May 12, 1933

UFA

George Gibson Coote

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. COOTE:

The distribution of clothing in Winnipeg, where no clothing allowance was given the families of veterans though such an allowance was given by the city to their own unemployed.

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CON

Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

The policy followed in

Winnipeg is practically the same as that followed in several other communities. The department does not issue clothing; it has not been thought advisable to do so. It would mean that the department would have to go into the purchase of clothing and carry on the organization necessary in connection with its distribution. This would mean that such operations would take place in a number of the large communities of Canada, and this has not been done. Unemployment relief never has been distributed in the form of clothing either directly or indirectly but recently, following our policy of doing not less than is done by the municipalities, clothing has been distributed to pensioners and their dependents in certain centres, including Winnipeg. Provision is made for dependents up to the age of sixteen in the case of boys and seventeen in the case of girls, and that is in keeping with the Pension Act. Over these ages they are subject to the care of the municipalities. That is the view taken by the department. I can understand complaints arising with regard to boys over sixteen or girls over seventeen, because they do not quite realize the principles on which we are working; but we do not hold ourselves responsible for any dependents or children of pensioners over the ages I have stated. The department has been most careful, indeed anxious, to give as much relief as it can, and it has made an arrangement with local organizations, Winnipeg among them, whereby they purchase the clothing and distribute it, the amounts being paid out of this vote. On the whole, I think the plan has succeeded reasonably well, although we have received complaints which we have found to be quite inaccurate. On the other hand, we have had very considerable evidence of greater contentment and satisfaction within the last few months.

Mr. 'COOTE: When was the practice adopted of distributing clothing relief in Winnipeg? Has it been recent?

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CON

Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

In March of this year. It has involved travelling and interviewing on the part of the officials, and the making of many arrangements. The arrangement was made in March of this year, when the amount expended was $5,741. Since then, in the two succeeding months, the amount has naturally been less because the needs have been met.

[Mr. MacLaren.l

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UFA

George Gibson Coote

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. COOTE:

The letter which I have was written before March and I have been waiting for an opportunity to bring this matter up on the minister's estimates. I regret that this clothing allowance arrangement was not put into effect in Winnipeg earlier than March because the climate there is severe and the pensioners have been under great disability. In regard to dependent children over sixteen and seventeen respectively, will the municipality give an allowance to the parents?

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CON

Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

I will not venture to speak for all the municipalities, and I do not think I am expected to answer yes or no to that question generally. I do know however that in many areas they accept that position. In any event, the department is not empowered to go further than the provisions laid down in the Pension Act. The position is accepted in many places, I daresay not in others; but it is partly because it is not understood and partly because they are not willing to accept that interpretation.

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UFA

George Gibson Coote

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. COOTE:

I should appreciate it if the minister would have some of his officials ascertain whether that is being done in Winnipeg. If not, I suggest that the situation should be thoroughly canvassed between the department and the city officials there in regard to this point.

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CON

Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

I am informed that that is the case in Winnipeg. I know that when I visited that city some months ago the situation was discussed at a meeting attended by the mayor and representatives of various organizations. I am informed that Winnipeg accepts the situation.

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CON

James J. Donnelly

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DONNELLY:

I understand that those . returned soldiers who are receiving pensions and are living in the dried out district in Saskatchewan cannot obtain any assistance from the relief commission in that province because of the fact that they are soldiers receiving pensions. What steps has the government taken to look after these people?

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CON

Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

Unemployment relief has been one of the most difficult subjects which the department has had to deal with, and in fact the officials in charge of some of our large hospitals have told me that there is more time taken up and there are more difficult problems to settle in that connection than in all the rest of their administration. An endeavour was made to get this distribution to our pensioners and their dependents carried out through the provinces, inasmuch as they have organizations, and they have the unemployed who have to be clothed. The

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provincial government of Saskatchewan has taken on the distribution of clothing to our pensioners and their dependents and has been operating since January or February-I cannot give the exact date.

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CON

James J. Donnelly

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DONNELLY:

I am not thinking so much of groceries or clothing. What I am referring to is the fact that a good many of these returned soldiers are farmers and this is the time for them to buy their seed, as well as to make necessary repairs to machinery preparatory to putting in their crop. The relief commission will not give them any assistance because they are pensioners. What has the government done in such cases, in order to provide for seed and so on for these soldiers and to help them to make the necessary repairs to their machinery in preparation for the summer?

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CON

Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

The distribution of funds for the purchasing of seeds does not come under this department at all; it comes under the soldier settlement establishment or some other suitable organization. No attempt whatever is made by this department to meet that situation, but we do try to take care of light, heat and rent and, in a few instances where the municipalities do not supply clothing, we give some assistance. Our care is to relieve absolute distress and to help the men to carry on in the meantime.

