May 31, 1943

LIB

Manley Justin Edwards

Liberal

Mr. EDWARDS:

In reference to what the hon. member for Temiscouata has just said, because a man happens to be anti-nazi it does not necessarily follow that he is pro-ally. There are some rather big internment operations in my part of the country, and it is known that within the confines of the internment camp the nazi party rules with an iron hand. They have their gestapo within the camp. It is not difficult to imagine that among those who fought us on the fields of battle, whether in North Africa or elsewhere, there are those who do not subscribe to the principles of the nazi party, and I believe that upon the discovery of such in the internment camps these same anti-nazis are given a very difficult time. But that does not put them in any different category; they are still enemies of the allied nations.

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LIB
LIB

Manley Justin Edwards

Liberal

Mr. EDWARDS:

Well, after all, they buy their beer with their own money. So far as I know, there is no restriction upon what an interned soldier can buy in Canada, in

Great Britain or in Germany with those funds which are provided to him by the interning country, whichever it may be. In other words, Canadian soldiers interned in Germany in the last war could spend what money they had available to them for luxuries or niceties such as they were able to purchase or the country afforded, and I believe the same rule applies in Canada. I have heard the same comment in discussion in my part of the country. People were wondering why there were certain kinds of fruits and candies being bought by the internees. The explanation is very simple. Each of these interned German soldiers has a limited fund, ten or fifteen or twenty-five cents a day, that is paid to him, and if he sees fit to spend his ten or fifteen or twenty-five cents a day to buy beer or chewing gum or cigarettes or whatever else is available to him, there is no law of the land that would deny him the right to have it. I think that is recognized by all countries which are involved in this fight.

I rose, however, primarily, to direct a question to the minister with respect to a certain class of people with whose ideas I confess I have little sympathy, but for whose religious convictions, if they are in truth founded on beliefs of the mind or the spirit or the heart, I have every respect. I refer to the so-called conscientious objectors, more familiarly known as the "conchies". In the section of the country to the west of me we had camps where men of this category were interned or required to do alternative service. I think even the devil is entitled to his due; and while I hold no brief for the conscientious objectors as such, I was pleased, indeed I was astounded, to learn at first hand of the favourable impression which these so-called conscientious objectors created in the minds of those who were charged with their internment. I was told and have every reason to believe that they were doing excellent work, work which in Canada has a money value of three or four or five dollars a day.

But my inquiries led me farther afield, and have prompted me to raise this question in the committee. I was told by not a few officers and men who are in charge of these internment operations and learned as a result of interviews with several internees, that these people would like to be allowed to make a contribution to the winning of the war if there could be found for them a

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niche which would not necessitate the violating of their consciences by requiring them to carry arms and take the lives of their fellow men. They have no conscientious objection to engaging in any of these auxiliary services contributory to the winning of the war; the one point at which they draw the line is that they will not deliberately and consciously take the life of a human being, be he friend or foe. Having regard1 to the constitution of the modern army, I have been wondering whether, among the hundreds of thousands of men required in the armed services, there is not a place where these men, who are good citizens and loyal Canadians and are sympathetic to our ideals, but have a firm conviction, founded on what, as they understand them, are orthodox Christian beliefs, that they should not take the lives of their fellow men, could usefully serve their king and country at this time.

I was told the situation had been met elsewhere. I find that in the United States, by presidential decree issued in 1941, the government recognizes two classes of conscientious objectors: those who are absolutely opposed to any kind of participation in warfare, whether by bearing arms or otherwise, and those who are willing to engage in any of the activities of war except that of taking the life of a fellow man. The head of the United States army, in conformity with the presidential decree, designated certain branches of the armed forces as non-combatant services; and I believe that last year over five thousand adherents of one sect alone, namely the Seventh Day Adventists, were regularly inducted into the United States army and are now wearing the uniform with pride and distinction. Only the other day I received a clipping of a citation of one of these Seventh Day Adventist soldiers for bravery at Guadalcanal. Surely somewhere in our armed forces there are places for such men. I find it difficult to believe that in every branch of the armed services men are required to carry arms.

It is with some hesitation I bring this matter before the committee and put the question squarely to the minister, whether there is not some way whereby the conscientious scruples of these men can be respected while enabling them to do a worth-while job in the armed services. In this connection I am aware that there is a little buck-passing going on, because whether or not a man is a conscientious objector is determined elsewhere than by the service departments. The Department of Labour, or national selective service, which the Department of Labour now administers, makes

that decision. I am a little afraid that a man who approaches that board claiming exemption as a conscientious objector goes to bat with three strikes against him. Are we being quite fair in this respect? To determine a man's medical fitness we employ medical advisers; to pass upon his engineering and trade qualifications we have boards of men who have spent their lives at this work and are competent to judge. I suggest that in matters involving conscientious scruples and objections founded on religious convictions, the ordinary civilian board may lack the requisite background and training to appreciate fully the problem upon which they are to pass judgment. It seems to me that men whose life work it has been to deal with problems of religion and conscientious scruples, or the reverse, might well be added to the board when it is required to pass judgment on a Canadian citizen who comes before it asking for special consideration on the grounds of conscientious objection. Ministers of the gospel are familiar with such matters, and one, if not two, might well be included in a board when it is required to pass on cases involving religious or conscientious scruples.

