May 23, 1938


Unemployed Men in Vancouver So far as the maintenance of law and order is concerned, that is a matter for the police authorities; and as regards the present situation I have already informed the house that the Minister of Labour in British Columbia stated on Tuesday, May 17, that in the opinion of the provincial government it would be possible to deal with the single unemployed who were properly resident in the province. The Minister of Labour of British Columbia was of the opinion that employment could be found in due course for these men. He stated at the same time that some 1,500 men had come into British Columbia and into the forestry camps which were maintained by the dominion and the province during the winter months, and that British Columbia was not prepared to find employment for these men during the coming summer. In that situation he stated that the province was willing to assist these men from outside the province of British Columbia in returning to their homes, and that policy appeared to be a sensible method of dealing with the immediate situation. The demonstration conducted by the relief project workers' union in the city of Vancouver has clearly as its object the provision of work for these men. I should like to say simply in that connection that in so far as there are unallotted items for works in the supplementary estimates which were tabled on Friday these will be apportioned in accordance with the actual unemployment situation in the various provinces, having due regard to particular situations which may exist in certain provinces. I should like to make it equally clear, however, that in such apportionment of unallotted items for unemployment works, this government will not be influenced in the slightest degree by threats or by any form of mass demonstration either in British Columbia or in any other province of Canada.


CCF

Angus MacInnis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacINNIS:

Would the minister answer a supplementary question? Over the weekend I have received a number of communications from Vancouver in this regard and I had intended to take the matter up on another occasion. I should like to know, because of the importance of the question, whether the government will arrange a time for discussion of this matter, because it is one in which the city of Vancouver and the province of British Columbia are vitally concerned.

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Sub-subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OF SINGLE UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-OCCUPATION OF HOTEL GEORGIA AND OTHER BUILDINGS
Permalink
LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

As my hon. friend knows, there is always opportunity to discuss any of

these matters when the house moves into committee of supply. It is the intention of the government to continue supply during the present week. We may be expecting it each day so that my hon. friend will have an opportunity then to bring the matter up if he so desires.

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Sub-subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OF SINGLE UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-OCCUPATION OF HOTEL GEORGIA AND OTHER BUILDINGS
Permalink
CCF

Angus MacInnis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacINNIS:

I was afraid I might be prevented on such an occasion because of its being raised now.

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Sub-subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OF SINGLE UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-OCCUPATION OF HOTEL GEORGIA AND OTHER BUILDINGS
Permalink

UNEMPLOYMENT

CONCENTRATION OP SINGLE


Hon. CHARLES A. DUNNING (Minister of Finance) moved that the house go into committee of supply.


CCF

Angus MacInnis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. ANGUS MacINNIS (Vancouver East):

Before you leave the chair, Mr. Speaker, I wish to say a few words in connection with the matter raised a moment ago by the hon. member for Kamloops, (Mr. O'Neill) and replied to by the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers): For some weeks past a serious situation has been growing in British Columbia and particularly in the city of Vancouver. On several occasions during the past month the matter has been brought to the attention of the government by other members from British Columbia as well as by myself.

It is all very well for the minister to say that the government will not be influenced in the slightest by any demonstrations of the kind that are now taking place in the city of Vancouver, but that does not solve Vancouver's problem. It does not provide for these people who are unemployed, and until we make some satisfactory provision for the unemployed, we shall inevitably have difficulties of this kind. As a matter of fact the situation to-day reminds me very much of the condition that prevailed in the spring of 1935, which culminated in the riots at Regina on the first of July of that year. Surely this government with the experience before it which the previous government had, is not going to let matters drift until real trouble develops as in 1935. That is what we must avoid, and if drastic steps must be taken, then let that be done. But first we should make sure that there is no other way by which we can find a solution for our difficulties. I

Unemployed Men in Vancouver

do not believe we have made sure that there are not other ways by which we can deal with this question.

