August 14, 1946

REPORTS OF COMMITTEES


Mr. RALPH MAYBANK (Winnipeg South Centre) presented the second and final report of the standing committee on miscellaneous private bills, and moved that the report be concurred in. Motion agreed to. Eighth report of standing committee on banking and commerce.-Mr. Cleaver.


WAR ASSETS

ARMY SUPPLIES-STATEMENT AS TO DISCARDING OF SHOES AND SLIPPERS

LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Naval Services)

Liberal

Hon. DOUGLAS ABBOTT (Minister of National Defence):

With the indulgence of the house I should like to make a statement concerning the dumping of footwear at the Point St. Charles dump in Montreal.

On Friday, August 9, during the discussion of the foreign exchange control board bill, the member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker) referred to the dumping of footwear on the Point St. Charles dump. In particular he referred to a report contained in the Montreal Star of August 8, 1946, as having stated that the Department of National Defence knew but

WarAssets-Ar7ny Supplies

would not tell the names of its officials who were responsible for the destruction of shoes, although such information was known to the department. On his making this statement I replied that I had not yet seen the article but that the department had not refused to name any of its officials; that a thorough investigation had been made; that a complete report was available and that I would make a full statement at the appropriate time, adding that I did not consider that this was during the discussion of the foreign exchange control board bill.

On reading the article I found that the statement was to the effect that the department had refused to reveal the names of the civilian dealers responsible for the dumping of the footwear. So far as I can ascertain, the Department of National Defence has not refused to divulge these names, and my understanding was that the names were furnished to the press by my colleague, the Minister of Reconstruction (Mr. Howe), a week or ten days ago.

When the matter of the alleged dumping of footwear on the Point St. Charles dump in Montreal was first brought to the attention of the military authorities through an article which appeared in the Montreal Daily Star of July 10, a court of inquiry was immediately set up to look into the whole matter. The court assembled on July 12, the president being Lieutenant-Colonel H. E. Vautelet, and the members, Captain A. E. Jenner, Captain S. P. Dunham and Captain J. A. Forget. A number of witnesses were examined and an exhaustive inquiry conducted into the whole matter, as a result of which it was ascertained that the footwear dumped on the Point St. Charles dump was part of approximately twenty tons of scrap leather, mixed with canvas shoes, purchased on April 25, 1946 from War Assets Corporation scrap division, Montreal, by Gorodensky Registered of 101 Ontario street east, Montreal, for a price of some $40, being at. the rate of $2 a ton. An official of the purchasing concern testified that the material had been purchased in anticipation, of disposing of it as scrap rubber or scrap leather, that upon arrival of the material it had been examined and found that the leather and rubber were mixed together and that the purchaser was unable to sell it without separating the two. As the cost of labour would be more than that which could be recovered from the material, he decided to dispose of it by throwing it out on the Point St. Charles dump.

The court of inquiry clearly established that the military authorities had nothing to do with either the sale or dumping of the footwear in question. It was also ascertained

[Mr. Abbott.!

by the court that on a previous occasion, namely, on or about May 2 or 3, another quantity of scrap material, which included scrap leather and canvas shoes purchased by Imperial Metal and Waste Company of Montreal from the J. H. Block Equipment Corporation and by the latter corporation from War Assets, had also been thrown away on the Point St. Charles dump as having been found to be unsaleable and of no commercial value.

The proceedings and the findings of the court of inquiry to which I have referred were immediately forwarded to national defence headquarters here in Ottawa, and as a result of the information contained therein, a joint statement on behalf of the Department of Reconstruction and the Department of National Defence was made at the eveining sitting on July 19 by my colleague, the Minister of Reconstruction.

Subsequently on July 27, as a result of further reports that were brought to our attention, officials of War Assets Corporation, a civilian representative on my own staff and representatives from the army and Royal Canadian Air Force visited the War Assets reclamation depot at Valleyfield, Quebec. At that time various bales, bundles and bags of footwear and other articles of clothing were opened and examined to see if any articles had been mutilated or slashed. Articles which had recently arrived at the depot and which had not yet been examined by War Assets employees were examined, as well as articles which had been examined and sorted by War Assets employees, and no articles were found which had been mutilated or dashed but which were otherwise serviceable.

