May 21, 1928

CON

John Anderson Fraser

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. J. A. FRASER (Cariboo):

I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question based on his statement as reported in Hansard, page 3054, that as soon as applications were received invoking the statute, an order in council under section 43 of the Customs Act would be passed authorizing the minister to fix values on produce of a class or kind produced in Canada, and on the fact that the Minister of Agriculture has acknowledged the receipt of three telegrams from the strawberry growers of three different districts in British Columbia invoking the statute and asking for the fixing of values on strawberries from May 21 to July 10. The questions are:

1. Has an order in council been passed?

2. If not, when does he propose to have the applications referred to, considered by the governor in council?

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

I am not in a position to

disclose to my hon. friend what takes place in council, but I would say to him that when an application comes before council, it will receive due consideration.

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NATURAL RESOURCES OF PRAIRIE PROVINCES


On the orders of the day:


PRO

John Evans

Progressive

Mr. JOHN EVANS (Rosetown):

Now that no feature of the question of the return of their natural resources to the western provinces is before any of the courts, I should like to ask whether the government has any statement to make in regard to the matter.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

It has been mentioned at

different times, I do not know whether in

Reparations Claims-Mr. Bennett

direct answer to my hon. friend or not, that conferences have been held between representatives of the western governments and our government with respect to the return of the natural resources. As a result of the conferences it has been definitely arranged that shortly after parliament prorogues a conference will be held first of all with representatives from Manitoba, later with representatives from Alberta or vice versa-I cannot say which will come first-and possibly also with representatives from British Columbia. It is understood by the provinces and ourselves that the conferences will be held after the prorogation of parliament, and I understand that arrangement is as satisfactory to the governments of the provinces as it is to our government.

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PRO

Milton Neil Campbell

Progressive

Mr. M. N. CAMPBELL (Mackenzie):

Might I ask whether the return of their resources to Saskatchewan is not being considered?

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I said possibly Saskatchewan.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

The Prime Minister said British Columbia.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I meant to say Saskatchewan. I am sorry.

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SUPPLY-REPARATIONS CLAIMS


The house resumed from Saturday, May 19, consideration of the motion of the Minister of Finance (Mr. Robb) for committee of supply, and the proposed amendment thereto of Mr. Ernst: That all the words after the word "that" be struck out and the following substituted therefor: "This house regrets the refusal of the government to introduce legislation at the present session of parliament providing for the payment in full or in part of the various sums fixed by James Friel, Esquire, K.C., a commissioner appointed under the Inquiries Act, as losses sustained by the civilian population of Canada during the great war."


CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, there is so little

difference between us with respect to some phases of this question that it is rather difficult to understand why the government has not taken the necessary action to liquidate the claims that have been made against this fund. The Secretary of State (Mr. Rinfret) the other day referred to the fact that the resolution introduced by the hon. member for Queens-Lunenburg (Mr. Ernst) was probably prepared and placed in his hands. That is not a matter of very great importance, but I should like him and the house to know that the resolution

was prepared by the hon. gentleman himself, and that with the exception of two or three words which were added in order that the resolution might afford the government an opportunity to pay part of the claims, if it so desired, it represented his views because he was vitally affected owing to the fact that of the 1,613 cases that were considered, some 752 came from Nova Scotia and of those 752 cases, 350 arose in the constituency represented by the hon. gentleman who moved the amendment. You will therefore understand why he is so vitally interested and why he prepared his resolution in the terms in which he did, looking towards the payment by the government of a portion of the claim or at least of those that were, we will say, not large in amount rather than embarrassing the government by pressing for the payment of them all.

The Secretary of State made a rather long statement with respect to the rights under the treaty of those who seek reimbursement out of the fund in the hands of the government. I do not propose to traverse that question. The matter is neither difficult not complicated. The treaty is very clear and plain, the moneys that were derived under the Dawes plan were available for certain purposes; those moneys have been received and they have been paid over. Why has the government kept back the money? Shortly put, that is all there is in the case.

Now let me go a step further. The hon. gentleman also referred to another matter, namely to the different considerations that prevail with respect to the settlement of the claims of the Massey-Harris Company and of the Thompson Steamship Company. Neither of those cases, as he very properly pointed out was similar in character to the cases we are now considering. They arise under another branch altogether of the treaty. The position may be summarized in this form. Germany admitted liability which was limited by the terms of the treaty of peace to injuries or damages sustained by the civil population. As I shall presently show, the government set up a tribunal for the purpose of ascertaining what those claims amount to and they have now considered judgments in their hands as to how those claims should be dealt with. Our contention is that it is their duty to pay over these moneys.

