July 2, 1935

LIB
IND

Angus MacInnis

Independent Labour

Mr. MacINNIS:

That is a communist tactic, hang those whom you do not like. Hon. members cannot do that just yet; although their leader is acting like a dictator; his dictatorship is nearly over. Perhaps they will keep quiet until I finish.

Last Wednesday I read from the report of the royal commission which investigated the relief camps in British Columbia. I shall not quote to-day from that report, but as hon. members opposite have shouted, "communist," I should like to quote some of the statements made by a man who lived in the camps before they were investigated by the royal commission. Although this man has been branded as an agitator the report is that he gave his evidence in a very intelligent manner. The report states:

Obviously intelligent and capable of taking a broad view of the situation, he drew praise from the commissioners for his testimony- and the manner in which he presented it.

The man is reported as saying:

They call me an agitator because I am trying to get better conditions for the men. It is not I or other men who are agitators, but the camps themselves.

That is what hon. gentlemen do not seem to want to understand. When this man was asked for suggestions as to what should be done he was again very reasonable. The report continues:

When asked for suggestions for improving camp conditions, Cumber stated bluntly that the men would not return to the camps "under the present setup" but admitted that he did "not see how it will be possible to eliminate the camps." "We will have to have camps of some sort, but they should be construction camps or lumber camps-where men work and are paid for it-not relief camps based on charity."

I maintain that that man who has been branded as an agitator was only voicing the sentiments which have been stated on the public platform by the Prime Minister of this country. The Prime Minister stated in 1930, that the unemployed wanted, not charity but work; not doles, but wages. The men are only asking what they asked for in 1930. W'hen these men came to put their just demands before constituted authority the first thing they were asked was, "where were you born?" That question was asked as though

B.C. Relief Camp Strikers

any man was responsible for where he was bom. I understand that our good friend Sir Herbert Holt is an Irishman but do hon. members suppose that when he comes to Ottawa he is asked where he was born? Are the members of other delegations which come to Ottawa asked where they were born? As a matter of fact we spent the good money of this country to bring those who are now in the camps into the country and when they come here to state their Claims we ask them where they were born.

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
?

An hon. MEMBER:

Why they were born.

Mr. MaeINNIS: Yes, many of them are

wondering why they were born. On June 24 the Prime Minister stated in the house:

The government is prepared to maintain law and order by all the means within its power and calls upon all law abiding citizens to assist to that end.

One of the functions of a government is to maintain law and order but a government has also another function, to see,that justice prevails within the country and that every reason for disorder is removed. When a government has removed all the reasons for disorder then and not till then is it justified in asking the people to support it in maintaining law and order. This government has not removed the reasons for discontent nor has it met the just demands of the people. They have not met the just demands of the men who are in the camps and who want work to maintain themselves. These men want to live their lives again, they want to take part in the natural life of Canada but this government has not made it possible for -them to do so. On another occasion the Prime Minister stated in the house that there could be no trifling with anarchy, no playing with chaos. Could anything be more anarchic than an organization which forces young men in the prime of their physical manhood to live in such institutions as these unemployment relief camps? Could anything be more chaotic than the failure of our present social system, if we can call such an unplanned, anti-social organization a system, to distribute the abundance at its disposal in such a way as to permit everyone to live a full and natural life? To my mind that is the essence of anarchy and not the activities of anyone who has been denied his just rights by society and prevented from taking his rightful place in the life of the community.

What these men have said is only a repetition of what has been said in this country during the last five years. It is simply echoing what was said by the Prime Minister

during his radio talks at the end of 1934 and the beginning of 1935. Referring to youth, the Prime Minister stated in his first speech:

It is a tragedy of these times that men and women, boys and girls, whose minds should be given to constructive .pursuits, find themselves handicapped and harassed by the uncertainties of life, and -prevented by the anxieties of this, present situation, from giving their best to the things which are most worth while.

I ask hon. members opposite: How are these men in the camps going to give their best to themselves or to their country as long as they remain there? In his fourth address the Prime Minister said:

When I dwell upon these tragic consequences of the economic upheaval, I think more especially about the boys and the girls of the nation who were born in wartime or in the years after the war, who have never known the tranquility of the old days, who have, all of them, been born within sound of the drum. For, with brief, infrequent intervals,^ we have been in battle, one way or another, since 1914. A generation of strife; death in foreign lands, at home the furious struggle for wealth, the dreadful siege of adversity, the march of the bread lines, the resistance of brave hearts against the prospect of unchanging want.

Is not that a perfect picture of what the men in the camps have to put up with? Could anyone -except the Prime Minister put it so clearly? And yet when these men come before him with just demands all he can give them is the reply that all -the forces of the state will be used to com-pel them to go back to camps where they will still be faced with unchanging want. In the fifth speech he said, "I believe in the right of every man to state his case." I think that is the correct attitude to take, but I do not think he believed in the right to these men to state their case.