I commend to the favourable consideration of the committee and of the government, first, that boards dealing with conscientious objectors or those claiming on such grounds should be differently constituted from those dealing with national selective service under other conditions; and, second, that it should be possible to find some place in the Canadian army, navy or air force where a person, despite conscientious scruples in regard to the one matter of taking life, can make his contribution, as is done in the United States.

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LIB

Daniel (Dan) McIvor

Liberal

Mr. McIVOR:

I should like to ask the minister how many of the men who tried to escape from internment camps are now at large, if any are at large.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

I think there is only one; he was last heard of on the other side of the ocean.

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LIB

Daniel (Dan) McIvor

Liberal

Mr. McIVOR:

That shows two things, first, that the old soldier who wanted to get into the war and could not, on account of his age, has given outstanding service. To think that of all those who were interned on this side, only one is at large, and perhaps not even that one! It shows, too, that the Germans and Italians are not quite as clever as the British or French who can escape from a German camp, get away with it and get back into the war again.

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CCF

Joseph William Noseworthy

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

Mr. NOSEWORTHY:

There were one or two classes of people to whom I wished to refer, not at all by way of criticism of the government's policy, but because I question the wisdom of the course we are following at a time when man-power is badly needed. Reference has already been made to the refugee internees of whom the minister spoke. My information is that there are still a considerable number of these people whose history has been checked and with regard to whom there is no reason to believe that they should not be freed from internment and put to useful work. There are also, I am told, some who were released for a period of time and given jobs and who were taken back to these internment camps when the specified period of employment stopped. I have been told by people who have been in close touch with this question that a number of these people are being kept in these internment camps for the simple reason that the camp must be kept in operation. You cannot have a camp in operation and officers employed unless you have internees there. I have heard that from public-spirited citizens who have made a close study of the refugee problem. I think the minister might check that.

Then, concerning the conscientious objectors, I have had considerable correspondence with the Department of Labour, but very little satisfaction. I know personally two young men taken from Toronto university on the ground that they were conscientious objectors who would not go into the killing branch of the army, though they are quite willing to serve in any other capacity. One of these was a second year medical student and the other a third year medical student. They have asked to be permitted to do work in hospitals, orderly work or something of that kind, where their services can be used. I have correspondence from another, a graduate scientist, who is anxious to give his services in research work or in any other way in which he can be used, except to do actual fighting in the army.

There is another class, a religious group, who not only refuse active service but refuse alternate service, and they are sent to gaol. I have met a number of them, both before they were sentenced and afterwards. My story from their relatives is that they are put in solitary confinement for a given period, then brought out and asked if they are willing to join the army, and if they are not willing they are put back in solitary confinement. Some of them would be willing to serve in

essential industry or on farms if the government saw fit to release them for that purpose. The one freedom they want is to be permitted to preach the religion of their choice as they see it and believe it. Those I have known personally are harmless. One of them, for instance, was a railroad mechanic doing an excellent job on the railway. We take him and put him in solitary confinement, because, by reason of his religious scruples, he will not go into the army or into one of the alternate services. It seems to me that by using some intelligence we could utilize this man-power to better advantage without affecting the war effort in any way. There are these three classes, the class of refugee internees and the conscientious objectors. I am collecting more information on these three types of individuals. I am confident that these boys should be given service of some kind instead of cleaning up brush in an alternate service camp as at the present time. There are the conscientious objectors who have been sent to gaol. I wonder whether something can be done in this regard.

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CCF

Angus MacInnis

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

Mr. MacINNIS:

I support the hon. member for Calgary West (Mr. Edwards) and the hon. member for York South (Mr. Noseworthy) in what has been said about conscientious objectors. I think the attitude that is adopted toward these conscientious objectors is not a correct one. We first made [DOT]provision for conscientious objectors, and then we treat them as if they had violated the law. We treat them in some respects as criminals. Most conscientious objectors I have known are a very high type of citizen. We may not agree with their point of view or the attitude they take in the national emergency; nevertheless they are men of the highest character. I was impressed with this fact a few days ago when I got a letter from a conscientious objector who worked in a forestry camp in British Columbia. He told me that the treatment he received in the camp was everything that could be desired, that neither he nor any of the others had objections or could find fault with it. But this is what he said: "We feel that at this time when man-power is so badly needed we are really not doing very useful work here. Taking a long point of view, this forestry work may be very desirable, but it is not work that should be done now when there is essential work that we should be doing, which the country needs far more than this." He suggested that they should be transferred to agricultural work. In my opinion, the hon. member for Calgary West put the case

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very well indeed. We should try to utilize the services of these men in the interests of the country, and not be swayed by prejudices and intolerance. I know that some of the members of the boards investigating these cases, whatever their qualifications may be in other walks of life, certainly have not the proper qualifications to consider the cases of persons who are conscientious objectors. I believe the minister, in so far as he is able, will give the matter his attention. I support most heartily the point raised by the hon. member for Calgary West.

