The prosecution has
arisen out of a breach of the Railway Act. I want to make that clear.
Leaving that for the moment, I must apologize to the house for the delay which has occurred in giving this information as it disrupts the natural flow of the argument. How many men does the house think have passed through these camps? The total number is 116,480, and 22,365 have left to take up profitable employment while 12,601 were let out for purposes of discipline. This gives some idea of the activities of the communists in these camps and gives some idea of the propaganda which has been carried on and the methods adopted. Others have left to take up employment where they thought they could find jobs, some 60,000 having gone to unknown jobs. The largest number of men ever at these camps was 25,500; last summer this number dropped about 12,000 and last winter it rose to 20,500. It stands now at 13,000. These figures give some idea of the nature, the character and the purpose of these camps and how well they have served that purpose. One of the most distinguished labour ministers of England, who has since passed to the great beyond, when on a visit to this country stated that this was one of the most amazing ventures from the standpoint of sound principle that he had ever seen. He was referring to the provision by which these men were given shelter, food and clothing, until the opportunity arose of being permitted to go to work. When I say that the number of men in the camps dropped last year to 9,000 from a maximum of 25,500 one is able to gain some idea of what the situation was. As I have said, the number of men have dropped to about 13,000 and that
B.C. Relief Camp Strikers
number will be decreasing steadily, as I explained to these men, because of the opportunities which will be offered of work on the highways and roads in the mountains of British Columbia which cannot be undertaken until late in June. When those opportunities for work are offered they can avail themselves of them, if they so desire.
As I said, I do not propose in any sense to anticipate what evidence will be given or what may be said with respect to the tragedy at Regina. This morning I received a telegram from Mr. Gardiner to which reference has been made by the right hon. leader of the opposition. This wire reads:
You have no doubt been advised of latest developments. We wish to state that men had interviewed us at five o'clock. They stated they had advised your government through your representative they were prepared to disband and go back to their camps or homes provided they were allowed to go under their own organization. They state this was denied them. They asked' our government to take responsibility for disbanding them to their own camps or homes. While we were meeting to consider their proposals and any suggestions we might make to you trouble started down town between the police and strikers without notification to us of police intentions which has resulted in at least one death in the police force and scores of citizens strikers and police wounded. We are nevertheless prepared to undertake this work of disbanding the men without sending them to Lumsden. Will you consider negotiations on basis of this proposal.
James G. Gardiner.
I replied as follows:
Your message received indicating your willingness to undertake work of disbanding strike marchers without sending them to Lumsden. Please indicate just what this means in order that there may be no misunderstanding.
That does not look like a desire not to cooperate with the provincial authorities. The premier of the province stated that these men demanded1 that they should be permitted to disperse but with their own organization. That is just exactly what we do not propose they shall do. We do not propose that they shall go to Vancouver, where we already have had communists taking part in activities on the waterfront, as referred to the other day by the hon. member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Mackenzie). We do not propose that they shall go there to swell the ranks of the communists and add to the difficulties of that city. Their demand was not that they be permitted to disband and go to their homes where they had homes or go back to the camps, but, as Mr. Gardiner says, they demanded that they be permitted1 to disband under their own organization, and this we refuse to allow. Since I
came into the chamber I received another telegram from Mr. Gardiner which may be an answer to the one I sent. This telegram reads:
Yesterday morning men indicated to your representative Mr. Burgess their willingness to disband the march and return to the points from which they came. They repeated this to Mr. Burgess and representatives of the police at 2.30. Your representative refused to have provincial representation at that meeting. The men met us at five o'clock stating that since your representatives had refused to consider this the provincial government take responsibility for disbanding men to their original camps or homes and supply them with food in the interval. While we were considering this matter police raided public meeting to arrest leaders, precipitating a riot. Men at present in buildings at fair grounds completely surrounded by police who permit no one to enter and men to leave only in twos. Police intention to force these men to Lumsden camp or starving them into submission. This will end in a worse riot than last night. These men should be fed where they are and immediately disbanded and sent back to camps and homes as they request without any attempt to force them into Lumsden and this should be done within next two hours. This government has a responsibility toward its citizens to provide them with ordinary protection against this imported trouble. We would ask you to immediately withdraw orders issued affecting the liberty of individuals within this province and affecting the law and order of this province. You might assume that we are as much concerned about law and order in this country as you can be and deal with the elected representatives of this province regarding matters concerning our people instead of through an appointed political representative. We are asking you if you are going to feed these men within the next two hours and are asking you to instruct us within two hours what plans are to be made for their disbandment.
James G. Gardiner.
That is the -message to which the right hon. leader .of the opposition referred a moment ago. It will be observed (that Mr. Gardiner talks about disbandment but he leaves out that explanation which I requested ini connection with, their demands that they be allowed to go under their own organization. To -that we have not received any reply. As long as they stay together, as the Minister of Finance says, they will disband.
Now let me read the last answer which I wrote -while I was listening to the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre:
Large number of so called strike marchers now at Regina have never been in relief camps and being homeless cannot be sent to any definite locality as being their homes. The federal government is ready and' willing - to feed these marchers at Lumsden and transport them to that point. Apparently leaders demand transportation to Vancouver as organized bands which we are not willing to do in
B.C. Relief Camp Strikers
view of the illegal character of their organization and avowed purposes of their leaders. Of course we have no intention of interfering with any action you may decide to take that does not involve these men in violation of the laws of the country.
That is the position we have outlined in the telegrams that have passed between us to-day. I am not going to do more than merely indicate that that being the situation we are faced with an- organized attempt against the national life of Canada. This is not sporadic; it extends from coast to coast. It is not dominion wide; it extends to other sections of this continent. They started to-day at noon at Valcartier. A happy contented group of men have been preyed upon by agitators, and at noon to-day they said they were going to strike. This uprising against authority, against law and order, is in our judgment a considered and deliberate attempt to carry into effect the known doctrines of the communists. We are not prepared to yield to it; and what is more, we believe that it is not a matter of a province; it is a matter of the nation as a whole.
I will not burden you with the sheaves of telegrams that have come to me along the line, especially in the northern parts of Ontario and other parts of Canada, where the population is far better informed with respect to communistic doctrines and tendencies than it is, for instance, in the city of Ottawa, and where they make bold to say that they demand-not request but demand-that these things shall be done. They demand that these men shall continue their march upon Ottawa, these strikers, and that the police be withdrawn-"We demand that the police be withdrawn." The similarity in the language of the telegrams would seem to indicate that there was one master mind somewhere behind this movement, or several. And even the one from New York was couched in terms so like some that we have received from Toronto and other parts of Canada as to make one believe that they had a common origin.
It is not easy for me to speak at such length about a matter of this kind1 to-day. If I say that my night has been saddened and my day as well by what transpired yesterday, I suppose that will afford an opportunity for jeers-