May 11, 1942

CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

The minister

has not yet answered the question I put to him before supper, and one which I asked the

Minister of National Defence some time ago. I asked what happens to the men who were called to report on April 9. My interest is not that of having any man kept out of training, if he ought to be in training. My interest is that the whole question of calling up men for military service shall be as fair and impartial as possible, so that people will not feel that there is any discrimination, or that any particular person or group of persons is being penalized.

With reference to the men called on April 9, there was a piece of serious muddling somewhere. I do not know who was responsible. However, I am asking the minister to look at the facts. Order in council P.C. 2252 was passed on March 23 and tabled in the house on March 24. It was passed along with other orders in council. They were not generally made known throughout the country until March 25. The minister knows just as well as anyone that there are hundreds of little hamlets throughout Canada where the people get their mail only once a week. There are thousands of people, particularly in western Canada, who do not get even a weekly paper. Many of these people knew absolutely nothing about the new regulation. Those who . did know did not properly understand it. As a matter of fact, the newspapers generally inferred that the exemption for men on the farms was automatic. Proof of that is that the minister himself subsequently issued a press release trying to clarify the situation.

Even those who did understand the regulations were in a quandary. When I returned home for the Easter recess many of these men came to me, or called me by telephone. They were men who had made applications for postponement, but who had been refused postponements on the ground of the regulations as they existed prior to March 23. I telephoned the board and they said, "Why, not only can we not consider postponements under the new regulations, but we have hundreds of applications for postponements under the regulations as they were before March 23, and we have not been able to reach them yet." Some of those cases were still being heard on the morning of April 9. Some men were granted postponements, turned round and went back home.

The other evening I asked the Minister of National Defence a question along this line, and his reply was much the same as that made a little while ago by the Minister of National War Services. The Minister of National Defence said at that time, as reported at page 2154 of Hansard:

He should have made his claim then. The rule is that if he does, and shows that he was wholly or partly engaged in agriculture at

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that time, the burden is on someone else, I suppose the army authorities or the Department of National War Services, itself, to show that he was still, even though wholly or mainly engaged in agriculture, not essential thereto.

I "do not know why he has not made that application. Perhaps he has.

Then he went on to say:

If he has not made that application and has gone into the service he may still apply to the commanding officer, who will refer the application to the board through the district officer commanding.

But that is a totally different thing. Then the minister is reported as follows, on the next page of Hansard:

My hon. friend is under a misapprehension when he speaks of a provision having been made. The only provision which has been made is the provision that when an application is made for compassionate leave-not for seeding, but for leave under special circumstances- the commanding officer makes a recommendation, whatever it may be, and passes it on to the district officer commanding, who sends it to the board.

These are two different things: the one-postponement from military service; the other-leave on compassionate grounds for a

stated period of time.

I would not want these men to feel that they had been misled by anybody. But they made reference to members of parliament and to the board, and said, "We have been called. Some of us have asked for postponement and have been refused. Some of us did not ask for postponement because, under the regulations as they existed prior to April 23, we were not eligible. Now comes a new postponement, two weeks before we are due to report. What are we to do?" In every case they were told, "Unless you get word not to report, you should report. Otherwise you are liable for action under the war services regulations." These men came in and reported. If some young man stayed at home and said, "I am not going to report until I have had a decision regarding my application under the new regulations for indefinite postponement", he still has a chance to get a postponement. But these other men are now out of the jurisdiction of the Department of National War Services and under the jurisdiction of the Department of National Defence. They cannot obtain postponements now. But they can apply on compassionate grounds for leave to do spring work. It'is a pretty serious situation. In some ways these men were almost enticed into Regina under false pretences. They were brought there under the impression that it was impossible now to apply for leave under the new regulations.

The secretary of the board told me frankly, "We have hundreds of applications made

under the old regulations. We cannot begin to deal with the new regulations at the present time." Yet, according to both the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of National War Services, these men were eligible to make application. Nevertheless the board was not in a position to hear their applications or proceed with their cases.

I believe with reference to this group that something ought to be done. Either the regulations passed on March 23 should have been held over until after April 9, or they should have been brought down early enough so that these men would have had some opportunity to make their representations to the board. It is a serious matter for the men, because this is not a matter of training for thirty days or even for four months. It is a matter of service until the end of the war. I believe the impression will be prevalent in some quarters that these men were called in and told to report without being informed, as they should have been, that they had the right to make an appeal for postponement.

