I am happy to say that the minister has in Mr. Charles Laferle a capable man at the head of the branch. He was one of the chief officials, and one of the most successful officials of one of the largest businesses in Toronto. I, for one, was surprised that his firm allowed him to come here to help. However, I am glad they did, because the figures given by the minister show that he has obtained from salvage about S3,000,000 which would have been lost otherwise. That has been collected through an expenditure of a comparatively small sum of money supplied by the government. I believe that the salvage branch, under the minister's direction, deserves unstinted credit.
I might add that Canada owes a debt of gratitude to that brave little island of Malta in the Mediterranean, where Mr. Laferle was bom, for allowing him to migrate from that part to this part of the empire.
I should like to add a word of praise in respect of local voluntary committees which have been doing this work for the last two or three years. There is a feeling now that they are not receiving proper cooperation from the authorities in Ottawa. For instance, after doing all the work of gathering rubber, paper and bottles they have had difficulty in getting facilities for shipping. I would draw to the minister's attention the fact that in a great many centres along the main line of the Canadian Pacific railway- and I refer to that line in particular-there are to-day many piles of scrap metal. Local committees are having difficulty in shipping it. Have any steps been taken to clear up those piles? At practically every loading platform throughout western Canada you will find this scrap iron piled, either in the road or on the platform. When a farmer comes to ship grain he finds this stuff in the way. Has any effort been made to get these piles cleaned up and out of the country?
Mr. LaFLECHE: I am glad to join with the hon. member in working for the fanner. Perhaps he may not have thought of it, but there are easterners who have great regard for the farmer. We have excellent farmers in the east, although our soil has grown many more crops than the soil of the west.
Mr. LaFLECHE: My hearing is not sufficiently good to permit me to hear the remark of my hon. friend. I want to say that action has been taken to clear up the situation he mentions. We have been at the steel controller, shall I say, with regard to this particular matter, and I shall bring it to his attention again. I understand that the situation is greatly improved and that there is not a vast quantity left.
Is there any chance of the salvage department stabilizing the prices of the different salvaged goods in order that the people who collect these goods will not lose everything? Sometimes it costs a lot of money to do the collecting.
Mr. LaFLECHE: The matter -mentioned by the hon. member has received attention and will receive further attention to the end that everything possible may be done to stabilize prices.
The hon. member for Qu'Appelle mentioned iron and steel. Is there a demand for those metals now?
Mr. LaFLECHE: What is left of the metal mentioned by the hon. member for Qu'Appelle is in reserve stock-piles which are available to the steel controller. As I said a moment ago, this matter has been brought to his attention again.
I have a complaint to make with regard to the salvage and marketing of bottles in Nova Scotia. I think we are all in sympathy with the salvaging of as much material as is possible, but it is disconcerting to find that in certain instances efforts to salvage are blocked. The complaint I have to make is in connection with a man in Nova Scotia who for years purchased empty bottles to ship to the brewers of Ontario and Quebec. Administration order A-505 of December 14, 1942, was promulgated by the administration. It provides that bottles shall not be shipped out of Nova Scotia except with the permission in writing of the chief commissioner of the Nova Scotia liquor commission. The chief commissioner of the Nova Scotia liquor commission requires that all bottles shall pass through certain channels.
This individual who has been in this business for a number of years is blocked in his efforts to salvage bottles. Lately he has had inquiries from breweries in upper Canada who wish to purchase bottles and are ready to enter into contracts over a period of years. But he cannot sell bottles collected in Nova Scotia to the better market in central Canada because of order A-505. I should like an explanation from the minister as to why there should be interference with the ordinary course of trade. Salvage undertakings should be facilitated, and yet this man is not able to market what he collects.
Mr. LaFLECHE: The order mentioned by the hon. member is a wartime prices and trade board order. I shall take this matter up 100-146i
with the board. They are in a much closer position to the actual market than is the salvage division of my department. The salvage division of the Department of National War Services starts or stops the flow of materials upon hearing from the wartime prices and trade board that a certain material is in short supply. The wartime prices and trade board has the power to order; the salvage division has no such power. Our work is carried on almost entirely by voluntary workers. I shall undertake to look into the problem to-morrow and speak to my hon. friend as soon as I get any information.
I do my best to encourage salvage operations. A few weeks ago the chief clerk of the committees wrote to me asking what should be done with a number of files that filled one filing cabinet in his office. I wanted to know what they were, and he told me that these files were collected by me when I was chairman of the civil service committee in 1938. I told him that at the time they had been quite useful because we had brought in a unanimous report, but that since nothing was done to implement that report he could give the files to the salvage. It should help a little bit.