Yesterday I received the following wire from Vancouver:

That 1,500 single unemployed including a large non-residence proportion are occupying the Hotel Georgia, the post office and the art gallery as means of drawing their plight to public attention. We feel that assurance of work from the government upon a government plan or any assurance of work will meet situation. Otherwise fear serious consequences will ensue. Urge immediate action.

This telegram is signed not merely by one individual but by fourteen people prominent in the civic life of Vancouver and in the legislature of British Columbia. It is signed by six out of the eight aldermen in Vancouver, and by seven members of the provincial legislature, including Liberals, Conservatives, and members of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, also by one British Columbia cabinet minister, as well as by the chief of police, W. W. Foster, of the city of Vancouver.

I submit that the statement made in the house to-day by the Minister of Labour (Mr. Rogers) is not a satisfactory reply in relation to the problem which to-day confronts Vancouver. If it was not the intention that these men should establish domicile in British Columbia they should not have been given employment in the first place; since they were employed for the whole or part of the winter on the forestry projects in that province, I do not think it is a satisfactory way of dealing with them now to say that they shall not get relief and shall not be given government employment in British Columbia.

When we were debating the unemployment relief and agricultural assistance bill the member for the Yukon (Mrs. Black) made a striking appeal to the members of the house to be sympathetic and to go easy with the Minister of Labour. I did not say anything after the member for the Yukon had spoken, although I thought a great deal; and contrasted the position of the Minister of Labour with that of thousands of young men in this dominion. It is true that the minister works very hard, but it is equally true that he has many compensations for his hard work.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OP SINGLE
Sub-subtopic:   UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-STATEMENT OF MR. MACINNIS
Permalink
LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

I have made no complaints.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OP SINGLE
Sub-subtopic:   UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-STATEMENT OF MR. MACINNIS
Permalink
CCF

Angus MacInnis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacINNIS:

Certainly not, and I think the minister will also agree that the discussion that took place and the hammering he received, such as it was, was not directed at him personally; it was done simply because 51952-198

many of us felt that it was a duty we owed to our constituents to bring their difficulties to the attention of the minister and of the government.

Let us look at the situation as far as these men are concerned. Young men, after four and five and in some cases six years of unemployment, are now facing the same hopeless conditions. Here they are in the spring of the year, when all nature is bursting into life, when people ordinarily should feel the stirrings of new life in their being, compelled to look forward to another hopeless summer and an equally hopeless fall and winter, and possibly nothing better next year. Let me say again that the minister's statement is not a satisfactory reply.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OP SINGLE
Sub-subtopic:   UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-STATEMENT OF MR. MACINNIS
Permalink
LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

If my hon. friend will

permit a question, would he be inclined to alter what he has just said if he accepted the truth of my statement, which comes from the Minister of Labour of British Columbia, that of the men who were in the forestry camps last year some 2,500 did not return this year, the obvious inference being that they had either returned to their homes or found employment elsewhere in the interval. I do not think it is proper, in other words, to suggest that all these men have not other means of finding employment or shelter.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OP SINGLE
Sub-subtopic:   UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-STATEMENT OF MR. MACINNIS
Permalink
CCF

Angus MacInnis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacINNIS:

I do not know that the minister's remarks have altered the situation in any way whatsoever. If these 2,500 men who did not return to the forestry camps this year after working there last year found work somewhere else, of course, that is all to the good, but what avails it? Others have taken their place. I have not the figures before me at the moment showing the numbers unemployed in 1937 and in 1938. Nevertheless the fact is that we have about an equal number, possibly more, possibly less, and we are still confronted with the same conditions. If we do not do something the authorities in British Columbia and in Vancouver will have to take some action, and it is just possible that the dominion government will be drawn in. Would it not be far better for this government to take action now while the men, if in a determined mood, are yet in a mood for conciliation and settlement? I do hope that we shall get from the government something more satisfactory to the people of Vancouver than the statement which has just been made by the Minister of Labour.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OP SINGLE
Sub-subtopic:   UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-STATEMENT OF MR. MACINNIS
Permalink
CCF

Charles Grant MacNeil

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. C. G. MacNEIL (Vancouver North):

Mr. Speaker, I wish to support the remarks that have been made by the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Maclnnis). I do so

Unemployed Men in Vancouver

because of communications I have received from responsible citizens of Vancouver, and also because, as the minister is aware, I had very close contact with the negotiations in connection with similar situations which have arisen in previous years.

