Since the present Minister of Justice has come into office, he has done his best to stamp out the iniquities that were rampant throughout the northwest-I give him every credit for that. I am glad to see that hundreds of volunteers are going upon their own lands, and I point out that it would save these men a great deal of expense if the change that I suggest were made, and would leave them with more money to buy their outfit when within the next four or five months, thev eo to reside on their land.
I am glad this matter has been brought up, for I have a case in my constituency, which, perhaps, is different from any of the others! There is a widow of a South African volunteer who lost his life in South Africa. This lady has made application for a land grant, lhe warrant was about to issue, and the Mr. SAM. HUGHES.
deputy Minister of the Interior-whom I had the honour of calling upon, and who was very kind in giving all the information he could-had sent out the letter containing the questions to be asked of the applicant and on the answering of which the warrant was to issue. But, between the time that letter was sent to Halifax and the time of its return, as I understand it, some new rule had been issued by which the applicant would have to administer before she could receive the warrant. When she communicated with me, I asked her to call at the probate office in Halifax. As she is without means I thought she might be able to administer there at small cost. But they told her there that, in view of the fact that her husband had left no estate in Halifax, she could not administer there, but must administer where the land was granted. As the land was not granted as a matter of fact, this would be difficult to do. I trust the Minister of the Interior (Mr. Oliver) will be able to make some provision by which this poor woman will be able to get the land due to her. I think the widow is in a much different position from any other relative, and there should be special consideration for her. I do not know whether other warrants had been previously granted in similar cases, but I understand that this new rule, as I have said, issued between the time when the communication was sent to Halifax, and the time the answer was sent back.
As one of the members from the west, I have listened with a good deal of interest to the objections which have been raised by hon. members on the other side to the methods of administration of the Land Department I was particularly interested in the point raised by the hon. member for South Sim-eoe (Mr Lennox) with regard to certain cases of hardship in connection with the administration of the land grants of deceased volunteers. Any person who is familiar with the conditions of the practice of law in the western provinces or with the conditions attending the administration of estates, would not wish to place on the government the responsibility of deciding in any particular case whether a man dies leaving heirs or not. Only a short time ago there came under my own notice the case of a man, recently married, who died in the province of Saskatchewan. Affidavits were sworn to by his widow to the effect that he died leaving her and three or four small children. Before the estate was administered, we learned by the merest chance that the man had been married in Germany previous to coming to this country, and had a grown-up family there. Similar cases must arise from time to time. The administration of estates in the western provinces is a simple matter, it does
not cost much; and why should not a man who is getting land from the government have his estate administered in the same way as he would have if he actually had the patent for the land? The hon. member for South Wellington (Mr. Guthrie) spoke of the hardships attending certain men who were injured in the South African war. With those men I have every sympathy, as I believe has every member of the House; but I may call attention to the fact that the Act to authorize a bounty to the South African volunteers, passed in the last session of the last parliament, provides for the appointing of a substitute, and I believe the scrip at the present time is worth about $1,000.
1 believe that it soon "will be worth $2,000. Each of these volunteers has the right to take not only a half-section under this Act, but a halfsection under the Homestead and Pre-emptions Act as amended in the last parliament; so that the South African volunteer, if he wants to become an actual settler m the west, has an opportunity to acquire a whole section of land, and in three or four years, when he gets his patent, he will be a wealthy man. I know personally some South African volunteers who have taken up their land and are at present on the highway to wealth as a result of the bounty given to them by this government. The hon. member for Vancouver also raised the question of the time given for entry to the volunteers. I believe that western sentiment is that ample time has been given to them They are allowed up to the 31st oi December, 1910. The hon. member for Vancouver would allow them to have untd the middle of 1911 to complete the entry. The effect of that would be to have the land tied up for two or three years. What we want in the western provinces is men to go on the land and cultivate it, and increase the out put of wheat and thereby increase the wealth of the country.
If that is the correct interpretation of the Act, it should not be worded in that way, for I believe the South African volunteers have been given ample time to go on the land and perform the cultivation duties.