I suggest that there are -many things which this government could do to meet the present situation, even if it cannot provide work and wages for the twenty thousand men or so who are in. the relief cam-ps. And the first approach to the problem is to deal sympathetically with those who are in that condition-. As I said before, I pointed out the situation to the Minister of National Defence, who was kind enough to give me a half hour's interview in this matter on the last day of April or the first day of May, I forget which. I tried then to put before him the picture as I saw it after my return from Vancouver, but he did not see his way clear, evidently, to do anything. Let -me ask the house this question, is it yet too late to do something? Cannot all parties in the house get together and try to do something for these -men, -men who we are quite convinced are only objecting to the very conditions that we would object to ourselves.

B.C. Relief Camp Strikers

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. HUGH GUTHRIE (Minister of Justice) :

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Will the honi. member allow me to say that I made no such statement.

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

I am only judging by press reports.

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

I presume the men in the camps were judging also by press reports.

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

And no law nor any

order exists in any way, shape or form, to prevent actions of that kind by any person or body of persons who seem disposed so to treat these marchers. Until yesterday it looked as if an arrangement would be made whereby the marchers would go to the two camps I have named in order that final disposition might he arranged so that they might be sent back to their camps, or individual cases might be dealt with in any case in which a man had a home to which he could go. The government was prepared to expedite the movement to the individual homes or back to the camps. Negotiations took place yesterday forenoon with the strike leaders to see if an arrangement of that kind could not be made, but the leaders of the movement insisted' that it should be a mass

B.C. Relief Camp Strikers

movement, that they should be moved en bloc back to Vancouver or to British Columbia. The situation in British Columbia at the present moment is not as satisfactory as it might be, and I think it was very properly decided that such a movement of 2,000 men back there would not be a wise or safe thing at the present time. The negotiations were carried on throughout the day, but without result, and about four or five o'clock in the afternoon the officers of the mounted police, acting under instructions, visited a certain communist gathering held in Regina and there arrested a number of the leaders, charged with offences under section 98 of the criminal code. Later on that particular meeting seems to have dispersed and to have resulted in an open meeting held in the market square at eight o'clock last night. Prior to the opening of proceedings at the market1 square meeting a number of plainclothes men of the mounted police proceeded to the platform and1 arrested others of the leaders, making the total arrests on the two occasions about twenty-four. At the time these arrests were made the city police of Regina, who are under the control of the municipality, came up upon one side of the platform, and the mounted police on the other side. The crowd which had gathered, both strike marchers and onlookers from the city of Regina, on the arrival of the police immediately cleared the square or the space, and it was thought that the crowd had permanently dispersed. However, after the lapse of a few minutes the strikers, having armed themselves with stones, clubs and various kinds of missiles, returned to the scene and made an attack upon the city police. The attack was made in the first instance by the strike marchers, and the city police were called upon to defend themselves. Subsequently the mounted' police joined fo,r the purpose of maintaining order. Shots were exchanged. Shots were fired by the strikers, and the fire was replied to by shots from the city police. No shot whatever was fired by the mounted police. They were armed with batons. I regret to say that there were a number of casualties as a result of this fire. One city policeman was beaten to death by the strikers. Two members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been very seriously injured by missiles of some kind1 and, it is very doubtful whether either of them will recover. There were a number of minor casualties, probably forty or fifty, some as a result of bullet wounds, I am informed.

Peace and order was restored at about eleven o'clock last night, and the men were herded1 back to the exhibition grounds, where they now are. They are there, guarded by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and I think by the city police as well, and are only allowed to leave their present quarters in small contingents for necessary purposes. That is the situation as it existed last night, and as it exists to-day. Communications again have been sent forward to Regina informing the strikers that the former offer is still open to them; food, shelter and transportation are available to them the moment they will accept them-not as an organized revolutionary body-I think I may call them that-but if they disperse among the various camps to which they can appropriately go, or in the case of those men who have homes, direct to their homes, and the expense of that transportation will also be liquidated by the government. The men are not inclined to aeoept this offer. They are determined to have their own way. The government is just as determined to maintain peace and order in Regina, or any otheT part of Canada where disorder may break out.

Some hon. MEMBERS': Hear, hear.

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
CON

Hugh Guthrie (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GUTHRIE:

I am not going into the

question of whether these men had wrongs or grievances. Personally I do not think they had. I agreed with the statement made last week in the house that the movement was under communistic leadership. A very large proportion of the men now at Regina never were in the relief camps at all. It is stated that ouit of the 2,000 odd, over 800 were mere stragglers who joined in the march, who were never in relief camps and do not want to go into thjem now. I think I have given a fairly full statement of the situation as it now exists.

