July 13, 1917

CON

Richard Blain

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BLAIN:

Where?

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
Permalink
LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

In England.

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
Permalink
CON

Richard Blain

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BLAIN:

In spite of protests from

this side of the water?

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

Yes.

IMr. BLAIN: And now my hon. friend is making an effort to place the responsibility wholly upon the Government in power here?

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

Surely.

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
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CON

Richard Blain

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BLAIN:

Would my hon. friend say that the officials in Ottawa knew more about the conditions in England than the military authorities .over there?

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

We had a Minister of Militia in England; I do not know whether he is there to carry out any duties-I suppose he must be; at any rate this transaction would take place under his administration. I think, therefore, that the responsibility may easily be properly placed. There is no argument as to why- voluntary enlistment could not go further in Canada; the miracle is that it went as far as it did. The reason why it did not go further was the maladministration of our military forces by the Government now in power, which, having failed in administering our military forces on a voluntary system, now comes forward to enforce a conscription without the authority of the people.

I have touched on what strikes me as being the most outstanding fact in connection with the failure of voluntary enlistment. But I have during the discussions on the Bill gone over, in my mind, the events that have taken place since the wax broke out and since Canada undertook - to take part in that war, and I have taken the trouble to put down a list of the factors that, it seemed to me, militated against the success of voluntary -enlistment and brought about the conditions .which the Prime Minister and his colleagues declare to have existed and upon which they found this conscription Bill.

1. Party considerations taking precedence of military needs.

2. Officers appointed for political, not military, reasons.

3. Men offering service in earlier stages of the war treated as trespassers or as 'applicants for bounty.

4. Carnival of graft in outfitting contingents and in war contracts.

* 5. Unfit men enlisted to make a record in filling battalions and then discharged without consideration when fit men were secured.

6. Insufficient provision for and insulting treatment of dependents.

7. Inconsiderate treatment of disabled returned men.

8. Inadequate pensions and unsatisfactory administration by Pension Board.

9. Inadequate provision for totally disabled men.

10. Inefficient rifles and insufficient field equipment.

11. Refusal to allow recruiting effort in vicinity of certain industrial centres.

12. Breach of faith with officers and men in breaking up battalions.

13. Inefficient men taken overseas and carried on strength in England.

14. Officers kept on strength when useless or unfit.

15. The safety first brigade.

16. Censored and untrue reports of field operations.

17. Talk of preparation for peace by prominent public men and newspapers.

18. Talk of compulsory service a year before introduction of measure.

19. Favouritism, graft and inefficiency in all lines of military administration.

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
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CON

Albert Edward Kemp (Minister of Militia and Defence)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir EDWARD KEMP:

My hon. friend has gone the limit in his criticism of the Government in respect to the conduct of the war. I do not think that I ever heard him say, on any single occasion in this House, since the war commenced that the Government have done properly one single thing in connection with the prosecution of the war. I do not expect him ever to say anything like that. This country-not this Government-has done a magnificent thing in sending overseas such a large number of troops; between 330,000 and 335,000 men. If my hon. friend had been in power; if he had been in a position to control all matters connected with the training, equipping and transportation of these men overseas, would everything that he did have been perfect? Would no one have had occasion for criticism? Does he take that position?

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

No.

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
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CON

Albert Edward Kemp (Minister of Militia and Defence)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir EDWARD KEMP:

