I do not think the hon. minister understands my question. Did the department have notice of the general strike that was called on or about the first of May, before it actually happened?
Mr.'CROTHERS: No, we had no notice of that either. On that call all the mine workers in Vancouver Island quit work. At the mines of the Western Coal Company, the Pacific Coast Company and at Jinglepot mines, the men all quit "work about the first of May.
We had an officer at Vancouver, and he was instructed to go to Vancouver Island and to do everything possible to induce either the men or the owners to apply for a board. Under the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act we have no power to establish a board without application first being made therefor either by the men or by the mine owners. Our officer was instructed, if the union miners or the owners would not apply for a board, to see if he could induce the non-union men to do so, because we were very anxious to have a board established. He was not able to induce any of them, and in that way we are not able to get an investigation by a board under the Industrial Disputes Act.
In order that the facts of the case might be brought to the attention of the public, the Government appointed a commissioner in the person of Mr. Samuel Price of St. Thomas, who had served as Mining Commissioner for the province of Ontario for seven or eight years and who was familiar with such matters.
I regarded the matter as a very serious one and was anxious to ascertain the facts at first hand. Therefore I went to Vancouver myself and spent about half the month of July there. I interviewed the different mine owners and the leaders of the mine workers. I was perfectly satisfied that there was no possibility of securing any adjustment between the mine owners and the mine workers. On the one hand, the mine owners seemed unalterably deter-
mined that they would not in any way recognize the United Mine Workers of America or their officials.
I do not remember. I think I was there about ten days. I visited all the different mines and interviewed the owners and many of the miners. At Cumberland, I had before me twenty-seven men who were out on strike, and heard what they had to say. Then I had before me exactly forty of those who had taken their places, and heard what they had to say. I heard what the Board of Trade of the town of Cumberland, the mayor and certain of the councillors, had to say about the matter.
I was satisfied that the two parties felt so strongly on the question at issue that there was no probability whatever of bringing them together. The mine workers thought that the whole thing would be settled in a couple of weeks if I would just leave them alone; that the mine owners would have to take them back in order to get any coal out of the mines. On the other hand, the mine owners said: We will not recognize
this union, if the mines are closed for forty years. I never saw two parties so determined.
Mr. Samuel Price inquired into conditions in Vancouver Island; saw the owners and miners and the Government at Victoria; interviewed some officials of the miners in Vancouver and made a report.
Hon. gentlemen will understand that, as time goes on in such matters, and things do not turn out as the people expect, when the mine owners do not get sick of the strike and take the men back as quickly as the men thought they would, and the men do not go back as soon as the mine owners thought they would, it usually happens that after a lapse of time, there is a better opportunity of making another effort to see if the dispute cannot be settled.
They joined the union, but I do not know the number that was brought in.
Mr. Acland, the deputy minister, has for many years had a great deal of experience in these matters, and I may say that he has been very successful in adjusting them. We thought it would be well to make one more effort to see if anything could be done. Mr. Acland went to Vancouver Island about the first of November and spent the largest part of a month in interviewing the various parties.
He returned-feeling as I did in July when I returned, that it was utterly impossible to bring these people together. Now, that is the last effort that we -made-in November last. Things went from bad to worse, and hon. members are all aware of the troubles that arose. A large number of men were arrested, under the authority, as I understand it, of the provincial government. Many of them have already been tried. The process of trying them is going on now in New Westminster, the venue having been changed from Victoria. It is a very bad state of things that exists in Vancouver Island. It is really the only serious labour trouble we have had in the last two years. As every one at all familiar with these matters knows, the most difficult problem between miners and mine-owners is that of the recognition of the union. If it was a matter of wages, you could compromise-