March 9, 1939

CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

Was all the money

expended under this legislation provided by the federal government, or did the provinces and the municipalities subscribe anything?

Topic:   WAYS AND MEANS
Subtopic:   PRAIRIE FARM REHABILITATION
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO EXTEND PERIOD OF OPERATION OF ACT, ETC.
Permalink
LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Mr. GARDINER:

All the money expended under this legislation was provided by the federal government.

Resolution reported, read the second time and concurred in. Mr. Gardiner thereupon moved for leave to introduce Bill No. 36, to amend the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act.

Motion agreed to and bill read the first time.

Topic:   WAYS AND MEANS
Subtopic:   PRAIRIE FARM REHABILITATION
Sub-subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO EXTEND PERIOD OF OPERATION OF ACT, ETC.
Permalink

PENSION ACT

ABOLITION OF PENSION APPEAL COURT AND EXTENSION OF TIME FOR PENSION APPLICATIONS


Hon. C. G. POWER (Minister of Pensions and National Health) moved the second reading of Bill No. 6, to amend the Pension Act.


CON

Howard Charles Green

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. H. C. GREEN (Vancouver South):

Mr. Speaker, to-night I am disappointed that the Minister of Pensions and National Health did not explain this bill because soldier legislation is of great interest to all members of the house and is hard to understand unless one has followed soldier problems closely. It must be particularly difficult for those members who are not veterans, and after all there are only about thirty-five members of this present parliament who served overseas. For these reasons I think the minister might have taken the time to explain to the house exactly what this bill purports to do.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   ABOLITION OF PENSION APPEAL COURT AND EXTENSION OF TIME FOR PENSION APPLICATIONS
Permalink
LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

He did on the resolution

and first reading of the bill.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   ABOLITION OF PENSION APPEAL COURT AND EXTENSION OF TIME FOR PENSION APPLICATIONS
Permalink
CON

Howard Charles Green

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GREEN:

It was not a long explanation.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   ABOLITION OF PENSION APPEAL COURT AND EXTENSION OF TIME FOR PENSION APPLICATIONS
Permalink
LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I thought my hon. friends

were intelligent enough to understand it.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   ABOLITION OF PENSION APPEAL COURT AND EXTENSION OF TIME FOR PENSION APPLICATIONS
Permalink
CON

Howard Charles Green

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GREEN:

I am afraid the minister

overestimated our intelligence.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   ABOLITION OF PENSION APPEAL COURT AND EXTENSION OF TIME FOR PENSION APPLICATIONS
Permalink
LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

He knows he did.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   ABOLITION OF PENSION APPEAL COURT AND EXTENSION OF TIME FOR PENSION APPLICATIONS
Permalink
CON

Howard Charles Green

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GREEN:

The Pension Act is the

charter of the veteran who was disabled on service, and of his dependents, but these amendments directly concern not only those veterans who are drawing pensions but also those who in the future will be able to prove that they have suffered disability as a result of their service.

This charter, the Pension Act, has been amended only once before by this parliament, and that was in 1936 at our first session. Then it was amended only after a most careful and searching investigation by a special committee on pensions and returned soldier problems. That special committee heard representations by soldier bodies; they heard evidence from departmental officials; they studied the bills which were placed before the house at that time; and they brought in a unanimous report in so far as amendments to the Pension Act were concerned.

That committee was composed practically entirely of veterans, and I think members on the other side of the house will agree with

Pension Act Amendment

me when I say that we left politics outside the door of that committee and considered soldier problems on a non-partisan basis.

I suggest to the minister to-night that this could be done again now, and that it is greatly to be desired. I suggest that the same procedure be followed in regard to this pension bill we are now considering and also in regard to all the present-day returned soldier problems. I do not think it is fair to the returned soldiers of Canada that legislation of this type should be rushed through without being given due consideration, and I urge strongly to-night that this bill be sent to such a special committee because the bill does not meet the present situation. It does not meet obvious defects in our pension law, and now that the Pension Act is being opened up, all these defects should be remedied.

The bill does only two things. First of all, it abolishes the pension appeal court, and I think the government are to be commended for providing for its abolition. The last report of the Department of Pensions and National Health gives, at page 77, the figures of the findings of the pension appeal court during the fiscal year ending March 31, 1938, and we find these figures startling.

During that fiscal year the appeal court rendered 2,363 decisions on appeal. Of that number only nineteen appeals by veterans were granted, and twenty-three cases were sent back for rehearing. In other words, in about forty cases only out of over 2,300, the veteran either won his appeal or had a chance of gaining a pension on a rehearing. But against that, the crown, in other words the government, won seventeen appeals. There were seventeen crown appeals allowed as against nineteen appeals by the veterans across Canada, and there were sixteen crown cases sent back for rehearing. So that during the year the pension appeal court has not been of very great benefit; in fact, one might say it has been of no benefit at all, to the veterans of Canada.

