Mr. H. A. STEWART (Leeds):
Mr. Speaker, this tardy measure does undoubtedly afford some relief to a few of those returned men who from time to time have been presenting their cases to the Board of Pension Commissioners. I am sure the experience of nearly every member of this house who has had occasion to deal with these cases before that board has been that the main difficulty arose in connection with the proof to be adduced in
support of the claims presented. There was no doubt whatever as to the unfortunate condition of the applicant, there was no doubt that he was in need of relief, and there was no doubt in his own mind that his condition was due to war service. There was, undoubtedly, a measure or a certain amount of proof in support of his contention. But the provisions of the Pension Act were so inelastic that the board took the position that the applicant had not met the onus of proof which rested upon him. The real problem presented in these cases was one of proof, and I am sure it has been felt by many that what has been really needed was some amendment of the Pension Act, some declaration to be embodied in that act, that would have made the way a little easier for proof in these cases. That position has not been recognized or dealt with in this bill.
I submit that the elaborate machinery that has been set up by parliament in the Board of Pension Commissioners, and board of appeal therefrom, is ample and sufficient to enable the department to deal with all these cases without setting up additional machinery under the control of the minister and his department. The hon. member for North York (Mr. Lennox) has, I am sure, presented this case very ably indeed, and has left very little for any of us to say to supplement the argument that he has presented. To me, Mr. Speaker, it is a surprise to know that this board of appeal has actually cost the Dominion government more to administer and operate than it has afforded in relief to those returned veterans, and, notwithstanding that, this bill proposes to set up another organization which undoubtedly will add to the expenditure that must necessarily be made in connection with these plans.
I would suggest that the minister seriously consider the situation, as presented with respect to this board of appeal, and the cost of it, and that he hesitate before he deliberately embarks upon the setting up of another organization to do the work which the existing organizations ought to be competent to undertake and to discharge, and which they ought to be able to discharge in the spirit of the Pension Act, and in keeping with the existing regulations. The Board of Pension Commissioners, I' think, would weicome some amendment that would enable them to do justice to the large number of cases that have been presented to them, and which they, unfortunately, have felt bound to reject. And I have not yet heard from the minister, or from any other source, any good reason why this additional machinery should be set up, why these few or many, as the case may be,
Allowances to War Veterans
returned veterans are taken out of the general class of their comrades, and placed in a separate class, and dealt with rather on a basis of charity than one of pension for the services which they have rendered.
There are certain defects in this plan which, to me, are very serious indeed. The measure does not take into consideration, or makes no provision, for, as the Pension Act does, the dependents of those who come under its provisions; and, in case of death, there is no provision for the dependents. It makes no provision for the support or maintenance of the children of the class of veterans who come under it. For all these reasons, while it will undoubtedly afford a measure of relief in some cases, I submit it does not meet the large body of cases that have been before the pension board, that have been dealt with by the appeal board, and that are yet in an unsatisfactory state, and that are leaving in the minds of many of our returned soldiers a feeling that they have not been properly dealt with, and that this measure is only one of partial relief.
I do submit, Mr. Speaker, that the Board of Pension Commissioners should 'be given instructions, and authority, to accept and to presume in the case of a returned veteran, where any case really would justify an assumption, that his disability is due to war service. We have in our courts, as I pointed out on a previous occasion, cases disposed of on circumstantial evidence. We have presumptions, and we have inferences drawn every day by our courts from certain proven facts. The pension board, unfortunately, appear to be under the impression that they cannot invoke these provisions, that they cannot adopt these practices of the regular courts in matters of proof, and that it is, therefore, better to say to the veteran: You prove your case beyond doubt, beyond question; we can make no presumptions, we can make no inferences, we cannot act upon circumstantial evidence, therefore, we cannot help you.
I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that all this legislation, whether in this form or in any other form, should be embodied in and made a part of the Pension Act, that all these soldiers should be treated in the same spirit, in the same way, and through the process of the machinery-the Board of Pension Commissioners and the Board of Appeal-that we have already set up and established for the purpose of dealing with this class of case. It does appear to me that no minister should welcome the setting up of an organization of this kind, and, without in any way seeking to reflect upon him, or upon any other minister who may occupy the position from time 2419-50
to time, he wili find that he is creating a great deal of difficulty for himself, that he is duplicating machinery, that he is setting up an organization that is altogether unnecessary, that he is bound and restricted by regulations and limitations, which, after all, will be found to be an imperfect, inadequate and imcomplete answer to the reasonably fair and proper demands of 'that large number of our returned soldiers. I know of many cases where the door has been closed to them, and that they have not been given that measure of relief to which their services entitled them.