Then I think he should be a little more generous in respect to those who have conscientiously tried to perform a service to their country. My hon. friend has sat an the House from week to week and from month to month during the sessions that have been held since 1914. We started out to recruit by battalions. The member for Edmonton knew that that was the system upon which we were working, but I never heard him say in this House at any time, as a military expert, that we were not pursuing the proper course. But we did pursue that course; for a long time after the war started, recruiting by battalions was considered to be the proper method. No one is more sympathetic than I, with the officers who have from a spirit of great patriotism recruited battalions, who expected to go to the front, and who were told that they could not do so owing to military conditions which were unforeseen at the beginning of the war. Among those officers are men just as brave as men who. have been in the trenches for one or two years; if they had been able to get to the front they would have done just as good service, I believe, as the men who were fortunate 9 p.m. enough to get there. Why were they not able to get to the front? Immediately after the .outbreak of the war we started to obtain recruits. Prominent men were asked to organize battalions; others offered their services, and the work proceeded in that way. It never occurred to those men, nor did it occur to the member for Edmonton, that many things that have since happened would have happened during the course of the war. These officers, with their men, commenced to go forward after their battalions had been completed. They went to Valoartier, to Quebec to board ship, to England; gradually some, of them got to France. As they got into the fight, their battalions became depleted. The morale of a battalion decreases in proportion as the battalion becomes smaller by wastage; this emphasizes the necessity of keeping the battalions up to strength. 'The military authorities in France adopted a policy designed to accomplish that end. They sent to England for reinforcements. I am sure that every hon. member was deeply impressed by the .story told by the member for New Westminster (Mr. Taylor) one evening in this House. He was asked to send over 400 or 500 men, owing to a battalion, I think from Vancouver, having met w'ith tremendous losses. He was the colonel of a battalion; he would

have been glad to go to the front and do his duty just as other officers from Vancouver, Edmonton, or any other part of Canada did. Did he hold back? Did he say: No, I will not allow my battalion to be broken up? It is true that he might not have been able to control the situation even if he had said that, but he did not say it. He said: these men are needed to reinforce the magnificent battalion from Vancouver-and his battalion was broken up. Who can .accuse the member for New Westminster (Mr. Taylor), the member for Selkirk (Mr. Bradbury) or any of those Canadian officers who did their (best to assist recruiting and who did all the country asked them to do, with not having fulfilled their duty? I shall always contend that those who were not enabled to go to the front and who bad to come back to this country did their duty just as well and just as honourably as the men who were fortunate enough to get to the trenches. They need not ask, in those parts of the country whence they came: what will the people say to me? Many of these officers have come back and I have met them and talked with them and I know how badly they feel about it. An officer came into my office yesterday, a splendid man; he complained because he had been asked to go back into private life for the reason that there was nothing further for him to do.

He said, "I do not know why I should have -been written to in such an unceremonious *way." I knew that he had been at the front, although he did not say so. He is one of those officers who have been overseas and at the front. He won the Military Cross. He asked his boy not to go to the front, but after this officer went away with the battalion of which he was colonel, his son enlisted contrary to his wish, and his son won the Military Cross and later was killed. This officer said to me: "I am back here, and my fate is to be relegated to private life again. I thought that perhaps a more sympathetic letter might have been written to me in regard to this matter by the officer commanding the district in which I reside." I talked with him for half-an-hour regarding the situation. I said, "There are many surplus officers in England and in Canada, and they must of necessity revert to private life at some time, and the proper time seems to be now before demobilization of the whole force takes place." Finally he said to me: "I never looked at the matter in the way I do now." He thanked me for my explanation, and he said: "I am perfectly satisfied; I

a333

have no fault whatever to find with your explanation." That is the attitude of 49 out of .50 officers who have come back from overseas, many of whom have not been so fortunate in getting to the front as was this particular officer. We have done the best we could, and those officers, from the colonels down to the lieutenants, have done the best they could to serve their country. 'There are, proportionately to total enlistments, more casualties amongst the rank and file than amongst the officers, and as the gaps in the battalions had to be filled out, drafts had to be sent over. My hon. friend from Edmonton should have put himself on record earlier in the war in order to justify the criticism he has made here to-night in respect to the question of returned officers. He did not point out these things to us before, and he could not do so because he did not know, any more than any of us knew, that this situation would arise. Nor did any other hon. gentleman say to us: You are pursuing an improper course in raising a voluntary force by the battalion system. In my judgment, our course was the proper one because it enabled the voluntary system to be the success it has proven, and I believe that had we at the outset tried to recruit by drafts, as the hon. gentleman says we should have done, we could not have made the success of voluntary recruiting that we did, and we would not have been of such service in the war as we have been. I do not know that I need say any more on 'this particular point, but I want to repeat that the officers who were not fortunate in getting to the front, but who did all they could do and all that the country asked them to do, are in just as honourable a light before their fellow-eoun-trymen as the officers who did get to the front.

