Mr. A. T. THOMPSON (Haldimand and Monck).
Some days ago I had occasion to make a few remarks upon the subject of a retiring allowance for the officers and men of the permanent militia of Canada, and upon that occasion I said that at some future date I would ask the indulgence of the House while I discussed matters appertaining to the militia of Canada. I do not believe that I need apologize for taking such a course as this to-day. I understand that we are about to go into Committee of Supply, and that the militia estimates are to be taken up, and so, I think, the time is suitable. Now, I have abstained throughout the session from taking any part in the discussion of questions of transportation, of trade and commerce and of many others that have engaged the attention of the House. I have done this designedly, because I knew how little my own knowledge was in connection with these matters. So far as the militia of Canada goes, however, I may claim to know something about that, although I admit not nearly as much as I would like to know. For fourteen years I have been closely connected with the militia of Canada, first, as a full private in the rear rank of a crack city regiment, the Queen's Own Rifles of Toronto, and in the end, in command of a regiment which I may fairly claim is a crack country one, the 37th Haldimand Regiment of Rifles. I have been enabled to gather what are the requirements of a city and a country corps, and so I feel that I will be able * to contribute something to the knowledge of hon. members in connection with matters appertaining to the militia. We have spent a great deal of time and money in developing the various natural resources of Canada, in developing our waterways and railways, and from time to time, we are building up new plaees in this young country. Of what good are all these things unless we have a force able and willing to defend them against the strong hand of aggression which we find in the 20th century, as in centuries gone by, is ready to reach out and grasp the property of those countries whose weakness marks them out as their prey. It is a fact that I think is too little known that the militia of Canada comprises more people than any other organization no matter how great the trust may be in this country. Almost every hon. member of this House is a Canadian militiaman, all from eighteen to sixty years of age are members of the Canadian militia, not of the active force, but of the reserve force, and so a militia debate should be of great interest to the people in general. It is perhaps very little known that should our supply of volunteer militiamen become inadequate there is such a thing as compulsory service by ballot, and many of those who
take but a scant interest in the militia may find themselves under the necessity of joining the colours. In our militia organization there is what is known as the skeleton system. We have in each company a sufficient number of officers to officer a company on a war footing, according to the British army standard, but, as for the rank and file, we are allowed only two-fifths of full strength. Our own force, which is only 3G,000 strong, would have to be immensely increased in time of serious trouble, and the increase would have to come from those very people, who, at present, take far more interest in the price of binder twine, or of coal oil, or in the discovery of the North Pole, which is still as much undiscovered as an efficient militia is undiscovered. The ranks will have to be filled up from those very people, and it is a great pity that hon. members and the people in general do not take a more sympathetic interest in the militia of Canada. Now, passing from generalities to particulars ; let me refer to the subject of increased pay for our militia. At present the militiaman- I speak of the rank and file-has to go into camp at a daily wage of 50 cents, and this at the time of year when labour is plentiful and very well paid indeed. You may readily see the sacrifice that entails. In many cases so inadequate is this pay supplied by the government, that county councils, in their generosity, have supplemented the pay by giving 25 cents a day, and in some cases 50 cents a day increase to each man in the regiment which bears their county name. This is a great mistake. In the first place the county is undertaking a duty which properly belongs to the government of Canada, and in the second place it almost invariably happens that sooner or later the generous county council is superseded by the parsimonious county council which withdraws that pay, and in the end the recipient regiment is far worse off than at first. It is not providing a remedy which will accrue to the benefit of the militia. What is the result of this inadequate pay ? Inadequate physique is the result. It is a matter which anybody can readily appreciate, when I say that on pay like that only very young and undeveloped men can go to the camp. As men grow older it is the history of our people that they take unto themselves partners for life, and having done so, I am sorry to say they generally divorce themselves from the militia of Canada. They cannot afford to go to camp and make this financial sacrifice, when they have become family men, with all the responsibilities which that relation entails, and therefore, our regiments have to be filled up with mere youths who would, on a war footing, be entirely unequal to the exigencies and hardships of the campaign. The Major General in his annual report has spoken of the wastage of our Canadian
militia. By that he means this: every militiaman, when he joins his regiment, is sworn to serve for three years, but many of them go to the first camp, and the first camp only. They receive a certain amount of drill, they become, to a certain extent, efficient, very efficient indeed, for the length of time in which they are in the regiment, but after going back from the first camp they do not come to the second or the third camp. The Major General suggests that some of these men should be made an example of, that they should be arrested and prosecuted for not coming to the second or third camps. Here, most respectfully, I wish to take issue with him. I think, after a great deal of experience in recruiting, which is the main difficulty in the militia, I can assure him that if we adopted such a drastic course as that, we might as well disband the militia. There is, to my mind, a very much better remedy, and it is to increase the pay on a graded scale. My proposition is that the first year a soldier goes to camp he shall receive 50 cents per day, for the second camp he shall receive 65 cents a day, and for the third and subsequent camps he shall receive 75 cents a day. If we had a graded system of that kind, I believe that all the complaints of immaturity on the part of the men and wastage of which the Major General has spoken, would rapidly disappear. Here let me come to a matter which is small perhaps in itself, but it is an injustice, and no injustice is too small to talk about until such time as it is remedied. We are authorized to have, for every corps in Canada, a regimental chaplain, and very many of the regiments have availed themselves of it, and have a regimental chaplain. I may say that no man in camp does more good to the militia than the chaplain. His presence tends to better discipline, clean living, to a lack of riotousness of all kinds, and more especially his presence immensely helps to remove one of those difficulties we have to contend with on the part of parents who have the very erroneous idea that the camp is a wild and wicked place. One of the chief difficulties we have to contend with is on the part of parents who have the very erroneous idea that a militia camp is a wicked and demoralizing place. When we are able to tell them that we have with us a regimental chaplain, that difficulty generally disappears, and we have their consent to enlist their sons. Hon. gentlemen will be surprised when I say that amongst all the militia we have enrolled in Canada, the regimental chaplain is the only man who draws not one cent of pay. He actually has to go to camp and pay his own mess bill. He lias not a single cent from the government with which to defray his actual expenses, or supply uniform. I mentioned this once to a gentleman high in militia circles and he gave me a reply that I thought was very inadequate, namely, that Mr. THOMPSON.
they did not do it in England. That is a very poor excuse. Father O'Leary and his brave brethren of the cloth have demonstrated on the battlefields of South Africa that they can be to the men of great assistance in matters temporal as well as spiritual. It is a disgrace to the generosity of Canada and to the militia system of Canada that the chaplain should go one day longer unpaid. I trust sincerely that the Minister of Militia will take this into consideration and that the next camp we go to, the regimental chaplain will not be asked to give his service gratis.
Closely allied toj the subject of increased pay is that of increased comforts to the men. A very few thousand dollars would provide mess tents for the men in camp. I believe that $200 a regiment would afford suitable marquees. It has been said that this is a strange thing to suggest, that this is making the soldiers too luxurious, that on active service there would be no such thing as mess tents. That I grant you. But, if you increase the comforts of the men you increase the facilities for getting recruits. Would gentlemen go so far as to say that because on active service, very often a soldier has to do without a tent at night, that therefore we should have no tents ? Are we to be asked to inoculate rheumatism, so to speak, simply because on active service the fellows have to sleep out at nights and without tents ? I think not. We in the militia have had enough to put up with in years gone by; we have been subjected to indifference or insult running the gamut from the good-natured shrug to the open sneer. Now; thanks to the service rendered by our brave boys in South Africa, thanks to the service of such men as Ivnisley of my own corps, who, going to South Africa an immature soldier, came back recommended for the Victoria Cross.