June 2, 1921

L LIB

John Howard Sinclair

Laurier Liberal

Mr. SINCLAIR (Guysborough) :

Judging from the few cases which have come under my own observations I think the Pension Board sometimes give a very strict interpretation to the Act. I drew the attention of the chairman yesterday to the case of a young man who was serving in the military forces in Cape Breton. He was allowed out for a stroll and during his walk came across a live wire. He was unacquainted with the danger connected with electricity-he had been brought up on a farm thirty miles away from any electrical works, and had probably never heard of a live wire before. He lifted the wire with his hand, and in doing so was injured so seriously that his fingers had to be removed. Now the decision of the board was that he came to this accident through his own carelessness and was not entitled to any compensation whatever. The young man himself took the ground, and his father also, that if he had remained at home looking after matters on the farm he would not have suffered this injury; he was in the service of the country at the time, he was properly there, and it was owing to his inexperience that the accident happened. I do not know what view would be taken by the members of the committee in regard to a case of that kind, but it occurs to me that it was somewhat strict for the Pension Board to decide that owing to the fact that this accident happened through his own carelessness, as hey say, he was not entitled to anything in the way of remuneration. The chairman of the committee has said that the Pension Act is virtually an insurance. If it is a case of insurance it would be covered by the ordinary insurance law. For example if he was an employee of any industry and an accident of that nature happened to him, he would be entitled to compensation under the compensation law of any of the provinces. My question is therefore-why should the pension insurance be dealt with in a stricter sense than is usual in the case of any of our industries? I think the committee wifi

understand what I mean. If that young man had been in the employ of the Steel Works, or of a coal mining company, or any of these industries that come under the Workmen's Compensation Act, the fact that he grasped a wire with his hand would not disentitle him to the usual compensation. That used to be the old doctrine under the common law that a man was disentitled to any compensation if he was, in a measure, careless himself and contributed to the accident; but that is not the doctrine which prevails now under the compensation law as it exists in the various provinces. I think, therefore, that more generous treatment ought to be taken in cases of the kind.

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L LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX:

While I do not wish to delay the committee, or to indulge in a rehash of old cases, I must say that in some instances, with all due regard to the Pension Board, I fear they adhere too closely to the letter of the Act instead of carrying out the law according to its spirit. I have two cases in mind which I brought to the attention of the special committee on Pensions without success. The first case was that of the Widow Martel whose son enlisted at the beginning of the war, was wounded overseas and decorated for his services, and came back with a 25 per cent disability. Unfortunately he was drowned after his return, because evidently he had not the vigour, owing to his disability, to resist the current or the tide at the place where he was bathing during the heat of the summer. Now his mother is left penniless. And one of her other children was badly injured last winter. The second case is that of Mrs. Etienne, of my own county, whose son also enlisted and was killed during the war, hut because she was not assigned the pay of her son at the time he left for France, she is held to he not entitled to anything, and she has to take care of the two or three children who are left. It is proven that she received a telegram and a letter at the time her son was leaving for the front to meet him at the railway station on the arrival of his train as he wanted to assign to her his pay. He happened to be separated from his wife. But we know how troop trains were run during the war, and how uncertain were their arrival and departure. She went to the station, but it was a special train and did not stop, and she saw her son just bidding her farewell from the car window as the train passed along. He died at the front. She has the care of the young children, and she

receives nothing. That is a case where, it seems to me, the spirit of the act should be followed rather than the letter. I must protest against the decision which has been rendered in this case, because I feel that it is not consonant with the principle upon which the country has provided liberally for returned soldiers and their dependents.

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UNION

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Unionist

Mr. NESBITT:

The first case mentioned by my hon. friend certainly does not come within the Act, because the dependents are not pensionable unless the death of the soldier is attributable to military service. Certainly if a man is drowned after being discharged healthy and fit, his death cannot be attributable to military service.

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L LIB
UNION

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Unionist

Mr. NESBITT:

That would be very difficult to prove when he was discharged fit.

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L LIB
UNION

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Unionist

Mr. NESBITT:

A very small percentage. During last year and this year I have heard about five hundred cases-

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L LIB
UNION

Edward Walter Nesbitt

Unionist

Mr. NESBITT:

There were three of us.