The seR-ice representatives requested War Assets employees at the Valleyfield reclamation depot to segregate any articles which would indicate that they had been slashed or mutilated and to advise the service representatives so that further investigations could be made in an effort to trace down the source of such mutilation. I may say that no such articles have been reported since this request was made.

Concerning the practice of War Assets Corporation, I am not in a position to make a statement, although I have a copy of a statement made to the press on the 7th of August by Mr. J. H. Berry, president of the War Assets Corporation, in which he said in part:

I must confirm that, prior to conducting this investigation, canvas shoes, which, in the opinion of the officials of the corporation, were not usable or repairable were cut by corporation inspectors at Valleyfield. This was done in accordance with previous and long-established practice. This cutting by the corporation has always been confined to footwear which, as

War Assets-Army Supplies

stated, was considered unusable and not repairable and, if it is true, as has been stated, that there were several hundred pairs of new shoes placed on the dump in a cut condition, I can find no trace of this cutting having been done by the corporation inspectors. . . .

We have now stopped cutting all canvas shoes, even when they are categorized as unrepairable and of no value in their present form as a shoe, but exactly how we are going to merchandise them as shoes, we do not yet know as we believe there will be some difficulty in finding a market for them other than as scrap.

The point as to whether it is fair policy for the corporation to sell at scrap prices unrepairable. unusable, and non-disinfected shoes without mutilating them remains to be considered by the corporation.

In conclusion may I say we have not been able to ascertain how or by whom the footwear dumped on the Point St. Charles dump was slashed, as is alleged to be the case, nor is there any clear indication as to how many shoes were allegedly mutilated. It has not been army practice to mutilate footwear since 1941, and no evidence has been adduced to show that there has been such mutilation by military personnel.

I realize the importance of an incident such as this which might appear to indicate a wilful waste in the handling of public property. I appreciate that this is not an appropriate time to discuss this matter in detail. I shall be glad to do so, however, when my estimates are before the house, which I hope will be within the next few days.

Topic:   WAR ASSETS
Subtopic:   ARMY SUPPLIES-STATEMENT AS TO DISCARDING OF SHOES AND SLIPPERS
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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

If I may be permitted to ask a supplementary question: in view of the difficulties the two departments have experienced in ascertaining the actual circumstances connected with these shoes, will the government give consideration to the appointment of a royal commission to look into this matter?

Topic:   WAR ASSETS
Subtopic:   ARMY SUPPLIES-STATEMENT AS TO DISCARDING OF SHOES AND SLIPPERS
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

Is that part of the economy programme?

Topic:   WAR ASSETS
Subtopic:   ARMY SUPPLIES-STATEMENT AS TO DISCARDING OF SHOES AND SLIPPERS
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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

I could answer my hon. friend in regard to economy, if I were not denied the opportunity at the moment. Certainly the war expenditures committee is not doing it. In the second place, will the minister table the evidence given before the board of inquiry and also the report of the investigation if any made by War Assets Corporation regarding these matters? The people of Canada desire to have these questions finally concluded by a careful, impartial examination.

Topic:   WAR ASSETS
Subtopic:   ARMY SUPPLIES-STATEMENT AS TO DISCARDING OF SHOES AND SLIPPERS
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Naval Services)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

I can answer the question by saying we had better discuss it on my estimates. As to tabling the proceedings of the court of inquiry, I have been over them

carefully and they do not contain anything I would not be delighted to table; but it has been the practice, and I think it is a wise one, that proceedings of military courts of inquiry or courts martial are not tabled in the House of Commons, and I should be reluctant to create a precedent by doing so. But I shall have the proceedings of the court of inquiry before me when my estimates are under consideration, and I shall paraphrase from it as may be necessary. I make the statement now on my responsibility as a minister, however, that there is nothing in the proceedings of the court of inquiry I should not be delighted to have this house read.

Topic:   WAR ASSETS
Subtopic:   ARMY SUPPLIES-STATEMENT AS TO DISCARDING OF SHOES AND SLIPPERS
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

Perhaps that disposes of the question asked by the hon. member for Lake Centre; if the minister wants to bring the proceedings of the court of inquiry before the house I certainly think he should be allowed to do so, and I think we should ask him to bring it in full and present it to the house.

