Appeals by the crown this year number, I think, about eighty. During one year, 1931 I believe, they amounted to some two thousand-perhaps that would cover 1931, 1932, 1933. That, I think, was consequent upon an abuse by counsel for the crown of their right to appeal. That is merely my own opinion; it is the opinion I had then and I still maintain it. A great many of those appeals by the crown were affirmed. Later on, under legislation in 1933, a reviewing officer was appointed and the effect of that was undoubtedly to stop -this very large number of crown appeals. The reviewing officer handles all these appeals and recommends them. Neither the crown as such nor the department nor the minister nor anyone else has anything to do with the matter; the reviewing officer is entirely independent; he decides on his own judgment which decisions of the quorum should be appealed. At the present time appeals are very few.
In 1936, knowing that the appeal system had not worked to the satisfaction of ex-soldiers generally, I made a proposal in the house which would have had the effect of abolishing the appeal court and bringing about some such system as my hon. friend now suggests, that is, to have really a court of review in the pension commission.
I might as well tell the story chronologically. I do not think I have forgotten anything. That suggestion incorporated in proposed legislation was put before
the committee, and the committee almost unanimously, at the instance of the returned soldiers themselves-I speak subject to correction, bu-t I think almost every association was opposed to the combination of the appeal court with the pension commission- reported to the house that that particular section which I had introduced into the bill was not approved by the committee.
I understand that there is still an agitation for the abolition of the appeal court. I may say that within a very short time a great deal of the work of the appeal court will have disappeared. The claims now outstanding before the appeal court are only 380, and in 1936, when I suggested that the court be abolished, there were something like 2,300 or 2,500, well over 2,000 anyway. Now they are down to about 300. We are giving consideration, although the matter has not reached the stage of getting into legislative form, to the question of what is going to happen to this court when it no longer has any appeals before it. That is being considered on the ground alone of the expenditure of public money, without any relation to the number of applications which the appeal court saw fit to grant. It may be advisable to make some provision in the near future for the day when the appeal court will no longer serve any useful purpose. Of course it must be remembered that some of these appointments are for ten years, and provision would have to be made for appointees now holding positions in the court.
Perhaps my hon. friend is right. The system at present is: There is a first hearing; then there is further preparation and a further hearing before the commission; after that a quorum sits and sees the applicant and decides upon his case. By the time he has gone through that and not succeeded in getting entitlement he has probably come to the conclusion that it is not much use proceeding further. That may account for the small number of appeals more than anything else; I would not say definitely.
That shows how very little chance there is for an applicant to succeed before the court of appeal. The crown seems to have a much higher batting average than the soldier applicant. I suggest that the time has come when we should abolish these appeals by the crown. After all, the soldier has won his case before the quorum, before the men who actually saw him; then he is faced with an appeal by the crown to a court sitting here in Ottawa, which does not see the man and has no chance to size him up; they can disallow that successful decision. I know of nothing that is more upsetting to the disabled returned men. I suggest that the time has now come when we should abolish these appeals by the crown. After all, they are very few, and very little money is involved. I think we might take that step at this time.
As the work is decreasing to such an extent that soon the appeal court may not be required, and one hon. member suggests that it be abolished, though such a course appears drastic, that might be the better suggestion.
Well, the minister knows the position in the department and the facts; he is the one who must make the decision, but in any event I suggest that at this session we wipe out these crown appeals. They are most disturbing to the returned men.
There is a quorum there. Colonel Peck is, in fact, the only one. The system which we proposed to inaugurate in 1936 has perhaps not worked as well as we anticipated. There is only one quorum which has a base; that is the Vancouver quorum, and Colonel Peck has his chief office, if I may so call it, in that city.