I have profound admiration for the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of National Defence. His job is a most ungrateful one, and I cannot conceive how experienced members of parliament can assume responsibilities which are not their own, to defend the management of a department over which they have no control whatever. Although the parliamentary assistants
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who are at present incumbent as such have done exceptionally well, I still find that their situation is absurd, especially when there are ministers who hold several portfolios. The parliamentary assistants should be promoted and should have the responsibilities of the departments which they are called upon to defend in the house. My hon. friend the member for St. Antoine-Westmount (Mr. Abbott) has done very well. He has answered questions very well but there are two points which have stuck me. With regard to the question that has been asked by the member for Peterborough West regarding medical category, everyone has read the official Gazette. The changes that have been made to the classifications in connection with pulhems are known to everyone.
Now to be unfit a man has to be nearly dead; he must be just as dead as this parliament. A man must be at least moribund. It is an ungrateful task, sir, to fight for the underdog. There are underdogs in the army; there are underdogs in civilian life. Those people are humble. Sometimes they are not afraid to speak, they are too shy. They need someone who loves them as fellow citizens to take up their defence and there is no better place to take up their defence than in this very House of Commons.
Well, now, the ratings with regard to grading under the pulhems system have been changed. They have been changed all through. They have been amended many times since they were first passed, so much so that a man who would have been rejected by the army as unfit two years ago when the pulhems tests were instituted is now kept in the army to do fatigue work, to wash the floors, to shovel the ashes, fire up the furnace and do things like that. It is absurd. When these men have a particular trade which is essential to the war effort they are kept there. They are specially trained in their occupation, a training that is most useful to the war effort and yet they are kept in the camp to do some common work that could be done by a man who is lame, who has one eye, who may have goitre and who may be unfit. Very often these men would do a much better job in civil life but they are kept in the army. It is impossible to get them out. Why? Because each sick man is one more soldier. It is not the ability of the man; it is not his fitness that counts; it is a question of numbers, one more man. Here we are. Let us keep him. It is impossible to let him go. And sometimes men have been kept in hospital under observation for more than a year. They were of no use to the army, they
were of no use to the country; they were paid and they were there under observation. I wonder if it takes a year of observation by the doctors of the army to decide if a man is fit or unfit.
But there was something worse. I have heard my hon. friend speaking of deserters. I know why some boys are deserters. They are not all deserters. Not long ago I wrote to the Department of National Defence and mentioned the case of a man who was reported to me as a deserter. Afterwards they realized that it was a mistake of those keeping the files in the unit. That man was not a deserter at all, but because of the stupidity of the officers in charge of his unit he had the stigma of a deserter attached1 to him. He was no more a deserter than General Crerar, but he was so called.
Do you think, Sir, it is very interesting for a farmer who has never been out of his village to be called to the army or called back to the army when he knows that a cousin of his has been sentenced to two years in the clink because he had been out of his unit for three months? The matter was mentioned to the parliamentary assistant to the minister. It was not interesting for him or when any farmer knows that a man who is an agronomist and who is unfit was considered1 as fit by the medical asses of the army and Was told to report. He did not. He was caught by the police and sent to the clink for nine months, and after his sentence was through was brought back for another medical examination and was found unfit. If the doctors had been competent that man would have been considered unfit for the army in the first place. He would ' not have been called a deserter and he would not have been a deserter.
Another thing, sir. Those men who are in charge of units are not all of the same type, but they are independent of each other and are free to interpret the regulations as they see fit. One says black; another says white. The third one says black, and another may say black or white. The rulings of the commanding officers are just as varied as the colours of the rainbow. But there is something worse. There was the classical case of a man who was suffering from a heart condition. It was indicated by the heart specialists on the pulhems sheet. It was erased by the chairman of the board. The man was sent to his unit afterwards. He reported to his sergeant that he was sick. The sergeant laughed and jeered at him, told him that he was a faker because his sheet was white. There was no indication of his heart disease on his sheet. He was sent to bed. He asked for the priest and the doctor. They were
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refused and he was found' dead in his bed the morning after. That is a fine inducement for a boy to enlist in the army when he knows about it.
I asked for one investigation. The investigation was a tragic farce. It was not under oath. I ask the hon. member for St. Antoine-Westmount to have an investigation at which I want to be present to ask the chairman what happened there, so that the department gets rid of all these fake mortar-board doctors. That is it, and after all' this the boys will know all about it and they will be glad to enlist. They would enlist when they know it is impossible for many French-speaking Canadians to have officers who speak their own language. They need interpreters to communicate with their officers. They are bullied; they are sent far away from home.