I am disappointed in the statement made by the minister. The information that reaches me shows that the situation to-day is almost an exact repetition of those which have occurred in previous years. If we have learned anything from the most distressing experiences of previous years it is the necessity of dealing promptly and in a satisfactory way with this problem which is peculiar to the city of Vancouver.

May I point out to the minister that this is not an organized concentration of unemployed transients in the city of Vancouver. He must be well aware that this is a very natural gathering of men who, under the policies of the government-not only this particular government but because of economic conditions that exist in Canada-in their effort to secure casual employment find that city the terminus of their drifting as transients. They find casual work in other portions of the province and drift along, but at various times there is a gathering or concentration of men, due to economic and employment conditions in British Columbia and the adjacent provinces. It is hardly fair for the minister to reply to-day and say he is depending on the assurances of the Minister of Labour in British Columbia; for, as I am well aware from experience in the past, the Minister of Labour in British Columbia and the civic authorities cannot act, cannot devise a satisfactory plan, until they receive a very definite assurance from the dominion government of some form of cooperation, some disposition to share the responsibilities which are not properly those of the city of Vancouver or the province of British Columbia.

The hon. member for Kootenay East (Mr. Stevens) brought this matter to the attention of the minister earlier in the session, but again may I remind the minister that when I was called upon to interview him at the hotel Vancouver shortly after his return from Geneva, on behalf of the men, for week after week the social service agencies of Vancouver, by dint of strenuous effort-and possibly gambling on some support from unknown sources- had looked after the men who were without food and shelter, in order to prevent any open disorder. The moment the minister announced the agreement with the provincial Minister of Labour and informed the delegation representing the men that they could

register to receive temporary food and shelter, at that moment the disorder or any suggestion of disorder ended. The men quietly registered and accepted the plan devised, but during those weeks of delay riots did occur. Men were sent to gaol; some three hundred were sent to Oakalla, and two men were sent to the British Columbia penitentiary. I submit that these men would not have been sentenced and that this disorder would not have occurred if action had been taken earlier, and I think the same may be said of the situation which arose during the previous year.

At this time, because of our experience on past occasions, I earnestly implore that the minister lay aside some of the usual constitutional objections with regard to negotiations, admit that a very definite problem exists there that may result in serious disorder, and recognize all the facts and circumstances. There are men in Vancouver at this moment without food and shelter; otherwise the city of Vancouver would not have permitted a tag day the other day, nor would the citizens of Vancouver have supported that tag day so generously. The plain, ugly fact is that men are without food and shelter, and naturally if they cannot successfully negotiate in their own interests they may resort to methods which to-day the minister says he cannot countenance.

The transportation plan is equally unsatisfactory. As the minister is well aware, by reason of economic and employment conditions a large majority of those men have sacrificed their right of domicile at other points. If they returned to any points designated, they would be denied any form of relief or employment. Coupled with that situation, as the minister tacitly admitted, there has been a break-down of the Employment Service of Canada. No satisfactory provision has been made for the dovetailing of seasonal employment, and certainly if employment is available at other points in British Columbia in my opinion there are no adequate facilities for providing transportation to such points. I also direct the attention of the minister to the fact that I have received a telegram from the provincial president of the Canadian Legion in British Columbia, who says that included among these unemployed is a large number of ex-service men. I think the minister, in consultation with his colleague the Minister of Pensions and National Health (Mr. Power) should give some consideration to that aspect of the situation. Surely those men cannot be held to have sacrificed their domicile and be denied relief because they

Unemployed Men in Vancouver

naturally seek employment in a climate where they will not be unduly handicapped by their disabilities.

