On the Orders of the Day.
Major-General MEWBURN (Minister of Militia and Defence) : Mr. Speaker, I have been requested to make a statement in the House regarding the procedure that has been adopted by the Department of Militia and Defence regarding the obtaining of men for military service, in pursuance of Order in Council (P.C. 919), of the 20th April, 1918, and also, of Order in Council (P.C. 962), of the 20th April, 1918.
By paragraph five of the Order in Council first mentioned,-
The Governor in Council may direct orders to report for duty to issue to men in any class under the Act of any named age or ages or who were horn in named years or any named year or part of a year and any exemption theretofore granted to any man of any such named age or year of birth shall cease from and after noon of the day upon which he is ordered so to report, and no claim for exemption by or in respect of any man shall be entertained or considered after the issue to him of such order provided, however, that the minister may grant leave of absence without pay to any man by reason of the death, disablement or service of other members of the same family while on active service in any theatre of actual war.
After the most careful consideration, and having regard to the national interest, which must be the dominating factor today, it was considered that in pursuance of Order in Council (P.C. 919), those between the ages of 20 and 22 years both inclusive, should first be called out and an OrdeT in Council was passed accordingly.
The age of every man by or on whose behalf exemption was claimed had to be given in the claim, hence the age given on the original registration is to be taken as conclusive evidence against the man' of his age and year of birth.
Under the last-mentioned Order in Council the Military Service Registrars were instructed to notify all those registered within these ages to report for service, but to notify first the men coming from urban centres', so that men of these ages (20 to 22), who are on farms should not be called sooner than is absolutely necessary, and might thus have an opportunity of completing their seeding operations. Although no exemptions are given in this class it seemed reasonable that this opportunity
should be given while the men from urban centres were being brought in.
The responsibility for securing men between the ages of 20 to 22 thus called out has been placed upon the Militia Department which has to assume the duty of apprehending any such men failing to report.
In regard to the men in class one, other than those between the ages of 20 and 22, the operation and administration of the Military Service Act is still controlled by the Military Service Council, and all appeals still pending are being prosecuted to a completion.
The return shows the total number reporting under the Military Service Act, up t£ the 29th April, 1918, as 39,208 to be deducted . from this are 2,063, who have gone to Imperial Units, such as Royal Air Force, leaving 37,145 recruits for the Canadian Expeditionary Force. This, of course, includes men of class one who have voluntarily reported.
According to the reports there were, on the 29th of April, 1918, some 7,096 men of Class 1 who had, so far, failed to report and who had not yet been apprehended. Every effort is being made to apprehend these men. The attention of the House should be called to the fact that these men are deserters and, therefore, lawbreakers, and as my Department is charged with their apprehension, I wish to inform the House that it is the intention of the Department of Militia and Defence to carry out that duty, and for that purpose to use whatever measures may be found necessary.
Under the Order in Council (P.C. 919) the House will notice that there is only one ground for exemption, viz., " The Minister may grant leave of absence without pay to any man by reason of the death, disablement or service of other members of the same family while on active service in any theatre of actual war," and by the same Order in Council, the words " in any theatre of actual war," are defined as " not including the high seas or Great Britain, or Ireland."
It, therefore, became necessary for me to give definite ihstructions to district officers commanding for the purpose of defining the persons who should he granted leave of absence under this proviso. These instructions were promulgated in Routine Order No. 466 of the 20th April, 1918, wherein it is stated that the exemption extends to the only remaining son of military age. In any
such case the man so affected will, on reporting for duty, claim leave of absence on this ground to the officer commanding the unit to which he reported, whereupon the latter will give provisional leave of absence and the case will be forwarded to Militia Headquarters, by the officer commanding the district to be confirmed. It must be clearly understood that every man within the class so called out must report, and his claim for leave of absence will then be considered.
At this point I might explain, to clear up confusion which possibly exists, that all men in a class called out are, by the Military Service Act, deemed to be soldiers for the period of the war and demobilization thereafter, and that, if they do not come within the specially excepted classes under the Act, and have not been granted exemption by the tribunals the only method by which they can be relieved of military duty is to give them leave of absence without pay.
Every application for leave of absence on the ground of death, disablement or service of other members of the same family will be dealt with on its merits, the principle to be applied is as follows: If there are several sons, seme of whom are serving in France-or in England, with the early prospect of being sent to France-and only one son of military age remains at home, such last-mentioned son is to be granted leave of absence. Cases may arise where there are two sons left at home, one of whom is of military age, and the other of whom will become of military age, say within six months. In such a case there will, at the expiration of six months, be two sons of military age remaining home, and in that event one of them will then be called upon to serve.
In calling out the classes aibove mentioned, it is realized that we chiefly require men of category " A." We are, therefore, only notifying men. who, having already had a medical examination, are found to be in this category or who have not yet been medically examined. Every man, however, upon reporting for duty will immediately be medically examined, whether he has been examined previously or not, and those who fall within the categories lower than " A," will be given leave of absence until further orders."
It should be explained that men of category " B " in Claes I under the Military Service Act aTe being generally warned to report for duty, but, as the number of such men presently required is not large, it is intended, for the present, to retain and
utilize only those who did not claim exemption or whose exemptions were refused, and not to make use of men in category " B " between the ages of 20 and 22, unless and until their services become necessary.
Temporary Leave of Absence to Farmers and Farm Labourers, in Categories lower than " A."
Realizing the serious need of food production, we have endeavoured to meet this situation as far as possible, and it has been provided that any member of the C.E.F. in Canada, in category lower than " A " who can be spared from his military duties, may be granted leave of absence without pay. This can he done by the authority of the officer commanding the district on presentation of a certificate from the agricultural representative of the district that the man in question is an efficient farm labourer.
The so-called " Regulations " that were printed and distributed to the members of the House, are really extracts from our routine orders that are issued daily from headquarters, for the guidance of district officers commanding. It was considered that extracts from these orders would bt useful to the members of the House.
'No doubt members would like to knowhow many men will probably be obtained under these Orders in council. As there is no complete registration in Canada, actual figures cannot be given, but as far as can be gathered from the lists of men who. reported for service or claimed exemption under the Military Service Act, it would appear that there are in Canada between the ages of 20 and 22 inclusive, a total of about 70,000 men. From this number, however, two important deductions must be made,-
(1) A very considerable number who have not yet been medically examined, and
(2) A further considerable number who will, on re-examination, prove to be in categories lower than " A."
Previous experience shows that this latter class will represent a substantial proportion of the whole. Therefore, a conservative estimate, under all tne circumstances, would appear to be about 35,000.
As the Order in Council of the 20th April, 1918, (P.C. 919), brings into Class 1 boys of nineteen and those who became twenty since the 13th October, 1917, a proclamation will issue calling on them to register. No. date for calling up these men has yet been decided upon. It will, of course, depend on the exigencies of the military situation.