One other question I should like to ask the minister has to do with the press release. He says that, a definite change has taken place with respect to this order in council. I am not clear as to where the fundamental change is. As the regulation stood prior to March 23, if a man were called he had the right to make an application for postponement on certain grounds. The onus was on him to prove that he had the right to such postponement. The board was to decide, and its decision was final. It seems to me the change is that instead of the man having to satisfy the board as to his right to postponement, the board must satisfy itself that he has that right.

The minister said a little while ago that these regulations were mandatory. They are mandatory only on the board to satisfy itself. It is the prosecuting attorney and the judge.

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LIB

Joseph Thorarinn Thorson (Minister of National War Services)

Liberal

Mr. TIIORSON:

I may say that it is mandatory upon the board to grant the postponement order, whereas previously the granting of a postponement order was within the discretion of the board.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

It is only mandatory [DOT] upon the board to grant a postponement order if the board is satisfied that it should be issued. In other words, the decision is still with the board; the onus is not on the board to do anything except satisfy itself that the man does or does not deserve postponement. It seems to me that there has been no fundamental change at all, the situation is exactly as it was before except probably that the board has a wider basis for

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granting postponement. Whereas before it granted postponements only on compassionate grounds, where it could be shown that it worked a hardship on a man's family if he were taken away, because the father and mother were incapable of carrying on-[DOT]

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LIB

Joseph Thorarinn Thorson (Minister of National War Services)

Liberal

Mr. THORSON:

Has the hon. member forgotten section 14, that it is in the national interest? Applications for postponement are not granted solely on the basis of hardship on the applicant.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

It has been granted in many cases for that reason. It was granted in a particular case where a father already had three sons overseas and they were taking his last son. The father was blind, and the board decided to grant a postponement because they felt it was warranted. I think that was quite fair and proper. The only difference is that it has been placed on a more factual basis. I am not complaining about that, but I do not think the minister is correct when he says that there has been a fundamental change. There has been no fundamental change. A man still has to apply to the board, and the board must still decide in its own wisdom, without any appeal, whether or not the man is essential to agriculture. There is no appeal; it is merely up to the man to prove, or for the board to disprove, that he is essential to agriculture. Personally I cannot see that any great change has "been made. I should like to ask the minister to give some consideration to those men who were called on April 9 but who were never properly informed about this regulation. Even if they had been properly informed, they were never given sufficient time to make proper representations to a board and have their cases heard, as they had a right to do under PC 2252.

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LIB

Joseph Thorarinn Thorson (Minister of National War Services)

Liberal

Mr. THORSON:

I shall be glad to take note of what my hon. friend has said, but I cannot add anything to what was said by the Minister of National Defence and what I stated this afternoon when the point was raised. There was nothing before the board after March 23 to indicate that the person desired to apply for postponement under the terms of that order.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

Did the

boards have these orders in council?

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LIB

Joseph Thorarinn Thorson (Minister of National War Services)

Liberal

Mr. THORSON:

Almost immediately after they were published.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

How many postponements were granted on the basis of these regulations?

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LIB

Joseph Thorarinn Thorson (Minister of National War Services)

Liberal

Mr. THORSON:

I would not have any return as yet on that particular subject. I have no doubt that a good many persons who were called to report on April 9 had not any intention of applying for. postponement.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

Many of

them had been rejected already.

Mr. j. IIORSON: Many had made their applications for postponement and had been rejected.

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CCF

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

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

Mr. DOUGLAS (Weyburn):

On the basis of the old regulations.

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LIB

Joseph Thorarinn Thorson (Minister of National War Services)

Liberal

Mr. THORSON:

On the basis of the old regulations. In the case of the western boards, the Saskatchewan board particularly, I think the record of performance in respect of applications for postponement from farmers indicates that they are fully seized of the importance of agriculture to the national economy. I filed tables showing the applications made. The tables show also the grounds of the applications and the extent to which they were granted or otherwise. I wonder whether there are as many cases as my hon. friend would indicate. I shall be glad to look into the question further. Thus far not many cases have been brought to my attention. The answer is the one I gave this afternoon, that the amendments apply to the person who makes the application under them and not otherwise.

_ Naturally there would be some confusion in view of the fact that the call was fixed for April 9 and the regulations were not announced until March 24. If the course suggested by the hon. member for Weyburn had been followed, namely, that we should have postponed the announcement of our regulations until the April call was filled, I am satisfied that a great many persons who have had the benefit of the regulations, if it is a benefit, would not have come under the regulations. Perhaps it is as broad as it is long. Whenever any change of this sort is made in procedure, a certain amount of adjustment must of necessity take place. Every effort was made to meet the situation and comply with the requisition that was sent from the Department of National Defence. I shall be glad to look into the question which my hon. friend has brought to my attention.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. CASTLEDEN:

Will the minister explain how the boards confirm any statements made to them by applicants for postponement?