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. J. S. WOODSWORTH (Winnipeg North Centre):

I think one of the sentences that fell from the lips of the Minister of Justice towards the end of his speech is extremely characteristic of the attitude of the government. It was to the effect that he was not going into the question as to whether there were any wrongs of which these men complained, any evils in the camp. But that is the point at issue.

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

It is not even fair that the Minister of Justice should seek to do to-day as the Prime Minister did the other day, divert the attention of the country from

B.C. Relief Camp Strikers

the real point at issue. We have had these camps now for nearly four years. A considerable number of young men have been interned during that period.

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
CON
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

Four years, a period as long as that of the war. It was bad to be in the war for those four years, but I submit that then the men had hopes and believed they were fighting for a cause, but these young men have been interned, some of them, for four years-

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
?

An hon. MEMBER:

They are not interned, they are there voluntarily.

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

-without hope, and with a sense of great injustice. Someone says Urey went there voluntarily. Technically that is true, but what was the alternative? As we have pointed out again and again, if they would not go into the camp they were on the streets, either to starve or become criminals. Those were the alternatives for the majority of those young men. Now conditions were bad. I am not going to repeat what I said here as late as Thursday evening last in connection with the supplementary estimate for an additional amount to be granted for national defence. I quoted from the report of the commissioners who were appointed to investigate these camps; briefly they pointed out that while on the whole conditions were not so bad, there were some very specific evils that had been rankling in the minds of the men, and they said, although it did not really come within the terms of their commission, that one of the greatest evils was that these men were required to work without wages and without hope, and they could not see how the men could maintain their morale under those circumstances. So in desperation the men started to go to Vancouver to call the attention of the public to their plight. Remember that these men have no hopes of remedying their condition even by the coming election, because if they return to their camps in practice they are prohibited from voting because no voting facilities are provided. A bill to give them such privileges, introduced from this comer, was refused by the house. That is the situation.

They came into Vancouver some months ago. At that time we tried to secure the opportunity of discussing the matter as one of urgent public importance. It was declared not urgent at that time. Later on, when they reached Regina, again we tried to discuss the matter. Again it was said that the matter was not urgent, and we ventured to say there

was danger of a clash if the government persisted in its policy. Unfortunately that clash has come, and I want to warn this govern^ ment that if it maintains the attitude it has maintained during the last few weeks there is very great danger that future clashes may come. There is no doubt of that.

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

You encourage it.

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

No, I am not encouraging it. I think it is most unfortunate that we cannot rise in this house to advocate policies that we believe are in the interests of law and order without being accused of trying to discourage law and order. I firmly believe that I am advocating those policies which will ensure law and order in this country. I think it is a terrible tragedy that on July 1 of this year, a day that ought to be celebrated with rejoicing by all Canadians, some two thousand men should be forced into a position where they cannot very well maintain their respect for the government and where they are led to feel a sense of injustice, and further than that, where the twenty thousand young men like these, who are still in the camps, must be encouraged to feel that the government is indifferent to their situation.

That is the situation that has arisen. Now I come back to the alternative offered by the government. When the delegates of these men came here a few weeks ago each of their "demands" was refused. The proposals they made were not unreasonable. On Thursday evening last I took up this matter in detail; those demands were far more reasonable than I imagined they would be, yet the government turned them down flat and simply told them they must go back. Then the government made their counter-proposition; they proposed that the men should go to the camp at Lumsden and from there back to the camps, to the very conditions from which they had come, without the slightest indication on the part of the government that there Would be any improvement in those conditions or any change of policy. Do the members of this house realize how provocative action of that kind is? Surely it was no easy thing for them to come all the way down from Vancouver to Regina, hiking as they did, overcoming a great many discouragements and hardships, simply to be told to go back and forget all about it, which was practically what happened. It is quite true that at Lumsden they might have received food and clothing, but they had been getting that back where they had come from. It was against the kind of food and clothing they were getting and

B.C. Relief Camp Strikers

more than that against the lack of wages and the general policy of the government that they were making their protest.

I have no doubt the minister has put the best possible face on what happened yesterday; probably he is quoting from reports that have come to him. I have had reports from disinterested eye witnesses that do not correspond to the statements the minister made in the house to-day. I would say that these men were assembled in a perfectly peaceable way; there was no disorder whatever until the two forces of the police came upon them and ruthlessly drove into them. The minister gives us the impression that it was the strikers who started the difficulty. I say they were having a peaceable meeting, attempting to secure further funds with which to carry on their own work in their own way, because they were almost at the end of their resources, and at that legitimate meeting they had the police come upon them. That is not .altogether in keeping with the statement of the minister, and on this question I do not think we ought to take a mere departmental report. If ever there was a case for a thorough investigation by a royal commission surely it is in connection with a riot of this kind in which men lost their lives, men on the government side, the police side, who were ordered by their superiors to do this job, and a dirty job it W'as, while on the *other side some of these men were shot down.