Under this bill the appeal court is to be replaced by appeal boards of the pension commission. These appeal boards will take the place of the present quorums of the penr sion commission, and according to the bill are to consist of three members instead of two, which is the number making up the quorums at the present time. These new appeal boards will sit not in Ottawa alone, as is the case with the present appeal court, but in the different large centres of Canada. I think this is a splendid move because the boards will have the great advantage of seeing and hearing most of the applicants, and on the other side of the picture the applicants

will have more confidence in these appeal boards than they have at the present time in a court which sits at Ottawa.

Another thing which is done by this bill No. 6-and I repeat that this bill touches only two problems-is that it extends the deadline for pension applications by veterans who served in a theatre of war, from January 1, 1940, to January 1, 1942.

For the benefit of those members who have not followed soldier legislation, there was no deadline prior to 1936. In that year when the Pension Act was amended, parliament set July 1, 1936, as the deadline for applications by veterans who served only in England or Canada, and January 1, 1940, as the deadline for the others, in other words, for the front line men. In respect of this latter class there was a discretion given to the pension commission to grant leave to apply for a pension even after the deadline had gone into effect. It will be found in the present section 12A, paragraph (b). Section 12A starts by saying that:

A pension for disability of a member of the forces, shall not be awarded unless application therefor has been made-

Then follows paragraph (a), which provides for the man who did not serve in a theatre of war; paragraph (b), reads as follows:

(b) before the first day of January, 1940, with respect to a member of the forces who saw service in a theatre of actual war, provided always that the commission may, in its discretion, with respect to this class, grant leave to have the application entertained after the first day of January, 1940.

At that time, in the committee which met in 1936, strong objection was taken to there being a deadline for the fighting men. I would point out to members of the house that each year it becomes more difficult for these veterans to prove their claims. They have to trace their disability back to the war, and each year it is more difficult to do that. The number of applications is dropping year after year; we find, for instance, that in the fiscal year 1934-35 there were 15,122 applications for pension; in the fiscal year 1935-36 that number had dropped to 11,216; in 1936-37 it fell to 11,096, and in the last year of which we have a record, the fiscal year 1937-38, the number was 10,450, or a further drop of 646 applications.

Then there is this fact to be remembered with regard to a deadline, that most of the applicants will be men who were actually wounded overseas. There are thousands and thousands of Canadians who were wounded overseas but are not yet drawing a pension.

Pension Act Amendment

From time to time they break down from their disabilities; and I do not think any additional restriction should be placed upon the opportunity of men of that type to get a pension. They should not have this additional handicap of being required first to go to the commission and convince it that it should exercise its discretion to allow them to apply for a pension. Such discretion may be exercised freely. It will depend a great deal on the members of the commission. But certainly the deadline means some restriction on the obtaining of a pension and I submit to this house that there should be no deadline for the fighting men.

Bill No. 6 extends it until after the next election; the deadline is extended to January 1, 1942, which means that the act will probably have to be reopened again in 1941.

Those are the two things which are done by this bill. But there are other defects in the Pension Act which Bill No. 6 does not touch at all. I have no doubt that practically every hon. member in this chamber to-night has run across cases of the classes I am going to recite.

First of all, under the present Pension Act, section 77, no pension is payable in respect of the child of a pensioner born after May 1, 1933. In other words, if a pensioner has children born before May 1, 1933, he draws an allowance for them until they are sixteen years of age; but if he has children born after that date he cannot draw any allowance for such children. That means there is a split family; the allowance is paid for some children and not for others. It also means discrimination as between the old and the young pensioners. I thought the position was very clearly set forth in a letter which I received a few weeks ago from a pensioner in British Columbia. He says;

I am a disabled veteran sixty per cent, gun shot wounds leg and foot, three years five months in hospital, was married after 1933. Now I have two children. My last child was born without doctor or even nurse. I am healthy in body and mind. Now is it justice 1 should be penalized just because I was married after 1933. My wife has to go out selling laces from door to door.

There is no justice in that situation. There is no rhyme or reason for it, and if the people of Canada realized that such a situation existed, I do not believe they would stand for it.

Another defect in the present act is that no pension is payable in respect of the wife of a pensioner married on or after that same date. May 1, 1933. That again means discrimination, particularly as between the old and the young pensioner. The women married after that date deserve the allowance.

There is no justification for denying it. It would not open the way to deathbed marriages such as apparently occurred after the American civil war. It would not allow things like that to be done because the provision would apply not to a widow but only to the wife of a pensioner.

