Volume #23 - 574.|
EASTERN EUROPE AND THE SOVIET UNION
Extract from Cabinet Conclusions|
March 8th, 1956|
The Minister of Trade and Commerce and Minister of Defence Production (Mr. Howe),
The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner),
The Minister of National Revenue (Dr. McCann),
The Minister of Labour (Mr. Gregg),
The Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Pearson),
The Minister of Public Works (Mr. Winters),
The Minister of Veterans Affairs and Postmaster General (Mr. Lapointe),
The Minister of Finance (Mr. Harris),
The Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys (Mr. Prudham),
The Minister of Fisheries (Mr. Sinclair),
The Minister of National Defence (Mr. Campney),
The Leader of the Government in the Senate and Solicitor General ( Senator Macdonald),
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (Mr. Pickersgill),
The Minister of Northern Affairs and National Resources (Mr. Lesage),
The Minister of Transport (Mr. Marler),
The Secretary of State (Mr. Pinard).
The Secretary to the Cabinet (Mr. Bryce),
The Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet (Mr. Martin),
The Economic Adviser, Privy Council Office (Mr. Lamontagne).
. . .
POLISH ART TREASURES
32. The Secretary of State for External Affairs referred to his memorandum on the situation respecting the Polish art treasures sent to Canada at the beginning of the last war. These had originally been stored at the Central Experimental Farm. Subsequently, a portion was removed and returned to Poland. The remainder was now distributed between the Quebec Provincial Museum, the Ottawa branch of the Bank of Montreal and, it was believed, a Polish Catholic Church in eastern Ontario.
The Polish government had consistently charged the Canadian government with responsibility for the safe return of these treasures. Canada's position, on the other hand, was that the government had no responsibility for the art collection, and that Poland could have recourse to the courts if it so wished. Recently the legal position had been re-examined, and it seemed that Poland would not now be able to bring civil proceedings before the courts. It was also thought that the Federal government might have incurred a legal responsibility for the protection of the treasures held in Quebec and for their return. It would appear that such parts of the collection within the Federal government's power to return, should be restored. As a first step, the two boxes of treasures held in the Bank of Montreal, most of which appeared to be uncontested Polish state property, might be obtained. Later, when further information was available on the question of ownership of particular pieces, they might be restored to Poland or to individual owners.
It was recommended that the Bank of Montreal be given an indemnity against all loss, claims or expense arising from delivery to the government of Canada of the Polish treasures in the bank's possession, and that no announcement be made about this, or no undertaking given at this stage to the Polish government as to the ultimate disposal of this part of the art collection.
An explanatory memorandum had been circulated.
( Minister's memorandum, March 5, 1956 - Cab. Doc. 54-56?)
33. Mr. Pearson noted, however, that consideration of this proposal could be deferred until a more convenient time for discussion.
34. During the discussion it was suggested that the present was not an auspicious time to open up the question, and that it should be deferred at least until after the election in Quebec. It was also pointed out that, by taking over the cases held in the Bank of Montreal and returning the contents either to Poland or to the rightful owners, if they could be found, the government was assuming a responsibility to see that other such treasures held in Canada were returned.
35. The Cabinet deferred decision on the recommendation of the Secretary of State for External Affairs regarding the disposition of that portion of the Polish art treasures held by the Bank of Montreal.
. . .