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
CON

Richard Langton Baker

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BAKER:

We prefer the report of the minister to the report of your friends.

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink
LAB

James Shaver Woodsworth

Labour

Mr. WOODSWORTH:

It may be quite true that the leadership of these men has largely come into the hands of communists. The other day I admitted, from the best information I could get, that this was true. I am sorry it is true; I think they would have been better led if they had followed other advice, but may I point out that only a comparatively small number of these people are communists. The great majority of the men. are not communists; only a small proportion of them are, and unless there were very great grievances on the part of the men it is inconceivable to me that some sixty or seventy leaders, as I think the Minister of Justice (Mr. Guthrie) put it, could .control these two thousand' men. That statement in itself is ridiculous. If a large number of the men wanted to return to their homes; if they found that they had been misled, they would throw overboard the sixty or seventy .men whom the Minister of Justice says are in a position of leadership. It is reasonable that men who endured all these hardships would allow their little bits of baggage to be kept from them by some sixty

or seventy men? I cannot conceive it for a moment. The fact is that whatever their leadership they have behind them a sense of injustice which has led them to follow almost any advice they have been offered. Unfortunately I think they are more inclined to follow advice which urges them to direct action or to radical action.

That is another point in my .mind, and I think this is a serious question. I should like to know how many of these so called leaders are government spies. I know enough about the labour movement to be able to say that whenever I have been making speeches among the miners of the west and so on, at which somebody has gotten up and urged violence, I have had these men come to me again, and again and say, "Beware of that man; he is a police stool." That, is what the men believe. We know what happened in Calgary years ago in the case of Corporal Zaneth, who sold literature which he knew to be banned and then, got the men into trouble. We know of a more recent instance, the case of Sergeant Leopold, who was the informer in the case against the communists not long ago. We know how these men wormed their way into the organization, and how they stood ready to play the part of the police if necessary. Only a few years ago in this house we had estimates-under a former government; I am not blamllig this government for it-covering moneys paid to American detective firms in the employ of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I am told that that practice has been discontinued, but this practice of espionage has not been discontinued, and we cannot tell how many agents provocateur there have been among these so called leaders who are under communist domination. I do think the fact that lives have been lost and that a large number of people have been injured in itself is an indication that a thorough investigation into the situation should be made promptly by disinterested parties. I am not asking that my charges should 'be accepted, but I am not content that the departmental records should be taken as final. I urge there should be an independent investigation and, above all, I submit that the riots are a justification of the action hon. members in this corner have taken in condemning the present policy of dealing with these young men. I would like to know now who is responsible for the shooting. I think we ought to know that; who is responsible? I would like to know -under what authority this was done. This is only one series of a number of events which have taken place recently. Further, I would like to know from the

B.C. Relief Camp Strikers

government under what authority men were refused permission to move out of Regina. It is quite true that at least technically they were trespassers in their use of the railways. But it is common knowledge that throughout the past six or eight years men have been riding on freight trains, and only on occasions have they been checked up. It is common knowledge that these men came from Vancouver to Regina on freight trains, and that the government did not do anything to stop them. The Prime Minister may say that they had not the necessary force; that may have been the case, but the government connived at that kind of thing, or condoned-use the word you like. Then all of a sudden, when it suits the convenience of the government we are told we must preserve law and order and must prevent trespassing on railway property. That is the kind of arbitrary action which is undermining respect for law and government.

We were told that these communists who were arrested some years ago and sent to Kingston penitentiary were dangerous men, that communists were outlaws of society. Yet, in the name of the communist party newspapers have been published all along, communist candidates have stood for election, and no action has been taken by the government. Can they escape their responsibility? Personally, as every hon. member is aware, I am opposed to section 98 of the criminal code. As every hon. nfember knows this house has five times in succession expressed its disapproval of and voted to delete section 98. I am opposed to it, I say it is little less than a disgrace when we find that men who are not proven to have committed an overt act or to have incited to violence should be sent to the penitentiary. That is un-British legislation, but it is on the statute books, and in that regard probably the government is acting within its legal rights.

I want to say this however, that the government knowing that-knowing that they have the force-have not taken action. Personally I am glad that these communists are free, because although they are a dreadful embarrassment to us of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation-

Topic:   B.C. RELIEF CAMP STRIKERS
Permalink

July 2, 1935