I have found both the Soldiers' Civil Reestablishment Board and the Pension Board very generous in sizing up all these cases. We find that sometimes a man's trouble gets worse, and when his case is reviewed the board always grants a pension if it comes within the Act. As a matter of fact, we do give the Pension Board liberty under certain circumstances to use their discretion, but the committee, ever since 1916, have been averse to allowing the Pension Board to have too much discretion, and have drawn the Act as well as they possibly could to cover every conceivable case. I can only repeat that I have found the Pension Board and the Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment very generous in all cases, and if they have erred at all they have erred in sympathy with the applicant.

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L LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX:

I am not charging the board nor my hon. friend with any injustice. I am simply stating what I know to be the facts. The grandmother of those children received letters from the board, and I think she began to draw a pension herself. I have seen the originals of the telegram and letter sent by her unfortunate son to meet him at a certain point in Montreal or in the suburbs. She went there

with the little boy and girl, but the train did not stop and she could only wave farewell to her son. He went to France; he was killed; and now she is left with his children, and we are told: Well, there was no pay assigned to her. But that is the very thing her son wanted to do and intended to do, but he could not. My hon. friend says he has heard five hundred cases.

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UNION
L LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX:

I am not charging him with any injustice, but when a man takes a certain line of action he creates precedents, and abides by those precedents. In the present instance it is too unfortunate that this poor woman should be left penniless with these grandchildren; in fact, it is a case of cruelty to her.

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UNION
L LIB
UNION
L LIB

Pius Michaud

Laurier Liberal

Mr. MICHAUD:

I do not think this

is a time for technicalities. Here is a concrete case, and we should do what is just and right on behalf of the grandmother and these orphans. It seems to me that we should decide this particular case as well as general cases, and my hon. friend from Maisonneuve and Gaspe has submitted this particular case so plainly and convincingly to the committee that it seems to me it should appeal to the good sense and humanity of every member.

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L LIB

Rodolphe Lemieux

Laurier Liberal

Mr. LEMIEUX:

More than that, Mr. Chairman, I have asked my hon. friend the chairman of the committee, and some other members of the committee, to take up this case. I presented the papers to them and said: Here is the evidence. Now, would it not have been fairer to that grandmother to have notified her that on a certain date her case would be heard, and then to have listened to her own story. But it was not done. All I know is that the decision of the committee is against her. Well, it is not fair.

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UNI L

John Flaws Reid

Unionist (Liberal)

Mr. REID (Mackenzie):

I am sorry

that the right hon. Prime Minister has left the chamber, but I should like to press my idea a little further in regard to the housing plan. The Bill does not mention housing, but the Prime Minister introduced

the subject. I am in entire accord with all the good things that have been said about the hon. member who has had charge of this committee, and I should like to have an expression of opinion from him on this subject. I think if he will look into this matter he will admit that it is only fair that the three governments, municipal, provincial and federal, should each carry one-third of the cost of depreciation, whether the period be for three or five years. We all realize that there will be quite a depreciation in the cost of building in the very near future. I claim it is not fair to lay all the burden of this loss upon the municipality. As a matter of fact, that is one of the reasons why the Provincial Governments have not taken advantage of borrowing this money from the Federal Government-they did not consider it fair to put all the burden of depreciation upon the municipalities. As I said before, the Federal' Government adopted a similar principle in respect to the cost of looking after the unemployed. That is a good principle, and constitutes a precedent which the Federal Government should follow in regard to the housing problem and bear one-third of the cost of depreciation.

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UNION

Hume Cronyn

Unionist

Mr. CRONYN:

I hardly think that this is a matter upon which the chairman of a committee which deals entirely with the affairs of soldiers should be asked to express an opinion. The point raised by the hon. member is with regard to the proper division of a possible loss as between the Dominion, the province and the municipality. That is surely a matter for the Government, who are considering the advancing of additional sums on this account, and I would not care offhand to express any opinion about it. I would say, however, that the Dominion does bear some part of the expense of this operation; as I am informed, the Dominion lends to the province at one per cent less than it costs the Dominion to borrow the money. That is quite a considerable item when you consider the large amount involved.

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CON

George Green Foster

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

I might also say to my hon. friend that this matter will come up again on the vote which is in the Estimates for the purpose, and if he will reserve his question for that time I will see that the Prime Minister has an answer for him.

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June 2, 1921