The Secretary of State dwelt at great length upon what he regarded as the legal position of the money and of the government with respect to it. He contended that the money paid under the Dawes plan by Germany- mark you, by Germany!-to this government

Reparations Claims-Mr. Bennett

to satisfy claims of the civil population, be-oause that- is what her obligation is, cannot by an action brought by individuals be taken away from the government. We will admit that at once. No subject may maintain an action against his sovereign, against the state itself unless he obtains a fiat granted as requested by a petition of right. In this instance we have what I shall presently show is a legal claim of every individual affected, but a claim not enforceable in law. Let me take the case referred to by the hon. member for St. Lawrence-St. George (Mr. Cahan), namely, the Alabama claims because they bear a striking analogy to this particular case. England denied liability; the matter was referred to arbitration and in consequence of the arbitration a finding was made against England to the extent of some $15,000,000. That amount of $15,000,000 was paid by Great Britain to the United States of America and all individuals, shipowners and others, who were affected, were paid their proportion of the money that was paid by Great Britain to the United States after they had established their claim to the satisfaction of the United States.

There are other cases which are doubtless in the minds of many hon. members where governments have received large sums of money which were available for the purpose of satisfying claims of their nationals or citizens against that fund. It does not of course follow that the citizen can maintain an action to recover any part of that money, or to obtain a judgment against his country in satisfaction of his claim; but there is a claim there, a claim which may not be enforced in the courts of law but which, as I shall presently point out to the house, has been conclusively admitted by the high court of parliament and which waits but one thing, the placing in the estimates of sufficient sums to satisfy the claims of those who have justly established their right to those moneys that were paid to Canada by Germany for the purpose of satisfying the claims of the civil population.

Now if we bear in mind the fact that it has nothing whatever to do for the moment with the enemy property question, except to the extent to which if we did not have sufficient money we might by an act of this parliament make that money available to satisfy these claims, as they have done in the United States, it would seem to me that the difficulties mentioned by the Secretary of State (Mr. Rinfret) would entirely disappear. We have nothing to do for the moment with respect to enemy property, with the custody of alien enemy property; we are not concerned with injuries sustained by the nationals S5103-203

of this country to their property in Germany, nor with any injuries to ships that may have been held by Germany in the Kiel canal, nor with any damages that may have arisen by reason of Germany using them during the war. What we have to deal with are claims made by citizens of this country against Germany for injuries sustained by them as civilians-as civilians-during the war.

Now let us see what our position is, according to the admissions made by the government itself on grounds of high policy. We submit to this house that these moneys are in a sense earmarked for that purpose, that they are available to satisfy these claims, that they came into the hands of this government with a trust imposed upon them, and not as part of the general revenues of the Dominion government. In support of that position, you are not in any sense bound to accept my view, but I do submit that the view of the government, this government, the government of which my hon. friend the Minister of Justice (Mr. .Lapointe) was then Minister of Justice, the government of which my right hon. friend the Prime Minister was then the leader, the government of which my hon. friend the Minister of Finance (Mr. Robb) was then a member, is embodied in a statement made by the Hon. E. M. Macdonald, Minister of National Defence, on the 19th of June, 1925. That statement must be taken to be a statement of policy. It is a statement of a member of the government, and according to the well-known principles of cabinet solidarity, there is no question but that that principle enunciated by a responsible minister of the crown as to what the position of this government was in 1925. was accepted, as a matter of fact, by those concerned as being a binding declaration of policy by the government of the country. At page 4522 of Hansard, Mr. Macdonald said this:

I was not in when this resolution was called-

Then he proceeds.

The moneys which come from the Dawes commission, so called, are payable under the terms of the treaty of Versailles for certain definite purposes. They cannot be put into the treasury of the country and appropriated for other purposes than those for which they are paid. The compensation is paid in connection with the following list of cases:

Then follows the list of cases mentioned in the treaty, in what we call the annex, which is similar to a schedule of an act of parliament. There follows this list from the schedule of the treaty of the cases under which compensation will be paid when the money is received from Germany. The Right Hon. Mr. Meighen interrupted Mr. Macdonald at

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Reparations Claims-Mr. Bennett

page 4523 and asked him what his authority was for making that statement, whereupon Mr. Macdonald continued:

This is a memorandum from the Undersecretary of State, and it sets out the clause from the treaty of Versailles which provides the lines upon which compensation can be obtained from Germany and the amount of money that is payable to this country as a result of what is known as the Dawes report, on account of damages arising in these various categories.