A third defect, probably the most serious of all, is that no pension after death is payable to the widow of a pensioner unless (1) he dies of his pensionable disability, or (2) was a pensioner drawing a pension of eighty per cent or over. I can best illustrate that situation in this way. Suppose a man is drawing a fifty per cent pension for a leg wound or any other disability: unless he dies of that disability his widow gets no pension. If he is unfortunate enough to be run over by a street-car his widow is just out of luck. Many of these widows of pensioners are in a desperate plight. There is little possibility of many pensioners providing for the proper care of their wives in the event of the husband's death, and I suggest that the Pension Act should be amended at this session. This matter should not be

allowed to drift any longer. For example, the act might be amended to give the pension commission power in needy cases to pay the whole or at least a portion of the pension for death to the pensioner's widow. Under the present War Veterans' Allowance Act, which covers a class of men who cannot trace their disabilities to war service, the whole or at least a portion of the war veteran's allowance can be paid to the widow of the recipient for the period of a year. That is in section 9 of the act, which reads:

After the death of any recipient an amount not exceeding the sum of twelve monthly instalments of the allowance which the recipient was receiving at the time of his death may, at the discretion of the board, be paid to his widow or for the benefit of any child.

Yet that cannot be done in the case of a pensioner. Unless the widow of a pensioner can show entitlement to pension for death, she cannot get any payment at all after her husband's death; she is just cut off and left to fend for herself.

A fourth defect in the present act-and I intend to refer this evening only to these four-has to do with nerve and mental cases. Medical members of the house will be glad to learn that this situation has been caused by medical experts. They have decided that many nerve or mental troubles are congenital defects; in other words, they are defects from birth and not caused by war service. For example, if a soldier has a bad nervous break-

down, under these medical findings it is because he was bom to have it and not because of the alarms, the sufferings and the hardships of the war. Hence no pension is payable in many cases, in fact in far too many of these nerve cases. I cannot under- -stand it; it is beyond me; it is a matter of medical opinion. But these pensions are withheld because of the way in which the Pension Act reads. I refer hon. members to section 11, subsection 1(b), which is as follows:

No deduction shall be made from the degree of actual disability of any member of the forces who has served in a theatre of actual war on account of any disability or disabling condition which existed in him at the time at which he became a member of the forces; but-

And it is always these "buts" which cause the trouble.

-no pension shall be-paid for a disability or disabling condition which at such time was wilfully concealed, was obvious, was not of a nature to cause rejection from service, or was a congenital defect.

The trouble is that the doctors hold that these nerve troubles are a congenital defect. In 1936 we proposed an amendment to that section by adding these words, "of a nature other than mental, neuropathic or psychopathic," which I think would get over the difficulty. We could not, however, have that amendment accepted by the committee.

These are the main defects in the act. There may be others, and the whole act should be carefully reviewed and brought up to date now. Perhaps we could get finality if this were done, and it would not be necessary to tinker further with the act. Certainly every soldier in Canada will be glad when the act is finally brought to completion. Under the proposed bill No. 6, however, we cannot get finality, we cannot stop tinkeiing, simply because the bill as presented does not touch at all some of the most urgent problems facing the pensioners of Canada to-day, and facing those soldiers who, while they may not be drawing a pension now, will, as time goes on, be able to show that they are entitled to do so.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   ABOLITION OF PENSION APPEAL COURT AND EXTENSION OF TIME FOR PENSION APPLICATIONS
Permalink
CON

Thomas Langton Church

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. T. L. CHURCH (Broadview):

have been what they were when the South African war and the great war broke out. These veterans of 1885 now respectfully ask that the government place them on the same footing and terms, also conditions, as the South African veterans. There must be many South African veterans now living, over seventy years of age, who will come under the federal government's pension scheme. The veterans of 1885 are all over seventy years of age and they could apply for old age pension ; but under this heading, if they so applied and they had a case which by extraordinary effort they were able to prove, it would be necessary for them to assign their property to the old age pension board, and if that property were sold or disposed of, the money so loaned would have to be repaid to the board out of the purchase money, which to a greater or less extent might cripple them.

The Ontario pension board would only pay the $20 monthly, with no further allowance for married men. Many of these men are suffering great hardships rather than come under the stigma and humiliation of accepting an old age pension.

It is eleven o'clock and I move the adjournment of the debate.

Motion agreed to and debate adjourned. TRADE AGREEMENTS

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   ABOLITION OF PENSION APPEAL COURT AND EXTENSION OF TIME FOR PENSION APPLICATIONS
Permalink

CANADA-UNITED STATES-TABULAR STATEMENT OF TARIFF CHANGES

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):

With the consent of the

house, I should like to lay on the table a tabular statement both in English and in French of tariff changes resulting from the Canada-United States trade agreement. This will be helpful to the committee.

Topic:   CANADA-UNITED STATES-TABULAR STATEMENT OF TARIFF CHANGES
Permalink
CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

Will it be distributed?

Topic:   CANADA-UNITED STATES-TABULAR STATEMENT OF TARIFF CHANGES
Permalink
LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

It is for distribution to members of the house.

Topic:   CANADA-UNITED STATES-TABULAR STATEMENT OF TARIFF CHANGES
Permalink

At eleven o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order. Friday, March 10, 1939


March 9, 1939