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LIB

Joseph Thorarinn Thorson (Minister of National War Services)

Liberal

Mr. THORSON:

There is no fixed method, but there are various sources of information available to the board. Frequently a board is satisfied with an application on its merits, or it may inquire of prominent people in the

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district or make use of other reliable sources of information that are open. If the board thinks a case looks doubtful, it may refer the file for police investigation. There is no fixity about it. I think the beauty of the system is its flexibility and the informality with which the board deals with the applications.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. CASTLEDEN:

I think too much flexibility might not work in the best interests of the applicants and the country. You must be careful who the informants are and what the information is.

In the administration of the act there are several features which I think are objectionable and which lead to a degree of discrimination and therefore of injustice, which should be avoided. But it is perhaps only natural when things of this kind are done by order in council. This government has been an order in council government, and the objections to that have been numerous and very strongly expressed, certainly from this side of the house. What the hon. member for Weyburn said this evening is only too true. People are not familiar with the regulations; they are not familiar with the orders in council. Members of the house know from their own experience that it is difficult enough for them to try to keep up with all the orders in council that are being passed. Then press dispatches are put out, and there are press releases, and amendments to the regulations. People do not know the regulations, and certainly they do not understand the procedure. I have found in my own experience that a vast number of people who have been called up have no idea how they should proceed in presenting their case before the board. The boards are not sufficiently approachable, and the recruits do not understand their rights and privileges.

One of the main tasks of a department that is being administered as this one is, with orders in council constantly changing the basis of approach to the problem, is to see that the people are completely informed. There seems - to be a lack of imagination on the part of some officials to realize that many of these people who are being called up do not read very much, and that there are people of different languages and different races who cannot read the English language any too well. The department should do more towards informing these people fully and seeing that abuses do not arise. In the house this evening we have had recorded a serious case where one kind of justice was meted out to a man who could hire a lawyer to conduct his case and where a different decision had been handed out when the man had presented his own case. Was that not the case that was

presented here this evening, the case of a man who failed when making his own application for postponement which was afterwards granted when a lawyer appeared for him? The facts of the case have not been denied.

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LIB
CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. CASTLEDEN:

The facts of the case were given very clearly, and there was certainly no indication that the administration was going to take any steps to remedy that situation. When there can be one law for those who have money to engage somebody to present their case for them, and another law for those who cannot afford to engage help, conditions in Canada are in a very serious state, and when that happens in the conscription of men it is a sad reflection on the administration. I am only saying what I am saying in the interests of having that fairness and even-handed justice which should prevail. If justice is not even-handed, it is not justice, and the duty of every member should be to see that everything is done to maintain justice.

I know personally of the case of a man on a half-section of land who applied for postponement and received it. He made a second application and got one month's postponement. He was then called up and further postponement was denied him. That man then had to go back to his farm, and he took all the stock he had into town and sold it for whatever he could get. His cattle were not finished, and he suffered a terrific loss. He had to abandon his farm, and the latest report I had was that no one was working that land. It was left without any cultivation and without any protection even for the buildings and machinery the man was forced to leave there.

Another case was brought to my attention of a man farming a large tract of land. His father had 900 acres of land under cultivation, also 100 head of cattle and thirty-five head of horses. The father was fifty-eight years of age, and the boy, twenty-four years old, had been most useful in operating the farm. He understood how to run a tractor, and he was really a key-man in agriculture if anyone can be considered such. That boy made application for postponement. He probably could not present his case as well as he might have done had he had more education and been more familiar with the English language. His efforts to get a postponement were not successful. He was called up, and the father was left to operate the farm as best he could. These are actual cases where men have been called up. I only hope that where there is less ground for postponement than in these cases, the applications have not been granted.

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There are one or two constructive suggestions I should like to leave with the minister. First of all, I would say: Keep the people informed and see that all those who are liable to be called are fully informed as to their rights and privileges. Second, I would say that the boards should be made more approachable, more easily accessible. Third, they should be enlarged. Other persons than employers might be permitted to present the case for any man. The instructions that are sent out to those being called up should be complete and in full detail. There should also be some form of central board of appeal from the decisions of the local boards. I know the minister says that it is entirely up to the boards of the various provinces. The reason why I have not brought more of these matters to the attention of the minister has been that his attitude has been that it is entirely the responsibility of the various provinieal boards.

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LIB
CCF

George Hugh Castleden

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

Mr. CASTLEDEN:

I also say this, that in cases where men are called up, the period in which they might be granted the right to appeal their case should be extended beyond what it is at the present time.

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May 11, 1942