I do urge the minister to drop the usual official attitude and not be unduly harsh in dealing with this situation. Open up channels of negotiation with the men immediately with respect to all deserving cases, that is, men without food and shelter who cannot establish domicile and secure relief or employment at other points; and, I urge that some temporary provision be made until satisfactory employment projects are worked out in consultation with the provincial authorities.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OP SINGLE
Sub-subtopic:   UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-STATEMENT OF MR. MACINNIS
Permalink
CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. H. H. STEVENS (Kootenay East):

Before the minister deals with the question I should like to make one or two observations. A moment ago the minister said that the government would not be influenced by demonstrations. As a matter of fact during the last four or five years the history of this unemployment problem has shown that the government has been influenced by demonstrations. It was not until after a considerable demonstration last autumn that there was a reopening of the camps and some forestry work supplied. Then we had the very tragic case of the Regina riots. I think it was in 1935 that there were riots in Vancouver, when five thousand men marched through the Hudson's Bay store and did considerable damage, though much less than one probably would expect under the circumstances. But it has been as a result of demonstrations of this kind that action has been taken.

As a matter of fact we are training these men to demonstrate; that is the unfortunate part of it. We have known, the minister has known, the province of British Columbia has known, and the country generally has known, that these men began to congregate in Vancouver after the camps were closed on May 1, a matter of two or three weeks ago. The time to have anticipated this trouble was a couple of weeks ago, but now that the men have taken possession of a large hotel-and it is a large hotel-and of the post office, it becomes a pretty serious matter. The strange part of the whole thing is that where these men have demonstrated, either in these circumstances or at other times, comparatively speaking the demonstration has been orderly. These men are learning that it is better to do it in that way, but the long and short of it is that all they want is a job.

A moment ago the minister said-and I ask him to correct me if I am wrong, because I noted his observation-that some 2,500 men had gone out of the camps and many of them

51952-198i

apparently had found work. He cited that, to use his own words, as an indication that these men have other means of finding work.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OP SINGLE
Sub-subtopic:   UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-STATEMENT OF MR. MACINNIS
Permalink
LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

I said employment or shelter.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OP SINGLE
Sub-subtopic:   UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-STATEMENT OF MR. MACINNIS
Permalink
CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

But they have not; that has been demonstrated clearly. We know that not only in this instance but at other times in the past men of this class-in this case some 1,500, last fall a couple of thousand and numbers running on other occasions into several thousands-had no shelter and no food until citizens, and very responsible citizens, acted on their behalf. Steps were taken by boards of trade and others; on two or three occasions the clergy of the city of Vancouver sent forward urgent appeals, and it was not until after appeals by organized groups of citizens, apart from the men themselves, that action was taken and food and shelter supplied. Then we had the tin canners, as we called them-men standing on street corners holding tin cans trying to get enough money for food. I stated in the house, I think last session, that I had personally investigated a number of these cases. I talked to the men and inquired into their circumstances, where they came from, and so forth, and as far as I could judge-and I am a fair judge of men of this type-I did not find a case where the man was not entitled to the opportunity to work. In other words he was not what we commonly call, in crude language, a " bum " or a vagrant. He was a man out of work, though wanting work and willing to work. I will not say they are all that way, because we know there is always a certain type which will enter into a demonstration of that kind. But I would say that ninety per cent of them, and probably more, are simply men who want jobs.

Another observation of the minister which I think cannot be allowed to pass without some measure of challenge was to the effect that the maintenance of order is the duty of the police. Technically and constitutionally speaking that is true. But what are the police of a city like Vancouver to do when one or two thousand men gather together in a body to make a demonstration? The only crime they are committing is that they are hungry and have no shelter. I submit that the police, who after all are human beings with human feelings, know that these fellows are not criminals. They know these unemployed men are not trying to break the law. Naturally the police stand by. Certainly they stand by until something in the nature of a riot happens. But what a terrible thing a riot is! I suppose most hon. members have had some experience with them. Unfortunately in the last number of years we have had several in Vancouver.

