I hesitate to delay the committee in connection with a matter which I feel it my duty to consider, and I am not sure I would have done so if I had not received a letter by air mail yesterday from Vancouver. The member from Temiscouata the other day told us about his receiving fan mail sometimes, and I too have received fan mail, as no doubt other members have done. This letter is in some respects an example of fan mail. I had better read it in order to open the discussion. It has reference to the case of an aircraftman named Lowell T. Campbell, R-160565. The letter is as follows:
John H. Blaekmore,
Dear Mr. Blaekmore: I would appreciate
your taking action before leaving Ottawa regarding the above named. He was discharged from the Shaughnessy Military Hospital August 6. 1946, with a check for approximately $20. This is to cover the needs of himself and dependents until such time as the Canadian pension commission settle his pension status. Of this amount ($20) the proportion accruing to Lowell is $3.30 and the remainder for his dependents.
As you will note by his file, he has been receiving the sum of $117 covering himself and his five dependents. This is now arbitrarily cut off at a time when he has to make what preparations he can under the circumstances to get his children in readiness for school. His children, as you know, are scattered around among several families who have their own obligations to meet. This is a very urgent matter.
Please note Lowell Campbell was discharged from the Shaughnessy Military Hospital with his back in an iron brace'to support the injured spine. In this condition he has been forced by the department to take a job as a watchman in order to maintain his family in lieu of pay and allowances until his pension is adjusted by the commission.
I think this crude action by the department should be publicly exposed. Here is a disabled man forced to take a job when every movement of his body is difficult and when he is in need
of constant rest instead of performing duties as a watchman. The Minister of Veterans Affairs needs assistance in the running of his business when such things as this can take place.
Will you please take action in this matter before leaving Ottawa and kindly notify me accordingly.
Thanking you for what you have done this session in cooperating with the writer in these matters I am,
Walter H. Kirchner,
The letterhead is that of the Canadian Combat Veterans Association in British Columbia Incorporated.
I am not in a position to judge of the accuracy of any of the statements either in this letter or in the extensive file which has been forwarded to me in connection with the case of Mr. Lowell T. Campbell. I have desired throughout this whole affair to be perfectly fair with everybody concerned. I believe all hon. members will realize that if a member receives a letter like this he is under considerable pressure to take action. I have not been called upon to take action in connection with veterans' affairs this year. My party assigned me to three other important tasks at the beginning of the year and I have been attending to them; consequently I have not been able to give to veterans' problems the attention I have given them in the past.
I am therefore not in a position to discuss veterans' affairs at all, but this matter must be looked into. I will ask the minister a number of questions shortly, and they will enable him to give all the facts and answer all the statements that are made in the brief which I have received and put the whole matter clearly on the record for the defence of his own department.
My own impression has been, in watching the minister, that he has been very conscientious and sympathetic, and I think he is deserving of high praise and commendation because of his work. I do not believe for a moment that any of the irregularities complained about are in any way attributable to the minister's oversight. If anything, they are due to the tremendous responsibilities that rest upon him.
In order to be fair, this morning I called the minister's office at 9.50 and told his secretary that on this case a number of questions would be asked during the consideration of the minister's estimates. I did that in order to give the minister an opportunity to read carefully the tile on Mr. Campbell. At 9.45 I called the office of the parliamentary assistant and left the same message. Hon. members will understand that I am not in any way treating this as a political issue.
I believe there is an unfortunate situation here which ought to be examined into with the greatest of care, and the minister should be given the fullest opportunity to explain the facts so that we may be able to assess properly the condition set forth in this letter, regrettable as it is. .
May I say one other thing before I proceed with my question? I believe this unfortunate soldier is at present in Vancouver. He is of a family personally known to me. His family lives in the constituency of the hon. member for Macleod. Had Mr. Kirchner known of the hon. member for Macleod, and the action which he takes on problems such as this, he wrould have brought the matter to his attention, and I am sure the hon. member would have been doing the same thing that I am doing at this time. Having made this explanation may I now ask the minister a number of questions? Then I shall send the questions over to him so that he will have the opportunity to answer them one after the other, if he chooses. If he feels that he should like to look through his files in order to obtain accurate answers for the record at a future time, then he should have that opportunity. These are the questions which I have drafted. They are not complete as yet, but I think they will elicit practically all the information essential in the matter almost up to the time that the letter takes on.