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CON

James J. Donnelly

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DONNELLY:

My object in raising this question is to bring to the attention of the minister and of the Minister of Labour the condition that exists in southern Saskatchewan. If a man happens to be a returned soldier receiving a pension he is worse off than if he were not in receipt of a pension, because without a pension he could get relief; he could obtain seed and be assisted in making repairs. If he is a returned soldier, however, the relief commission in the province will not come to his assistance for the reason that he is in receipt of a pension; they take the view that the soldiers' organizations should look after him. It is impossible for men in that * position to get this measure of relief which is so much required at this time of the year in this area, where conditions have been severe in the last three or four years.

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CON

Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

I quite recognize the difficulties. Personally I do not care for the arrangement. I should have hoped, speaking for myself and not for the government, that ultimately the whole matter of unemployment relief would be administered in an entirely different way and perhaps through a different department.

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CON

James J. Donnelly

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. DONNELLY:

All I am asking the

minister to do is to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister of Labour in order that some arrangement may be arrived at to give these people a certain measure of relief and a certain measure of fair play.

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CON

Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

I shall be glad to do so.

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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

I think

the time has come when some further consideration should be given to the manner of dealing with unemployment relief for returned veterans and pensioners in particular. I have received a number of letters from the Non-Affiliated Veterans of Canada in Montreal. They write to me stating that they find that representations made to the department in connection with their complaints have been quite unavailing. Their letter of March 13 reads as follows;

Following up our recent resolution to obtain justice for our disabled front line veterans who, because of their disabilities and unemployment conditions generally are forced to apply for relief to the Department of Pensions and National Health. We have held an open meeting for front line veterans, March 12, at 1877 Wellington street, Montreal. The following resolution was unanimously adopted:

'[DOT]Whereas, the total amount of relief granted by the Department of Pensions and National Health in Montreal and district to the disabled veterans is $30.60, this sum is with pension included, that is to say, that, if a man draws a war pension of $25 per month, he would be granted $5.60 plus $2 for each child.

"Whereas, the average low shelter rental in this district is $18 per month.

"Whereas, if a rent is paid the disabled veteran has only $12.60 per month to provide food, fuel, light, clothing and medical attention for his family.

"Whereas, if a rent is not paid the landlord may seize and sell under authority of the Quebec lease law, leaving the disabled veteran destitute. _

"Be it resolved that the existing conditions are intolerable and that the federal authorities duly consider all phases of the situation and render a decision favourable to the disabled veterans, who have fought and suffered that our Canada may be the land of their ideal."

Following the receipt of that letter and resolution I took up the matter with the minister and asked a question in the house with respect to this situation. The minister assured me that an investigation had been started and would be pursued on the following Monday, my question being asked on a Friday. On March 21 I received a further letter from this same organization, which reads;

At an open meeting for the front line veterans, held under the auspices of the Non-Affiliated Veterans of Canada, at 1877 Wellington street. Montreal, March 19, the following resolution was unanimously adopted and a

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request was made that it 'be sent forward to the ministers of the government and members of parliament:

"Whereas, in view of the fact that the lower rate pensioners and their dependents in this district are facing starvation until they receive their pension cheques at the end of the current month.

"Whereas, we have already forwarded two resolutions to Ottawa outlining the situation in this district and have received no satisfactory reply from the Department of Pensions and National Health.

"Therefore be it resolved: that the Department of Pensions and National Health be asked to take immediate action to alleviate the distress that exists amongst the disabled veterans.

"Be it further resolved: this organization of service by veterans in Prance can produce concrete evidence that disabled veterans in this district are being evicted from their homes and have appealed for assistance both to the federal and municipal authorities and have received no help."

We would feel very grateful for any assistance you may be able to render us.

I found out that there was some sort of an investigation being held in Montreal by the department. I solicited further information from my correspondent, the president of this association, and his letter of March 29 contains the following paragraph:

An inquiry at the local relief office to-day brought no information as to an inquiry here into conditions. If there is any way in which we can be of service to you to show our appreciation, kindly let us know and we will try to oblige you.

The letter contains also ithe following paragraph :

The veteran in this district, according to a schedule issued by the department for a married man without children is allowed $30.60 per month which is divided as follows: rent $15; light $2; fuel $5; food, $8.60. This food amount must cover a month of thirty-one days. The result of this is that the veteran must use some of his rent money for food and other essentials, and so the landlord goes short and misery begins by way of bailiff sales.