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
Permalink
LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I hope my hon. friend does not expect, by the strength of his voice, to place upon me the idea that I made any suggestion against these officers. I was making my suggestion against the administration of the Government that left these officers in that position. I made no suggestion against the otficers. I quite agree with my hon. friend that those officers did the best they could. They offered themselves in good faith; they offered all they had and all they were in the service of the country. The fact that they did not get to the front was not their fault, but their misfortune, and that misfortune lies at the door of the administration of this Government.

My hon. friend asks me why I did not tell this Government in years gone by how to carry on its 'administration. That was not my business; it was their business. If I had undertaken to instruct them as to how to conduct their military affairs I am sure they would have resented my action, and they would have told me that I was tampering with recruiting, and that I was interfering with the winning of the war. Therefore I did not offer any criticism. I am criticising now only in defence of the people of this country against the accusation made against them by the Government that they have failed in patriotic enthusiasm to the, extent that they must be made subject to a measure of conscription, and be made to do that duty that they were doing enthusiastically and well and would be doing to-day if they had had the benefit of a sane and reasonable administration of military affairs.

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
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CON

George Henry Bradbury

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BRADBURY:

I do not intend to take up the time of the House. I really do not know what good the hon. gentleman (Mr. Oliver) thinks he is going to accomplish by *a speech of this kind at this stage of the history of this Bill. The most important measure, perhaps, that has ever come before this House is before us at the present momen,. The country is waiting to see this Bill put into

force; the men at the front are 'waiting for recruits, and my hon. friend, hour after .hour, and day after day, is taking up the time of the House in regard to matters that I consider utterly irrelevant to the question before us. As one of the officers, whose fate my hon. friend is bemoaning, who took a battalion across the seas and saw it broken up, I confess frankly that at the moment when I was informed that my battalion was to be broken up and my men were to be taken from me to go to the front, I felt hurt; I felt it was an injustice to myself and to my battalion. But as soon as I received an explanation from those in command, who knew more than I did, I immediately acquiesced in their decision, realizing that it was the only thing that could be done at the time. What were the conditions? When I reached England we had three divisions at the front, all that we could maintain. When those divisions went into action, serious casualties occurred from time to time. It was impossible to send out fresh divisions; it was not the policy of the British Government that such should be done. We were doing our best to maintain those three divisions, and recruits had

to come from somewhere. The authorities did not want a whole battalion; they only -wanted part of a battalion.' Would my hon. friend expect that the officer commanding a battalion would be so unpatriotic as to say to the military authorities: You cannot have 500 of my men to send to the front; if you want any you must take my whole battalion. So far as I heard, not an officer in England, after he understood the circumstances, made any serious complaint in regard to what took place.

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
Permalink
LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

Would it have made any difference if he had?

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
Permalink
CON

George Henry Bradbury

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BRADBURY:

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
Permalink
LIB

John Patrick Molloy

Liberal

Mr. MOLLOY:

So they were.

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
Permalink
CON

George Henry Bradbury

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BRADBURY:

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
Permalink
LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

An honorary colonel.

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
Permalink
CON

George Henry Bradbury

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BRADBURY:

An honorary colonel

who was always glad to parade himself in uniform and show his magnificent form.

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
Permalink
LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

An honorary colonel is not a combatant colonel.

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
Permalink
CON

George Henry Bradbury

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BRADBURY:

He might easily become a combatant colonel.

Topic:   MILITARY SERVICE ACT, 1917.
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION OF THE BILL IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE HOUSE.
Permalink

July 13, 1917