I understand there is some regulation in the department in reference to the burial of British seamen dying in a Canadian port. I do not know whether it is confined to British seamen. But when seamen die at our ports, I believe, there is a regulation in the department that only $10 is to be allowed for funeral expenses of such seamen. I desire to inform the minister that this sum is absolutely inadequate ; I do not think it is a credit to our country or to our government. A case came under my attention not long ago, where a British seaman died in the town of Spring-
hill, in the hospital, and the very least the undertaker could bury him for was, 1 think, about $37. And yet, the department will not allow this undertaker more than $10, and he is compelled to lose the balance of the amount. 1 do not think that at this day decent burial can be given a white man for $10.
I quite admit the force of the remarks of the hon. gentleman (Mr. Logan) ; but, unfortunately, the Sick Seamen's Act does not provide for the burial of the deceased in these cases, and so it is only by grace that we give even $10 toward the expenses.
May I ask whether the Minister of Marine (Mr. Prefontaine) has anything further to report regarding the seamen imprisoned in Montevideo pending, as I understand it, arrangements on the part of the authorities there to pass a law to punish them. It seems a very peculiar situation that British subjects in a foreign country should be awaiting, in imprisonment, the convenience of people to pass a law to punish them for an act which was not originally a crime.
We are in correspondence with the home government and with the British consul at Montevideo. So far, we have not received a satisfactory answer. The members of the crew who were imprisoned have been released. But it appears that they were released with the intention of sending them away so that they might not be witnesses in favour of the captain at his trial. Discovering this the members of the crew have remained in Montevideo in order to give their evidence before the court when the case of the captain comes up. The latest communication we received was to the effect that they are waiting for the judge who has had under consideration certain points of law, and who was absent from Montevideo. We were told that as soon as the decision of this judge was rendered we should be given more information. It is one of those cases in which the law seems to be obscured. There seems to be no law by virtue of which these men can be detained, but the prosecution, I suppose, are applying to the judges there to have the men detained, with what intention I do not know, except, certainly with the intention of discouraging any fishing in their waters.
I am very much obliged to the leader of the opposition (Mr. R. L. Borden) for bringing this matter up again, and I hope that everything is being done that can be done by the minister on
behalf of these sailors. There is another matter to which I referred a few evenings ago -when the estimates of the Department of Agriculture were going through. It was a matter relating to public health, I believe that it would therefore come within the control of the Department of Agriculture.
I am sorry to say, I got very little satisfaction from that department in regard to the matter. Possibly I cannot get any satisfaction from the department under the present state of the law. But I am pleased to learn that there is a surplus of the fund to provide for seamen. That being the case, I think it is a pity that any town on the sea-coast should be called upon to pay the expenses of seamen coming into the harbours of Canada. Two years ago an American vessel came into the harbour of North Sydney with small-pox aboard. The town had to incur the expense of $1,000 or more to furnish clothing, food, and protection of every kind for over twenty-five men for five or six weeks. I think it rather an unsatisfactory state of the law that a town should be obliged to provide for those coming into it in this way aud I think that some provision should be made by the Department of 'Marine and Fisheries, or some other department of government, by which American vessels could be obliged to provide for their own men, or else to bring these men under the operation of the sick mariner's fund. I submit to the Minister of Marine and Fisheries (Mr. Prefontaine), with all due deference, that it is the duty of some department of the government to repay the town of North Sydney the money expended in this connection, and, if possible, recover that money from the government of the United States or from the government of the state of Massachusetts from which these people came. If no law existed to cover the case, there should be such a law, as this is clearly not a matter that should be dealt with by the municipalities.
The question referred to by the hon. gentleman (Mr. D. D. McKenzie) is important enough to be taken into consideration. I will make a note of it. Of course, I remember the case to which the hon. gentleman refers. If the law can be amended to provide for such cases, I will see what can be done.