I again communicated with the president of this association and under date of April 11, he wrote as follows:

I will try and give you some idiea of the investigation or rather camouflage that has taken place. On March 22nd, I was requested to go to the D.S.C.R. and meet the district administrator for Montreal, Mr. Boyd. Upon arrival there with the secretary of our branch, we found the deputy minister of pensions, Mr. McKee and his second in command awaiting us.' Mr. McKee informed us that being in the Montreal district and having received copies of our resolutions, lie thought he would like to see us and immediately opened up a conversation regarding the relief question, the result of which we were informed that no more relief could be granted other than that he would ask Mr. Boyd, district administrator to canvass the civic relief authorities and other charitable organizations

with the object of trying to get some clothing for pensioners and their families, but so far there have been no apparent results.

On Friday, March 31st, we were called back to the D.SjC.R. in reference to eviction of pensioners from their homes; wrhich we bad called to the attention of the ministers and members of the House of Commons in our resolution of March 19th. Mr. Boyd informed us he had been instructed from Ottawa, that upon sufficient data provided by myself or secretary representing the N.A.V.O.C. branch toumber one, Montreal, to the effect that a pensioner on relief was being evicted, he would take the matter up at once with the view of either having the eviction order cancelled or make arrangements for the man to get another house and failing in that, he was to report the matter hack to Ottawa.

In dealing w.ith the rent situation, the tactics are plain enough. In the past the average pensioner has been in the habit of buying his eats and other necessities first and leaving the landlord whatever might be left which we have, no doubt, would he little or nothing. Therefore, it is an easy matter for Mr. Boyd to go to the landlord and make arangements guaranteeing the rent of fifteen dollars ($15) as the administration intends making the pensioner produce the receipt for the rent before they grant him any further relief which means, in most cases, women and children will have to go hungry in order to pay the rent and draw the small amount that is left after that.

Coming back to the matter of investigation, I might state that we were not informed that anything of that nature was taking place so were not prepared with any evidence also the system of calling up members of different organizations and button-holing them at different times is no way of trying to solve the problem, but merely a means to find a loop-hole for the department of pensions to crawl out of.

I must admit that my only authority is my correspondent who represents himself to be the president of this association.

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CON

Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

Could I have his name?

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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

William G. Brookes, president, Non-Affiliated Veterans of Canada. I was not satisfied that this case was not like many others which have come to my attention where there has been exaggeration and at times misrepresentation upon the part of correspondents. I replied under date of April 12 and asked him to send me particulars of specific cases in order that I might have something concrete to justify further protests. I was forwarded a letter signed by R. Laycock and Mrs. Mary Lay-cock of Verdun, Quebec. This letter reads;

With regards to my relief, there seems to be a decidedly strong rumour about that we are to be subjected to another cut in our relief through the D.SjC.R. This hardly seems possible, and I wish to protest it strongly, when one stops to consider the cost of "bare" living commodities, that is with what we are receiving: $32.75 per month which, no matter how carefully one tries to manage leaves nothing for clothes, not to mention light, gas or rent.

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I can readily understand that would be the case in Montreal.

Most decidedly it is my -wish to protest this talked of cut in our relief.

That was something entirely new to me. On April 17 I received the following letter from Mr. A. H. Johnson:

Dear Sir,-I receive a pension cheque for $25 and a relief cheque for $5.60, making a total of $30.60 as the sole income for a family of two adults, my rent amounts to $15 per month and leaves me a balance of $15.60 to take care of all my other expenses such as food, clothing, medical attention and household necessities.

I have repeatedly complained that this amount was inadequate, both to the Department of Pensions and National Health at Ottawa and to the local district office but have received no satisfaction whatever, the department only answers that the pensioner on relief is in somewhat of a preferred position to that of the civilian in this district, but when one realizes that our municipal aldermen have stated that the amount of relief granted by the city is only sufficient to keep a person from starving, one may readily realize why there are so many children and adults waiting for admission to hospitals suffering from malnutrition and tuberculosis.

A pensioner is in constant fear of accidents or sickness or death overtaking one of his family. Where can he turn for assistance? Charity only applies to civilians in this district.

Everyone that I have interviewed in this matter, leaders of public opinion, have all been impressed with the situation and have all agreed that the matter is one for the federal authorities to deal with and the local Department of Pensions and National Health say it is a matter for Ottawa to deal with.

Faithfully submitted,

A. H. Johnson,

Pension No. 32910 Regimental No. 105344.

I have a further letter from Mr. H. Lafond, who states:

An average rent in Verdun-

This is simply corroboratory evidence.

-that is sanitary and decent surroundings for a flat of four rooms is $20 monthly, five rooms, $23 to $25, and six rooms, $28. Anything under that is old houses and not modern.