That I submit is a correct statement of the situation, made by a minister of the crown, speaking, as all ministers do, the view of the government with respect to the matter then under consideration.

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LIB

Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

It did not impress the house at the time.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I am coming to that. The Minister of Justice is entirely in error as to that. The Hon. Mr. Copp, then Secretary of State, withdrew his resolution, but the resolution was withdrawn for reasons which I think any government would regard as good and sufficient. What was the resolution? The resolution was to pay without knowing what the judgments were, to pay before the commission had reported, and to pay without having before them anything of any definiteness at all. Let us look at what the resolution was. At page 4517 of Hansard, you will find that Mr. Copp's resolution was:

(1) That the report of the commissioner appointed to inquire into and report upon the claims for reparation of Canadian nationals, upon approval by the governor in council, shall be deposited with the Secretary of State of Canada in his capacity as custodian of alien property.

That report had not been made; the commission had not finished its labours; the judgments had not been concluded; but this resolution was to anticipate all that and provide that when the judgments were made they should be lodged with the Secretary of State. Then paragraph (2) provided:

That from time to time, as sums are received-*

This is vital; this is a recognition of policy. This is a statement of high policy by the government of this country:

(2) That from time to time, as sums are received on account of reparation under the Agreement of London between the allied and associated powers and Germany, bringing into force what is commonly known as the Dawes plan, the amount thereof shall be paid by the Minister of Finance and Receiver General to the Secretary of State as custodian, until such time as the aggregate of such payments is equal to the total amount of the claims for reparation as determined by the report of the said commissioner and approved by the governor in counoil.

rMr. Bennett.]

If that is not a recognition of obligation and a promise to pay, I would like to know what would constitute a recognition of obligation and a promise to pay. That is so clear that there can be no getting away from it. Then follows the third submission:

(3) That the Secretary of State shall, on receipt of such payments, from time to time distribute the same to persons found entitled to claims for reparation in the commissioner's report, by way of pro rata dividend.

And then he must lay before parliament his report. In other words, there was a recognition by this government of the fact that the moneys were received with a trust imposed upon them, that they were earmarked to meet certain obligations and liabilities, and that the commissioner was so highly thought of, having been selected by the government itself, that when he made his report, then without any appeal, without any effort at changing it being made, these sums would be paid on the strength of his judgments. That was the position on June 19, 1925, three years ago, within a few weeks. There was a promise made by the government of this country, speaking through two of its ministers, the Secretary of State and the Minister of National Defence, that these obligations would not only be recognized but paid.

But this House of Commons objected to making a promise to pay before judgments were delivered. Sir Henry Drayton objected that the matter was too serious to be considered in the closing days of the session. It is true the Right Hon. Mr. Meighen made observations with respect to payment of property claims before the payment of claims with respect to personal injuries, and other members did the same, but their basis of objection to this resolution was that it put into the hands of the government the power to pay out moneys before the judgments had been delivered, which was in itself a serious departure from principle. In other words, the contention was that the judgments must be delivered, the cases made out before the commissioner, and his report presented to parliament before parliament voted the money, and I shall presently show that upon the application of the very principles that were presented to this house by the opposition at that time, and accepted by the government, these moneys should now be paid.

Let us proceed. That was in 1925. The resolution was withdrawn, and it is a matter of passing interest to know that when the resolution was withdrawn by the Secretary of State he recognized the fact that it was properly withdrawn, for after Mr. Macdonald

Reparations Claims-Mr. Bennett

had made his statement, and after various speakers had presented their views, the resolution was withdrawn by the Secretary of State because, he said, the leader of the opposition and others in their righteous indignation had expressed their views in respect to it. So he clearly recognized that they were right in the contention they made. His words were:

I regret very much that my hon. friends, particularly the hon. member for West York (Sir Henry Drayton) and the leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen) have risen in righteous indignation because this bit of legislation is brought down in the interest of those who have suffered during the war. If they had the full information that I have and knew the very large numbers of poor people, fishermen particularly, on the different coasts of this Dominion who have suffered-

Sir Henry Drayton: It is a pity the minister would not give us the information.