There are many things that can be said about salvage. At one time we had some legitimate salvage in connection with shaving-cream and toothpaste tubes. We were told that the metal used in these containers was very helpful to the war effort and we had to turn in an old tube before we could get a new one. However, this restriction was removed and the people can now get new tubes without turning in any old ones. They can throw the old ones in their waste-paper baskets. This is not the right kind of salvage. The first system was the proper one; now we just have waste. There are a number of things I could enumerate in connection with which there is waste. I cannot understand why such things are done. I can understand it the less because those who decide matters of salvage sit in the most magnificent building we have in this country, the new supreme court building, which was put up to house the supreme court and the chief justice of the land. I have said it before and I repeat it again that in no other country of the world would you see the chief justice of the country and the other judges of the supreme court sitting in a bam like they do in Canada, while dollar a year men who look after salvage are housed in our most magnificent office building, costing several million dollars, with lofty ceilings and brass doors just as heavy as the gates of Gaza that Samson carried on his back. The doors of the supreme court building are so heavy
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that even Samson could not carry them away. I am so sorry that hon. members laugh. We should weep about it because there is no sense in it at all, and I say to my hon. friend the member for Winnipeg South Centre that I am fighting his cause now because I am sure that he would not want to sit as a judge of the supreme court in an old barn. In no other country of the world would such quarters be tolerated for our supreme court as the present building where they are housed. Think of the millions of dollars spent on that other magnificent building which was put up for the express purpose of housing the supreme court, and that is now used by the salvage men, looking after ash-cans! It is an incredible situation. Mark Twain would have written something marvellous about it. It is a thing that hardly anybody outside Ottawa would believe, but we in Ottawa know it is a fact. Imagine a lawyer from outside coming to Ottawa and saying to a taxi driver, "I want to go to the supreme court." He is driven to that awful building that now houses the supreme court, and then he sees another building, a magnificent one, and asks the taxi driver what that is for, and the taxi driver tells him "Oh, that is the salvage building."
It is a waste of money, having such a magnificent building with brass doors and lofty ceilings to be used for ash-cans, and I hope hon. members will join with me in protest against such a ridiculous state of affairs. Who is responsible for it? Here we are tonight listening to talk about salvage. Now is the time that we should honour the bench as it deserves to be honoured and see that our supreme court is housed in the temple of justice, in a building befitting the dignity of the court. That is why we spent money for such a magnificent building. If at the time we were asked to vote such a tremendous amount of money for the supreme court, would anyone have agreed to vote the money if they had been told that the building was to be used for garbage, while the judges are in the ash-can and the doghouse.
The other day the Minister of Justice said that conditions were not as bad as I have described them. Well, an official paper has been published. It is the report of the inspector of the health department, and he goes much farther than I do. He described things as they were. I can say that what I have done I have done at the request of a judge of the supreme court who is now dead, and of another judge now living, whose name I shall not mention, but who can corroborate what I have said.
I have had occasion several times to use the most valuable books that are to be found in the supreme court library. There are
treasures in that library that cannot be found anywhere else. If they were destroyed by fire it would be a national loss, just as if the archives were destroyed by fire. But the archives are housed in a fireproof building, while these most valuable books in the supreme court library are in that old building on Wellington street, exposed to all hazards of fire, when there is a fireproof library in the new supreme court building which now serves for salvage. Is there any sense in that? I hope that the government will reconsider the matter and that before the end of this session the salvage branch will be moved into the building that is at present occupied by the supreme court and the exchequer court, and that the supreme court and the exchequer court will take possession of their own quarters in that new building the cornerstone of which was laid by Her Majesty the Queen. What has been done up until now is ridiculous, but there is always time to do better, and I hope that the necessary change will be made.
The other day I was amazed when I read in a report of a committee of this house that parliament had fallen in public respect. It is because of things like this of which I have been speaking to-night that public respect for parliament, respect for the bench and for our democratic institutions, has fallen. If the Canadian taxpayer carries the burden of heavy taxation for the construction of that magnificent building which was erected to house the supreme court, he does so because that building was erected to honour the bench. He does so to show the respect that every Canadian citizen has for the bench. But if the present situation is not changed it will contribute in no small way to destroy those feelings in the hearts of our fellow citizens.
I want to say a word on this item, particularly in view of the fact that the city from which I come has made a good contribution to 'this corps. First I would remind the minister of the statement that he made last year when speaking in this house on July 22, he is reported at page 5244 of Hansard as follows:
But may I say that Canada will never forget the fact that these men volunteered for a service considered then to be as dangerous as that performed by any human being in the British isles, whether in uniform or not.