May I ask the Minister' of the Interior to give the reasons for exempting the lands of the Peace River district from free entry under this Act? In the Bounty Act those lands are mentioned as being eligible, but in the regulations of the 1st of February they are exempt.
I am not learned in the law, but I understand that there is the administration of real estate as well as the administration of personal property. The distribution of the real estate of a deceased person is one of the most delicate, difficult and expensive proceedings under the jurisdiction of our courts, but there are still cases where it would be too serious a hardship to insist on all the formalities of the law; and in such, we may be prepared to take the responsibility of deciding to issue the grant to the one entitled to it in our best judgment. But that is done only as a last resort m extreme cases; and should we make a mistake in such cases, we ask for the best consideration of parliament. But we do not want to be understood as lightly undertaking a responsibility which has not been
laid on us by Act of parliament and which it would be the height of presumption lor us to assume.
With regard to the question raised by the hon. member for South Wellington (Mr. Guthrie) as to the remission of residential duties in the case of volunteers who had suffered serious physical disabilities, I only wish to point out that, in administering this law, the Department of the Interior is bound by the terms of the Act. The Act was only passed last session, and after a great deal of consideration, parliament did not see fit to provide for the contingency suggested by my hon. friend except in the way in which it is provided as suggested by the hon. member for Regina. That is to say, provision is made for the transfer of i.e of a volunteer who for reasons,
whatever they may be,.sees fit not to go on his land. The Act is framed so that the man who does not want to go on his land will be able to get the utmost value for his right to the scrip. That was the view of parliament last session, and in administering the Act the Department of the Interior must be bound by the authority of parliament. Parliament was moved to take the ground it did believing that while it was desirable to give reasonable- consideration for the services of the men who went to South Africa, it was also desirable that settlement- in the west should be thereby encouraged. The grant was essentially a bounty for the promotion of settlement in the west just as much as a recognition of services to the empire. And until parliament sees fit to reverse that policy, the Department of the Interior will have to continue as it is doing.
Regarding the point raised by the hon. member for Vancouver, while the Act gives the volunteer at least six months after a certain date in 1910 to go upon the land, there was certainly no intention that there should be any such privilege as that of tieing up the land and holding it over from settlement until 1911. That, I take the responsibility of saying, was not the intention of parliament. The intention of parliament was that the settlement conditions should be such as are required by the Dominion Lands Act; and the Dominion Lands Act requires that within six months after the date of entry settlement shall take place. We are administering the Act in that light, and I believe that we are carrying out the will of parliament in so doing. Were the Act to be administered as the hon. member for Vancouver has suggested it would cause scandal and abuse in land speculation to which the western country would certainly not submit.
As regards the inability of volunteers to take up lands in British Columbia, it was not contemplated that there should be any land placed at their disposal except those in the prairie provinces; but if the people oi Mr. OLIVER.
British Columbia feel slighted, I do not know but that their views may be met in due time, and I can say without hesitation that if it were possible to transfer the privilege from the prairie provinces to the railway belt of British Columbia, I am quite satisfied every representative of the prairie provinces would be quite willing to have that done.
There is this to be said in connection with this volunteer scrip, and that is that taking advantage of the provisions framed for the express purpose of protecting the interests of those volunteers who, for one reason or another, were either unable or unwilling to go on the land, a very large portion of the issue has fallen into the hands of speculators. We hope that the volunteers who were entitled to all the rights and benefits to be derived under the Act have reaped due advantage from that transaction. We did our best for them in framing the Act, and if they have not reaped due advantage from it the fault is theirs and not ours. The condition is that the scrip is, as a matter of fact, very largely in the hands of men who have bought it not with the intention of settling on the land but for the purpose of speculation, and therefore the Department of the Interior being charged with the administration of this area of some two million acres of land, largely in the hands of speculators, is compelled, if the public interest in the settlement of the country is to be protected, to hold the lines very, very tight. We cannot allow the privileges in respect to the land held or taken under scrip that we have been used to allow in the case of land taken by homesteaders.