Mr. Copp: I asked that the resolution be allowed to go into committee, when I would give the information to hon. gentlemen opposite.

Those were the statements of the government, speaking through the Secretary of State, about the suffering that would be imposed upon poor people, particularly fishermen, by this resolution not being passed three years ago.

Now we come to the next year, 1926. There were questions asked in an endeavour to find out what were the facts, but for reasons, which need not be discussed here, nothing was done. But in 1927 the matter was again brought to the attention of this house. I find at page 2218 of Hansard of that year questions were asked by Mr. Stevens with respect to this matter and answered by Mr. Rinfret, in the course of which he reviewed the whole of the circumstances much as he did Saturday. Question 19 asked:

What is the intention of the government with regard to payment of the awards made by the reparations commissioner?

This is the answer:

The policy of the government will be decided when the reparations commissioner has completed his report.

Topic:   SUPPLY-REPARATIONS CLAIMS
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LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret (Secretary of State of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

The report is being considered now.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Exactly; and he completed it some months ago. I shall show presently it is more than that. This session again questions were asked by Mr. Manion, and they will foe found at (pages 687 to 688 of Hansard of February 22. 1928. One or two of these questions and the answers thereto I should like the house to consider. This is question 15:

Has the reparations commissioner's report been printed?

5fi! 03-203i

The answer is:

It is in the hands of the printer.

That is on February 22, 1928. Then comes the next question:

16. When will it be brought before the

house for consideration?

To which the answer is:

Under consideration.

Then question 17:

How much has Canada received to date on account of reparations?

This is the answer:

Then I desire to direct attention to question 9:

Have not Canadian claimants under other articles of the treaty of Versailles been already compensated ?

The answer is:

Yes.

To question 10:

If so, what were the total number of claims and the total amounts paid under and by virtue of such articles, and can any reason be given for such preferential treatment?

The following answer was given:

1,009 claims were filed of which S86 were paid amounting to $7,848,824.81. Special provisions were made in the treaty for the payment of claims under articles 296 and 297.

The final question relates to the distribution of the moneys. Now, Mr. Speaker, on February 22, the minister said the report was in the hands of the printer; this is now May 21-three months later. I am credibly informed the report has long since been printed and advance copies of it, in anticipation that it would be tabled, placed in the hands of the pres for release when the moment came. But further than that, sir, I have under my hand the letters written by the Under Secretary of State in February last and of the secretary to the commission presided over by Mr. Friel in which, in answer to questions by claimants as to when the claims would be paid, it is said that the report would be submitted to parliament in a few days. It was fully expected by the Under Secretary of State that it would be so submitted. The minister says the report was in the hands of the printer. I say to the Prime Minister and his cabinet: When a public inquiry has been instituted by the government by order in council under the authority of the governor general in council and the Inquiries Act, and a report is made thereon, that report belongs to this House of Commons, and not to the government. And what is more, Mr. Speaker, we propose to insist that

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Reparations Claims-Mr. Bennett

that report be brought down in. this house. The government may say: You are helpless in the matter; we have our majority behind us, and we will not give the report to you. Well, since the institution of British representative government supply is granted only when grievances are remedied. In- fact governments came into being under British parliamentary institutions for one reason, and one only, that there might be a body of men who would present to the sovereign the grievances of the people as expressed in the House of Commons in order that those grievances might be redressed.

Now, what has happened? I submit we have a condition which this house probably has never seen before. The government, by order in council, appointed a commissioner to investigate claims under a treaty, which treaty was a contract between, among other nations, Germany and Canada. The commissioner has made inquiry and has delivered his report. He is through, he has nothing more to do, he is functus officio. Now parliament is told by the government that it cannot have this report which the country is paying for. Surely the government realizes that that position cannot be maintained.

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LIB

Louis Édouard Fernand Rinfret (Secretary of State of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. RINFRET:

I thought I made it very plain on Saturday that there was no objection at all to tabling the report, except that the list of names with the amounts opposite might lead a number of persons to conclude that those amounts would be paid to them, when in fact they might not be. Under those circumstances we thought it would not be advisable to lay the report on the table.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

You promised to.

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May 21, 1928