There is a good deal of difficulty connected with the matter referred to by my hon. friend from Cape Breton North (Mr. D. D. McKenzie) along the whole coast of the province of Nova Scotia from which I come. During the small-pox epidemic in eastern Canada, there was no provision to take care of sailors who became ili on coasting vessels. The place where the vessel happened to be at the time the sailor was taken charge of by the authorities it was said, had to bear the expense. There ' was a good deal of uncertainty whose duty
it was to look after the sailors wlio became sick on coasting vessels.
I wish to say a word or two with reference to the detention of the British seamen at the port of Monte Video by the government of Uruguay, which subject was originally brought to the attention of the House by the hon. member for Cape Breton North (Mr. D. P. McKenzie) and which has been referred to by the leader of the opposition (Mr. R. L. Borden). I think that the treatment by the British government of the goevrnment of Uruguay in this case has been very lax. I understand that seventeen British seamen were confined for a long time in jail, but have now been released : and I understand also that the captain of that vessel is still in jail until they can make a law to punish him. Now, if that kind of treatment by any foreign government had been meted out to British seamen previously, Great Britain would have taken steps to protect her subjects. If we have any connection with the British government whatever, if they have not entirely abandoned North America, I think that this government should take steps to press upon the British government that they should represent very strenuously to the government of Uruguay that this is not the kind of treatment that British seamen and British subjects have been accustomed to receive at the hands of foreign governments, and also that these men, who have been illegally lodged in jail for a long time and their enterprise broken up without law or without any pretext for any municipal or international law. should be compensated for their losses. If they had belonged to Great Britain itself, that demand for compensation would have been made long ago. If they had been seamen who had their domicile in England cr Scotland there would be a claim made by the British government
Because Ireland has no seamen. Because they are colonial seamen, it may be that it is inconvenient for the British government to make any earnest representations. As this matter has come before the House, this is a fitting occasion to impress on our ministry to represent to the British government that the maritime people of Canada are not accustomed to have their sons imprisoned in foreign countries without any offence having been .committed by these seamen against the laws or regulations of a foreign country. If that representation is earnestly made and pressed upon the British government, these unfortunate men will receive compensation for the breaking up of their enterprise, and also some kind of solace for their long confinement in the South American dungeons.
I must state that the correspondence is rather voluminous, but I have no objection whatever to laying it before the House on Monday. The case is very plain. As is explained by the consul at Montevideo, the authorities have made up some kind of a case against the captain and crew. They were arrested and a charge was made against them of infringing the fishing laws of Uruguay. The contention of those interested in defending the case, and those who have interested themselves in favour of the captain and crew, is that there exists no such offence ; but in order to ascertain that there was no such offence, the matter was brought before the courts, and, as I explained just now. the court, before the case was heard, but after the largument on the preliminary objections, absented itself, and until the present moment there has been no adjudication upon these preliminary objections. In the meantime the crew was liberated, but they kept the captain. Of course, we understand by the circumstances that it is one of the most serious and unjust cases. There was, in fact, no infringement of any law, but there seems to be a kind of justification on the part of the authorities for detaining the men until they have had an adjudication from the judge. The last correspondence we had from the British government was at the end of February. The matter was followed up day by day by this government, and representations were made in answer to the replies that we received from the other-side. The case, to our mind, is not very much more advanced now than it was in the beginning. Of course, I do not know how we can help it, except after the judgment has been rendered. It seems to be an unreasonable thing to keep a man in jail who is arrested without any infringement of the law. It might be unjust and might cause his ruin, and cause great loss to the owners of the boat, but, all the same, it is difficult to find a way unless we were able to send a man-of-war to Uruguay and get these men liberated.
There is no doubt about that, but the British government does not seem to consider the ease as a hardship or unfair or unjust, or I have no doubt they would have acted more promptly and taken more vigorous measures than they have taken. The captain is defended, he is represented by a lawyer, and has communicated through the British consul at Montevideo and the Colonial Office at Loudon, and, of course, all that takes a long time.