The questions are as follows:
1. Was Lowell T. Campbell, R160165, discharged from Shaughnessy hospital on August 6, 1946?
2. Was veteran Campbell's back in an iron brace to support an injured spine when he was discharged?
3. Had veteran Campbell been receiving SI 17 a month to support himself and five dependent children?
4. Had Lowell T. Campbell's wife been lost to him in February, 1945, leaving him under the necessity of placing his children in the homes of various relatives?
5. Would Lowell T. Campbell have been required to pay for each of these children, and was he required to pay $25 a month for board and lodgings and pay additional costs to cover clothing?
Hon. members will of course see the significance of question 5. We are trying to assess the adequacy of $117 which had been allowed Mr. Campbell.
6. Is each of these five children now between six and twelve years of age, therefore, requiring school supplies in addition to the $25 per month for board and room, the cost of clothing, the cost of medical and dental care, et cetera?
7. Would the British Columbia welfare organization demand at least 130 a month per child, plus family allowances, if that organization were to assume charge of the children?
I might explain to the members of the committee that I am informed that Mr. Campbell has placed his children out with various relatives of his. He did that some time ago when he came into great difficulties domestically through his illness and weakness, and these relatives have kept the children for a considerable length of time; but finally because of their own family responsibilities they find themselves unable to do so without money which would help them to defray expenses. What they request is $25 a month for board and room, plus the cost of clothing and of course plus the cost of equipping the children for school, and dental and medical services. All hon. members will understand that.
8. Would the cost of supporting his five children therefore constitute for veteran Campbell a monthly expense of at least $125 besides the family allowances?
9. Did the minister's department give effective thought to the question, how was veteran Campbell to get $125 a month out of $117 a month which the minister's department allowed him?
10. When veteran Campbell was discharged from Shaughnessy military hospital on August 6, was even the $117 a month cut off arbitrarily?
11. Was veteran Campbell discharged from Shaughnessy military hospital on August 6, with a cheque for approximately $20?
12. Would $16.70 of his cheque be apportioned to veteran Campbell's five children to support them and fit them up for school, leaving, of course, $3.30 to support veteran Campbell until, with an iron brace on him to support an injured spine, he could take a job and receive his first pay cheque?
It would be a good thing if I asked no more questions at this time but gave the minister an opportunity to answer, if he sees fit, some
of those I have already asked. I shall then come back to others, because the questions I have asked so far complete one aspect of the veteran's case.
hon. member for Lethbridge for the courteous and considerate way in which he has presented the case. Unfortunately, although he and I have had extensive correspondence about this case for many months, I did not until about ten o'clock this morning get notice of his intention to raise these questions on the estimates this morning.
my hon. friend in the slightest degree. It so happens that the chairman of the pension commission is absent on other duties this morning, and I was not able to get in touch with him in regard to the details of this case. Every question asked by my hon. friend is now on the records of this parliament, and I can assure him that a reply will be given to every one of them so far as we are able to do so. I think I know the details of this case fairly well, but I would not be prepared to answer the questions specifically at this moment. I can assure my hon. friend, however, of my sympathy and of my readiness to review every single question he has asked and supply him with an answer. If I am absent, my colleague, the hon. member for Rosthern, will supply the answer before parliament prorogues.
great credit of the minister if the veterans all over the country could have been looking in on him and could have seen his face and his eyes as he gave that little speech, because the minister is full of sympathy and consideration. I wish to put that on record because the expression of his countenance cannot go on Hansard, but it is a part of the whole proceedings.
If the minister will agree I shall give him some more questions so that he may have them all before him at the same time. We now enter another aspect of this case which, if reports reaching me are correct, is literally fraught with regrettable difficulties.
13. Did veteran Campbell on March 19, 1942, enlist as a member of the ground crew of the R.C.A.F.?
14. Was veteran Campbell at the time of his enlistment sound in physical health?
15. Was veteran Campbell sound economically on enlistment? That is, was he able to work at various jobs and support his family, and was he doing so-raising a family of young Canadians for future time?
16. Was veteran Campbell upon enlistment sound mentally and emotionally? I may say to the minister and to the committee that veteran Campbell has been lacerated because of certain remarks put on his file which would seem to reflect upon his intelligence and emotional stability. This has greatly aggravated the mental anguish under which this veteran now suffers, and that is the reason for the question.
17. Was veteran Campbell injured while on military duty?
18. Of the successive incidents which resulted in further development toward veteran Campbell's present state of partial physical incapacity, were several the result of official decisions and actions taken by various men for whose official decisions and actions the government of Canada is directly responsible?
