Mr. C. G. POWER (Quebec South):
I wish to say only a word or two regarding this motion, referring to the particular clause which asks the Senate to reconsider its decision with respect to widows who had married ex-soldiers after the appearance of disability. The underlying principle laid down by those who first looked after pension legislation was that any woman who married a soldier after he had been injured or had incurred illness on service, would not upon his death be entitled to a pension. This clause has been considered too restricted and committees of the House of Commons, and the house itself, have on four separate occasions passed legislation to amend the act with respect to this very deserving class of widows.
This year the committee brought in a unanimous report which was concurred in unanimously by the house, and when the discussion took place in this chamber there was no difference of opinion on the principle. The amendment of the committee apparently did not satisfy the members of the Senate, who stated that it was unworkable and that it was perhaps too broad. However, for the first time, I learn that members of the Senate have agreed in principle that, with proper safeguards, the widow who in good faith married a member of the forces who returned from overseas suffering from an injury or disease contracted on service should receive a pension. There is no difference of opinion with regard to the principle, and it seems to
me that if the Senate and the House of Commons have agreed in principle, surely we should be able to find some formula or phraseology which will give a pension to this most deserving class of people. That is the situation as it stands to-day. I freely admit, as chairman of the committee, that fault might be found with the amendment which was sent up to the committee, but I am not prepared to agree that it was altogether unworkable, nor am I prepared to agree that it was too broad. If an injustice is being done a certain class of persons in this country, it is preposterous to go to the country and say we know the injustice is being done but the united wisdom of the House of Commons and of the Senate is incapable of formulating a provision to rectify it.
We have had informal conferences-perhaps they were not constitutional-at which members of the committee, the Minister of Pensions and Health, the Minister of National Defence and members of the house have appeared before the Senate committee. Due to the emphatic and blunt pronouncement of my hon. friend from Kingston (Mr. Ross) we were able to save one clause from the wreck, that which did away with the limitation of time for making application for pension.
If this house is unanimously of the opinion that a clause should be inserted in the bill to provide for this class of people, we should be able to say to the house, with the assistance of the officers of the Department of Soldiers Civil Re-establishment, that the members of the committee on pensions are prepared to make any suggestion and to discuss the whole question with the members of the Senate or of the Senate committee. More than that, any member of the house who knows the Pension Act is prepared to offer his services. The leader of the opposition, a gentleman of high legal standing, and, may I say without irony, a master of phraseology and a moulder of words, would I am sure be only too glad to join with members on the other side of the house to discuss this question with the members of the Senate in an effort to find a solution of the difficulty.
Mr. JEAN J. DENIS (Joliette): I have
just one word to say before this motion is allowed to pass. It has been my privilege in the past to be chairman of a committee similar to the one that was sitting this year, and it is needless for me to say that I am in entire sympathy with the desire to give due recognition to the rights and privileges of the soldiers; I want every returned man and his family to receive the pension to
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which they are entitled. On the other hand, I am against what you might call the speculators; the country must be very careful to see that this class of people are not included in the amendments passed each year.
It must be remembered that in the United States after the civil war a very serious state of affairs developed. I will not go into details because the facts are well known to everyone. I might however point out that at present the amount that the country is paying for pensions to returned soldiers and their dependents is several million dollars more that it was, say, five years after the war was over. One would imagine that ten years after t'he conclusion of the war the amount paid for pensions should begin to decrease; but it is not decreasing, it is increasing every year. I have not the exact figures under my hand but I know them practically by heart. About five, six or seven years ago we were paying $31,000,000, $32,000,000, $33,000,000 a year, whereas now we are paying $40,000,000 a year. Therefore I think parliament should be very careful in the passing of legislation all the time enlarging the number of pensioners. No doubt it is on that principle that the senate rejected part of the bill that was passed by the Commons. In resuming my seat I wish to repeat once more that I am in entire sympathy with returned men and I want them to receive all the good the country can give them, but I am not in sympathy with those who may, under cover of being dependents of returned men, be preying on the country's generosity.
Subtopic: NON-CONCURRENCE IN SENATE AMENDMENTS