I was not on the committee, but it seems to me that this proposal is rather outside of the purview of the Returned Soldiers' Insurance Act. The object of that Act is not to protect or give further advantage to the man himself, but rather to provide something for his dependents in the event of his demise. What the hon. gentleman urges may have much in its favour, but it is not something that is within the four corners of the Act. It is rather a sort of old age or sickness insurance plan. Of course, there is insurance of that character in the commercial world; but the purpose of this was not to provide any old age pension or old age insurance, it was to provide something whereby a man should protect his own dependents chiefly and get special advantages in doing so because he was a returned man.
I would like to point out that a clause providing for anything in the nature of old age insurance would involve greater cost. As to the question of disability, a man who is totally disabled can draw his insurance in instalments.
Before this clause passes I have a very important matter I would like to bring to the attention of the Prime Minister. Not being a lawyer I do not know whether I am adopting the right procedure or not, but at all events I may be permitted to state the facts. I would have brought the question before the special committee appointed to deal with pensions to soldiers and their civil re-establishment but I only received this information yesterday morning and consequently I could not take action at an earlier date. I am going to advance reasons showing why certain worthy citizens of Canada, who are at present excluded from the provisions of this Act, should be permitted to share in the benefits which it confers. Let me say before entering upon the statement which I desire to present that I mean no discourtesy to the Government in bringing up the matter at this time-my reason for doing so as I have already explained, is that I did not earlier receive the information Which I am about to impart.
Paragraph (g) of clause 2 of Chapter 54 of the statutes of 1920 reads as follows:
"returned soldier" means any person, male or female, who served as an officer or warrant officer or who enlisted or was enrolled or was drafted for service in the naval, military or
-and not moving an amendment? Because, of course, any amendment to the Bill which would increase the charges upon the public treasury would have to be introduced by a minister, and by way of resolution approved by His Excellency the Governor General.
If you will allow me, Mr. Chairman, I intended to bring this matter up yesterday when the resolution was before the House, but I had a very important appointment in one of the departments and when I came into the House the resolution had gone through.
should like to be permitted to associate myself with the request of my hon. friend from Lunenburg (Mr. Duff). There is no doubt that the country owes a debt of gratitude to the officers and seamen of the mercantile marine who served us so well during the war. They were really in a much worse position than the men of the navy. The latter were prepared for emergencies, it was their business to fight submarines or any other enemy they encountered; but the men of the mercantile marine were practically at the mercy of the submarines, as is evidenced by the fact that many of their ships were sunk and large numbers of seamen were drowned. No provision has been made by the Imperial authorities in regard to these cases, and it is one of the matters connected with the war where I think the Imperial Government altogether failed to do their duty. To my mind the men who manned the merchant ships during that period did their work so well and exhibited so much bravery that they should not now be forgotten. It is a remarkable fact that the Admiralty made no provision for those men. I know the case of the captain spoken of by my hon. friend from Lunenburg, because he was an employee of my own firm. The captain and his crew, after the sinking of their ship in the Mediterranean, were taken to a German prison and detained there until the armistice. On being released they came to London and were discharged, receiving only one month's wages. That was all the Admiralty gave them. The owners of the ship were not legally bound to pay them anything because they were in the employ of the Admiralty. Consequently the crew had no rights against any person for their wages and the support of their families during the eighteen months they were prisoners in Germany.
I have always thought the Government of Great Britain were very neglectful of these seamen. They should at least have the rights of the men who served us in the Canadian Navy, and I agree with my hon. friend from Lunenburg that this concession should be made to them. I do not think they are very numerous so far as Canada is concerned, because very few Canadian-owned vessels were torpedoed. I am fairly familiar with the shipping business on the Atlantic coast, and I think you will find the number of men affected would not throw any very great financial responsibility on the Government. I trust, therefore, that the request of my hon. friend from Lunenburg will be sympathetically received by the Prime Minister.
Mr. Chairman, to make it possible at this stage to consider the suggestion made by the hon. member for Lunenburg, of course it would have to form the subject of a new resolution. On the general subject I may say that the officers and men of the mercantile marine undoubtedly, as a class, did their duty well during the war and deserve every credit for it. The same can be said with equal, or almost equal, emphasis as regards many other classes. But this point must be borne in mind. A division along a line of principle must be laid down. It has been laid down in every country, and nowhere more generously than in Canada. Those who belonged to the Canadian Expeditionary Force, whether in military or naval service, were not in pursuit of gain and were not serving themselves; they were serving the country as the direct object of their work. Consequently those men are classed by themselves, and have become the subjects of gratuities, pensions, special insurance provisions, and reestablishment generally. But those beyond that line were in occupations, however dangerous, where they were gaining the most they could get in doing the work that came to their hands. It is true that they were in positions where there was
special danger, but we must regard that special danger as having been taken into account in the contract between the men and their employers fixing their remuneration.
It is said by the hon. member who has just sat down (Mr. Sinclair) that there are only a few of the class of persons for whom consideration is desired-that there are only a few in his constituency and only a few in the constituency of the hon. member for Lunenburg. That may be true, but once we accede to this principle how far is it going to take us? It is said that these men who suffered in a German prison were doing their duty, and were thereby serving their country. No doubt every man who did his duty served liis country; and no doubt, too, when he suffered in a German prison as a result of doing his duty he paid a special penalty. But he did not pay any greater penalty than did the man who went down in the Lusitania, and his family does not suffer as much, and if you are going to extend the principle to the cases of the officers and crews of ships sunk by German submarines I do not know where you would stop-in fact, there would be no stopping.
commandeered, but the officers and crew were paid just the same as those of ships that were not commandeered. It would never do for this Government to treat men in that position differently from those who were in other merchant ships that were not taken over by the Admiralty. They were not enlisted men, nor were they impressed into the service; they were simply there because that was the job that suited them best; they were suiting their own ends in going there. It may be that some were animated by a higher purpose, but we cannot assume that all were. There is no question that there is a very material
difference between that class and those who were impressed into the direct service of the country during the war whether on sea or on land. There is no difference at all between the class of men for whom this consideration is sought and others who suffered by reason of Germany's conduct of the war, whether they were on board the Lusitania or any other ship. I cannot see the point of difference. Furthermore this matter was thoroughly reviewed before the committee which sat this session and was doubtless before the committee in previous sessions. The committee having taken the evidence, weighed the consequences, measured just how far conceding this request would lead us, and reported their recommendation, surely it is the part of wisdom for us to accept their finding.