September 19, 1949

DESTRUCTION BY FIRE ON SEPTEMBER 17 STATE- MENT AS TO INVESTIGATIONS

LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Hon. Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to refer to the very unfortunate disaster which occurred in Toronto on Saturday morning, September 17, when the Canada Steamship Lines

S.S. Noronic took fire at her berth, with a loss of life reaching well over 125, according to latest reports. I understand that all the passengers have not been accounted for, and the list of persons missing over and above those whose bodies have been recovered stands at approximately 70. I am sure that all the members of this house will join with me in extending to the families and relatives of those who have lost their dear ones our most sincere sympathy in their hour of grief.

The passenger list of S.S. Noronic was made up of nearly 500 United States citizens and some 20 Canadian citizens. It is .deplorable that such an accident should have occurred where loss of life affects so many families of our friends in the United States, and I am fully conscious of their sorrow and tribulation in the fate of their next of kin. I would like to pay tribute to the authorities of the city of Toronto for the magnificent way in which they marshalled their various emergency organizations to give assistance in connection with this tragedy and to alleviate, as far as is possible in such circumstances, the physical and mental burden of those afflicted.

As soon as the extent of the tragedy became known, I immediately appointed Captain W. N. Morrison, supervising examiner of masters and mates, Toronto, to hold a preliminary inquiry under the provisions of the Canada Shipping Act. He will be assisted in his duties by Captain G. L. C. Johnson, assistant to the supervisor of the nautical division here in Ottawa. The inquiry was started this morning in Toronto. Also under the provisions of the Canada Shipping Act I have appointed Hon. Mr. Justice R. L. Kellock, of the Supreme Court of Canada, to act as commissioner in a formal investigation which will be proceeded with as soon as it is humanly possible to get it under way.

I would like to inform the public in both the United States and Canada that I examined the report of the steamship inspection of

S.S. Noronic and found that the vessel had complied with the steamship requirements of the Canada Shipping Act. On April 23 the master of the ship was given his certificate authorizing him to operate the vessel on the great lakes and connecting waters, carrying up to 600 passengers and 200 of a crew. This certificate is issued after it has been found that the engines, boilers, fire extinguishing equipment and life saving apparatus are operating efficiently and in accordance with the act. The report also indicated that the owners had installed a new fire alarm system. The certificate issued by the steamship inspection service of the Department of Transport is recognized by the United States coastguard service. I am also advised that when the S.S. Noronic called at a United States port early in the navigation season, a representative of the United States coastguard inspected the ship, and as he was satisfied with the condition of the ship, he likewise issued a certificate under the provisions of the United States act. I think I should state that the owners of the vessel had complied with the requirements of the Canada Shipping Act and of the United States coastguard inspection service in so far as it applied to Canadian ships.

This terrible disaster is of such gravity that it has been considered advisable to appoint a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada to hold an inquiry. As the investigation will be proceeding immediately, it would be improper for me to make any further statement at this time. However, the inquiry will be a public one at which all the facts will be fully disclosed, and if there is any blame or negligence on the part of anyone, it will be brought to light.

Topic:   DESTRUCTION BY FIRE ON SEPTEMBER 17 STATE- MENT AS TO INVESTIGATIONS
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PC

Thomas Langton Church

Progressive Conservative

Mr. T. L. Church (Broadview):

I should like to ask the minister one question. Why is not the inquiry into this terrible disaster in one of our harbours, to a guest ship which had rights and privileges not allowed to our Canadian shipping, being held under the Inquiries Act rather than by officials of the department?-because that is what it is. It is in the public interest that the investigation should be under the federal Inquiries Act.

S.S. Noronic

I suggest also that the minister should ask that services be held in our churches next Sunday to express our sorrow at the disaster and our appreciation of what we owe to the people of the United States.

Topic:   DESTRUCTION BY FIRE ON SEPTEMBER 17 STATE- MENT AS TO INVESTIGATIONS
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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

I wonder if the hon. member was able to hear the statement I made about the appointment of a commissioner under the Canada Shipping Act. Such a commissioner has the same power as a commissioner appointed under the Inquiries Act.