19. For example, was it a Canadian officer before whom veteran Campbell came on sick parade on the April morning following his injury?
20. Was it a Canadian officer who on May 5, 1942, told veteran Campbell that his back was normal, and that the injury was just a sprain, and that aircraftman Campbell could carry on with full duty?
21. Was it a Canadian officer who assigned aircraftman Campbell to work in hospital at No. 2 S.F.T.S., Uplands, Ottawa, where one of this aircraftman's duties was to wax floors?
22. Were they Canadian officers who, when aircraftman Campbell reported his condition to them, treated his reports lightly, asked him such questions as: "Where is the pain this morning?" in a partly flippant and ridiculing manner, and who treated him with physiotherapy by means of heat pads, while the aircraftman assured them that the pain was only intensified by the treatment?
23. Was it a Canadian officer who, after
June 24, 1942, ordered that aircraftman
Campbell be sent to Ottawa civic hospital where under the care of Doctor Young a body cast was applied to the aircraftman for four weeks, and later a body cast extending down the left leg to the ankle for eight weeks, and later more heat treatments were given?
24. Was it a Canadian officer upon whose orders aircraftman Campbell was then taken to the Daly building to Doctor J. P. S. Cathcart, psychiatrist, where he was questioned
about his past life, his family and his father's family? 1
25. Was it through the remarks or hints of a Canadian officer that it was intimated to aircraftman Campbell by October 1, 1942 that the aircraftman would do well to seek his discharge?
26. Was it through orders of a Canadian officer that discharge papers were brought to aircraftman Campbell to sign, which papers the aircraftman refused to sign?
27. Was it through a Canadian officer's orders or hints that the padre, approximately the last of October, 1942, told aircraftman Campbell that he had been struck off strength, thereby causing aircraftman Campbell to ask for immediate discharge and to receive it on October 31, 1942?
28. Was it on order of a Canadian officer that aircraftman Campbell was transferred to Christie street hospital, from which aircraftman Campbell was discharged on December 21, 1942, and sent home to Alberta?
29. Was it on orders of a Canadian officer that Campbell was discharged from Belcher hospital, Calgary, on May 5, 1943? May I at this point observe, for the sake of hon. members who, I notice, are following my remarks closely, that it was clearly to be seen that the aircraftman was unable to do heavy physical work. And1 yet when he was discharged from Christie street hospital and sent home to Alberta he had no alternative but that of engaging in hard physical work such as ranching and other kinds of work he has been doing. The result was that, naturally, on account of his weakness, he became afflicted again and had to seek admission to Belcher Hospital. He was discharged from Belcher Hospital after a very few days. Of course by that hon. members can clearly see that someone representing the government needed to have his actions reviewed.
30. Was it on orders of a Canadian officer that Campbell, in his weakened condition, was denied allowances adequate to support himself and his family without going to work at heavy labour?
31. Was it through Canadian officers that Campbell was refused attention by Shaughnessy hospital when he applied for attention, (1) alone; (2) in company with the provincial president of the army and navy veterans in British Columbia, although later, after Campbell had consulted Doctor Frank Emmons, he was finally admitted to Shaughnessy hospital on January 16. 1945?
The minister has suggested that the parliamentary assistant will deal with these matters at a later time, when he has had time to
examine them. Therefore I believe I have given sufficient for the present. I shall have more questions after the parliamentary assistant has had a chance to review the case.
These questions, I may tell the parliamentary assistant have to do with the responsibility of men in Shaughnessy hospital who operated on Campbell, even although there was present Doctor Frank Emmons, a specialist, whose skill at diagnosis revealed for the first time the ailment from which Lowell T. Campbell suffered. According to the information I have -andl I shall put the questions to the minister so that he can answer them categorically-this soldier had tried in various ways to get officials in Shaughnessy hospital to permit Doctor Frank Emmons to consult with them and to be present when the operations were performed. Doctor Frank Emmons had conducted careful diagnoses with X-ray plates which, to a skilful man like Doctor Emmons, indicated exactly what was the matter with this man. He had been injured in exercise and a dislocation of certain vertebrae in his back had taken place. The only possible cure would be an operation which could remove that deficiency. But men who apparently did not possess the skill to diagnose the case nevertheless ventured to operate on the man, and to treat the case without knowing even how to diagnose it. Notwithstanding the fact that Doctor Frank Emmons, who was the private doctor of this soldier, was willing to come and either operate or consult while the operation was being performed, his offer was not accepted. I have asked a number of questions which will probe into all that. Hon. members will realize that all this has an important bearing upon the responsibility which the dominion government must assume with respect to the weakened condition of this airman.
