There is a very considerable decrease in the expenditure on road building and repairs to roads, bridges and drainage. That is accounted for principally by the fact that last year the good roads' programme in Ontario had passed through a considerable number of reserves.
I think that little or no payments had been made for two or three years and it required a very large sum to clear off the account. That has all been paid for and so far as I know there are no commitments. This is arrived at by the estimates made upon the roads which passed through the reserves and payments were made accordingly and certified to by our own engineers. They cut down the expenditure too much, and we will possibly have to ask for an additional sum in the supplementary estimates.
I am speaking of the item of $15,900, which last year was $58,180. There is a decrease of $42,280 over last year's appropriation there, and that comes out of the large appropriation for repairs to roads, bridges and drainage. The other items are the same as last year.
The minister is not quite correct in stating that the other items are the same. There is an increase of $15,000 for relief, and while speaking on this let me draw his attention to this most extraordinary coincidence right through. The increased relief in Nova Scotia of $14,000 more than doubles the vote; the relief in Ontario and Quebec represents an increase of $15,000; and in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta the increase for supplies and so on is $18,000, and for hospitals, medical attendance, etc., $16,-
The increase of $18,962 in Manitoba and Saskatchewan is accounted for by the additional supplies provided to meet treaty obligations with the Indians of the Great Slave and Mackenzie river district numbering 3,000 souls. It is the first time we have issued relief to these Indians who have come in under treaty obligations made by Mr. Conroy some two years ago.
These transfers are confusing and give rise to difficulty in making explanations, but I am told by the accountant that although the $15,000 has not been voted direct for relief purposes it has been paid out of this fund for years. It appears now directly for relief purposes for Ontario and Quebec rather than in the general item number 278.
Mr. Chairman, in referring to the Indians of Manitoba I do not suppose I am likely to say anything that the hon. minister does not already know, but I think it well to make a statement as to their condition. I live near a reserve, and some twenty miles distant, near Brandon, we have a much larger reserve. The condition of the Indians on these reserves is deplorable; there is no denying that fact. While I was at home at Easter I received a deputation of eight or ten Indians who told me, in a dignified and intelligent manner, the story of the conditions that exist upon the reserves. We hear a great deal about the hard times among the farmers in western Canada, men who have long been acquainted with that sort of work, who come down from generations of farmers, yet are hardly able to make a living. I found Indians on the reserve without stock, without implements, without anything with which they could make a living; yet they have been existing. It seems to me that we are slowly starving these people to death. It is all very well to talk about the Indian and his characteristics, his lack of ability to take care of himself under modern conditions, but that is perhaps a rather hard-hearted way of looking at it. We have come into the country and taken the place of these Indians, people who have been used to a nomadic life, who from generation to generation have lived the life of the hunter, knowing nothing of modem conditions of agriculture. They are put in a reserve and told to make their living.
I remember a statement made to me by the late Glen Campbell, at one time a member of this House. He was commissioner of Indian police with jurisdiction over the Indians from the Great Lakes to the foot of the Rockies. I once had the pleasure of going with him over the Sarcee Indian reserve at Calgary, a splendid reserve, with good grazing facilities, capable of taking care of a great many cattle and stock of all kinds. I remember while admiring the reserve and the desirable place the Indians had there that he made the statement to me that were it not for the red tape at Ottawa he could make all these Indians rich. I wonder if there was any truth in that statement? I do not know, but that was what he said. Perhaps the Indians are ruled a little too much by red tape, without the application of any great knowledge of the conditions that prevail on the reserves. 1 am satisfied that it is no use to supply the Indians-the ones I know, anyway-with stock and seed and implements and then expect them to take care of their stock and make a good living for themselves. As long as these
reserves are managed and operated from an office the business of which is characterized by nothing more than red tape and accurate bookkeeping, we are going to have a continuance of the present conditions.
Remember, I am not finding fault with any of the officials, nor am I directing any special criticism against the system that exists, but it is not the proper system. The agent on a reserve should be something more to the Indians than an official; he should be their adviser and their friend; even more than that, he should almost be a father to them by giving his advice and assistance in all matters pertaining to their work. As those who know them are aware, the Indians have an almost childlike temperament. I do not say they are deficient in intellect; in fact, in intellectual ability they will compare with the white man. But they lack the white man's persistence, his sticktoitiveness, his going about his work day after day and carrying out his agricultural activities. I also know that if the agent on a reserve has the confidence of the Indians they will take his advice and be guided by it, and until the government appoint agents who will be something more than officials, who will do something more than carry out simply what the law requires them to do, so long will the condition respecting the Indians continue as it is in Manitoba.
I think it is a disgrace that Canada should allow its wards to be in the condition that they are in at the present time. It was almost pathetic to listen to the stories of some of these men. They went back many years and told me of the arrangement made whereby they became the wards of the government. They told me of how loyal they had been; that when the war broke out they sent their young men over to the front some of whom laid down their lives for Canada. Those who returned went back on the reserve;.they have made a bad mess of it; they are unable to make a living and it is no exaggeration to say that they are starving; the people who live near them know the facts. At my own place we often feed the Indians because we know they are really hungry and need something to help them along. Now, I want the government to get acquainted with the facts; to look into the conditions that exists on the reserve; and when the inspector goes around, let him do a little more than enter the agent's office and see that the books are properly kept. I would like to see him get in contact with the Indians, find out what their complaints are, learn of the actual conditions under which theV are living, and see whether something cannot be done to make life a little
more pleasant for them. In the harvest time the Indians will go out and work well for a month or six weeks, and get big wages, but when they get a little money they go into the town and buy all the canned goods they can get hold of. They are improvident, 11 p.m. there is no use denying that, and that is why they need some looking after, someone to take care of them. I have no doubt that the minister is aware of these facts and is anxious to do something to help the Indians, but I want to make this appeal on behalf of the Indians as I know them: that the country do a little more for them; that something be done to help them to help themselves and get them into the way of making a fairly decent living and not actually starve as they are doing at present on the reserve.