for defence. We can afford to wait until the aftermath of the last war is cleared away.”

The Saskatoon Star complains of the air of mystery that shrouds the whole matter. Who raised the navy question? it would like to know. Certainly the people of Canada did not, it complains.

“The only thing they are fairly sure of is that at the present time Canada does not need a navy. England is to-day the unchallenged mistress of the seas. That position she must maintain. Her insular situation and vast world-wide interests make that essential. But by whom is Britain threatened that she must go in for larger navy expenditure? Japan, the United States, France, these are the countries that have navies, and they are bound in terms of alliance to Great Britain.”

There is also, it contends, the possible influence of the League of Nations, to be carefully considered, and also the effects of the war’s lessons as they apply to present naval programs.

“Of Canada’s willingness and determination to stand by the Empire,” it continues, “in time of peril there can never be doubt. This country is prepared to share the burden of expense imposed by the obligations of empire. But if armaments are to be reduced, why should we make naval appropriations now? We do not see the grounds on which this proposal can be justified. Canada is in no financial shape to buy an expensive toy.”

The Regina Post, Regina, Sask., comments on the proposal in practically the same terms.

No Politics in It

HAMILTON, Ontario, papers of different political stripes are equally at variance with the proposal to increase naval expenditures.

The Hamilton Times says:

“We have a two billion dollar debt and we may have to raise another five hundred million dollar loan to help pay the interest on our debt. In the circumstances, this is a poor time to launch out into a large expenditure for a Canadian navy. Great Britain, instead of increasing her navy, has been reducing it, and is now proposing to give away certain of her ships to the Dominions beyond the seas, as she has no further use for them. Then the future of navies is much in doubt. We are told by naval experts that the underwater boat will drive all surface boats from the seas, and some say that the airships will supersede the dreadnoughts. Under the circumstances we think that Canada should hesitate, at least, until she is in a better financial condition before she builds a big navy.”

The Hamilton Spectator, commenting on the large possibility of an entire change in the policy of naval architecture, owing to the development of aeroplane and submarine, continues:

“In any case, the Canadian people, very naturally, do not relish the prospect of these additional financial burdens; though they are quite willing to assume them, given the necessary proof of their need. We have the League of Nations, whose foremost function is the prevention of war; then there is Lord Fisher assuring us of the uselessness of above water craft; also we have the school of strategists which pins its faith to the development of the air forces for the purposes of naval defense. Between these conflicting opinions in high places, one wants to be shown first, the need and then the means.”

Jellicoe’s View is Professional

"IT is not to be wondered at then,” says the Peterborough, A Ontario, Review, “if Admiral Jellicoe has come to regard a powerful navy as one of the essentials for the preservation of the civilized world, and to believe that if the British war fleet is not only kept up to the present standard but made stronger than ever that the bottom will drop not only out of the Empire but of the very universe itself.... Admiral Jellicoe’s suggestions with reference to a navy are certainly worthy of consideration, but it must be remembered that the navy is the Admiral’s world and fighting his profession. Is it not just possible that he may, in his enthusiasm, in his very devotion to duty, exaggerate the importance of his cause? What is really the urgent need of the day,” it concludes, “is merchant vessels rather than floating fighting machines.”

The Manitoba Free Press voices somewhat the same opinion:

“Admiral Jellicoe believes Canada should have a navy. Which leads to the remark that it would be a queer sort of admiral who would not think that way.”

Turner’s Weekly, Saskatoon, is inclined to scoff at the proposals:

"By the expenditure of twenty-five or thirty million dollars on a navy, Canada could adequately protect herself against sea attacks by Peru or Albania.”

The Ottawa Journal, while not definitely opposing the proposals, counsels a very careful consideration, and of letting events shape themselves, before definite action is taken. It comes out strongly against any minor scheme of naval development, contending that, as in the past war, Canada’s frontiers were not her own coasts but the trenches of France and Flanders.