I think the members from the west will bear me out when I say that it is absolutely necessary that having made the law as it is, we must insist upon the letter of the law being fulfilled, not wishing to do any injury to the men who served the empire, but desiring to protect the public interest in the settlement of the west, which is if not of paramount of equal importance to parliament and the country.
How did it become possible for the various land agents throughout Canada to become possessed of either the nominal roll of every regiment serving in South Africa, or a list of some sort giving the name and address of each of these men? It is unfortunate that this has occurred because in a great many instances the first the volunteer knew of his being entitled to a South African grant was a letter from a land agent offering him at first $200 or $300 for his rights. That was often the first intimation received by the volunteer that he was entitled to any remuneration for his services in South Africa.
It would have been much better if either the Militia or the Interior Department had
notified each veteran that he was entitled to such a grant, and to have withheld the information from the land grabbers until such time as the soldier himself had a chance to consider the proposition.
I am not able to say how the rolls of which my hon. friend speaks came into the hands of the real estate agent. I would say that in my estimation once we permitted, as we did permit and as we intended to permit, the volunteer to sell his scrip, the greater publicity given to the fact that the scrip was issued, the better for the man who had scrip to sell and wanted to sell it. There seems to me to be no disadvantage to the beneficiary of the Act in the fact the man who wanted to buy from him knew that he had scrip to sell or which he could sell. The greater the demand for the scrip the better the price the man was going to get for it. It is to be regretted that in many cases the volunteer has disposed of the scrip at much below its actual value, but I think that those who are to blame for that are rather the men who have belittled the commercial value of the scrip, as it was belittled, very definitely and specifically and persistently belittled, in the columns of many newspapers not many months ago.
I take the opportunity of saying that the South African volunteers have suffered the loss of many thousands of dollars and the scrip sharks have benefited to a corresponding degree because of the misunderstanding that was persistently and deliberately caused throughout the country as to the commercial value of this volunteer scrip. The effort was made in the terms of the Act to prevent that by providing that no transfer of right was valid until after t.h& serin was issued. In every point we have done our best to guard the interests of the volunteers, It is still to be regretted that in many cases they have suffered very heavy financial loss, but it is not because of any action or lack of action on the part of this government.
My experience is that a great many of the volunteers still hold their scrip, but perhaps the minister has data which would warrant him in stating that the great majority of them have sold their warrants. The great majority of my friends are still holding their warrants and I am pleased to say that a majority of that majority are going to settle on the land.
When I said a large proportion, I was speaking without the book. I have taken for granted from remarks I have heard that a large proportion had been sold. I hope it is not so, and would be pleased to know it is not. But there has been a great deal of talk about purchase of scrip, and a low price at which it was being disposed of made me feel very
strongly that a great many volunteers were not getting the benefit we hoped they would get from the Act.
I would ask the attention of the Minister of Militia (Sir F. Borden; to a case in my constituency. A young Canadian medical officer went to London, England, enlisted in the British forces and served during his term about one year in South Africa. Part of the time he was on hospital duty and part of the time he was at the front, for about eight months treking the veldt and enduring all the hardships and dangers of the campaign in South Africa. It seems to me remarkable that nurses who never saw a bullet fired and many men who never saw South Africa are entitled to a warrant, a gift of this land, and this officer, a young Canadian officer in the medical corps, is deprived of his rights. I would strongly press on the favourable consideration of the minister the case of those who are commonly called civil surgeons. This young man was really subject and liable to all the orders of the ordinary volunteer and he was exposed to all the hardships of the campaign. If there was ever a man who deserved the scrip it is surely a man of this description. I understand the Law Department have decided against the claim of men of this class, and hold that they are not entitled to grants of land. I think this is rather a harsh ruling, and the minister might amend the law and regulations in respect to such cases, and allow this young man, who is certainly very deserving, a grant of land.
As I understand it, the South African civil surgeons were under military rule the same as regimental and army medical corps men, and in many instances were attached to regiments as regimental surgeons, though ranking simply as civil surgeons. I think it is right that a man who has lived in Canada and was domiciled here before the war, and serves the empire, either in England or South Africa, should be entitled to the grant, and more especially if he has returned to Canada.