This column first appeared in the Victoria Daily Times on July 29, 1939.
There is a great body of opinion against the shipping of war material to Japan.
A few days ago, I saw a petition, presented by a Chinese boy with pages and pages of names. It looked like a voters’ list. I asked him if he had received any refusals. He said: “No, everyone signed.” The petition was to the government, asking it to prohibit the sending of all war material to Japan.
Signing a petition doesn’t seem to be quite enough, particularly since we hear that attractive young woman from China, Miss Lo T’Sol. Speaking in perfect English, she has been telling audiences across Canada something of the brave fight which her country is making against the aggression of Japan. She told us of the terrorism, the midnight attacks, the barbaric cruelty of the invaders, and told us too, that her country would never yield. She wrung our hearts with her earnest words, and then she pleaded with us not to help China’s enemies.
“We do not need men,” she said. “We are not asking for manpower or for money, but we do ask you in Canada not to send war material to be used against us.”
We know that Japan is one of the dangerous countries, a country that feels she has a divine mission to bend the world to her will. There is nothing against a country having a mission, but when they feel that they have been divinely guided to use fire and sword, duplicity and every evil wile to accomplish their purpose, in league with other ruthless powers, we must take alarm. Here in Canada, we are no longer ignorant of Japan’s aims.
In yesterday’s paper I read a news item concerning a British ship in an American harbour on the Pacific coast. It was trying to pick up some scrap iron for Japan, but the dock workers, picketing the ship, would not allow the cargo to be loaded. These men, dependent on their day’s wages, were sacrificing time, money and no doubt the favour of their employers, for a cause that they believed worthy.
I wonder how many of us would give even one day’s wages to the cause of China?
There is a group of women meeting every day in each of the coast cities, “Friends of China” they are called, who beg and buy old linen and make it into bandages for the Chinese. And now they have sent out a call for all who will to knit woollen bands six feet long, which will be sown together into blankets.
So it will happen that the same boat will carry scrap iron to make wounds, bandages to bind them and blankets to cover the suffering — all from Canada — and this is a condition that is troubling our conscience.
There is no room for argument in the issue between China and Japan. Japan was denounced as the aggressor by the League of Nations. According to Clause 16 of the League Covenant, to which Canada is a signatory, all members are pledged to send no war materials to the aggressor, so each load of scrap iron that we sell to Japan, wounds us, too, wounds our national pride in as much as it brands us as a people whose signature is of no value.
Adolf Hitler says in his book Mein Kampf that what he says today will not bind him tomorrow unless it suits him to be bound, but we have not reached the place where we can contemplate a broken pledge complacently. We have recited too many little pieces about our flag and what it means, “that bit of bunting against the sky.”
So carrying on in that tradition, I think it is time we made an effort to save our country from the shame of word-breaking.
If every wage-earner in Canada would contribute one day’s wages, we could buy up all the scrap iron in every city, town and village on every farm in Canada. We could have it hauled to some central place in each city or village — put a fence around it, and put an inscription over it to say this scrap iron has been bought by the people of Canada and placed inside this fence as a pledge that it will not be used to kill or maim our Chinese neighbours.
These “mercy mountains” will be our seal of good faith, not beautiful in outward substance, but, I believe, rich in significance. And this can be done if we are as heroic in spirit as the dock workers who refuse to be hired to load the ships.
Even the people who own the scrap iron would, I believe, be glad to know that it is not going to find its way into the quivering bodies of innocent people, whose only offence is that they have defended their homes.