That was submitted by my correspondent or by the organization merely as evidence that S15 to S18 was certainly not a high rental to pay and it would hardly provide suitable accommodation for even these people who are in such serious circumstances.

A further letter from Mr. Frank Wrigley states:

On or about June the 15th last I applied to the local Department of Pensions and received relief for June and July to the extent of $21 for each month-

That is June and July, 1932.

-over and above my pension of $35 for a family of five. August the following month I was closed off all relief. I appealed to the local administrators and received a $10 loan on my pension. I was instructed to let my rent go as the landlords had been very lucky up to that time.

Rather amusing that he should have been instructed to let his rent go.

September of the following month I appealed to Captain Boyd, the administrator, who told me he could not advance me a further loan owing to lack of funds, he promised to send an investigator up, but the investigator has not arrived yet.

November, my wife in an advanced stage of illness, was suddenly taken seriously ill, I came home one night and found that she had been lying helpless for over half an hour owing to premature childbirth. I could not afford proper medical attention so was obliged to render first aid and dispose of the remains myself. I had neither food or fuel in the house, I kept the children home from school on that account.

I sent a note to the principal of the school explaining the reason for their absence. I understand my letter was referred to the Verdun Protestant School Board. All I could obtain from the Pension department was a fuel order and was now obliged to beg and borrow from friends and run into debt with merchants, the same which I cannot see any hopes of paying and am being continually hounded for payment of same.

December I received and have been receiving since, a relief chit of $6.50 over and above my pension each month. After paying monthly rent of $20 which is obligatory under the ancient and obsolete law of Quebec yearly lease law, I have the magnificent sum of $21.50 left to provide light, heat, food and clothing, medical attention and other necessities for a family of five.

Then this trenchant sentence is added:

Will Mr. Bennett tell me how to do it?

He continues:

I have been without underwear all winter, also holes in my footwear, owing to being a chest case I appealed to Captain Brennan, chief medical adviser, for local department of pensions. Doctor Brennan informed me that was an economic question and a matter for further legislation, as there was no provision made for cases like mine, but from a medical point of view 1. should not be going about in such a condition. In answer to my questions he also informed me that in my case if I caught cold and took seriously ill I would be granted hospitalization with full pay and allowance, and in the event of my death my dependents would receive a pension. The present government are evidently firm believers in the old song "Old soldiers never die."

I have been notified by my landlady to vacate my present home owing to my inability to meet the terms stipulated in my lease. I am without funds to rent another home and am completely at a loss as to where I am going to stay, according to Captain Boyd no

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further loans can be advanced to any pensioner who is on relief and distinctly told me I was up against a stone wall.

Hoping the same will he of some assistance to you.

I have a whole fife of letters, some not so bad and some even worse than that. I hesitate to place them all on the record of the house, and with what I have already read I rest ithe case for these men. I want to ask the minister two questions, first, why he did not see fit to do me the courtesy of lotting me have as soon as it was available, a copy of the report of the investigation that he promised me would be held-if he had done that, a great deal of trouble might have been saved-and, second, what is the report of the investigators?

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CON

Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

Certainly I shall supply all the information possible to the hon. member for Bow River. I do not wish him to have any feeling that anything is being concealed from him of any other hon. member. This matter was brought to my attention some time ago by the hon. member for Bow River and as a result an investigation was held; I think he already knows that. The assistant deputy minister made at least two visits there in order to look over the situation carefully. We also had a very distinguished social welfare official who, in addition to the local representative, studied the matter. The result is that the information gained does not sustain the substance of the letters which my hon. friend has read. On the contrary -there is much to show that they are n-ot correct. In the meantime I would ask the hon. member for Bow River if he would kindly send that correspondence to the department to be investigated as it is obviously impossible to answer it in the house. If he will do so, the matter will be carefully considered. I have under my hand from the assistant deputy a memorandum under date of April 5, which I might read to the committee. It states:

With reference to complaints received, alleging that unemployed soldier pensioners in Montreal were on the verge of starvation and that many were threatened with eviction from their homes owing to the inadequacy of relief allowed by the department:

I would advise that a careful investigation has been made and, as a result, I am satisfied that the departmental schedule of relief is sufficient to provide adequate food and shelter.

Regarding the threatened evictions, investigation has brought to light only one authentic case where it was subsequently shown that the pensioner had failed to pay rental although in a position to do so.

The departmental scale of relief in Montreal, to which pension may be augmented, when the need exists, is higher than that provided to non-pensioned veterans and civilians.

[Mr. E. J. Garland.1

As there will no doubt be further discussion on this subject, in order not to delay the house I have been asked to proceed with bill No. 78, and I therefore move that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again this day.

Progress reported.

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PENSION ACT AMENDMENT

May 12, 1933