Topic:   DESTRUCTION BY FIRE ON SEPTEMBER 17 STATE- MENT AS TO INVESTIGATIONS
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PC

Thomas Langton Church

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Church:

The investigation should be under the Inquiries Act. It would be a much wider investigation than one made under the Canada Shipping Act. I know the minister is not to be blamed for everything-far from it; but a royal commission should be appointed. There should not be merely an inquiry by officials of the department.

Topic:   DESTRUCTION BY FIRE ON SEPTEMBER 17 STATE- MENT AS TO INVESTIGATIONS
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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

The Canada Shipping Act provides for both a preliminary and a formal investigation, and both are being carried out in this case.

Topic:   DESTRUCTION BY FIRE ON SEPTEMBER 17 STATE- MENT AS TO INVESTIGATIONS
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PC

Gordon Knapman Fraser

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fraser:

Has consideration been given to compelling passenger ships to use flash- or fire-resistant paint in the interiors instead of ordinary oil paint?

Topic:   DESTRUCTION BY FIRE ON SEPTEMBER 17 STATE- MENT AS TO INVESTIGATIONS
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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

The steamship inspection branch of the department has given consideration to that from time to time. I understand that in the United States, following the disaster to the Morro Castle, consideration was given to the passing of regulations to that effect.

Topic:   DESTRUCTION BY FIRE ON SEPTEMBER 17 STATE- MENT AS TO INVESTIGATIONS
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PC

Gordon Knapman Fraser

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fraser:

Is it not compulsory?

Topic:   DESTRUCTION BY FIRE ON SEPTEMBER 17 STATE- MENT AS TO INVESTIGATIONS
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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

So far as I know, no such regulations have been put into effect in this country.

Topic:   DESTRUCTION BY FIRE ON SEPTEMBER 17 STATE- MENT AS TO INVESTIGATIONS
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PC

Gordon Knapman Fraser

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fraser:

I think the minister should put them into effect.

Topic:   DESTRUCTION BY FIRE ON SEPTEMBER 17 STATE- MENT AS TO INVESTIGATIONS
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NORTH ATLANTIC COUNCIL

COMMUNIQUE WITH RESPECT TO PROCEEDINGS OF FIRST SESSION-ESTABLISHMENT OF DEFENCE COMMITTEE

LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Hon. Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Defence):

Mr. Speaker, as the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Pearson) told the house on Friday, September 16, the first meeting of the North Atlantic council was held in Washington on September 17. The council approved a communique which I now have the honour to table. Because of its importance and interest I believe it would meet the wishes of hon. members if it were printed in Votes and Proceedings.

At its first meeting on September 17 the council also established a defence committee

in accordance with article 9 of the treaty. This defence committee will be composed of the defence ministers of all the signatory states. It is expected that the first meeting of the defence committee will be held at Washington on October 5.

Topic:   NORTH ATLANTIC COUNCIL
Subtopic:   COMMUNIQUE WITH RESPECT TO PROCEEDINGS OF FIRST SESSION-ESTABLISHMENT OF DEFENCE COMMITTEE
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SUPREME COURT ACT

VARIOUS AMENDMENTS

LIB

Stuart Sinclair Garson (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Hon. Siuart S. Garson (Minister of Justice) moved

for leave to introduce Bill No. 2, to amend the Supreme Court Act.

He said: Mr. Speaker, the main purpose of this bill is to create in the Supreme Court of Canada ultimate exclusive appellate jurisdiction by abolishing appeals to the privy council and making the judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada final and conclusive.

Topic:   SUPREME COURT ACT
Subtopic:   VARIOUS AMENDMENTS
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF APPEALS TO PRIVY COUNCIL
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PC

Thomas Langton Church

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Church:

You mean statutory appeals only, and not appeals of grace to the King, which cannot be abolished; but the bill does not say so.

Motion agreed to and bill read the first time.

Topic:   SUPREME COURT ACT
Subtopic:   VARIOUS AMENDMENTS
Sub-subtopic:   ABOLITION OF APPEALS TO PRIVY COUNCIL
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PUBLIC WORKS

POST OFFICE BUILDINGS-WINNIPEG AND PETERBOROUGH

September 19, 1949