CANADA AND THE NAVY.
ITO THE EDITOR OT TUB " SPECTATOR.")
SIB,—Knowing the importance attached by the Spectator to the question of national defence, I venture to call attention to the article entitled " Canada and the Navy " in the Times of
January 16th. It is important as indicating Canadian feeling on the question, and it would he interesting to hear opinions on the practicability of the scheme which is suggested in it from those of your readers who possess expert knowledge in naval matters. Briefly summarised, the writer's proposals are as follows. It is stated that the Canadian Government intend to lay the foundation of a "navy" by constructing "fishery cruisers of a semi-warship type." Apart from fishery purposes, the writer contends that such vessels will be but travesties of fighting ships for purposes of warfare, and be suggests as an alternative that some of the retired, but still thoroughly serviceable, British warships should be acquired by the Canadian Government from the Admiralty.
It is probably true, as Lord Milner stated at Toronto, that a closer Imperial organisation can only develop from a practice of "doing things together." The letter in question is interesting, if for nothing else, in making a positive suggee- tion based on an analysis of the existing situation. It is also obvious that any proposal, to be practicable, must consider both the naval and the political exigencies of the case. There is every reason to believe in the acouraoy of the writer's description of Canadian sentiment. " We have people in
Canada loyal to the core but in a maze of doubt how to proceed." What causes this maze of doubt ? Two reasons at least can be indicated. Together with loyalty to the Empire is growing a strong Canadian national spirit. It is no more necessarily inconsistent with Imperial loyalty than the pride felt by a Scotchman in Scotland. But it demands that Canadians as such should be able to be proud of any share in Imperial work undertaken by Canada. It is, there- fore, unfortunate that there should still implicitly exist in Canadian minds a fear of interference by the Imperial Government in local affairs, and of a reluctance to accord Canada a voice in controlling Imperial policy, even when she helps to bear the burden. Such fears have nowadays little foundation in fact ; but they may be a potent instrument in the bands of a politician when it is desired, perhaps for other reasons, to oppose some " forward " proposal. A second reason for inactivity is indicated by the writer when be states that " Canadians are a very busy people." This absorption in the material development of the country operates in several ways. It prevents men inquiring into the truth of allegations that Canadian autonomy is threatened by some proposal. Again, the future greatness of Canada is accepted, and no doubt rightly, as an article of faith. But the claims of business allow little time for refleoting what will be the com- parative greatness of Canada in independence, or as a leading member of the British Confederacy; and for considering, as the present is the formative period, what steps should be taken now if proper preparation is to be made for the future.
The Canadian situation, therefore, is one in which various reasons normally combine to prevent the genuine Imperial sentiment from producing its full effect. The proposal in question appears to utilise the strong points of that situation while avoiding the difficulties, and therein lies its value. It would directly remedy one particular cause of complaint. The excellent naval station at Esquimalt is now derelict. The Canadian Government undertook the work of Imperial defence in those regions, and the British squadron was conse- quently withdrawn. So far, however, the only result is that Esquimalt is deserted, and, " as Canadians dearly love the sight of a battleship," the effeot of its forlorn con- dition on important sections of public opinion in British Columbia is most unfortunate. By the present suggestion the situation at Esquimalt, as at Halifax, would be remedied
at a minimum cost. The general effect, however, of the proposal would be wider. The demand for a naval force would be met in a way which would afford an outlet both for Imperial patriotism and national sentiment in Canada, and in which they would be, not rival aspirations, but complementary to one another. Again, there would be no derogation from the principle of local autonomy; and yet, with the development of opinion and of circumstances, evolu- tion would be possible on the lines of co-ordination of control, interchange of officers or of units, and homogeneity of design. From the naval point of view, therefore, as from the political, the proposal appears primd facie to be practicable. Whether it is actually so can only be decided by expert opinion. It would be interesting, therefore, to hear such an opinion, both as to its value in itself, and in comparison with the other alternatives sometimes suggested. In any case, Sir, the article in question, coming from Western Canada, is important in the representation which it gives of Canadian feeling on so vital a subject, and this must be my excuse in ,having trespassed to so great an extent on your valuable space.—
[That Canada should organise a naval force of her own is, in our opinion, quite clear. That is a kind of autonomy which will not in the least interfere with the true Imperialism. (We are well aware of the Admiralty objections to local navies, but though we acknowledge their theoretical soundness, we are convinced that they are unsound in praotioe, for they do not look to the alternative, which is no Canadian naval force of any sort or kind, and they ignore the educational effect of a navy which is a nation's own.) Whether it would be better for Canada to buy new ships or buy old vessels from the Admiralty we cannot attempt to decide.—En. Spectator.]