I find that on February 18 last, in reply to a question put by the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Green) I unwittingly made an incorrect reply with respect to the number of decisions given in favour of the applicant on first hearing. Perhaps I may be permitted to place more accurate figures on the pages of Hansard.
Dealing with the year 1936-37 and from April 1, 1937, up to January 31, 1938, I find: First hearings granted 1,374, not granted 3,049, total 4,423; second hearings: granted 14, not granted 211, total 225; quorums: granted 732, not granted 3,694, total 4,426; pension appeal court: granted 53, not granted 2,423. There were remitted for hearing, 46; without jurisdiction, 5; pending, 37; not heard, 1,174. The percentages are worked out for 1937-38 up to January 31, 1938. On the first hearing there were granted for 1937-3S, 1,375 and not granted 2,472, or a total of 3,847. That is to say, 35 per cent of the total cases brought up on first hearing were given entitlement.
Without any appeal whatever. There is no right of appeal by the crown from the first hearing. On the second hearing there were granted, for 1937-38, 162, and not granted 1,737, a total of 1,899, or 9 per cent. As regards the quorums, for the same period, there were 233 granted and 1,256 not granted, a total of 1,489; in other words, 15 per cent
were granted by the quorums. With respect to the Pension Appeal Court there were granted 52-not granted, 2,021-or two and a half per cent of the total. To recapitulate, on the first hearing 35 per cent are awarded in favour of the applicant; on the second hearing 9 per cent in favour of the applicant; before the quorum 15 per cent, and before the Pension Appeal Court two and a half per cent.
Perhaps I had better go on to the discussion of this item. It is obvious why there is a reduction of some $600,000.
I should like to bring to the attention of the minister the position of the war widows of Canada. No doubt hon. members have received a great many letters from these women, and I may say that I attended, at their request, a meeting held in Toronto by one of their associations. I thought it would be better for them to put in writing their individual cases so that they could be submitted to the department. We must not forget that in the early days when we were recruiting Canada promised that none of the dependents of her soldiers who went overseas would be left uncared for. Canada, I believe, has done her job to a great extent, but we have partly fallen down so far as war widows are concerned.
There are two or three reasons why, under the legislation as it stands, they are not properly looked after. There is the difficulty of building up the case for these widows so as to associate with war service the deaths of their husbands. When they cannot prove that death is attributable to a pensionable disease they are usually out of luck. I do not think that anyone can prove that the immediate cause of death is the real cause; very often death is probably attributable to the pensionable disability. In very many instances men have died of arterio sclerosis or cancer, or an ulcer, or something of that kind, some complaint which is not the pensionable disability, while there is no doubt that the pensionable disability has a direct bearing upon the immediate cause of death.
Another thing is this. Is there any particular reason why a war widow should have her pension cut off when the pensioner dies? I do not see any reason why she should. We must remember that a great many soldiers after the war wanted to get out of the service as quickly as possible, and consequently they were discharged perhaps rather prematurely. There is no doubt that many of them at that time were suffering from some disease attributable to the war, but owing to the circumstances under which they were discharged they find themselves to-day out of luck. And for the same reason war widows are out of luck at the present time. It would be better, in my opinion, if the pensionable disability were taken into consideration and given more weight in awarding pensions to war widows. Some change should be made in the legislation, for the plight of these war widows is terrible.
In the gathering which I attended in Toronto I do not believe that every one of those women thought they should have pensions. In any event they were mostly women whose husbands had received pensions, the pensions having been cut off at the death, and now the widows find themselves destitute. They gave great service to these soldiers who had been receiving pensions and they did not get very much out of it themselves. The least we can do is to have the legislation take care of the present situation so far as war widows are concerned.
There has been organized in the city of Calgary a substantial body of women whose husbands, having served overseas, are now dead. These women are in a desperate condition. The contention-and I think it is one which it is difficult to overcome-is that their husbands died, and I am putting it mildly, as they request me to do, earlier in life than they would have but for the service they gave the country. That is putting it on a low basis. Their contention is that being deprived of the ability of their husbands to earn a living for either themselves or their children they are now in almost necessitous circumstances; and they seek from the government a recognition of their position, just as the government has recognized the condition of the soldier who receives assistance through the relief organization that has been set up by the department.
At first I thought that the case was much simpler than it is. Looking into the matter in detail I find many cases that are known to me personally. I have a list of them beside me and it is quite clear that the
husbands of these women served in some instances with great distinction, but in every instance at the risk of their lives, in France and elsewhere, mostly in a theatre of war. I do not say that all of them did, but for the most part they were in a theatre of war. The husbands of these women were not pensioned at the time of their death; some of them had received some slight recognition which was cut off, but the major number that I am speaking of now are cases in which the husband was not receiving a pension at the time of his death. The efforts that they have made to secure recognition by the department have failed because it was determined by the appropriate persons that the deaths could not be attributable to service. The same matter was discussed the other evening. In the case of many of these widows-I did not wish to go into it then, for obvious reasons, because you do not want to make it more difficult to deal with the simple problem by mixing it with others-this problem in one aspect is a simple one. We do care for necessitous cases of disabled soldiers who are unable to take care of themselves and whose condition is attributable to the war. If they have left behind them widows and children, I suggest to the minister, when he is framing his legislation, that if an annuity cannot be provided, the widow and children should at least be given the same treatment as that which would be given to the soldier if he were living and found himself in a similar condition of necessity.