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NAT

Grote Stirling

National Government

Mr. STIRLING:

Are these conscientious

objectors not now being used on useful work within the parks?

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CCF

Angus MacInnis

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

Mr. MacINNIS:

To-day work within parks is not necessarily useful work, when the agricultural districts are requiring men, and when we are taking men out of the shipyards, and from many other kinds of work, to put them on the farms. To keep men in the parks filling up holes, then digging the holes again, and then filling them up is not making a proper use of man-power.

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NAT

Grote Stirling

National Government

Mr. STIRLING:

The hon. member disagrees with the kind of work in which they are engaged?

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CCF
PC

Agar Rodney Adamson

Progressive Conservative

Mr. ADAMSON:

I was glad to hear what the minister said respecting the possible utilization of persons-even in the armed forces-despite their being enemy aliens. As the minister may be aware, I have repeatedly disagreed with the policy of the government, and particularly that of the Department of National Defence, which operated on the premise that because a man was an alien, even though he might be naturalized after a certain period, there was no possibility of his being used in the armed forces.

I was instrumental in getting into the army one young man whose father was a German. He did extremely well, and was recommended for a commission. It was discovered eventually that he was of German parentage, and an attempt was made to have him discharged from the army. I am prepared to believe that that young man, as well as many others, was as loyal a Canadian as any hon. member in the house. The fact that a father happened to be born in Germany is no reason for damning a second or third generation.

I emphasize the point that after due investigation has been made-and we cannot be too careful-these people should be accepted. The simple basis of nationality is a false premise. It is wrong and even undemocratic to prevent a young man from fighting for his [Mr. MacInnis.J

adopted country, if he chooses to do so. A number have wished so to do, but as a result of the present regulations they have been prevented.

Elsewhere I have seen men whom I have known to be Germans, working in the imperial forces, and performing extremely valuable and confidential tasks. I was delighted to hear the minister's statement to-night, and I hope he will see to its enforcement in the department.

The forgotten man in the armed forces today is the man engaged in internment operations. I was glad to hear the hon. member for Fort William mention the veterans guard as being among those in charge of internment operations. There is no job in Canada as trying, as exasperating or as objectionable as looking after prisoners. And of all the prisoners the Germans are the most objectionable. Looking after them is a thankless and miserable job. The only thing that can happen to an internment guard is that he collects abuse, in the event of an escape. A hue and cry goes up, followed by a court of inquiry and occasionally a court-martial.

There have been escapes, and probably there will be more of them. We cannot help having some, when we are dealing with as large a number of interned prisoners as are now interned in Canada.

I think the minister should emphasize the fact that there have been very few escapes in Canada, whereas on the other hand, in respect of our fellows, I will not mention any number, but will say that at times there are hundreds of members of the British armed forces loose in enemy territory. I mention that only by way of comparison with our effort. I believe we have lost only one man. Von Werra secured a boat, crossed the St. Lawrence river and got back to Germany.

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LIB
PC

Agar Rodney Adamson

Progressive Conservative

Mr. ADAMSON:

No; he was lost from a train, and was subsequently killed on the Russian front. It cost the German government $25,000 for Von Werra to break his parole. He is the only one who got back to Germany. On the other hand, we read stories as to the numbers who have escaped, after being taken prisoners at the Dieppe and other operations.

The veterans' guard has to put up with the abuse of these sullen prisoners. A particularly objectionable feature was the unfortunate practice of manacling prisoners. This is the unfortunate and unhappy job he has to

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do. But he is doing it efficiently, and I pay tribute to him for a job being performed under difficult circumstances.

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NAT

Gordon Knapman Fraser

National Government

Mr. FRASER (Peterborough West):

Does the amount of $4,595,535 cover food and attendance? I ask this question because many people have asked why the German prisoners in Canada do not need boxes of food to keep them well fed, whereas our troops who are prisoners overseas have to have them to keep alive.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

Was the hon. member asking about operating expenses?

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NAT

Gordon Knapman Fraser

National Government

Mr. FRASER (Peterborough West):

All operating expenses, including food and administration. Then, of course, we must include the pay to the internees, as well. I understand it comes from Switzerland.

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LIB
NAT

Gordon Knapman Fraser

National Government

Mr. FRASER (Peterborough West):

Since a number of these internees have been captured by the British, does the British government pay any part of the expense?

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May 31, 1943