July 28, 1942

LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

Certainly it was his right. An invitation was issued to everyone who had anything to contribute to the commission to give it. The commision counsel could have called him, or the government counsel or Colonel Drew could have called him.

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PC

George Russell Boucher

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BOUCHER:

Was he called? *

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

I am not certain whether he was called or not. I was present at only three hearings.

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PC

George Russell Boucher

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BOUCHER:

Condemned without a hearing is what it amounts to.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

The action taken with regard to General Schmidlin was taken before the commisioner's hearing was held. That action was taken by the department and it was taken not as a result of the commissioner's hearing and not as a result of any charge.

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PC

George Russell Boucher

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BOUCHER:

Is there any excuse for his not having been heard?

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

I am talking about the commissioner's hearing; I am not responsible for that. I am saying that I as head of the department investigated this matter that concerned General Schmidlin and I took the action which I described last night before the commissioner's hearing was held at all. The matter of his being called before the commissioner's hearing is quite another thing. My hon. friend seems to think that the action taken with regard to General Schmidlin was taken because of some condemnation by the commissioner's hearing. Whatever fault was found with General Schmidlin was found by me in the department before the commissioner's hearing.

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George Russell Boucher

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BOUCHER:

The minister is intimating that I suggested that fault was found with General Schmidlin at the hearing. I

have already shown that General Schmidlin does not appear to have been called or to have been mentioned in the report.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

My hon. friend said that General Schmidlin had been condemned without a hearing, which meant that in some way or other the report said something about him. I am saying to my hon. friend that General Schmidlin was dealt with in the department.

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PC

George Russell Boucher

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BOUCHER:

This report seems to indicate that General Schmidlin was never down there. Furthermore, the report, so far as I can see, has not the slightest intimation of condemnation of General Schmidlin, but the fact remains that General Schmidlin was relieved of his post without having given evidence at the hearing, whereas his knowledge in my opinion was apropos.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

He was relieved of his post before there was any commissioner's hearing, before there could be any opportunity for him to give evidence at that hearing.

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PC

George Russell Boucher

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BOUCHER:

Why was he?

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

I stated last night that it was a departmental matter, a matter of my own judgment with regard to the responsibilities of officers. I do not have to wait for a commissioner's hearing in order to take what action I think is necessary.

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PC

George Russell Boucher

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BOUCHER:

Was General Schmidlin relieved of his post before the hearing because of his mismanagement of the Hong Kong expedition transportation?

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

I said that I had gone into the matter myself, that I considered not just this matter taken by itself and that I considered this was a case where departmental officers should be impressed with their responsibilities and should carry them out. I was convinced that running all through this thing was the responsibility of the quartermaster-general's department. I felt that responsibility had not been fully taken, had not been fully carried out, and I suggested, not that the most drastic action should be taken but that General Schmidlin be offered a post somewhere else for the good of the service. He was offered a district which he declined, and he was retired at his own request.

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George Russell Boucher

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BOUCHER:

The minister has been quite fair in saying that he relieved General Schmidlin of his post because of his misfeasance or nonfeasance, but he was not called before the commission.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

I had nothing to do with calling anybody before the commission. This commission was being run by the commissioner

Hong Kong Inquiry

or by the commission, counsel. I gave as little time and attention to the hearings of the commission as possible. If I was going to run the department, I had to run it and mind my own business. I appeared before the commission when the time came for me to be there. I had officers attending the commission. The department was dislocated enough without my taking the responsibility for considering what witnesses should or should not be called before the commissioner. That was a matter for the commissioner, and he had able counsel to assist him. If there was any lack in that respect-and I am sure there was not-I should think it would be supplied by the fact that the leader of the opposition also had nominated counsel to assist in any way, and the government had nominated counsel for the same purpose.

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George Russell Boucher

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BOUCHER:

I shall not labour the point any further.

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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. CRUICKSHANK:

Why did you not ask Colonel Drew?

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PC

George Russell Boucher

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BOUCHER:

My answer to that is that if Colonel Drew were to write me I would not be permitted to put in evidence before this house anything he said.

Let us look at this thing, Mr. Speaker, from the point of view of the man on the street. Here we have an inquiry into the Hong Kong expedition and the commissioner himself says that he is restricted because of war requirements in the evidence he can receive. I do not quarrel with that.

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July 28, 1942