Topic:   WAR ASSETS
Subtopic:   ARMY SUPPLIES-STATEMENT AS TO DISCARDING OF SHOES AND SLIPPERS
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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FULTON:

May I ask the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply or the Minister of National Defence if they can give any reason why these supplies of shoes or shirts which were alleged to have been dumped could not have been sent to Europe for relief over there?

Topic:   WAR ASSETS
Subtopic:   ARMY SUPPLIES-STATEMENT AS TO DISCARDING OF SHOES AND SLIPPERS
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Right Hon. C. D. HOWE (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply):

May I explain that the Department of Reconstruction and Supply has gone to great expense for years to maintain a repair depot at Valleyfield. Any footwear or clothing coming from the army which is capable of being repaired1 is being repaired by War Assets Corporation and is being sent to Europe. The discussion in the house, which has gone to great length, has to do with material which the inspectors of War Assets Corporation report as not being capable of being repaired. This we sell for junk-and we seem to have done better than the junk dealer who bought it, because at least we made $40 from it, while the junk dealer threw it away. That is the transaction with respect to which it was suggested that a royal commission be appointed. It has nothing to do with usable material, but it has to do with material which the inspectors believe is not repairable.

Topic:   WAR ASSETS
Subtopic:   ARMY SUPPLIES-STATEMENT AS TO DISCARDING OF SHOES AND SLIPPERS
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

I should like to ask a question which I believe is in the minds of the Canadian people. If this stuff is not repairable or is not usable, and therefore is no good, why is it slashed?

Topic:   WAR ASSETS
Subtopic:   ARMY SUPPLIES-STATEMENT AS TO DISCARDING OF SHOES AND SLIPPERS
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

I do not think anyone in War Assets Corporation would wish to take the responsibility for marketing shoes, or allowing

War Assets-Army Supplies

anyone else to market them, which have not been disinfected. My hon. friend must realize that shoes which have been worn do carry disease. Shoes which are regarded as marketable, and which it is intended shall be marketed either here or in Europe, are carefully disinfected. The reason that the shoes are slit is to indicate that they have not been disinfected, and in the opinion of the corporation are not suitable for marketing. That has been the practice in quartermasters' stores for centuries; particularly in respect of shoes which come in and which are not suitable for resale. This was done in the usual course by the inspectors of War Assets Corporation. We have stopped it because, while we believe it is a desirable thing to do, we are not prepared to stand the criticism. As I have said, the reason it is done is that the corporation does not wish to take the responsibility for passing on shoes which are not disinfected.

Topic:   WAR ASSETS
Subtopic:   ARMY SUPPLIES-STATEMENT AS TO DISCARDING OF SHOES AND SLIPPERS
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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of National Defence; Minister of National Defence for Naval Services)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

And some unscrupulous

dealer might try to sell them as good shoes.

Topic:   WAR ASSETS
Subtopic:   ARMY SUPPLIES-STATEMENT AS TO DISCARDING OF SHOES AND SLIPPERS
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INQUIRY AS TO REPORT RESPECTING DISPOSITION IN HAMILTON AREA


On the orders of the day:


PC

Frank Exton Lennard

Progressive Conservative

Mr. F. E. LENNARD (Wentworth):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to ask the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply if the investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police into irregularities in the disposal of w'ar assets in the Hamilton area has reached any final stage, and if he can say when a report may be expected?

Topic:   INQUIRY AS TO REPORT RESPECTING DISPOSITION IN HAMILTON AREA
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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply)

Liberal

Right Hon. C. D. HOWE (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply):

I received notice

of this question just as I came to the house, and I have not refreshed my mind in the matter. However I believe some two or three days ago a report from the Department of Justice was received in the Department of Reconstruction and Supply. I have not seen the report, but I was informed that it states that the facts obtained by the police investigation do not warrant a prosecution.

Topic:   INQUIRY AS TO REPORT RESPECTING DISPOSITION IN HAMILTON AREA
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QUESTIONS

August 14, 1946