We are told we are in a free country. But they are put close to the wall, and those who do not want to volunteer must move one step backward. They cannot: the wall is there. They are humiliated. When victory loan parades are held, they cannot attend. They must endure all sorts of humiliations.
Then, afterwards, we hear hon. members, like the hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker) complaining about the deserters who come from one part of the country, the province of Quebec. He has always that province of Quebec in view. It will not help him. The hon. member is one of the brightest of our colleagues, but I regret most deeply that he does not .make better use of the gifts with which he was endowed by Providence. He could do much useful work to promote the bonne entente, to promote what is called national unity. But instead of that he plays always on the same string of his false violin. It is most saddening. I like the hon. member, personally; but I cannot conceive his jumping up, like a jack-imthe-box, when he has something in mind about the province of Quebec which, in his view, is the black sheep of confederation. That is a fair interpretation of what he says.
The hon. member for Parkdale (Mr. Bruce) leaves the same impression, and the hon. member for Hastings-Peterborough (Mr. White) the same thing. They give the impression that all the people of Quebec are untouchable, in the true Hindu sense, that they do not realize their duty, that they do not fulfil it, that the province of Quebec is the backward province, that the French Canadians are a bad lot, that they are ruled by the priests, that they speak a tongue that should not be spoken in this country, and that they are all isolationists.
That is the impression one gathers from the speeches of those hon. members-and it is unfortunate. It is unfortunate because we are bound to live together; we are bound to be in the same boat. And I cannot see how we of Quebec are to be thrown overboard, as some kind of Jonah. _
When I see hon. members of the Progressive Conservative party, fine fellows, including those I have mentioned, I cannot understand why some of them do not protest against what is said by members of their party, and tell them that they are wrong. I invite them all to visit the province of Quebec and to come to my county. I invite them to meet the soldiers who have returned from the front, some badly wounded, some walking on crutches, some with glass eyes, and some with other disabilities. I want them to meet the relatives and dependents of the soldiers from Temiscouata who have died overseas, and others who have been decorated. I want them to meet the relatives of soldiers who have been, decorated for gallantry in the front line.-not only soldiers, but aviators and airmen. I want them to know about the soldiers and airmen who seldom get the promotions to which they are entitled, and which they deserve, but which are given to others. And why does that happen? Because in many cases they do not have French-speaking officers who put their names on the honour list.
And that is not all. With reference again to deserters; it was not the hon. member for Lake Centre who asked the Minister of National Defence, Mr. McNnughton, to see to it that the case of the soldier who dealt with the bomb which would have destroyed St. Paul's cathedral in London was considered. It was not the hon. member for Parkdale or the hon. member for Hastings-Peterborough who mentioned to the Minister of National Defence that Sergeant Philip Konowal, V.C., of the Canadian Army, had not received the treatment he deserved, or who pointed out the shame of his having to clean spitoons and closets in the basement of the House of Commons-a man who was awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V, himself. We should be ashamed of that! I introduced the matter to the Minister of National Defence, who told me he would do something for him as soon as the reinforcement matter was attended to. But he did not realize that the best way to attend to the reinforcement matter is to make all grievances disappear, to hand out justice and fair play to the men who have come back from the army, to respect them and to give them jobs according to their valour.
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What is inscribed as a motto- on the Victoria Cross? It is "For valour". And the same thing applies to Major Triquet, who was a sergeant at Valcartier, a career soldier. I recommended him to the brass hats of the Department of National Defence, and they answered me that he was not the kind of timber from which officers are made. But everybody was honoured to shake hands with him. That was the answer I got from those people who have positively no war record, who have never been in any theatre of war, but who have won two wars in the capital city of Ottawa-wars and promotions.
There might be a certain amount of snobbery in that. There is a man who is a fool, and who is a brigadier over there in the judge advocate general's branch. He is a Tory, and he is boosted by the Tories; it is impossible to say anything about him. But he is a fool, nevertheless.
There are other fellows who suffer humiliation, and who are not treated as they deserve. They get nothing. I fight for them, and I shall continue to fight, for them. I shall continue until this parliament dies, and after it is dead-if it is not renewed-