Unemployed, Men in Vancouver

Riots occurred when men reached the point where their anger got the better of them; all restraint was gone and we had angry mobs.

I do not know of anything more terrifying than an angry mob.

We do not want these men to be reduced to a condition where the police will have to use their batons to maintain order or to oust them from some shelter. No one will justify their taking possession of a hotel. But I suppose the obvious answer would be: Where can we go? The local people say, "We are willing to take care of our share of the unemployed." The provincial authorities say, "We are willing to take care of our people." But a census has been taken and it is shown -I understand the minister has the precise figures-that at least 1,500 are men who have domiciles elsewhere, who do not belong to British Columbia at all, and have no real claim upon that province. But they are there. They have been in the camps all winter, and it is not fair simply to say to the police of Vancouver, "Your duty is to maintain order." They know that. And it is not fair to say to the government of British Columbia, "It is your task to take care of these unemployed."

The minister said a moment ago that he had made certain provision by items in the estimates; I suppose he meant the supplementary estimates-in fact he said he meant the supplementary estimates. Let us look at those items; let us see where he is going to provide for this emergency which is immediately before us. The first item is "To provide for commitments under relief settlement agreements with provincial governments." That item cannot be drawn on.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OP SINGLE
Sub-subtopic:   UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-STATEMENT OF MR. MACINNIS
Permalink
LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

May I correct the hon. member?-because I know he wishes to get at the truth. I referred to the supplementary estimates in general. As he knows, there are expenditures under various departments including a number of larger items which are not assigned to particular projects or areas. So that in whatever the hon. member is doing obviously he should not confine himself to the estimates of the Department of Labour.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OP SINGLE
Sub-subtopic:   UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-STATEMENT OF MR. MACINNIS
Permalink
CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

That of course has some force. I was looking at the minister's own estimates.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OP SINGLE
Sub-subtopic:   UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-STATEMENT OF MR. MACINNIS
Permalink
LIB

Norman McLeod Rogers (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. ROGERS:

No; I was referring to the supplementary estimates generally.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OP SINGLE
Sub-subtopic:   UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-STATEMENT OF MR. MACINNIS
Permalink
CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

That rather amuses me, because I have had experience for a great many years with estimates, both in putting them through and in criticizing others who have been trying to put them through. I have

read over these estimates; I believe they convey about as much to me as they do to any other hon. member, and I imagine one can look closely and with microscopic care without finding very much in them which would meet the present situation. I find page after page containing votes for wharves, buildings, and this, that and the other thing, distributing moneys very wisely, or with a great deal of skill-I shall put it that way-to the different constituencies. I imagine a number of members will feel more or less pleased when they see the contributions made to their ridings in these estimates. But if we were to say to the 1,500 hungry men in the city of Vancouver that somewhere hidden away among these pages there is an estimate in which some money can be found to deal with their case, I imagine they would not be satisfied. The minister has failed to meet the emergency; not only has he failed, but he has repudiated responsibility. The position which I mentioned earlier in the session is the one which has been taken right along. I am not fastening this particularly on the minister, because I know the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) takes and the former government took the same position, namely, that the responsibility rests upon the provinces and municipalities. That is the constitutional position, and I am not disputing it. But when you come to an emergency of this kind it is of little value to say to 1,500 hungry, destitute and homeless men that "the constitution does not permit us to do anything."

We cannot wait for the Rowell commission. Representations have been pouring in to the commission from every province in Canada, from almost every city the commission has visited-some of them on this very point, namely, the inability of municipalities and provinces to carry the burden of relief. They have not the resources. We might as well face the issue.

But the thing which disappointed me to-day was the stand taken by the minister. He takes a defeatist attitude, an attitude which does not recognize the fact that we have not yet approached a solution of the problem. We have not seriously attacked the problem or thought out a solution.

Topic:   UNEMPLOYMENT
Subtopic:   CONCENTRATION OP SINGLE
Sub-subtopic:   UNEMPLOYED MEN IN VANCOUVER-STATEMENT OF MR. MACINNIS
Permalink

May 23, 1938