May I thank the minister and his parliamentary assistant for the most attentive and sympathetic hearing they have given, and I should like also to thank the members of the committee for their earnest attention. In order to bring out the seriousness of this matter I should like to suggest something which perhaps need not be suggested. I was thinking how easily this might have been the case of the splendid young member for Vancouver-Burrard whom the minister honoured the other day in appropriate terms by commending him upon winning the Victoria Cross. How easily it could have been any one of the excellent young soldiers who have been sent into this house, every one of whom constitutes an asset to the house. How easily it could have been one of my sons; how easily it could have been my brother or the son or
brother of any hon. member. When we realize that I think we will appreciate more readily how serious this matter is and agree that even at this late date in the session, we can afford time to probe into it. After all, this is the high court of parliament, and if there is any court that needs to have a reputation for justice, it is this one.
I believe we should delay long enough to see that justice is given. May I ask the minister when this matter can come up again? I suggest that the item be held over until some time this afternoon, when the parliamentary assistant can answer. If it is not held over, what can be done about giving me an opportunity to ask these questions.
My hon. friend has asked something like thirty-one questions, and it will be necessary to consult with the defence services, because they are involved in regard to Campbell's service. It will be impossible to make a reply this afternoon. The reply may have to be in the form of a return, because it involves two or three of the services and it may not be possible to get this information before prorogation. However, I give the assurance to my hon. friend that it will be obtained, and I suggest that the item be allowed to pass with that assurance.
May I be permitted to ask the remaining questions this afternoon, and in the meantime perhaps the item could stand? I should be happy to allow the matter to be then put forward as the minister has suggested, but I am entirely in his hands.
I think I have been as reasonable in this case as anybody could be, and I think we should pass this item. I have given a specific ministerial assurance as to the attention that will be given to this matter. I cannot possibly be in position to give more information this afternoon than I can give now. I think my hon. friend has done his duty in presenting this case to parliament, and I think I have done my duty in giving him the assurance I have, that the case will be completely reviewed in conjunction and in consultation with the other services involved.
I want to be very careful about the wording of my questions, because we are dealing with men and I do not want to hurt anybody's reputation. This question is likely to cast a cloud over some of these men who were charged with the responsibility of dealing with Lowell T. Campbell's case after he was admitted to Shaughnessy hospital. Apparently some of these men have been guilty either of culpable ignorance or of culpable dereliction of duty. We cannot blame a man for being without the knowledge which would enable him to diagnose, but we can blame him for neglecting to use the services of a man who had established himself as being able to diagnose.
Certain men dealt with Lowell T. Campbell on his admission to Shaughnessy hospital in 1945. An explanation should be given why these men took the measures they did, most of which resulted in a serious aggravation of Lowell T. Campbell's condition. They operated on him several times, making serious blunders. My information is that they treated him by injecting substances into his hip and buttocks, whereas the private doctor of aircraftman Campbell stated that before the man had gone into the hospital there had to be an operation.
I should like the minister to go into detail with regard to the decisions that were made regarding Lowell T. Campbell's treatment after he went into Shaughnessy hospital. It will be necessary for the minister to establish that those men were not derelict in their duty. The result of their work has been that Lowed T. Campbell apparently is unable to do the work which it is necessary for him to do in order to raise his splendid young family of five chddren, give them an education, and discharge his other responsibilities as a citizen.
With regard to my hon. friend's last question, I want to say that I think I know Shaughnessy hospital as well as anybody in Canada. If I can say it without being boastful, it is largely my own creation and is supposed to be the most efficient military hospital in the Dominion of Canada. Until recently the administrator there was George Derby, our western regional representative, one of the ablest men in the Department of Veterans Affairs. He had been twenty-seven years with the department. The present administrator is Mr. William Roaf, who distinguished himself overseas in the present war.
I do not know who the doctors were on this particular case, but the doctors at Shaughnessy are as efficient as any in the Dominion of Canada. I know that to be true. But I must tell my hon. friend that if he is making allegations of improper attention in this case I shall have a court of inquiry established at once. Of course that will take some time, and its findings will not be available for this session. But they will be available for the next session of parliament. I am absolutely satisfied in my own mind that we have as able a staff in Shaughnessy hospital as there is in any hospital in the country.