Before the minister answers I should like to say something about this matter. I was invited to a soldiers' widows meeting in the soldiers' club rooms on Isabella street in Toronto, at which about two hundred were present. Apparently they are organizing and propose to have the organization extend all over Canada, and I have no doubt that in due course unless some redress is given they will come down in a large delegation to present their case, as has been said. On that occasion I took a list of a number of cases and the particulars. I have in mind one or two which are perhaps representative. One was a returned soldier who was in the habit of having fainting spells; apparently his heart was weak. One morning he had a fainting spell. His widow says that on the same day while having lunch he had another spell, and apparently some food became lodged in his throat. The doctor who performed the post mortem reported to the department that the man had choked to death swallowing his food. No one would believe that he deliberately choked himself to death. I do
not want to pass any comment on what the doctor did, but the fact is that his widow did not receive any compensation, although before his death the man was receiving pension.
Recently a returned soldier trying to make ends meet had gone to northern Ontario and taken a position I believe at Collins, northwest of Port Arthur. Being unable to carry on, on account of weakness, he decided to walk to the station some twenty or more miles away, and it appears that he fell on the road and was frozen to death in sight of the station. The post mortem report was that he died from natural causes, having been frozen to death. I have nothing but the very kindest words to say of the department; I have found the officials at all times considerate and anxious to help, and they are no doubt doing the best they can, but apparently the law does not permit them to deal with a case such as I have just mentioned, in which the coroner finds that the returned soldier died from this or that cause unattributable to war service. I am convinced from the number of cases I have looked into that while the department has done splendidly, if the officials were given a chance to exercise their discretion as to the cause of death, a large number of these war widows would be receiving consideration. I want to give my support to what was said by the hon. member for St. Paul's (Mr. Ross), who also attended one of these meetings of the war widows of Toronto.
Before the minister replies I should like to add a word to what has been said by the hon. member for St. Paul's, the leader of the opposition, and the hon. member for Davenport. I am sure that the sentiments expressed by them found echo in the heart of every hon. member of this committee. We all must realize that as the days lengthen into years the situation to which reference has been made this afternoon becomes more and more acute. Recently I met a deputation which desired to present this problem, a deputation of ladies, widows of war veterans from the eastern part of Toronto, where they are attempting to set up an organization in their mutual interest, and they asked me to present their case to the minister and his colleagues. Accordingly I should like to endorse most heartily what has been said on this matter by those who have preceded me.
May I present briefly a slightly different angle of this question? Without repetition of what has already been said I might put it in this way: that inadequate records were kept overseas, as has been re-
ferred to many times in this house. Men in their anxiety to get home did not take the necessary care to have disabilities noted which might have been recorded had they taken time. They came back and went through the necessary procedure to gain some consideration at the hands of the department, but as a result of inadequate records and for other reasons that might be mentioned, no pension was granted. The department in its wisdom proceeded to give war veterans' allowances, a very necessary thing and something which has kept many men and women off relief. In instances of which I could give details small homes had been acquired prior to enlistment, and upon his return from overseas the soldier, with his family, lived in these homes. The children probably grew up and moved away, and the soldier and his wife continued their residence, the soldier receiving a war veteran's allowance. I could give the minister instances in which, following the death of the soldier who received the allowance, those homes have been lost. Within my own knowledge only this week two war veterans' allowance widows are going on relief in my city, one of them in a pitiful condition of arthritis. She is told that nothing can be done to give her a war veteran's allowance, because her year had expired. If we have to keep these widows on relief surely some consideration could be given by the minister and his department to continuing in some form, even if only partially, the war veteran's allowance which she and her husband enjoyed, even though he could not establish a pensionable condition. I could give the minister more instances, but I suppose hundreds of them have come to his attention. Surely these people could be better cared for in a reasonable way, preserving their independence, rather than being compelled to go on relief in municipalities which are threatened with further costs in connection with relief.
I want to add my support to the speakers who have called attention to the fact that war widows should be allowed a pension. I am not a returned man but I should like to say a word in regard to returned men who are physically fit, who receive no pension and are to-day earning their own livelihood. I have talked with a number of these men. One of them said to me: "The country should do something for us; we paid the price." They think they should have a refund of taxes. I know that for some considerable time the Manitoba government did that. I am not sure whether or not they are doing it to-day. The fact is
that these men did pay the price. It took men and money to win the war. We continue to pay the interest on the war loans, and we may have to continue to do it for all time. Are the men who risked their lives less worthy of help, when to-day many of them find themselves in need of it? I cannot see where the money took any risk, but certainly the men did. We know that many of them throughout Canada to-day are suffering because of war disability. In fact, I do not know a single man who went to war who is physically fit to-day. There may be some, but I do not know of them.
I cannot understand why the government should give such large pensions to officers, when the men in the ranks, who may be more in need than many of the officers, and who could earn more money than some of the officers ever knew how to earn, cannot get anything at all. I never thought that was fair; I never could understand it, and it is my opinion something ought to be done about it.
I believe pensioned men who have good government jobs are not entitled to the same pension, although I would not like to cut them off without the assurance that if they lost their jobs they would get their pensions back. Surely it is up to the government to do the fair thing for the men who fought our battles.
I should like to join with the other hon. members who have requested the minister to do something for widows of ex-service men. We know that many of them have found great difficulty in establishing the fact that the deaths of their husbands could be attributed to pensionable diseases. A number of these widows are indeed suffering great hardship. Since the government has stated from time to time that it intended to issue money and credit to meet the needs of the people, surely the problem of providing sufficient money to take care of the needs of the widows of ex-service men should not present a difficult task. I feel sure that the minister will have the support of the majority of hon. members if he takes action immediately to alleviate the suffering of those widows.