Prefacing my remarks by that quotation, I would suggest to the minister and to the administration that there are two or three matters in connection with the rehabilitation
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of these men which should receive the serious consideration of the government. In the first place, the impression got abroad last year that the fire-fighters were going to be in exactly the same position as the returned men of the armed services. I will grant that that was not quite borne out by any suggestion made by the minister in his statement, except when he stated that "if members of this corps are injured or killed, they or their dependents receive the identical benefits as paid to the members of the armed forces in similar circumstances". That statement led a lot of these men to reach the conclusion that they were being put in exactly the same position with respect to all benefits that the armed services had, and I must confess that from a cursory examination of the statement I came to the same conclusion. But as far as rehabilitation is concerned there are three respects in which the fire fighter is treated differently from the man who has been retired from the armed services. In many ways these men have made as big a contribution as have many men in the armed services, and certainly have entered into a more hazardous occupation than some members of the armed services who are entitled to these benefits to which I wish to refer.
In the first place, I suggest to the minister, the fire-fighter who has been retired from the force should be entitled to the same benefit with respect to thirty days with pay, which he gets now; but in addition to that he should get, what the men of the armed services, get a rehabilitation grant of one month's pay. I suggest also that some recognition should be given to him of the fact that he has performed this service in a theatre of war, much along the lines of the type of recognition given to the returned man when he is awarded his service badge. In addition to that, it seems to me that if the man or his dependents are entitled to the identical benefits that are paid to the dependents of men of the armed forces, certainly he should be put in the same position when he is retired from the force as is a man in the armed services with respect to free hospital, doctor and dentist bills for a period of one year. In view of the fact that the service is so similar in many ways to the type of service which has been performed by men who are now returned, I suggest that the minister should put the fire-fighter in the same position, in view of the contribution he has made and the risk he has taken. I hope the minister will make a comment on that, and at the same time will explain to the committee the method which is used in providing the returned fire-fighter with rehabilitation benefits, such as they are, and the provisions under which his dependents are paid pensions in the event of his death in the service. I
do not know whether they come under the provisions of the Pension Act, but I am sure the minister will be in a position to enlighten us.
Mr. LaFLECHE: I am very happy to hear the sympathetic manner in which the hon. member for Saskatoon City has approached this subject. I myself wish to do everything I possibly can for the members of the civilian Canadian fire-fighters corps, but in one word in their title I have found very considerable difficulty; they are officially known as the "Civilian" Corps of Canadian Fire Fighters for Service in Great Britain.
With regard to the three points raised by my hon. friend, we do give to members of the corps who are retired or discharged the thirty days' leave. I think my hon. friend knows that. It is possible, and I believe it is the case, that the regulations covering the discharge of men from the armed forces may have changed in that respect recently. I am not quite certain, but officials of the department are looking into that.
I think I can save a great deal of time and speak as forcibly as one can and cover the entire ground when I say that my department is trying at this moment to make certain that members of the fire-fighters corps receive benefits identical with those granted to men who are discharged from the armed forces. For instance, and to illustrate the difficult and peculiar position in which fire-fighters find themselves: the hon. member for Saskatoon City mentioned recognition; I take it that he meant a service ribbon.
Mr. LaFLECHE: Quite right. I have wanted and I have tried to get them a service medal. But they are not a military' corps. Decorations and medals, one knows well, come from the crown, from the sovereign, and conditions in regard to the award of medals and decorations are surrounded, we all know, with many safeguards and with a keen eye, I suppose, both to tradition and to the future. I believe we are on the verge of getting some recognition of this kind for these men, in the form of the right to wear service chevrons on their tunic sleeve. That seems to be promising, though I hope the boys will not feel too badly if it does not come through, but we have had some encouragement in that respect.
I have tried to answer the questions put by my hon. friend.
Would the minister not consider the granting of some type of badge or button which might be exclusive to the firefighter, but which he would be able to wear,
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and which would indicate to other people that he has seen service really in a theatre of war during this war?
Mr. LaFLECHE: Yes; many thanks for the suggestion. It is difficult, though, for any minister to give an answer to a question just 'ike that. There will always be some connection between whatever may be suggested and vhat is in practice in other respects, but I am rery much sold upon the merit of giving these men some tangible form of recognition; I think it is coming to them. We all remember that when they first went to Great Britain it appeared that their duties would oftentimes be more dangerous than those of the armed forces.
Mr. LaFLECHE: Since, of course, our land army or part of it has moved off to active war fronts, perhaps that comparison is not as favourable to the fire-fighters as it used to be. Nevertheless, there is very little to choose when under bombs, whether they come from cannon or from aircraft.
Does the minister express an opinion in connection with the matter of free hospitalization, dental and medical care for a year after discharge, in the same maimer as is provided for members of the armed forces?
Mr. LaFLECHE: I am still trying to get every one of these things. Last year, when I said "identical benefits under the Pension Act", I meant, of course, the stated amounts that one finds or used to find in the schedule of the Pension Act. That applies as it did then.